This was going to be our year. We were looking at a 2 seed in the East, had a legitimate weapon against the Heat, we're poised to make some noise. Excitement was high in Sixerville. Even Levin was optimistic.
It was the Summer of Bynum. Our first legitimate star center since the stupid-ass Moses trade. A young, promising nucleus of supporting players, including our former #2 overall pick who, finally out from under the shadow of Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams, was going to show us the player he could truly be. A supply of legitimate shooters, who were going to spread the floor so our new star center would be free to wreak havoc underneath.
Well, exactly none of that happened. The Era of Good Feeling began to wobble almost immediately, when Bynum didn't play in training camp. It was precautionary, we were told. He would be fine for Opening Day, we were told. Nothing to worry about, we were told, just some already-scheduled knee lube.
Obviously, he wasn't ready for Opening Day. We would have to wait until December before our team really took flight. Meanwhile, the team, as they are wont to do in the Doug Collins regime, got off to a pretty good 10-6 start. We saw what we wanted to see, a great leap forward from our young backcourt of Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner (still inefficient, but making stuff happen). And we were getting an unexpected contribution from the Other Guy in the Bynum deal, Jason Richardson, who was hitting shots, playing like the savvy veteran he is, and even showing the occasional flash of Young JRich. It didn't matter than Hawes and Kwame Brown (!) were playing like, well, Spencer Hawes and Kwame Brown, because we all knew they were only placeholders for the Man yet to come.
Injuries. Regression to the mean. Swag. Suddenly our heroes were ripping off 5 and 7 game losing streaks like it was going out of style. The once-promising start was long over. Evan Turner was (and is) playing like a bucket of particularly rancid jackal poop. But it was all ok, because when Bynum got back, everything would get better.
So. Yesterday. We found out that Bynum would never be back. We understood that Evan Turner would never be a consistently good basketball player. We found out that we were once again the laughingstock of the NBA. And of course, we won, more or less locking into a late-lottery pick (will it be Plumlee or Zeller? I'm breathless with anticipation to find out which Future Spencer Hawes we end up with!) that has something like zero percent chance of being better than a mediocre role player, if he ever even sees the floor.
Because our Beloved Leader, well he doesn't like them rookies. Having traded our last two first-round picks in the Bynum deal, it didn't really matter, because it's not like there was a young guy on the roster anyway? Wait. Who? Arnett Moultrie? And you traded a future first-round pick for him? Really? I thought the guy on the end of the bench was like the new ball boy or something. I guess one of the veterans (Royal Ivey? Damien Wilkins?) glued his butt to the bench as one of those pranks you always hear about veterans playing on rookies.
But somewhere, a few weeks ago, I guess the glue finally dried out, because the new ball boy was allowed to play, a few minutes here, a few minutes there. So far, the best evaluation I've seen of his play was on Twitter..."I like Moultrie. He does stuff."
Anyway. The Trade. We lost. Everyone basically agrees that somehow, we got Sixers'd again.
Where do we go from here? We have a roster with almost no talent. We have 1 3/4 good players (I'm projecting Moultrie as 1/4 of a good player). We have some crappy contracts (Helloooooo JRich!). We gave away more of our picks for the near future. We have another year of Kwame and Hawes as our primary bigs. The clock chimed midnight on Lavoy Allen, and he turned back into the 50th overall pick. Moultrie probably has another year of apprenticeship to do before he's allowed to play regular minutes. Our vaunted new shooters can't really shoot (but I still want to hang out with Swaggy P, the Worst Player I've Ever Truly Loved). And, guess what? Our vaunted #2 overall pick, the guy we were all praying would be a huge piece of the core that turned this team around, finally, turned out to be a huge piece of something, alright. Yes. I'm going to say it. Evan Turner is not a good basketball player. Sometimes, Evan Turner is a terrible basketball player. After all the hype, all the hope, all the excuses, he was the BUST!!!!!!!! we all prayed he really wasn't.
So. No talent. No trade assets. No real cap space. Even if there were cap space, no free agents worth pursuing (FOR THE LOVE OF GOD if they throw a max or near max deal at Al Jefferson or Josh Smith I am finally going to give upon this team and become a Nuggets or Rockets fan). A late-lotto pick in a weak draft. A coach who loves below-average veterans and long twos more than anything else in the whole wide world (I've given up believing that Doug will be fired this offseason. I think Tony will be the sacrificial lamb). Spencer Hawes is still our starting center, and I'm willing to bet he gets extended, because at least they know what they have with him. Desperate signings of mediocre veterans who will be just good enough together that Doug saves his job with an 8th seed next year so they don't get a shot at Wiggins.
Can anyone tell me how this team has a chance of being anything more than a late-lotto team for the next five years? No one is stupid enough anymore to let Paul Pierce to slide to #10.
They don't have the courage to rebuild. They don't have the talent to compete. This is a win-now league, and permanent mediocrity is safer for the decision-makers than sucking to rebuild (yeah, Derek, you convinced me, sort of).
Get ready. It's going to be a frustrating ride. All the way to Mediocracy. At best.