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By Spike Eskin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – As the Celtics third quarter lead over the Sixers grew to over 20 points last night, I had one thought in my head … “What the hell happened here?”
Never has a season that had been so much fun, become such a countdown to extinction. What the hell happened here?
Depending on who you talked to before the season, the Sixers should have one of two main goals for 2011-’12. The first goal would be to be a better team, win a round in the playoffs, maybe be able to attract a key free agent. The second would be to develop the young backcourt of Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner. Some particularly optimistic people (myself included) hoped that both goals were achievable. The latter, by far, the more important of the two. Not even close. If this was going to be the core of the future, we’d have to find out if, you know, they were any good, and could play together effectively.
I’ll admit, I got a little greedy with the wins. Though I never saw the Sixers as a championship threat, at 13-3 and 20-9 I was more than willing to delay giving that Turner/Holiday backckourt a full chance in exchange for an Atlantic Division title and a three seed in the playoffs. It had been so long since the Sixers had actually been winners, I was ok with being a little penny-wise and pound-foolish.
The season began, and we went from guarded optimism, to legitimate optimism, to actual excitement, to “wait a minute, what’s going on here,” to … this. To complete and total failure on all levels.
A better record than last season? Doesn’t look like it. A division title? Not so much. Winning a round in the playoffs? Hahaha, alright. And that back court of the future? Well the coach is considering ditching it after 15 games to stick Jodie Meeks back in the starting lineup. What a mess.
Complete and total failure was not one of our goals here. Neither was the development of Jodie Meeks, for that matter.
Not only had I never foreseen such disaster, I would have never imagined it would happen this way. The way the Sixers defended, and the energy and discipline they showed would certainly keep them afloat, I figured. Not so much. Maybe the team has tuned out the coach, which has happened before with Doug Collins and is rumored to be happening now. Maybe they’re tired, like Collins has suggested. If they’re tired, I’d love to know why they’re more tired than anyone else in the NBA. I’d especially like to know why they’re 20 points more tired than the Wizards and the Raptors.
Truth be told, I don’t care what the reason is. The result and the path this team has taken to get there is unacceptable and puzzling.
If you’re going to lose, at least play the young guys. How bailing on starting both Turner and Holiday for the rest of the season is even an option makes me wonder what anyone in that front office or coaching staff is thinking. If the players look lost, the coach looks like he should be on a milk carton.
If we’re going to stink, we might as well stink for a reason. There’s no gain in stinking how they are, and when they are.
There is no doubt they are a collection of pieces that don’t necessarily fit together, and not talented enough to compete for a ring. That’s no excuse for a lack of effort from the players, and bad plan from front office.
A complete commitment to the youth of this team is absolutely necessary. That includes deciding whether Collins can and will execute that commitment.
The new ownership and front office faces a far greater challenge than whether to have a moose as the mascot (I still say yes by the way), or regaining the rights to “Here They Come.” Building a winner in the NBA takes a lot of luck, a lot of patience, and some pretty smart guys. It takes making some tough decisions about players, and the coach as well. We’ll see if they’ve got what it takes soon enough. Let’s hope the first season isn’t an indication of things to come.