The 2013-14 Philadelphia 76ers -- with a new GM, a new coach, and having traded away their only All-Star for the second straight year -- finished the season with a 19-63 record, good (?) for second-worst in the league. They lost 26 straight games, employed 28 different players, and have exactly 2 guys who could even be considered assuredly in their long-term plans, one of whom played as many minutes this year as I did.
And now, with the regular season over, I'll echo what I wrote after Media Day so many months and so many losses ago:
"The Sixers are going to lose more than 60 games this season, and I've never been more fucking confident in the direction of this team in my life."
In truth, we won't know if it was worth it until the NBA Draft Lottery on May 20th. And then we won't know if it was worth it until the NBA Draft on June 26th. And then we won't know if it was worth it for a year or two when the 4-5-6-7 guys Sam Hinkie drafts come into focus.
But as we've grown to believe, in what I've heard described as the "cult-leading Sixers fandom" of Liberty Ballers, it's about the process. Process, process, process. The results will, hopefully, come. Can't get hung up on them if the Sixers drop to 5th in the draft. Process rather than results. Hinkie told us as much right before the season started. They are guaranteed a top 5 pick, anything else is gravy.
On one hand, we knew what we were getting into. Flip through the LB archives and you'll see Roy's prospect-themed "The Case For Tanking" series as far back as August, among other tank-flavored postings. The staff average on predicted wins was 15.5. I wrote something called "How To Watch The Sixers For A Full Year And Not Die." We were lucid and the lights were on -- we knew what this Atlantic City prostitute of a season looked like.
Now, however, with six months and 82 games under our belts, I would amend that. I know for some, this was a miserable season. Maybe the miserable season. A commercial break that wouldn't end. This season was, after all, a formality. A formality that just happened to turn into my favorite year of Sixers basketball of my life.
2014 NBA Draft
We knew about The Plan. We knew about the draft picks. We didn't know about the flailing athleticism of Brandon Davies. The merry-go-round of 10-day contracts the Sixers would roll through like tempura rolls at a sushi restaurant. Actual, tangible improvements from guys like Hollis Thompson and Elliot Williams and Henry Sims as the games added up. That no one over the age of 26 would play a single minute all season. Anything about Brett Brown -- anything at all.
Accepting this season for what it was, rather than trying to force it into something it's not -- like a sexually confused teenager -- made opening our arms to the team's many delights that much easier.
Consider where we were exactly one year ago. Sorry for quoting myself, but it's the best way for me to get back into that headspace that feels a lifetime away. From "The Andrew Bynum Aftermath and How to Feel about the Sixers":
"Time to close the book, then burn the book, then never speak of the book again. And while the anger is mitigated, the overwhelming sense of pointlessness has replaced it a hundred times over."
"It's comforting to know that there will never again be a season as torturous as this one. The bowling jokes, the long two's, the knee lube... lock them in your attic next to your pogs and your dad's Dean Koontz novels. It's over. It's history. That's our saving grace. It's not the one we wanted at the start, but it's the one we got."
The big picture is the only picture. The Sixers have become a forward-thinking organization with seven picks in the upcoming NBA Draft, a handful of cheap-as-dirt guys who could actually be real NBA players, and cap space that they're not just going to blow this offseason because they can. If this goofy little season is the worst of times going forward, then count me in for the next decade.
Nothing will be as carefree as the 2013-14 Sixers. Next season we'll have at least three lottery picks to stress about. We'll have impatient people slapping dangerous expectations on what will once again be the youngest group in the NBA. They'll still miss the playoffs, pick up yet another lottery pick, and be one of the most exciting teams in basketball.
I appreciate the Sixers front office. I appreciate all 28 players (even Kwame, and especially Thad) who the Sixers employed this season. I appreciate Andrew Bynum, or more specifically, what Andrew Bynum meant to this franchise. I appreciate the incredible distance this organization has traveled in less than a year.
So was this season worth it?
Goddamn right it was.