And then, Sam Hinkie happened.
Three trades later, the Sixers' roster is radically different than it was just 36 hours ago. In fact, the aftermath of the various trades will be (and should be) discussed weeks after the details of tonight's 106-95 loss are long forgotten.
One of the 76ers' deadline deals sent popular swingman K.J. McDaniels to Houston in exchange for point guard Isaiah Canaan and a 2015 second-round pick. Canaan isn't exactly a household name, nor is he a face that most people in the Philadelphia area would immediately recognize:
Isaiah Canaan just walked up to the Sixers' locker room and the security guard asked, "Phlight Squad?" Cold.— Max Rappaport (@MaxRappaport) February 20, 2015
Sadly, Mr. Canaan didn't suit up tonight, because Brett Brown could have used him. Tim Frazier (who just signed a second 10-day contract) played about as well as Tim Frazier can play (13 points, seven assists, four turnovers), but the absence of Michael Carter-Williams was painfully evident. For what it's worth, Hinkie noted multiple times during his whirlwind media tour today that Canaan would be the starting point guard going forward.
Speaking of the Sixers' general manager, it appears that during his flurry of wheeling and dealing on Thursday, he even traded away his team's HVAC system:
Paul George (@Yg_Trece) February 20, 2015
Perhaps that explains the cold start by both teams tonight: Five minutes into the first quarter, the game was tied at 4-4, and many among the "16,777" in attendance had to have had second and third thoughts about their decision to make the trek down to the Wells Fargo Center.
C.J. Miles (14 first-quarter points) was one of the few players able to put it together in the early going, and he was the sole reason why Indiana (22-33) enjoyed a 23-16 lead after the first 12 minutes.
The opening period could have been a lot worse for the Sixers (12-42): Nerlens Noel's five first quarter blocks kept his team in the game even though they shot just a paltry 32 percent from the field. The second quarter was more of the same, and the Sixers were fortunate to find themselves down by just 18 at halftime.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (16 points, 10 rebounds) hit a couple of threes after intermission to help cut the Pacers' lead to 14, but Rodney Stuckey (a game-high 30 points) went on a personal 10-0 run late in the third quarter, and that was pretty much all she wrote.
In one of the more impressive performances of his career, Noel finished with 12 points, nine rebounds, nine blocks, and four steals. His near triple-double almost overshadowed a strong showing out of Richardson (seven points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes), who looked remarkably athletic for someone who hasn't played in more than two calendar years.
Five Sixers finished in double figures: JaKarr Sampson chipped in 11 off of the bench, and Jerami Grant scored 10 of his 16 points in the first half, helping to offset a poor shooting night from Robert Covington (2-for-10 from the field, eight points).
For most of the game, JaVale McGee looked like a guy who just showed up in Philly an hour ago. And then this happened:
I don't even know if that's English (Editor's Note: It is, just not the King's.), and I don't even know if that's a dunk (Editor's Note: It is.), but I know that I'm ALL IN on the JaVale McGee Experience. Pierre is real, and he's spectacular.
The Sixers are back at it Sunday night as they hit the road to face the Orlando Magic. A trip to Miami is on the docket for Monday, and the three-game trip ends with a visit to Milwaukee, where they'll face... Michael Carter-Williams and the Bucks. Funny how life works sometimes.