I sit back thinking of what my expectations for the 2012-13 Sixers were, and I just shake my head. Here we are on April 20th and the Sixers season is over, and they managed to finish with less wins this year (34), than they did last season (35). Why is that significant? The Sixers won the 35 games last season in a lockout shortened 66 game season, and in a year where many felt like the Sixers could take the next step, they only managed to win 34 games in a regular-length 82 game season. Doug Collins is done as coach. Andrew Bynum never even played a game. Evan Turner again showed flashes of being a solid player, but still hasn’t materialized into the player that the Sixers took with the number two overall pick in 2010. And more than anything not only did this Sixers season go down the drain, but with the Bynum failure and Doug Collins done as head coach, the Sixers may have been set back two or three more seasons.
It all started with so much promise, and that is what makes it hurt so much. The Sixers had finished one win away from the Eastern Conference Finals in 2011-12, and just when it felt like they had reached their max potential with Andre Iguodala leading the team, the managed to latch onto the four-way Dwight Howard to the Lakers trade, and pick up a budding superstar in Andrew Bynum. Bynum had been coming off of the best season of his career in 2011-12, and while he had a history of health problems, appeared to be coming into his own. And even though he never came off as a player who lived and breathed basketball, we were willing to overlook that, because the Sixers had landed their first superstar since Allen Iverson. And not only did the Sixers land Bynum, but they managed to land veteran three-point specialist Jason Richardson. And as if things couldn’t have gotten more perfect, it appeared at the time, that the Sixers didn’t have to give up a ridiculous amount to land Andrew Bynum. The Sixers obviously would have to send Andre Iguodala away as he would be sent to the Denver Nuggets, and they would also send their two most recent first-round picks in Moe Harkless and Nik Vucevic along with a protected first-round pick to the Orlando Magic. Overall Iguodala had peaked out in Philly and while the Sixers understood the tremendous defense he brought to the table, they knew that someone averaging under 15 points a game and making 16 million, was not a solution to the team winning a title. And did Vucevic and Harkless look good? Sure, but they didn’t have the superstar potential of Andrew Bynum right? Right?
The biggest slap in the face, was the Bynum introductory presser, when thousands packed the National Constitution Center, to welcome Bynum, and hopefully give the impending free-agent, a positive view of Philadelphia. And while reports were starting to come out prior to the presser, that Bynum had a knee procedure overseas, we all tried to be ignorant of that report, choosing to rather give Bynum a king’s welcoming to Philly. And the New Jersey native didn’t disappoint in his opening press conference, gaining roars from the standing room only crowd, when he talked about wanting to get a long-term deal done in Philadelphia sooner, rather than later. It was all so bright, and even Bynum wasn’t going to play all 82 games, we all believed he was going to play a majority of them and make the Sixers a mid-tier team in the East, at the very least.
And then it all unraveled. I could write for paragraphs upon paragraphs about Andrew Bynum’s “setbacks”, but I have come to the conclusion that Bynum was never really going to play this season. And whether or not the Sixers knew that when they acquired him or not is irrelevant, because they had a good idea around mid-January that Bynum was not stepping on the court this year. But rather than just being open with the fanbase, they posted videos of Bynum practicing, and continued to get fans excited and profit off of the fantasy of Andrew Bynum playing for the Philadelphia 76ers in 2013.
And it became quite apparent early on this year, that without Bynum, and hell maybe even with him, this 76ers team lacked NBA players on their bench, and even at times in their starting lineup. Having traded away Iguodala, Vucevic, and Harkless, and amnestied Elton Brand and then not having Bynum basically put the Sixers in a position to give significant roles throughout the season to guys like Spencer Hawes and Thad Young, who are solid players, but they aren’t going to help carry a team anywhere. And some nights Evan Turner would show flashes of being that number two overall pick type of talent, but the bottom line is that his shot still never became consistent this year and he had a tough time staying out of Doug Collin’s dog house. And that leads us perfectly into the next problem.
Doug Collins re-energized this team and in the end his time here was beneficial, but there were signs in 2011-12 that his style was wearing thin, but fans were willing to overlook that, when the Sixers were able to make it to the second round of the playoffs after Derrick Rose tore his ACL. And his misuse of Evan Turner, will always be my biggest complaint with Doug Collins, but it isn’t the only one. The bottom line is perfectionist coaches don’t last in 2013, because players don’t like coaches pointing out every little thing they do wrong. The point where it was clear that Doug Collins time in Philly had run its course was in late February when a frustrated Collins questioned the Sixers effort in the Sixers loss to Nik Vucevic and the Orlando Magic. Evan Turner basically blew off the comments to the media saying that he was ”sick and already worried about that, and didn’t have time to worry about this.” Spencer Hawes said that it was “Doug being Doug.” When a coach goes off to the media it is supposed to re-energize a team, and while going off to the media isn’t exactly the smartest strategy, you certainly don’t expect to hear players say thats just “Doug being Doug.” Thursday Collins officially re-signed and what direction the Sixers go in from here will be interesting to say the least.
Besides Andrew Bynum never playing the most painful part of this whole year, is how well Nik Vucevic played for the Magic. We all saw potential in Vucevic in his one season in Philly because he brought a solid jumper, and was strong on the boards. But I never saw Nik becoming a 13 and 11 guy this early. And the scariest part is that he is only 22 years-old, and traded him as part of a deal to get Andrew Bynum, who never even stepped on the court for the Sixers.
So to recap Bynum never played, Collins is done as coach, and I guess I left out how good of a year Jrue Holiday had making his first all-star appearence. But Holiday alone isn’t taking the Sixers anywhere. I know that the Sixers have cap-space, but there aren’t too many franchise changing players out there, so the cap space seems irrelevant at this time, unless Dwight Howard decides to come to Philly. And that isn’t happening, so 2012-13 may end up being one of the most bleak Sixers seasons ever, because it not only set them back for one year, but for years to come. Right now the future is bleak, and there is no other way to put it.