This year, more than any year over the past ten seasons, I have repped my Sixers gear hard. I have repeatedly had people laugh at me (in a friendly manner) and ask me if I was ‘being paid’ to wear Sixers clothing. I laughed it off in most cases, because either you understand the NBA or you don’t. A majority of the people asking me don’t grasp the concept that the Sixers purposely set themselves up to lose in the 2013-14 season, or that Sam Hinkie is a genius, or that even if the Sixers don’t land the number one pick, they could still get a franchise-changing player. So I just laughed it off every time, just as Sixers owner Joshua Harris did when addressing the season Saturday afternoon.
“When we lose, even in New York, kids come up to my family’s kids and say, ‘Hey, the Sixers lost 26 in a row. How do you like that?'” Harris said. “We don’t like that. This is my doorman, he says to me, ‘Hey, can’t you get those players going?'”
“I think the season has been a huge success for us,” Harris said Friday.
Nationally, the Sixers were a laughing-stock in 2013-14. They only won 19 total games, and endured a record-tying 26-game losing streak, that saw them get more national attention then when they were one win away from the Eastern Conference Finals just two seasons ago.
It angered me to see them leading off Sportscenter as the streak crept past 20 wins, largely because the media was acting like this Sixers didn’t set themsevles up to do this. They traded Jrue Holiday on draft night, and moved Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes at the trade deadline. In between they acquired the rights to Nerlens Noel and draft Michael Carter-Williams to begin to build their next nucleus, but the goal in 2013-14 was to be really awful, because the fanbase–and evidently the organization–was sick of being really mediocre.
“We don’t want to be 41-41. We don’t want to be one-and-done,” Harris said at his state of the team address Saturday. “We want this team, this city to be proud of the Sixers. We want to be proud of the Sixers.”
HOLY CRAP THAT’S MINDBLOWING. Instead of continuing to be the mediocre team that has zero shot at winning the NBA Finals that the Sixers have been for over ten years now, the Sixers are going to purposely be bad, rack up really good draft picks, and put themselves in a position to have enough cap space to be major players on the free-agent market when they choose to do so. Who wouldn’t stand up and get on board with that idea?
I’m glad that nationally, we have pundits who are Miami and Los Angeles based that can laugh at the idea of tanking. Great for them. Locally, I know that from the Summer before I was in Kindergarten until now, the Sixers haven’t made the NBA Finals. And if they are ever going to make it back there, building through the draft is the only solution.
The Sixers have a general manager in Sam Hinkie, who isn’t singularly banking on getting a LeBron-esque player with the number one pick, and winning a title. The hope clearly is that the Sixers will land the number one pick and draft either Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, or Joel Embiid, but whoever ends up in Philly, will already be surrounded by a core of Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel, Tony Wroten, and Thaddeus Young. And they have loaded up on draft picks (they have seven in this year’s draft), in what is expected to be the best draft class in over a decade. The Sixers finally have a real plan, that appears to be being executed beautifully by what might be the best front-office in the entire city.
If Carter-Williams had struggled in his rookie season, and Noel had been rushed back and re-injured his knee, I would be concerned. If the Sixers had elected to keep Hawes and Turner at the deadline, and put themselves in a position to end up with the fourth or fifth pick, rather than hopefully getting the first or second pick, I’d be concerned. Instead they went all-in with tanking, and have put themselves in a position to land a potential Superstar. It’s been six or so years since they’ve had one of them, and unlike Allen Iverson, this superstar has a smart front-office that is putting a whole team around him.
So yeah, calling 2013-14 a ‘huge success’ is putting it lightly.