The Sad State of the 76′ers

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Get up number 8!

Philly teams go as Philly love does. Below is a feature I wrote for SLAM Magazine’s website. Also check out this sick highlight reel courtesy of the site. The last dunk was just….

The 2007-’08 76ers are searching for consistency as well as a team unifying identity. Philadelphia is a town not yet over the sting of last year’s mid-season blockbuster trade which sent Allen Iverson to Denver essentially for Andre Miller. Iverson was a beloved player in a town that initially took it’s sweet ole time warming up to the charismatic, courageous as well as enigmatic superstar. To more experienced Philly fans, the trade symbolized the end of an era similar to those of past greats Charles Barkley (traded to Phoenix in ‘93, won MVP and led the Suns to the finals), Julius Erving (retired in ‘87, but was the subject of trade rumors late in his career even though he‘s one of the all time greats) and Wilt Chamberlain (traded to the Lakers after averaging 24 points, a ridiculous 23 rebounds and dishing out 702 assists). Coach Mo Cheeks—Philly’s greatest point guard—himself found out he was traded to the Spurs disrespectfully by the Philly media. Seems ridiculous players of such all time reverence are treated so unceremoniously. Why fans wonder why this team has been so unsuccessful lately is beyond logic.

Philly historically hasn’t sold out it’s NBA arena—even in the best of times. This particular recent night, there was a little over half of Wachovia Center total capacity. Fans here are known for their passion as well as their legendary frustration. They don’t care about having some of the best players of all time. They want to win and anything else is irrelevant. They will vocally persuade management to trade away even Hall of Fame caliber talent if consistent results just aren‘t there. The present generation knows nothing about a championship parade in South Philly and by the looks of things, won‘t know for quite some time.

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The good ole’ days

Most barely remember Dr. J and Wilt is probably most known for banging somebody’s mom in the ’hood than being the G.O.A.T. This season, unless sweeping changes are made (cough Billy King cough), will be a year long mission of meaningless Wachovia Center sneaker hardwood screeches culminating with yet another draft day debacle. Thaddeus Young has yet to play any significant time while players from the six teams drafting below the 13th spot (Young’s position) have had their minutes increased.

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Why didn’t you draft Glen Davis Billy?

Their most hated rival in Boston has upgraded by bringing in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen and in the process electrified the city. Philly yearns for a winner and instead have been getting crushed game in and game out.

Double digit defeats in the beginning of the season are most distressing because teams usually play extra hard the first month or so. The Sixers undoubtedly break this stereotype and seem to be going through the motions; resembling a team playing out the string at the end of the season. Tonight’s effort epitomizes this sentiment.

After the game, the look on Mo Cheeks face spoke volumes. It was the look of an emotionally spent coach who had either laid into his team in the locker room or chose not because he just didn’t have the strength. Mo had to once again face the fire of the Philly media. Before Cheeks stepped to the podium, Billy King swept past—head down—like a kid rushing to get out of an extremely long church service by claiming he had to use the bathroom. King and the rest of the Comcast brass share most of the blame for throwing together a team that isn’t set up to beat nearby Temple University, let alone the Big Three of Boston. As Cheeks steps to the mic with a sigh, most of the questions surrounded the Sixers inability to stop teams during game-changing minutes—which ultimately decide the outcome psychologically. A 10-point run by the opposition before halftime usually comes back to haunt when attempting to claw from behind late in the fourth quarter. One missed free throw can be devastating. These games also have a carry over effect so cancerous to a young team it can kill your entire season. Coach killing listless effort becomes the norm and players are continuously one step behind in critical stages. A weary Coach Cheeks paints a more optimistic view of his young team: “Our defense was not up to par like it has been. What I told the players is that we’ve had a chance to win (some early season games). And then we come in here…and certainly there are games like this during the season. One thing I mentioned to the team was about consistent play. The way we are going to win games is by just outworking everyone else.”

That last statement should be highlighted. This team is lacking the talent to win games late. It’s going to take a behemoth effort from hold over and budding superstar Andre Iguodala to keep this team close. I asked Andre what it‘s going to take for his team to win: “We have to be able to give effort night in and night out to make sure we put ourselves in a position to win. Tonight, we just didn’t have it.”

Another hold over is fifth-year vet Kyle Korver, who is one of the players that has shown effort along with Iguodala. This is how he described his development as a NBA player: “When I first came into the league I primarily was a spot up shooter and really wasn’t asked to do a whole lot more.” I expressed to him how melancholy the locker room appeared and Kyle, like his coach, expressed optimism: “I feel like we are building right now. I feel like we are building this the right way. We have some great young pieces that didn’t show up tonight but have in earlier games this season. We’ve played a lot of good teams early on but are right there. We’re probably a piece away from seriously contending, but after this (season) we have a whole lot of cap space. The future is bright here. It’s something I know I want to be a part of.”

MT: Kyle you seem to give necessary effort, is that your competitive nature, or desire to give Philly fans something to cheer?

KK: “It’s definitely both. I’ve never been on the East coast before I came here to Philly. It’s definitely different here. The fans have supported me the entire time. All I can do is play hard and get better ever year. I think the fans will appreciate that. If we don’t play hard as a team, the fans will sense that also and let you know. The competitor in me isn’t satisfied with the way I’ve been shooting the ball, but that’s the way I am and that is what drives me.”

