The Sixers are opening up the season tonight, so why does their seem to be such a lack of buzz? Maybe it has to do with the fact that according to Vegas the over/under on the Sixers win total for 2013-14 is 16.5 . Or maybe the fact that the Sixers are opening their 2013-14 campaign against the two-time defending NBA Champion Miami Heat is killing our vibe (no Kendrick Lamar reference intended,) coming into tonight’s season opener?
Obviously, this season will bring a different type of buzz. We don’t have anything on the court to be excited about. Jrue Holiday is gone, Nerlens Noel isn’t likely to see the court this year, and the Sixers are going to flat out suck and that isn’t even a topic that can be debated. But the Sixers are tanking, at least as far as we can read, to make at getting the top pick in a draft that will feature “can’t miss” prospects Andrew Wiggins (Kansas) and Jabari Parker (Duke).
Yesterday, ESPN the Magazine’s Jeff Goodman’s interview with an anonymous general manger who admitted that his team is tanking and explained his reasoning, was one of the most shared articles across the internet. And as you can guess, a lot of people believe that the “anonymous” general manager quoted was Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie. We later found out that it wasn’t, but damn does it sound like it could apply to the Sixers.
OUR TEAM ISN’T good enough to win and we know it. So this season we want to develop and evaluate our young players, let them learn from their mistakes — and get us in position to grab a great player. The best way for us to do that is to lose a lot of games. This draft is loaded. There are potential All-Stars at the top, maybe even franchise changers. Sometimes my job is to understand the value of losing.
I know that sounds crazy, but if you’re an NBA general manager like me, the last place you want to be is in the middle. There are only two outcomes there: Either make the playoffs and be first-round fodder for one of the premier teams or miss the playoffs and pick somewhere around 11th to 14th in the draft. Either way, the odds are that you stay in that middle range. It’s a recipe for disaster.
Essentially that is where the Sixers have been since moving on from Allen Iverson (the first time). They have been trapped in NBA purgatory, and the only player even remotely close to a star that they have drafted in the middle of the first-round was Jrue Holiday, who was an All-Star last year, but isn’t a superstar or someone than could lead a team to an NBA title.
And since the big three era has begun (thanks Miami, Boston, New York, and Los Angeles,) the chances of the Sixers signing a superstar has become remote at best, as the “anonymous” general manager points out.
You need superstars to compete in this league, and the playing field for those guys is tilted toward a few big-market teams. They are demanding trades and getting together and deciding where they want to go in free agency. It’s tough for us to compete with that. So a high lottery pick is all we have.
And the general manager says that it didn’t take much to convince his ownership group to tank.
First, you talk it over with ownership. I analyzed the team and told them what I wanted to do, the guys I wanted to get rid of and the guys with future value whom we wanted to keep. We obviously traded away some of our veteran guys who gave us a better chance of winning right now for future draft picks and young players. The owners didn’t want to tread water any more than I did. They’d rather go down to the bottom with the hope of coming up, so they signed off on it.
I imagine that it wasn’t as simple as just asking, but I see the general manager’s point.
I began to realize that it probably wasn’t Sam Hinkie when I read the next quote about convincing the coach to tank.
Our coach understands that too. It’s no secret what we’re trying to do, and you can’t lie to him anyway or you’ll lose all trust. We never really had to tell him, because the handwriting is on the wall. He knows exactly what’s going on, and he’s good with it.
I think that it is hard to imagine that Brett Brown would have signed on knowing that he is leaving a team that has a shot to win an NBA title, for a disastrous year where he will undoubtedly face criticism, to what level remains to be seen, but regardless with how on-board fans and the media are know, Brown must know he will face criticism. And all for what? A chance to get Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker? And if the plan fails and the Sixers get the fourth pick, Brown may be out of a job after a few abysmal seasons in Philly without much of a chance that he gets another head coaching job in the NBA. That is risking a lot. Based off of that quote I felt like it must have been a team that had a returning NBA coach.
The final quote from the GM showed definitively that it wasn’t Sam Hinkie speaking, but reminded us that the more dreadful the Sixers are now, the better because they have an outside chance to make it out of NBA purgatory.
We’re not alone. Look at the 76ers. Since the draft in June, I don’t think they’ve signed a player or made a trade to add a legitimate player. A bunch of us realize that our teams aren’t good enough talentwise to do anything. You’re going to be bad. There’s no way around it. And even if you finish 0-82, there’s still a 75 percent chance you don’t get the No. 1 pick.
It’s a calculated risk that the Sixers are willing to take. The problem is so are the Suns, the Celtics, and numerous other teams in the NBA. So to take the risk and just hope now, with absolutely zero excitement for this season, sucks. But it won’t suck if on this day next year the city of Philadelphia is buzzing about Nerlens Noel and Andrew Wiggins making their Sixers debut in an attempt to build a long-term NBA Finals contender.