“The only surprising thing about Billy King’s departure from the Philadelphia 76ers,” announces the 700 Level, “is that it didn’t happen sooner.” The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s estimable David Aldridge has more on King’s firing and the hiring of Nets GM Ed Stefanski (above, right) as his replacement.

The decision to remove King apparently was made in the last few days as the 76ers continued to struggle this season. It is not known whether the decision had been made before last night’s home loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Stefanski will report to Comcast president and chief operating officer Peter Luukko.

King did not return telephone calls last night.

A source indicated that head coach Maurice Cheeks would retain his job for the rest of the season. It is not known whether Larry Brown, a consultant to the team and a close confidant of King’s, would remain with the team in any capacity under Stefanski.

A Philadelphia native, Stefanski played high school basketball in Drexel Hill at Monsignor Bonner (where he later was head coach for four years). He also played three seasons at Penn, where he graduated in 1976 from the Wharton Business School. He was a television analyst for ESPN before joining the Nets in 1999. Stefanski was named the Nets’ GM in 2004.

For Sixers fans wondering what they’re getting in Stefanski — whose fine tenure with the Nets included the orchestration of the Vince Carter acquisition — here’s NetsDaily’s rundown of his most hilariously hyperbolic moments. When Stef starts comparing Reggie Evans to Wes Unseld, remember what he said about Christian Drejer.

Meanwhile, Philly’s phellow basement-dwellers in Charlotte made a move to add more defense, annoyingness, and curly hair to their mix, signing Anderson Varejao to an offer sheet. The Cavaliers have a week to match the offer, which — at three years, 17.4 million — is much more reasonable than the six-year deal agent Dan Fegan was pushing in the offseason.