Kevin Ollie has been around Philly for a while. He’s been released, resigned and ultimately ends up roaming the Wachovia Center floor with his professional brand of consistent veteran play.

MT: Kevin what is it going to take to sustain a measure of consistency? What would you say to the fans of this town to keep their heads up?

KO: “I think we have a good nucleus of guys—especially with Andre Miller running the point. He’s a great point guard that gets everyone involved. Then you have your rock in Andre that’s going to be consistent every night. He’s stepping up to that superstar level where he can get twenty points every night. We also have a lot of young guys that‘s coming along. You have Lou Williams who is coming into his own. Like your question, we have to find a level of consistency. I think we are still trying to find that a little bit. We’re working hard and I’ll think we’ll get it done.

I would tell the fans to just stay with us. The fans that we do have are loyal and faithful. You have to stay with a team through the good times and the bad times. As long as we put forth the effort, they’ll continue to support. Hopefully, they’ll stick behind us.”

It remains to be seen if the positive outlook these players express is enough to carry this young team through the rigors of an unforgiving NBA season. Louis Williams has to step up big, but essentially is a rookie because he hasn’t logged over 11 minutes a game in his three year career. Samuel Dalembert has been a disappointment considering the massive amount of money owed to him through 2011. Willie Green is a capable veteran who has to be able to play an entire season to truly make an impact. Rodney Carney is an athletic slasher who came out of Memphis last year; he was expected to be a force offensively but looks lost on defense every single night. The bench is littered with young players who really shouldn‘t be on an NBA roster. Cheeks’ job is going to be made that much harder if this team doesn’t add some veteran post leadership that will make teams think twice about coming down the lane.

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Doc, Dawkins and Malone. Yeah, they played D too

I alluded earlier to Philadelphia’s penchant for trading away great players. Dre Iguodala, while not yet a superstar, is the only player left on the roster with high trade value. Billy King desperately needs to do something significant to bring back the shine this team has had for decades. He hasn’t proven to be capable of handling the responsibilities of a NBA GM. If he doesn’t do what it takes, then Philly brass should kick him out of town as fast as you can say Larry Brown.

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10 Responses to “The Sad State of the 76′ers”

  1. Wow, I’ll be one of these guys in my next life. LOL

  2. Sick wasn’t it?

  3. I think that last dunk gave me mono.

  4. D somehow my comment preceded yours. It was a response to you. B EZ on me tomorrow bruh. DNabb is out.

  5. HarveyDent Says:

    Karma can be a female dog from time to time and when a team disrespects its foundation players then nothing good will come to it for a long time. As a Sixers fan, I’m ready for a lot of lottery picks. Same with the Eagles after McNabb is shipped out of town next year.

  6. Serious question for Philly Sports Fans:

    As a New Yorker who has suffered through decades of futility in many sports (albeit nothing comparable to your pain), I came to understand that those losing franchises were not accidents – that the ownership was not actually committed to winning.

    Coaches were shuttled in and out. Elite players were shuttled in and out. New schemes replaced old schemes and change was always the watchword. It’s why I became a Steeler fan back in the mid 70′s. Aside from the fact that they wore Black and brought the pain, I respected their consistency and style of play. It was a championship style – a power style.

    In Philly, the teams seem not to have made the determination to win a championship – regardless of the sport. It seems incomprehensible to me that the Eagles won’t go out and sign a power back to relieve some of the pressure on McNabb and Westbrook. McNabb, whose career closely parallels John Elway’s (except that D-Mac had better numbers early – and more injuries) needs a power back to stay alive. In baseball, the Phillies seem to always be changing direction. Now they have it together. Will they keep it together? They have a new stadium and new revenue streams. There is no excuse. And the Sixers should simply be embarrassed. There is no legacy – no tradition that the franchise feels beholden to honor. It’s great the Mo Cheeks is the coach, but the Sixers should be predicated on playing a Philadelphia style of basketball.

    Philly has a great hoops tradition beyond the NBA that is a championship style. The paradigm out of Temple is tenacious D, heady point guard play (Andre Miller, check), unselfish offense and the capacity to win close tight games. The Sixers need more than one piece. They need to embrace the ethos of North Philly and try to create a legacy for themselves as players in a city with high hopes.

    I’d talk about the Flyers if I’d watched hockey since Forsberg left the Avalanche. I will say, though, that perhaps the Flyers have done the most to get over the hump and stay there. Over the past decade and a half, they’d had some very talented players. Who could have possibly known that New Jersey’s Scott Stephens would completely own every inch of space in Eric Lindros’ head? Maybe the Flyers should have brought in someone like Brashear when Lindros was getting tattooed.

    In any event, Philly sports could be doing what Boston sports are doing…but the owners don’t seem to want it.

  7. Oh, the question: What’s the Rx for Philly?

  8. I’m actually going for the Eagles today. I hate all things Boston. So, today you get a reprieve.

  9. Eagles lost, barely.

  10. T3, I think Philly needs to sell the team to an owner with basketball’s best interests in mind. Comcast, IMO, is just in it for the dough.

    Mo Cheeks is a capable coach, but he needs the pieces.

    I’m not sure if A Iggy is a number one go to player.

    I’m not sure if players around the league want to come here because of the way they treat their stars.

    That straight up sucks.

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