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Since this blog came into existence, the Sixers have gone from decent to mediocre to terrible to mediocre again. The 2012 Lockout-shortened version of this team, no different on its surface from last year's squad, seemed destined to follow in its footsteps. Despite a young club with a number of very appealing high-upside players, optimism wasn't running rampant around these parts for any chunk of time.
"Dark have been my dreams of late." Now, at long last, that has come to an end.This team is terrific any way you slice it. They're a well-coached group of overachievers that, with Marreese Speights in Graceland, really buys into Doug Collins' system and the way he does things. He's gotten them to the point where not having a superstar scorer works to their advantage. That's virtually unheard of. They're playing at a legendary level of team defense, and the excuse that their schedule has been soft no longer applies. Twist it and turn it however you'd like, these Sixers are 100% for real.
It's not that the win over the Bulls vaults them to legitimacy. They were already legitimate beforehand, just without that marquee win to hang their hat on. You don't beat teams by 20+ points in the NBA with regularity and still get considered a middling club. They've been right there all along. Two in a row against two of the best players in the league in Dwight Howard and Derrick Rose just makes it that much clearer.
What this means moving forward is that Sixers fans can, on the one hand, start thinking about a playoff run going into May, and on the other, talk to people that have similarly started to care about the Sixers again. The obligatory "since Iverson left" applies because the city just hasn't cared about the Sixers without him. It's no longer relevance that's back in Philadelphia. It's dreams of contention. And they're not that far off.
These Sixers are capable of beating any team in the league. And not like, oh here's a lucky win because the other team was napping. There aren't anymore trap games. There aren't anymore surprises. They're tied for first place in the Eastern Conference in the loss column (along with Chicago, Miami, Indiana, and Atlanta - wow) and lead the NBA in home wins with 12. One third of the way through the season, they're not punking anybody.
As the team now stands, they still can't be considered one of the few teams capable of winning a championship. They're just not there yet. And that's OK! Because erstwhile dreams of tanking for draft picks and expiring contracts are no longer within the realm of possibility and neither are they desirable. The past ten years taught us that winning to stay mediocre netted no big free agents nor a loyal fanbase. But what's past is prologue, and Collins has gotten them way past mediocre. While the city of Philadelphia may never be a desirable NBA locale, the team is certainly appealing enough, with a fun bunch of guys that share the basketball and win games. The likelihood that a prized free agent would come to town is now significantly greater than that of winning the lottery and landing a franchise player though the draft. As unlikely as it may be, this team muscled their way past the plateau and rode their coach to the gates of the Promised Land.
The days of Suckfest are behind us. We are now in a Buyer's era. The better the Sixers play, the more some unnamed world class center would consider putting on a Sixers jersey and not just for when he plays dress-up. It's a new age, friends. Embrace those former deserters who've been unseen since 2001 and relish the newfound excitement for a Sixers team that couldn't be any more likable. They might not be there yet, but they're close - and now, finally, winning games doesn't mean prolonged mediocrity and hollow successes. Let's enjoy this team the way we're supposed to, the way our 12-year-old selves knew how.
Bring on Miami.