After the 76ers dropped their second game of the season to the Utah Jazz in a disheartening fashion, I remember telling myself that if the season started like the previous year, I didn't know how I'd handle it. If the Sixers started off a season once again with a historic 0-fer stretch, I didn't know if I could stomach it. Well, here were are. The team is 0-13 and I'm questioning why I'm forcing myself through this all as I go through the Kübler-Ross stages after every game.
After the aforementioned loss, I tried to channel that frustration into writing something for this site as few people around me share my enthusiasm. Furthermore, I already annoy myself on social media most of the time so I'd rather not use it to vent.
In the end, as I can't really sustain negativity for long periods, what was basically an unfinished anti-process rant became a form of catharsis that is safely locked away in the LB Editorial vault. However, I'll share some of what I wrote then as most of it is still somewhat applicable now.
When Sam Hinkie took over a little more than 2 and a half years ago, it was a foregone conclusion that the rebuild process was going to be difficult and painful. The team was in a hole after the Bynum debacle and needed to reset to recuperate talent, draft picks, and cap. It was easy to buy-in then because the alternatives were just as hard (and similar to what the previous regimes have been doing for years). Two and a half years later, are things that much better?
Hold up. I want to preface everything I said/will say with still agreeing with the direction of this team. I've agreed with it during the twilight of the Doug Collins era, agreed with it during the Hinkie era, and will continue to agree that the team had to take a few steps back before taking a few more forward. I haven't agreed with every move or non-move Hinkie has made and I probably won't moving forward. So please, don't misconstrue what I said, say or will say with admitting someone was wrong or right, or that something has failed or succeeded.
Two and a half years later, on the night of the 76ers home opener, I'm beginning to reach the breaking point in tolerating a poor basketball product; the 2nd game of an 82 game season, mind you. It's easy to blame the players that are failing, no matter how hard they try, or the coach, no matter how hard he thinks/schemes/motivates. But, they already know this. They know that they're fighting an uphill battle every night.
Brett Brown's quote telling the media and fans to "bunker in" both hit me in two ways. First, the roster wasn't built with a chance to win on any given night against NBA competition due to a variety of factors.
Injuries are going to happen, that's part of the unpredictability in sports. There are absolutely ways to mitigate this (as much as possible) by having adequate depth on your roster. However, from top-to-bottom, this Sixer team is filled with young talent, unproven/raw players, and straight-up NBA projects. Essentially, the Sixers are built to hopefully develop as they fail.
Secondly, this has been a true test of faith in both the players on the team and the GM driving the ship.
As a fan, you can tolerate the growing pains as you watch youth find their way in the league. We cling to certain players with the hope that their names may one day hang from the rafters. I know I find excitement watching something like this grow organically. What I can't take is knowing that with all the odds stacked against them, they'll have to endure more hardship than necessary AND we'll have to endure more aesthetically unpleasing basketball.
Everyone has their reasons for both watching sports and following certain teams. I'm just a fan that appreciates the game of basketball and partakes in sports tribalism for the enjoyment. When both of things are thrown out the window, as has been the case for multiple years, I'm going to start to question and criticize (right or wrong).
So as we head into game 14 against the Miami Heat tonight, I can't say I feel confident that tonight will be the night the tides will change. I can't say that I won't be disappointed by the results as we continue on this process. But, I'd like to think that one day we'll look back on these 2+ years as a small footnote on the road to greatness. At worst, it'll will be some forgettable years in the same vein as Ayers to Jordan.
Until then, in between the eventual highs and the current lows, I'll continue to rely on some catharsis to keep some perspective.