The Philadelphia 76ers haven’t won this season in 14 tries. They probably won’t win on Wednesday night even in the face of a disappointing Brooklyn Nets squad, and without getting into histrionics or hyperbole it is fair to wonder if the 76ers will win a single game before the year 2015 starts up.
Or by the time 2014-15 ends. Seriously. The coin flip could land on the wrong side 82 times, and the ridiculous could happen. We’re going there.
Betting outlets are getting close to going there:
— Bovada Official (@BovadaLV) November 26, 2014
Your weekly @numberFire update: Sixers favored in ZERO of remaining 69 games. Best win odds are 44.6% on March 30 at home against ... Lakers
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) November 24, 2014
Last year’s Sixers were designed to lose, but this year’s squad is ta(n)king it to another level. There is no veteran scorer in the Thaddeus Young guise to help the team out on some nights, and the squad’s two cornerstone players (Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel) are playing terribly right now. The Sixers remain dead last in offense by a wide margin, and it genuinely is hard to conceive just how, exactly, they’d manage to score more points than another NBA team spread out over 48 minutes of action.
It truly would have to come down to “everyone had a bad night.” Or even, “just about everyone was sick and injured.”
This remains a bleak scenario, and after dealing with last season’s tank job and the prospects of 60-odd more games of this junk, Philadelphia fans are starting to wonder what they’re paying for.
What they’re paying full price for, more specifically. From a typically-great feature penned by NBA.com’s David Aldridge, detailing the back and forth between some Sixer season-ticket holders and the team’s CEO:
"A couple of years ago, you guys raised the prices when Andrew Bynum came here," he tells the team's chief executive officer. "And that didn't work out. We paid for tickets, and then the [Jrue Holiday] trade happened. So we paid last year to watch nothing. And then this year, we bought tickets thinking we were gonna watch two lottery picks. The point is, we're paying the same prices other people are paying ... We're paying what everybody is paying, and we're watching three players out of 15 that would make [other] NBA teams."
The team's CEO, Scott O'Neil, is nonplussed. Well, honestly, he looks a little plussed.
An elderly man has the floor.
"Do we root for the team to win, or lose?," he asks.
"Win," O'Neil says.
"That contradicts everything you just said," the man replies.
"I don't understand; how does that contradict what I just said?" O'Neil continues. "We want them to win. I don't think there's any doubt in that. I'm not sure we're equipped to win a lot of games. I think we can all agree on that."
"But the goal is to lose games to get a better Draft pick," the man replies.
Most NBA fans can relate to a certain extent, as their team has been in the sort of a situation where you want to root for them to compete to a 100-99 loss in an early April contest, entertaining you and representing your fandom well before ultimately losing and ensuring a better chance at a high lottery pick. Even Laker fans and Celtics fans, at various points just in the last decade, have had to fight that same internal battle as they tune in to view.
Sixers fans are dealing with this in early November, though, and not in early spring. They’ve had to deal with it for two whole years. You can understand the viscidities and various payoffs of rebuilding projects all you want, but 164 games of this stuff (and they’re only 96 games in!) seems like it would be impossible to handle.
So what is the payoff, here?
The ideal setup would have Philadelphia entering 2015-16 with the top pick in the 2015 NBA draft, arguably the two best prospects from the 2013 and 2014 draft, and the 2013-14 Rookie of the Year on their roster. On paper, that’s a devastating foundation. The team would then add Dario Saric, possibly the best international prospect out there right now, a year later. Meanwhile, the team’s two-season training camp would result in scads of potentially stellar ninth and tenth men (read: the current 76ers starting lineup) to dot the roster with. Also, the salary cap situation would be pristine.
As noted above, however, Noel has played terribly this season, and there’s a real chance that the similarly-raw Joel Embiid will suffer through the same extended learning process next season (that is unless the Sixers play Joel later this year, something they should have done with Noel). MCW was the Rookie of the Year in perhaps The Worst Rookie Class Ever, and tanking your way toward the worst record far from guarantees a top overall selection in the draft.
Worst? The 2015-16 NBA season doesn’t start for ten more months. In the meantime, the Sixer fans that are still around and paying full price for a product that was meant to be cut rate. Literally, as the Sixers will be below the NBA’s minimum salary cap for the second straight season and nearly by half of it. The team’s ownership is spending absolutely no money on this team while it chases down a basketball strategy that many of us are still in favor of, but the business end of things is acting as if the 76ers are still paying the luxury tax.
That’s something they used to do, you know, and that’s the reason why the previous administration never went anywhere.
Various groups led by Ed Stefanski, Rod Thorn, and especially Doug Collins made a series of penny-wise and pound-foolish moves that only led to one second round appearance – and that only came because Chicago Bulls Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah twisted selected parts of their legs the wrong way at the absolute worst time. When smart NBA fans begged their mediocre teams to start over and possibly tank a season, they pointed to the 76ers as an example of what they didn’t want their team to become.
New the new ownership, coaching staff, and front office listened to those fans, and the result is a 19-77 run spread out over two seasons thus far. The team’s coach, Brett Brown, is somehow keeping an optimistic approach while he watches his career winning percentage go down the toilet:
"We're not that far away. I genuinely believe that," Brown said Monday. "I think that this team is starting to see bits and hints of a team. Nobody is rolling over or pointing fingers. These guys are great."
That’s … well, that’s great. This is a roster that is genuinely filled with great guys, even if their mothers are frustrated, but the squad is still four losses away (with games against Brooklyn, Dallas, San Antonio, and Minnesota up next) from tying the league’s all time record for losses to start a season (set by the 2009-10 New Jersey Nets), and you wouldn’t be wrong in betting that the Sixers could once again challenge its shared NBA record of 26 straight losses.
Or the NBA’s record of just nine wins in a full season, set by the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers.
Or the horrific novelty of losing every single game in an NBA season.
If you see a Sixers fan heading to a game this year, give them some money for beer.
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