Is it safe to say the Sixers have hit rock bottom? I sure hope so.
I decided to shell out the big bucks and get upper level tickets for last nights marquee matchup at the Verizon Center between Philly and Washington, and was able to see, in person, just how bad this year's Sixer team really is. A couple plays for me last night really personified the way this season has gone:
- Royal Ivey starts the game (yikes).
- John Wall pins Spencer Hawes' breakaway layup on a chase-down block. You know, sort of like what happened earlier this year.
- Dorell Wright airballs a 29 foot three-pointer with 19 seconds left on the shot clock.
- John Wall makes a 360 layup; Hawes' head promptly explodes.
- With about 28 seconds left, down by 1, the Sixers give up an offensive rebound. Then, John Wall dribbles in the same place for 23 seconds, and makes a semi-contested 20 footer with four seconds to go.
Overall, this game to me was a microcosmic night of the Sixers season, which can basically be boiled down into these elements: uninspired basketball, low effort, little to no excitement, some bad luck, contested 17 footers at the end of the shot clock, two guys running away from the guy with the ball, Evan Turner getting his shot blocked, Spencer Hawes shooting three pointers, having to confirm that Jrue Holiday is on the court, wondering what happened to Xavier Silas, massive Nick Vucevic box scores, Andrew Bynum haircuts, Doug Collins suicide watches, getting sick of the words "Swaggy" and "P" in about a week, and seriously considering if bringing back Allen Iverson would be a bad thing.
Of course, the totally depressing part about this season is that it was supposed to be so good. With Bynum, Philly was supposed to at least bother Miami in the east, take that next step, and become a championship contender. Instead, well, they didn't. It's easy to chalk this season up to Bynum never playing, but I think the Sixers' problems run deeper than that. Unfortunately for their fans, things are only going to get hairier from here. In typical Philadelphia fan fashion, let's look at some of the reasons why 76er fans have little to look forward to in the next few years:
Andrew Bynum ain't comin' back.
Would you? The sad thing is that Philadelphia is already sick of Bynum, and he hasn't even played a game yet. There's already too much acrimony for this situation to work, and I think Bynum knows that. Houston's going to offer him a max deal, so Bynum will be able to get his money elsewhere, and really, if you're the Sixers, is he really worth it? He's obviously an injury risk, and his contract is going to eat so much money that the Sixers won't have much more to play with, especially with Evan Turner (we'll get to him in a second) and Thad Young extensions looming in the future. But hey! If Bynum bolts, Philly will have all kinds of cap space...
Philly could have tons of cap space in the crappiest free agency year in a while.
If Bynum walks, the 76ers will have plenty of money to work with, but the problem is that no one this year is really worth spending on. They're not going to get Dwight Howard or Chris Paul, so that leaves players like Josh Smith (nah), Brandon Jennings (nope), Tyreke Evans (negatory), Andre Iguodala (NOOOOOO!!!!!), and Pal Jeffersap (if we could sign them as a package deal, I'd be intrigued). As a fan, would you really be excited about getting any of those guys? Exactly. And I highly doubt any of them would even be interested in playing in Philly.
Doug Collins won't win you a championship.
I absolutely love love LOVE Doug Collins, but he's lost this team. You could tell last night that this group has checked out; no one talks, no one hustles, and they don't even give each other high fives after free throws. I'm not sure this is entirely Collins' fault, but at some point, he's just going to burn out his players (everyone's favorite Doug Collins stat is that he's never coached a team more than three years, and this is why). I don't care what kind of roster moves Philly makes in the next year or two, no one on this team wants to listen to Dougie anymore.
Andrew Bynum's injury is not why the 76ers are bad.
The common excuse I keep hearing about this year's team is, "Well, they were built to compliment one guy, and that guy isn't playing, so it just doesn't work," but I'm not buying that. If you're an NBA basketball team, with NBA players and an NBA coach, you adjust. You build in a new system. You change your defensive philosophy. You don't just proceed as if Bynum is there. That's what so frustrating about these Sixers; at no point did they say, "Okay, we're undersized, so let's work our tails off on the glass, push the pace on both ends of the floor, attack the rim and kick for jumpers." Instead, they decided to forget they were young and athletic, and to play deliberate basketball for midrange jump shots. It just doesn't make sense; a pickup team could figure out a strategy better than these guys.
Jrue Holiday isn't the leader we want him to be.
Obviously Jrue Holiday is a great young player, but he's not an emotional or motivating force. Simply by watching last night's game, you could see that he's just along for the ride. There were points that I even had to remind myself that he was on the floor. Holiday will continue to be a great piece for this team, and he's someone you can build with, but he's not the focal point of the 76ers (to the ownership's credit, I think they realized this, which is why they went after Bynum, but that clearly didn't work).
Evan Turner is what he is.
I think the Sixers made the right choice when they drafted Turner second overall, but that's more a criticism of that year's draft class rather than a justification of ET's skills. Turner will never be a go to guy. In fact, he won't be a second option. He can't space the floor, he struggles to make plays in traffic, and he's too reliant on mid-range jumpers. For his size and athleticism, he's not a great defender (although he's an excellent rebounder for his position). So, the 76ers need to realize that he's not the building block they want him to be, and deal with it.
So where do we go from here?
Although things look bleak, I think we have to trust the Sixer ownership group that they will do the best they can. I know the Bynum deal went about as bad as it possibly could, but you can't totally blame management for that (I'm not sure how the hell Bynum passed his physical though - wouldn't a good doctor notice his incredibly wonky knees?). @SixersCEOAdam and the rest of the gang have some extremely tough decisions to make in the coming years, and we have no choice but to trust in them.
For me, though, here would be the best case scenario for the 76ers over the next few years:
- Bynum doesn't come back, leaving the Sixers tons of cap space.
- Philly trades Evan Turner for Darrelle Revis (this is an Eagles town first, after all!).
- Management finds a way to extend Thaddeus Young.
- Trace amounts of cocaine are found in Spencer Hawes' beard, so his contract is voided and he never plays another game for Philly again.
- After this season Doug Collins gracefully steps down, and serves as a team advisor while Michael Curry (or me, that would be fine too) is promoted to head coach.
- Nick Young becomes the new Sixers' mascot.
(He doesn't even need a costume!)
- Dorell Wright resigns for a discount, because for some reason I really like him.
- Philly bottoms out, sits in the NBA basement, and acquires as many draft picks as humanly possible until they can build through youth.
- LeBron James moves to Los Angeles.
- In five years Philly has a shot to win out of the Eastern Conference.
Any they say Philadelphia fans are crazy.