Employee turnover can be discouraging in any work place; an endless stream of fresh faces met with swift exits emits an air of continued job insecurity, and dampens the collective morale. But what happens when that work place is a professional basketball team, and those fresh faces are athletes trying to earn their first full-time gigs in the NBA? In Philadelphia, we’re about to find out.
Following the addition of Springfield Armor guard Adonis Thomas this past Tuesday, the Sixers’ total number of players who have appeared on the 2014 regular season roster rose to 28. “That’s a great stat,” chuckled veteran forward Thaddeus Young in the locker room, prior to Wednesday’s honest 125-114 defeat in Toronto.
It’s a mark that narrowly eclipses the previous league record of 27 (held by the 2010 Washington Wizards), and one that consists of seven rookies, and no fewer than six of the NBA’s unprecedented 46 D-League call-ups this season.
“I think that [all those numbers that you just said] is true, in regards to a revolving type of door,” said rookie coach Brett Brown. “But it was always going to be part of our plan when we were trying to identify people and try to pick a few that can continue on with us.”
Philadelphia has the fourth-youngest team in NBA history with an average age of 23.7 years. What stands out (among the grouping of NBA’s most youthful lineups) is Philly’s tally of five undrafted players, including two starters — Hollis Thompson and Henry Sims — who played 31 minutes (each) in the loss at the Air Canada Centre. The duo is symbolic of the franchise’s preference towards the unknown rather than established mediocrity.
This roster wasn’t designed to win regular season games; it was designed to preserve cap space and lose enough games to position the team for a top pick in the 2014 draft. But can any real value — ping-pong balls aside — be extracted from this throwaway season? Sims, averaging 12 points and seven rebounds, could develop into a steady backup big man, or Wroten becomes an explosive (and efficient) bench scorer. Time will tell.
For now — in spite of the system incentivizing teams to lottery-bound teams to check out in the spring — rookie coach Brett Brown and his group of misfits are still doing what they can to win games. The veterans are playing hard, and the D-Leaguers are playing as if their jobs are on the line. The results are beginning to show. The Sixers have won twice since the 26-game losing streak and played competitively against three playoff-bound teams in the Hawks, Nets, and Raptors. Without Turner and Hawes, they’re playing arguably their best basketball since the four-game winning streak in January. These recent trends bode well for a coach trying to establish a winning culture amid a losing season.
“I think [Brown has] done a great job of putting certain pieces together and putting structures together where we can at least have a chance to win,” Young said.
As for Brown’s take on his band of mismatching parts?
“I look back at this group with tremendous [sort of] fondness and affection and respect because we’ve taken hits, and here they are,” he said before the team’s eventual 125-114 loss to the Raptors. “They’re not gonna roll over, they’ll play hard [tonight] again.”