One of the things we like to do as Philly sports fans and media is relitigate the past when a former player finds success elsewhere. It’s formulaic in a way, a template of “player X is about to win a title with team Y, should (insert Philly sports team) have kept him around?

In this case, player X is both Jrue Holiday and Sergei Bobrovsky, the former on the doorstep of his second ring and the latter about to win his first. They’re both up 3-1 and playing at home in their respective finals, so barring the meltdown of a lifetime, both will come away with titles more than 10 years after leaving the Sixer and Flyers.

That’s why the social media chatter is a bit of a head scratcher. WHY DID THE SIXERS LET GO OF JRUE?! That was an entire decade ago. Obama was still in office. There’s so much that’s happened since that it seems pointless to look back, but for the sake of the exercise, we can embark on a brief foray.

Sergei Bobrovsky

Bob was never drafted. He actually signed an ELC in 2010 after beginning his career in Russia. At the time, Michael Leighton was injured, and rookie Bobrovsky shared goaltending duties with then-veteran Brian Boucher. He wasn’t great in the playoffs, the aggressive Flyers went out and got Ilya Bryzgalov, and then proceeded to turn in a decade of meh.

The part of the story that people may forget is that Ed Snider went on the record back in 2014 to claim that Bob had no interest in being the backup:

“..not only did we make a mistake on the long-term contract (Bryzgalov received), but Bobrovksy’s a young guy and he told Paul, ‘As soon as my contract’s up I’m out of here,'” Snider said. “He wasn’t going to re-sign with us. He was going to go back to Russia (or) he was going to go with another team, but he wasn’t going to be a second-string goalie for the rest of his life. So that was also a problem, and Paul made the best of the situation.”

In a perfect world, they would have convinced him to stay, and Bob would have developed behind Bryz to be ready in 2014 or so. Instead, the Flyers traded him for a couple of draft picks, one turning into Anthony Stolarz, somewhat ironically. They then went and got Steve Mason and the rest is history.

Jrue Holiday

The Sixers went 34-48 and finished 9th place in Holiday’s final season with the team. That was the year after they beat the Derrick Rose-less Bulls as an eight seed before pushing the Celtics to seven games in the conference semifinals.

That iteration of the Sixers was pretty much maxed out. The ceiling was already reached. Jrue averaged 18, 4, and 8 that year, but Evan Turner never lived up to expectations and the rest of the team was role player-esque, from Spencer Hawes to Thad Young and Lavoy Allen. Long gone were Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams, and Elton Brand and Andrew Bynum wound up playing a grand total of zero games.

Even if they kept Jrue back then, and used him as a piece to build around, they needed so many other pieces. Nik Vucevic and Moe Harkless were lost in the Bynum trade. There was nothing in the pipeline to suggest they were going to get off the 8 seed/9 seed ledge. They would have needed four more starters and a new bench after the Bynum disaster, so with Jrue being the best asset available, they decided to blow it up and start the rebuild with the Nerlens Noel trade. That was the de facto beginning of the process.


If we’re going to add both guys to the “how did they let them get away” template, then Bob is the more annoying loss. He was young and had the potential to develop as a backup to Bryzgalov before taking the reins just a short time later. If he didn’t want to play here behind Bryz, so be it, but considering the Flyers’ history of goaltender woes over the years, his success in Columbus and Florida was kick right to the groin.

Trying to recall off the top of my head, I think people generally accepted the Jrue trade back then because the idea of blowing it up was palatable. That core of players was near the pinnacle even before the hideous Bynum trade, and people who were paying even half attention knew that trying something different was the right way to go. I’m not sure they agreed with or expected how far Sam Hinkie went with it, but the basic thought of “this isn’t working” that wafted through the basketball air in 2012 and 2013 was certainly pervasive. Regardless, on these title-winning teams, Jrue has been a 3rd or 4th piece, a really solid two-way guard who does everything well, but he’s never been a bona fide 1 or 2 on a contender. Jrue’s New Orleans’ teams were utterly average.

Either way, congrats to both guys, unless they somehow blow it.