The above statement may seem "Well, Duh" to the average passersby, but for the few of you who've hung around for awhile, you know that it's more than that. While the big NBA to-do this year was tanking, I've been driving the tankwagon for a few years now and the idea of NOT rooting for the Sixers to lose has become somewhat foreign to me, sad as it seems. Maybe it's some combination of youth, new-age optimism and immovable mediocrity, but I've become desensitized to watching the Sixers lose.
But with seven games already in the win column for these postseason Sixers, something has happened to me -- I've become fully invested in the success of this team for the first time in 5 years. And I really -- really! -- want them to win this game.
I don't buy into a "winning atmosphere" ever making a difference. The Clippers didn't suck for years because they didn't know how to win. They sucked because they drafted poorly and made awful personnel decisions. The Heat aren't didn't become the best team in the East because of a winning atmosphere. They brought in the best player in the game. In the end, talent wins out. Talent will always win out. No amount of almosts will help you in the end unless you have the talent.
So from a dissociative standpoint, I wanted them to lose. Building through the draft was the most likely scenario in which they would get the talent necessary to become a contending team. That's the NBA's flawed system. You gotta get bad to get good. You gotta get up to get down. Winning individual games didn't help them get anywhere in the long-run. And while I still believe that...
Man, it feels good to win playoff games. And it especially feels good against the Celtics. It was a more begrudging playoff win over the Bulls due to Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah getting injured. Plus, there's the overwhelming worry that ownership will see this team as that elusive "one piece away" and not commit to the rebuild, something they've failed to do since the 2001 NBA Finals.
But I believe I've reached the point in my thinking (hysteria?) that wanting this team to win now and also rebuild this offseason are not mutually exclusive.
Basically, the hope is this: If the ownership is deluded enough to think that this team is the template for consistent success, then we're screwed already. They beat a broken Chicago team, and they've gone to 7 brutally ugly games against a somewhat broken, fully old Boston squad that presents plenty of match-up help for this slipshod Sixers roster. Namely, both teams lacking an interior presence. So even if they do win tomorrow, I have to hope that Josh Harris and company are keeping two feet firmly on logical ground.
Also, winning is fun. Being relevant is kind of nice too. I don't know that I expected that. And if you don't believe me, take it from the recently-eliminated and always excellent Tim Donahue at Indiana Pacers blog Eight Points, Nine Seconds:
For as much as tonight hurts, I can’t help but smile. It has been a very long time since the end of the Pacer season arrived with regret, instead of relief. It is a familiar pain…a welcome pain. It’s the kind of pain you can only feel when your team matters to you again.
Tonight, I only have the pain that feels like a long lost old friend. And while that makes me sad, it also makes me happy…if that makes any sense at all.
I'm not ready to feel that way yet. I don't like the Celtics. I don't like (most of) their fans. I don't like (most of) the people that write about them. I really like Avery Bradley, but they injured him (KG, probably), and he's out for a bunch of sad months. I don't like the general feeling of entitlement that comes from playing and rooting for this team. I especially don't like how, unlike Sixers fans, these guys can't admit that they're not a very good team. They're not. If they win by 600 tomorrow, they're still not a good team. Simply having players with names the mainstream has heard of (Rondo! Garnett! Shuttlesworth! Stiemsma!) isn't enough to win games. The Sixers had a guy named Wilt that used to play for them. If he suited up now, it wouldn't make much of a difference.
So I want the Sixers to win. I still want them to rebuild or at least retool this offseason. I like the idea of forcing the mainstreamers to stumble through another series of discussing the Sixers like they know what the hell they're talking about. I smile at the thought of all the false narratives that would spring up at a possible Heat vs. Sixers series. And I've become sadomasochistic in my love for terribly-played ugly ass basketball.
I can want that and love that all the while hoping they trade Andre Iguodala for Enes Kanter, Raja Bell, Earl Watson, and a 1st rounder, let Louis Williams and Spencer Hawes walk, amnesty Elton Brand, and shell a good chunk of money at Roy Hibbert this offseason. And so can you.
Go be crazy Sixers, I'll be rooting my face off for you.