By Spike Eskin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Arnett Moulrie knows why he hasn’t suited up for the Sixers yet this year, but says he won’t reveal the reason. Whatever it is, he seems unhappy about it.
“It’s not my ankle. It’s not my conditioning,” Moultrie said, to Chris Vito of the Delaware County Daily Times, prior to Monday night’s loss to the Brooklyn Nets. “But at this point, I really don’t care. I’m just sick of all the excuses. If it ain’t one thing, it’s another thing.”
Moultrie had surgery on his ankle just prior to the season, and was projected to return around January. A week ago, Sixers head coach Brett Brown said that Moultrie’s health was “almost perfect,” and that conditioning was the final hurdle for the second year forward to get over. It would seem as though Moultrie thinks he’s passed that test. Conditioning was a problem for Moultrie under head coach Doug Collins last season.
The Sixers could certainly use Moultrie’s help in the frontcourt. With the decision not to re-sign DeWayne Dedmon for the rest of the season, and Brandon Davies out with an injury, the team was left with only Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes as legitimate big men.
“I’ve been good for the last month,” Moultrie said to Vito.
So why isn’t Moultrie playing?
There are a few things that could be going on here. First, Moultrie could be a possible trade chip for the Sixers. Though they haven’t made a trade since the season started, the team was thought to be willing to deal just about everyone outside of Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel. Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner, and Spencer Hawes all seemed likely to be traded at some point during the season. With the trade deadline just over two weeks away, protecting those assets seems like it could be a legitimate concern.
A skeptic may say that the Sixers are holding Moultrie out so they have a better chance at losing games, and gaining a better draft position. Though Moultrie likely has more to offer than he showed in his rookie season, it seems unreasonable to say he alone would be the difference between wins and losses. However, the team has been very successful in close games, and those games could be the difference between the third worst record, and the seventh or eighth worst record. Though Moultrie himself isn’t winning games, it has to make them more formidable up front. The Sixers are currently 25th in the NBA in defensive rebound rate, and 22nd in the NBA in total rebound rate.
Or, maybe Arnett Moultrie’s conditioning isn’t quite as good as he thinks it is. Brett Brown has been a stickler for conditioning.
The Sixers traded a conditional first round draft pick to the Miami for Moultrie’s rights after the 2012 NBA Draft. That pick, which is lottery protected for the next two years, and then becomes two second round picks, has since been traded to the Boston Celtics.