PHILADELPHIA -- This summer's free agency -- like most Philadelphia 76ers possessions the last 2 1/2 seasons -- begins with point guard Andre Miller.
And it begins Wednesday, the first day of NBA free agency, when the Sixers are allowed to contact Miller, an unrestricted free agent, to begin discussions about what it might take -- how much money and over how many years -- to re-sign the team's 33-year-old starting point guard.
Although teams may begin negotiating with free agents Wednesday, contracts may not be signed until July 8.
Miller, who last season averaged 16.3 points and 6.5 assists, is represented by Andy Miller, who has said his client's No. 1 option is to remain with the Sixers.
"He's the main free agent, an important free agent," said Sixers president and general manager Ed Stefanski. "Neither of us is going to be at each other's doorstep at 12:01 a.m., but we will talk on July 1. There's no doubt."
After Miller, Stefanski will fill the remaining gaps -- the complementary pieces -- to form the 2009-2010 roster.
There are nine players under contract, plus first-round pick Jrue Holiday. Last season, the Sixers had 14 under contract, including center Jason Smith, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in July. That means the team knowingly entered the season with 13 healthy players.
Now, it seems that Miller's status affects most subsequent moves. And there are three options: Miller re-signs, Miller re-signs and is immediately traded, or Miller walks and signs with another team.
What would it take for the Sixers to re-sign Miller?
One source has said Miller will be seeking around $10 million a year, which is what he earned last season, and that he will more than likely desire a minimum contract length of three years.
The Sixers have the ability to sign Miller for more money than any other team, but, of course, Miller's demands must mesh with the Sixers'.
With backup guard Lou Williams hoping for a starting opportunity and Holiday earmarked as a point-guard-in-training, the Sixers will likely weigh the advantages of keeping an effective and solid but aging point guard against either a sign-and trade, or allowing Miller to walk.
If Miller re-signs, it appears the rest of the Sixers' moves this summer would likely be role-player, minimum-level contracts, like the ones signed last year by guards Kareem Rush and Royal Ivey, forward Donyell Marshall, and center Theo Ratliff. Ivey's agent, Keith Glass, said his client might still re-sign with the Sixers despite opting out of his contract earlier this month.
The Sixers' guard situation is clearly dependent on Miller, but they will likely need to sign a big man to fill the role vacated by Ratliff and power forward Reggie Evans, who was traded.
"The other guys are pieces," Stefanski said. "We're going to fill in some more spots to create depth, but they are not going to be an Andre Miller-type of situation."
A sign-and-trade involving Miller would be a prearranged deal involving two or more teams in which the Sixers sign, then immediately trade Miller for a player -- or players -- whose contract matches.
Stefanski said a sign-and-trade was "a possibility."
This could benefit Miller because the Sixers can sign him for more money. And it could benefit the Sixers because they wouldn't lose Miller's value.
In layman's terms: The Sixers are over the salary cap. If they do not re-sign Miller, they cannot offer his salary to another player on the free-agent market. Per NBA rules, the Sixers are allowed to re-sign their own guy.
Other than going after Miller, the Sixers' free-agency flexibility includes veteran-minimum contracts and the mid-level exception, the value of which will be released tomorrow but is expected to be between $5 million and $6 million.
If Miller signs elsewhere, these aforementioned contracts -- the veterans' minimum and the mid-level exception -- are all the Sixers can offer.
Although Wednesday kicks off what is usually a fast-paced few weeks in the NBA, Stefanski said things may be slower than usual -- a reflection of a sluggish economy.
"I could be wrong, but I just don't think there will be as much quick-paced movement as years past," Stefanski said. "It might be surprising because it's a different economic climate out there now."