12 months is a long time. A really long time. It doesn't seem like it for Sixers fans, for time flies when you're having fun. It is though. It doesn't even seem like much has changed, because the philosophy has remained so constant.
Consider the Sixers of 12 months ago today.
- They didn't officially have a head coach yet. Brett Brown was officially named head coach on August 14th. (Good thing this theme day wasn't planned for Friday or I would have been screwed.)
- There are five players on the current roster that were on the team this time (Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel, Arnett Moultrie, Jason Richardson, and Thaddeus Young), and that number could be shrinking even further if Young is, in fact, headed north for the winter.
- We thought Royce White was going to be a thing. (OK, some of us thought Royce White was going to be a thing. OK, fine, I thought Royce White was going to be a thing.)
A lot can change in a year. Where will the Sixers be in 12 months? The easy answer is to say, pretty much in the same place they are now, but that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.
With the Sixers, the important question is not where will they be, because the answer is still going to be unsatisfactory to many. They're likely to be coming off another losing season, a season where they will likely be one of the worst teams in the league. In that respect, they'll be in exactly the same place they are now.
The important question is whether they will be better off in 12 months than they are now. Better is subjective, but in this case, it's all-encompassing. Will they be better basketball players? Will they be in a better position to compete long-term? Will they win more?
Just the idea of being better off 12 months from now is something we can all relate to in our daily lives. This time last year, I took a job as a sales representative for a professional sports team, which I thought would be my big break into the sports world, just a few months removed from graduating from Temple.
Today, that sports team is defunct after only one comically unsuccessful six-month season. If you had told me the team would go under and I'd still be better off, I wouldn't have believed it. But I am. Not drastically better off, mind you: the freelance writing game isn't as glamorous as it looks, but incremental progress is still progress.
2014-15 is a year of incremental progress for the 76ers. Their potential star center, Joel Embiid, might still have yet to play in an NBA game 12 months from now, although hopefully we'll be buzzing about some ridiculous athletic feats he performs in a Summer League game somewhere. Numerous young players will get a chance to contribute a large number of minutes to the team and better their game as a result, or, the pessmistic side, the Sixers will find out they can't play at this level.
12 months from now, the Sixers will likely have another high lottery pick to get excited about (or another one that can't play for another year to inflame the fanbase yet again). They'll have emerged from a pretty strong FA class, maybe using their wealth of cap space to pick up a quality veteran player to add to their stable of potential young stars.
Jimmy Carter's famous "crisis of confidence" speech keeps ringing through my head as I write this. Carter referred to the American people that had just been mentally beaten down after being lied to, disrespected, and disappointed. He referred to an America that just had no reason to think things were getting any better. (And America agreed, ousting Carter from office in favor of
Nancy Ronald Reagan.)
That's a skeptical Sixers fan in 2014. They consistently believe that the next five years are going to be even worse than the past five years, because for the last 30 years, this franchise has given them little reason to believe that things are getting any better. For many, it's all they've ever known. It's all I've ever known. Even during this franchise's most successful recent run, their march to the 2001 Finals, the only thing they really did right was win a lottery and pick the consensus top player. Other than that, the tenure is marked with mismanagement, bungled decisions, and mediocrity.
It's hard for Sixers fans to accept that they have capable management, no matter how sound the logic is, because for the last 30 years, they've been told countless times that things were getting better, only to be lied to, disrespected, and disappointed.
It's hard to overcome that constant skepticism, and it's a position I've tried to become more understanding of, even as I disagree with it.
Nobody knows for sure where the Sixers will be in 12 months. In today's NBA, everything is so fluid that's impossible to say. Ask a Cavs fan in August 2013 where they'd be today and anyone who would've said something remotely resembling what they have now would have been classified as delusional.
But they will be better off in 12 months though. That much, I believe wholeheartedly. 12 months is a long time to get better, even though time flies when you're having fun.