Dec 31 2013

5-on-5: The Year of the Tank



1. Your favorite Sixers moment of 2013:

Anthony Calabro: The Allen Iverson retirement press conference. Quick story: In 5th grade, my dad surprised me with Sixers season tickets for my birthday. Our first game was November 1, 1996 against the Milwaukee Bucks — Allen Iverson’s first game. I grew up with A.I.

Watching him retire was bittersweet because you knew he could have accomplished so much more if he just gave in a little bit. But he never did. He never changed. It’s what made him so loved in Philly, yet so damn frustrating. I will always miss A.I.’s brutal honesty. Watch him at the presser own up to his mistakes. Watch him fight back tears as he professes his admiration for his old high school basketball coach, coach Larry Brown, and former teammate Aaron McKie. I can already tell you my favorite Sixers moment of 2014: the Allen Iverson jersey retirement on March 1.

Eric Goldwein: My phone blowing up on draft night after the Sixers reportedly traded Jrue Holiday and a first round pick for Nerlens Noel — then finding out a few minutes later that Philly was getting a first rounder, instead of giving one away.

Kyle Neubeck: Draft Night 2013. The night that the direction of the Sixers franchise changed for the better. There were signs (like the Iggy trade) that the organization was no longer content with mediocrity under new management, but the Jrue Holiday trade was a stunning turn of events. A cold, calculated call on the franchise’s direction was the most promising decision they’ve made in a long time.

Tom Sunnergren: The precise instant–while I was furiously fist pumping and high-fiving strangers in celebration of the Jrue Holiday trade on draft night (NB, I was doing this on the floor of the Barclary Center)–that I found out that the Sixers got the Pelicans No. 1 pick in 2014 in the deal, and not the other way around. Everything had changed.

Bryan Toporek: The day the Sixers hired Sam Hinkie. More than six months later, I’m still in shock. After years of short-sightedness and mediocrity, the franchise suddenly had a long-term vision in mind. Hiring Brett Brown a few months later was the icing on the Hinkie cake.


2. Tank-wise, are the Sixers where they need to be?

Calabro: Yes. The Sixers are on the right track to the bottom. Strap in, because as the trade deadline nears, it could get even uglier.

Goldwein: Yes. They have one of the league’s worst records in spite of some overtime luck, and Hollinger’s Power Rankings have them at 22 wins, trailing only Milwaukee in the lottery race. They’ve gotten to this point by making smart, tactical (tanktical?) decisions — being extra cautious with injuries and giving the young players extra minutes. Expect the losses to pile up if and when Hawes/Young/Turner are dealt.

Neubeck: They aren’t the abomination a lot of us thought they would be, but the other shoes have yet to drop. Sam Hinkie is surely in the process of moving the parts that aren’t part of the Sixers long-term plans, and once they’re shipped out this team is toast. I mean that in the most endearing way possible – bring on more losing and prospect development.

Sunnergren: The 76ers have the worst scoring differential in the NBA and are in a tie for the third worst record. And this without dumping Hawes, Turner, or Thad. So, yeah, I’d say they’re precisely where they need to be.

Toporek: Absolutely. Heading into Dec. 30, they’re tied with the New York Knicks for the league’s fourth-worst record.  Once trade season hits Philadelphia, the Sixers should be a lock for one of the two or three worst records in the league, guaranteeing at least a top-six pick.


3. Fact or fiction: The Eagles are the best run franchise in Philadelphia.

Calabro: Fact. The Eagles have earned their reputation as a winning franchise. Free agents looking to win know Philly is a prime destination spot.

Goldwein: Fact, and that was true before the Chip Kelly hiring. The Eagles have been a competitive team for the better part of the last two decades and that’s because of management, led by Jeffrey Lurie, that’s constantly thinking toward the future. They’ve consistently invested in low-cost, high-reward players (Michael Vick) and been willing to cut ties with overpriced veterans (remember how upset fans were when they let go of Bobby Taylor, Troy Vincent, Jeremiah Trotter?). Twenty years from now, we could be saying the same thing about the Sixers.

Neubeck: Fact, but their success is due in large part to a decision as risky as trading for Nerlens Noel. Hiring Chip Kelly, despite his college credentials, was an assumed risk from Lurie and Co. that the “Gold Standard” wasn’t good enough. They could have sold the fans easily on a defense guy like Gus Bradley, but they dared to be great by bringing in Kelly. It’s a welcome change from the norm.

