The first two months of the season were spent thoroughly enjoying the Sixers success and wondering how long it would last. We each had a different moment when it clicked (here's mine - hurts), but all of us at one point believed this team was good. Sometimes very good. And you all had yours as well. Nobody had illusions of championship grandeur but by defense and taking care of the basketball, the Sixers were right behind Miami and Chicago in the East. It was great.
Then February 6th happened.
On February 6th, the Sixers beat the Lakers by a score of 95-90 to become 18-7 on the season. The Los Angeles Lakers. Them. It was the BOSS game where Louis Williams shot past Kobe Bryant for 24 points on 12 shots, including some impressive buckets down the stretch. But the Sixers were out-rebounded 55-30 and allowed 21 offensive boards. The ship was leaking. Oh man was it leaking. They still weren't going to the foul line, but it was okay because they were winning. Hanging onto success by the tiniest of threads.
Since that game, the Sixers are 11-18. A .379 winning percentage. As much as it hurts to believe it, this team is the same team as last year, which was the same team as the year before under Eddie Jordan. They're streaky, undisciplined, and most of all, not talented enough to be anything other than a .500 club. Doug Collins gets as much as he can out of them, but for a multitude of reasons, he's lost them at this point. Too much pushing and texting and intensity wore them out. Now they're a shell of that "exciting young team" which made Philadelphians care so very much. Still around 20th in the league in attendance, it's not like fans are burning the place down.
So we're left with the same team as last year that's playing ice cold basketball right now. There's still a startlingly good chance that they overtake the Celtics for the 4-seed (or at least the Hawks or Pacers for a 5 or 6 seed) because of a relatively easy schedule these last 12 games. But now they've lost to the Raptors and Wizards in a span of 6 days and they could probably lose to Little Sisters of the Poor if Jenny McConnell finds a rhythm. The Knicks minus Jeremy Lin are still pretty good, and sit only 2 games back in the 8th seed. The Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings Milwaukee Bucks linger only 3 games behind the Sixers. The playoff birth is far from a guarantee.
Which brings us to: should we root for the playoffs? By my estimation, only bad things happen if they make the playoffs. There's the possibility that they land someone other than the Heat and actually give them a series, re-instilling confidence in this group and inevitably resigning Spencer Hawes and Louis Williams. Or they lose to the Heat, but by finishing with a *slightly* better record than last season, ownership pins the failure on drawing the Heat again - how unlucky - we'll get back at 'em next season and resign Hawes and Lou, thereby stamping mediocrity all over our faces for the next 6 years.
If they don't make the playoffs, then it would certainly take some time wiping off all the embarrassment that comes from a monster collapse, but the hope is that it would guide the front office's hand. This team isn't working. This plan isn't working. Not starting over necessarily, but reconfiguring the ideas and goals of this franchise. Doug Collins would, I'd guess, be fired. Maybe Rod Thorn would too. Spencer would walk, so would Lou, and Elton Brand could either get amnestied or dealt as a massive expiring. Then the market for Andre Iguodala would open up. And the Sixers would be left with a 14th overall pick, maybe another pick or two acquired in a trade, and actually become that young, exciting team that's building towards something. Not the current model of sustained inefficiency masked by Doug's previously effective deception.
There are your choices. Make the playoffs, enjoy some extra basketball and feel good about yourself because you're rooting for the Sixers to win; or, instill a bit of schadenfreude into your diet, relish the team completely plunging down the tube and ready yourself for the destruction to come. Either way, we were all right and we were all wrong about this team.
Derek said it best. If the Sixers started slow, then finished strong, everyone would be optimistic and bright-eyed about the future. Flip it and we're at a point where most of us are ready to break it up. The "when" matters because the narrative says it matters. Take a step back, assess the talent you have, and when you realize it's not good enough, don't put too much stock on individual wins or losses. It's gotta be big picture.
The Raptors loss did nothing but enforce what we already know. And now the Sixers have 12 games left to figure out what's going to happen. Regardless of their record in the last dozen, it's become abundantly clear that this is not working.