As I watched confetti fall from the rafters at the Wells Fargo Center for just the 23rd time this season and the 13 fans in the building give the team a standing ovation, (all out of pity), I started feeling really sentimental. Mostly, my feelings were because of how much my expectations from mid-August to mid-April have dwindled and the way that the fan base's confidence in the team, front office and coaching staff has been completely obliterated.
Thinking back to August, I was standing in the Constitution Center, watching Josh Harris, Adam Aron, Doug Collins, Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson get introduced; it was the apex of my Sixers fandom, because I was in preschool when the team was in the finals in 2001. (The pinnacle of my fandom, previously, was the Sixers being so horrendous that they were given the number two draft pick and would be granted the gift of drafting a surefire star player in Evan Turner *sigh*). I, along with the fans surrounding me, had not been accustomed to such confidence. All we had been treated to since Iverson's departure was an owner who cared more about the city's hockey team, annual first-round playoff exits to #1 seeds like the Pistons and Heat and the short-lived Eddie Jordan era.
Now, for the first time in a decade, the Sixers had the star player the fan base had craved for years. Forget the players we traded for him; Vucevic is mediocre, Iguodala never was a number one option and, really, who is Moe Harkless?
Bynum would help with the development of Turner so he could finally break out of his shell and showcase his true talent. Oh, I almost forgot, Jason Richardson would bring tremendous leadership and experience to the locker room.
Coach Collins, who has never made it past three seasons as a head coach in his career, was certainly a long-term coach. How could he lose with this 2009 Orlando Magic-esque roster? It was almost like everyone forgot about his glaring weaknesses in young players' development, play-calling and handling players' personalities.
And, last but not least, the ownership that had bought the team in 2011 had pulled of possibly the greatest trade in franchise history. The fan base had an ownership that was dedicated to constructing a winner.
We, the fans, felt nothing but bliss; we felt invincible.
But, absolutely everything went wrong. Everything.
Bynum's knees imploded.
Jason Richardson met the back end of his career and played a scattered 33 games before undergoing knee surgery.
Collins' weaknesses were exposed with a depleted roster and he was no longer the right coach for this team moving forward into rebuild mode. Even the ownership "discretely" wants him out.
The ownership, maybe, isn't committed to building a winner after all? Who knows? Maybe, more than anything, they want fans in the seats and t-shirt cannons. Maybe they'll make the mistake of signing Josh Smith or Al Jefferson just to put fans in the seats. Really, nobody knows.
Worst of all, the players they traded are flourishing in opposing uniforms.
Nikola Vucevic is a candidate for Most Improved Player, averaging twelve rebounds per game, exposing Doug's weakness in being reluctant to play him last year.
Moe Harkless looks like a rookie on the rise. He averaged thirteen points, six rebounds and almost three assists in the month of March.
Now, here we are, with no players we're sure are here for the long haul, aside from Jrue Holiday.
Imagine what could have been had Andrew Bynum been healthy, regardless of how torturous it may be. 50 wins? Top four seed in the East?
Or, if you regret the trade (which you shouldn't), maybe we'd have a real bright future ahead of us with budding young players surrounding our all-star point guard.
The Bynum deal set this team back a few years. We have no idea what to expect from the nuclear summer ahead of us.
As the Sixers franchise moves forward with the inevitable upcoming fire sale and another hectic summer, it's hard not to wonder what could have been.