Sunnergren: Fact. The Sixers might catch up, but the Eagles are at the top right now–the “Gold Standard’ if you will–and it’s not really that close. #InChipWeTrust

Toporek: Fact, but the Sixers are hot on the Eagles’ tail. The consistency of owner Jeff Lurie gives the Eagles the edge for now, as the Birds have only missed the playoffs eight times in Lurie’s 20-year reign. Chip Kelly may have the town’s heart at the moment, but Brett Brown won’t be far behind in a year or two.

4. Spencer Hawes’ New Year’s resolution:

Calabro: More Beard. More ‘Merica.

Goldwein: Replicate 2013. Hawes picked up his play the second half of last season and has been tremendous through the first 30 games under Brett Brown. Keep doing you, Spence.

Neubeck: Play well enough to draw interest from contenders and get a one-way ticket away from the Philadelphia Tankers. Dollar signs have to be flashing in his eyes – never underestimate the power of the contract year.

Sunnergren: Keep shooting threes, keep growing kick-ass facial hair, keep fighting for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Toporek: Shoot nothing but 3-pointers until he gets traded. Who doesn’t want a poor man’s Kevin Love?

5. Discuss…

Calabro: Totally fine with it. Hell, I didn’t even know he had hops like that. Turner immediately apologized. Guys, the Sixers won a game, let them celebrate a little bit.

Goldwein: I remember my first dunk…

Neubeck: This play embodied a line from one of the greatest rap freestyle videos on the internet: “Oh you mad cause I’m stylin’ on you.” I am an advocate for anything that rubs salt in the wounds of opponents, especially the Lakers. Russell Westbrook had a dunk in the closing moments of a UCLA game that was strictly for style points, which my friends and I refer to as “The F-You Dunk” to this day. We need less nice guys and more villains in sport. Slam it again, Ev.

Sunnergren: I don’t know. It might be bad sportsmanship and represent a breach of good hoops manners–but the NBA is, basically, entertainment. That’s what it’s for. Are you not entertained?

Toporek: My fantasy basketball team certainly can’t complain about the stat-padding. But really, Ev, if you’re looking to embarrass an opponent with a meaningless dunk, you couldn’t at least go off the backboard? He apologized, so it’s a non-issue, but you know Kobe’s dunking on him next time around as revenge.

  • robbybonfire23

    “Making the playoffs” is the sorriest rationale for “success” on the planet. Only the dregs franchises do not make the playoffs in this age of all-inclusiveness for mediocre team’s regular season performance. The real problem with this “making the playoffs” mentality is the glut of G.M.s in all sports who build to reach a .500-.550 making the playoffs level-team, via making a preponderance of stop-gap moves; as contrasted with the enlightened G.M’s who do not mortgage the future to barely attain mediocrity, today, because they have the vision and the patience to build for that .650 winning percentage dynasty, tomorrow.

    To my mind, in this championship-building mold, the best example in professional sports today is that of the Edmonton Oilers, who have the guts to factor into the parent club mix every raw and talented kid in the higher levels of their organization. This one step back, 10 steps forward courage on their part is going to pay off handsomely for this organization, no later than spring, 2016.

    One of the most egregious examples of a gutless G.M. who is content to have his team bounced-out in the first playoff round, is Glen Sather of the NY Rangers. Almost without exception, he gives rookies called up from Hartford a game or two to demonstrate Bobby Orr-level ability, and when that fails, the kid gets put right back onto The Hartford Shuttle. J.T. Miller has gone through that meat-grinder idiocy three times already this year, up-down, up-down, up-down.

    Sather has messed up more young players heads over the years than just about any other 10 NHL G.M.’s you can name, put together. And they refuse to fire him, because three years out of five the Rangers get to the first round. Whoop-de-doo! So much for “making the playoffs,” as the barometer of a team’s success, when it is really the barometer for a team’s abysmal organizational philosophy failure.

  • robbybonfire23

    I hope the knock on “Iggy,” above, is a reference to his advancing age in this league, not to his level of play. He was, by far, the most productive, all-around player, in his time, here. He deserves better than a cheap shot, just because he is now out the door and on the downside of his career, elsewhere. The man gave his all and it was quite good enough.

    You put five players on the floor with the heart and the skill of Iggy in his prime, every night, and you are a serious contender to win it all.