The Sixers' days as an elite NBA franchise are long gone. Since the 1983 championship, Philadelphia has advanced to the NBA Finals just once and if not for the mighty exploits of one Allen Iverson, Philly would be mired in a 31 year slump and clowned by the entire sports world as they should. In this season, Philadelphia has become the most embarrassing team in recently city memory; an NBA record tying 26 losing streak will do that. With an upcoming draft loaded with perceived franchise changing talent, will the Sixers get it back and give the city a reason to watch the game from the stands rather than cuss at their televisions at home?
You could see this coming. Fans look to the 2010 draft when the Sixers “lost” the chance to draft John Wall and took Naismith Player of the Year and Wooden Award winner Evan Turner with the 2nd pick.
All good right? Nah, DeMarcus Cousins was the pick. Despite the perception of his personality as just another insubordinate young athlete, DeMarcus Cousins has become a force and one of the league’s best big men (DMC even sings). At the time, Elton Brand was manning the post, and what better player to mentor Cousins than an NBA veteran as respected as anyone in the league? Cousins has that fire the city needed to get a charge and though I screamed it Philly far and Wells Fargo Center wide to anyone who would listen, Turner was selected despite having a similar player in Andre Iguodala on the roster. Incredible is how young energy is misunderstood as if a possibility for wise maturity through experience doesn't remotely exist. The 23-year-old Cousins is averaging 17.6 and 10.2 for the 25-48 Kings and yeah their record sucks, but GM's league-wide would not make the same mistake Philly made that ’10 draft day.
Brand was amnestied in 2012, Iguodala traded in ’12 despite being the glue guy coming off gold medal Olympic recognition (as well as an All-Star berth), and then the move that angered every Sixers fan alive: Sixers GM Sam Hinkie traded Jrue Holiday for the rights to Nerlens Noel and New Orleans’ first round pick in the 2014 NBA draft. Noel tore his ACL 20 months ago and despite looking good in rehab, he has not played an NBA minute. To compound Sixers ineptitude, the aforementioned Evan Turner was traded to Indiana for Danny Granger. Granger was a Sixer for 6 days before the Sixers brought out his contract and eventually Granger moved onto to the Los Angeles Clippers.
So, if the Sixers would have just drafted Cousins with the roster they had at the time, they would be playoff contenders and new ownership would be in a better position regarding public relations. I tell my kids all the time, the good are separated from the great simply by the risks they take. The world hated DeMarcus Cousins it seems before he entered the league because of how his personality clashed with the mainstream. DMC has proven everyone wrong and will only get better.
Take that haters.
During the record-tying 26 game losing streak, 18 losses were at home and historically; crickets can be heard in the Wells Fargo Arena whenever the team is mired in a slump. The 123-98 victory vs. Detroit was their first since beating Boston on January 29 and their first home win since January 15 vs. Charlotte.
Yes, the Sixers potentially have Michael Carter-Williams for at least a decade and the point guard has been stellar in his rookie season. He's so stellar that the leading Rookie of the Year candidate just missed a quadruple-double in his first NBA game. Thad Young is having a career year, and at 25, is the Sixers' most experienced player besides 12-year vet Jason Richardson.
Young deserves better than a 16-57 record – which is 2nd worst in the league. He’s done everything the organization has asked of him since coming out of Georgia Tech and has seen 5 head coaches in 6 years in Philly. This team is virtually recognizable even to hardcore basketball fans, but if Sixers' brass’ plan of clearing cap space to sign one or maybe even two free agents to max deals — along with what comes in the draft — the future looks hopeful.
When Josh Harris led a group and purchased the Sixers in 2011, there was an immediate culture change. Past legends were brought in to the arena almost nightly and the city seemed energized at the possibility of returning to relevancy. With Miami and Oklahoma City looking to control the era, will building the team from the bottom up be enough? And will that process even with two premium picks in the '14 draft be successful?
Seems like a lot of luck has to go down.
Fans here in Philly are indifferent to whatever tanking means. Yes, they want this team to become a contender by any means necessary, but having any air of losing intentionally just doesn't sit well with a region known for never giving up through hard work. Andre Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, Julius Randle or Aaron Gordon will each fit well in the City of Brotherly Love, but those young talents will have the pressure of an entire Philadelphia fan base upon their shoulders. This is the most critical time in Sixers recent memory and whether Brett Brown is still here coaching or Hinkie the GM making personnel moves, if this doesn't work out, ownership has no one to blame but itself.