COMMENTARY | Garbage time is the term used in sports for the final minutes of games when the outcome on the scoreboard has been decided and the clock can't tick to zero fast enough. It's when coaches play reserves that otherwise wouldn't need to have their uniform washed before the next game. It's when there are more fans in the parking lot than in the arena.
It is garbage time for the Philadelphia 76ers. And not just in the waning minutes of their now-meaningless games, but every minute from the opening tip until the final buzzer.
Sixers coach Doug Collins has to get the players he thinks and hopes can be significant contributors next season some meaningful playing time this year. If he doesn't, he has no way to evaluate what his team's real needs are, with or without Andrew Bynum.
It has to start with getting rookie Arnett Moultrie at least twice as many minutes as the 9:24 per game the first-round draft pick has logged so far this season. Against Atlanta on March 6, the power forward logged 26:45, scoring eight points and grabbing seven rebounds. He showed some promise.
But since that game, Moultrie has averaged less than 10 minutes in the Sixers' four games that were just as playoff-meaningless as the Atlanta game. That's not how to evaluate whether or not Moultrie has what it takes to be a significant contributor next year.
Coming out of college, Moultrie was anything but a household name. After two seasons at UTEP, Moultrie transferred to Mississippi State, where he was an All-SEC selection after averaging 16.4 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.
It was Moultrie's final collegiate season that impressed the Miami Heat enough to make him the 27th overall selection in the 2012 NBA Draft, and why the Sixers traded their 45th overall pick and a future first-round (lottery protected) pick for the rights to the 6-foot-10, 230-pound power forward.
Now, Moultrie has to prove his value. And the only way to do that is to be on the court, consistently, night after night, and for long stretches when the outcome of the game has not already been decided.
Moultrie should be playing at least as much as Spencer Hawes, if not more. Moultrie would give the Sixers a post player underneath whose best move isn't the fall-away 15-foot jumper from the elbow. Moultrie is a player who can dunk from inside the semicircle under the rim, whether he's being contested or not.
The Sixers need to look no further than in the mirror to come up with an example of what can happen if rookies aren't given a chance to prove themselves. Nikola Vucevic played less than 16 minutes per game last season as a Sixer. This year, Vucevic is the starting center for the Orlando Magic, averaging 12.2 points and 11.4 rebounds per game.
In hindsight, Vucevic might be the big man the Sixers are missing in the lineup this season, and with more playing time last year, Collins might have figured that out. If he had, maybe Bynum is still with the Los Angeles Lakers, Dwight Howard with the Magic, and let's face it, all three teams probably happier. Most likely with Vucevic on the team this year, the Sixers are jockeying for playoff positions, not lottery ones.
So far, one of the players the Sixers spent a future first-round draft pick on last summer hasn't played a minute. Only time, and maybe a surgeon, will determine if what Philadelphia traded for Bynum was worth it.
The second player that the franchise traded a first-round pick for last year hasn't played enough minutes to evaluate his worth. At least, not yet.
"It's real valuable for me to grow as a player," Moultrie told reporters when asked about the value to him of the remaining games. "So I just use this time to just get better and just take advantage of the little time I'm getting. … For the remainder of the season I just want to get in and show what I can do and set myself up for the future of the organization."
That future can, and should start now.
It's Moultrie time.
Jon Buzby is an award-winning sportswriter from Delaware and has followed the Sixers since 1976. He contributes regularly to multiple newspapers, magazines and websites. Follow him @JonBuzby on Twitter.
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