As I write this, the Philadelphia 76ers are minutes removed from their 10th loss of the young NBA season. They are currently 0-10.
The loss Monday came at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs, who are the owners of five NBA titles in the last 15 years. They have one of, if not the best, all-time power forwards on their team (he played about 20 minutes Monday night, less than half the game). They have one of the winningest coaches in the sport's history. They have one of the most sought after front offices' in all of basketball. They are the portrait of NBA success.
The Sixers, on the other hand, have a coach who looks like Don Draper's boss, a rookie with a cool haircut and a body like Samuel L Jackson in that one movie about comic books, a point guard who sometimes writes embarrassing stories for a content website, another point guard who only has one move (the move is "dribble the ball as fast as to you can to the left") and a guy who looks like this.
The Sixers lost by 25 points.
A lot has been made of the organization's strategy regarding this season and the subsequent ones to come within the next half-decade. Roughly speaking, the plan is this: stink as bad as you can, with the youngest group of players you can amass from other teams for small amounts of money. Collect high draft picks and high-potential projects. Give these young people a chance to become better. Develop enough young players, a team of champions will emerge.
I am a fan of the strategy. I think being bad in the short term for a chance at being great in the long run is a worthwhile effort. Others have come up with significant flaws in this plan. The league itself seems none too pleased with what the team is attempting. Everyone hates Philadelphia right now. I think that's a little unfair.
Consider the following:
- The 76ers are 0-10, but they could easily be 4-6 (or, at least, 3-7). Three of their last 10 games were decided by 3 points or less, and Philly was within single-digits in the closing minutes of of 6 of their games. While the team is having trouble closing out games, they aren't getting blown apart.
- In three games so far, the Sixers have been completely decimated: against the Raptors (120-88), the Spurs (100-75) and the Mavericks (123-70, which is so crazy that it hurts me to think about). In all other games, the Sixers have been competitive.
- Their losses have come from teams like the aforementioned Raptors (8-2, leading the Atlantic), Spurs (6-4, defending league champs), and Mavs (8-3). They've also lost to the Bulls (7-3), the Rockets twice (9-2), and the Miami Heat (6-5). Throw in an over-achieving Milwaukee team (5-5), and 8 of Philly's 10 losses come at the hands of teams playing .500 basketball or better.
None of this is to say that the Sixers are a very good team, because they aren't. They lost a game by 50 points the other night. They are, however, an exciting team with a lot of young talent. They are a team playing as hard as their feeble bodies can. They are capable of excitement, and they are capable of great unintentional comedy. Furthermore, though, this team is giving a chance to a group of people who could not find chances anywhere else, and it is letting them try to figure it out.
If you were cynical, you could call the Sixers an internship program for would-be NBA players.
Really though, the team has put its entire focus into developing young players, and making that development a priority over wins. It is a team that says "growth and process are more important that immediate success." This business is displaying the kind of thoughtful, person-first success plan that businesses never do. It's a team with a real human element. That alone is worth rooting for. Every Tony Wroten drive or Nerlens distructo block is just gravy.
This basketball team is basically the Bad News Bears, and if you can't root for the Bad News Bears, you can go fuck yourself.