Kevin Durant blows by Lamar Odom during his rookie season (Getty Images)
The Philadelphia 76ers are gearing up for what could be a historically-bad 2013-14 season. The team only managed 34 wins last season, and topped that run off by dealing their top scorer and only All-Star in Jrue Holiday for a raw draft pick in Nerlens Noel that may not be in top form all season as he recovers from an ACL year. The Sixers may not be tanking, but they are rebuilding, in an effort many NBA observers like to align with the Seattle/Oklahoma City rebuilding project from Kevin Durant’s first few years.
Durant is in Manchester, England currently, taking on the Sixers in an exhibition tour, and he decided to talk bottoming out with Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer:
“It was tough for me especially coming in as a young player,” Durant said of his rookie season. “I thought I was going to play with Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis when they were all-star every year.”
“Every game it was tough knowing that it was going to be hard for us to win,” Durant said. “But what we did was come in and work hard every day, and know that it was going to be a process and maybe a tough year.”
Pretty blasé stuff if we’re honest, but what’s worse for Sixer fans hoping for some sort of guidance through the dark is the fact that Durant’s hoped-for Allen-KD-Lewis triptych was never going to happen.
The Seattle SuperSonics didn’t particularly plan to end up with the second pick in the 2007 draft. The team racked up a 52-win season behind a fabulous offense in 2004-05, but after cheapskate owner Howard Schultz refused to compete with the Portland Trail Blazers for the services of Nate “Mr. Sonic” McMillan as head coach when his contract lapsed after that season, the team managed to pile up just 66 wins over the next two years with modestly-priced retreads like Bob Weiss and Bob Hill running the show.
Lewis was never thought to be returning as a free agent in the summer of 2007, even before Orlando offered a ridiculous six-year, $118.2 million contract in a sign-and-trade during the summer of 2007. And though Allen wasn’t thought to be a complete goner heading into new general manager Sam Presti’s rebuilding phase, it wasn’t a surprise when he was dealt to the Boston Celtics on the same 2007 draft night that saw Seattle select KD. In all, Durant’s time with Allen as a SuperSonic last for a matter of minutes, and his time with Lewis lasted about a week until his contract lapsed.
So it isn’t as if Durant, heading into draft night unsure if he’d be selected first or second overall, had a while to muse about his future with those two.
Worst, for 76ers fans? Nerlens Noel is a fine prospect and we applauded Philadelphia’s move to grab him and a future pick for Holiday, but he’s no Kevin Durant.
Seattle went into its rebuilding phase, eschewing the 30-some win era that preceded it, with Kevin Durant already on board. Philadelphia has no such franchise-level rock to work with, and because the team’s lottery odds aren’t exactly stacked in their favor even if they do end up with the worst record in the NBA, there’s no guarantee that the team will find one in the 2014 draft. Even if New Orleans, still a tough sell as a playoff team, will be likely shipping their lottery selection to Philadelphia as part of the Noel/Holiday deal.
On top of that, blessed with a blossoming Durant already in place, the Seattle/Oklahoma City franchise managed just 43 wins combined in Kevin’s first two seasons. We’re not overhyping Philadelphia’s plight when we say that the 76ers are going to have to fight incredibly hard just to manage half the 20 wins Durant’s SuperSonics cobbled together in 2007-08.
Enjoy your time in Manchester, 76ers. The next six months are going to incredibly rough.
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