Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Lucy Takes Out The Football Yet Again

Tonight in Philadelphia in their last game before the All-Star Break, your Philadelphia 76ers edged the Memphis Grizzlies (seriously, can't they change their name by now? Not many grizzlies eating BBQ and visiting Graceland) to go to three games over .500. Lest you think that this is less than a noteworthy achievement, please note that it's the highest they have been over the break-even point since, gulp, 2006.

Despite a huge night from Hakim Warrick and a slow start from star Andre Iguodala, the home team finished a 7-game homestand with four straight wins, and are now just a game out of the 5th seed in the East. That's meaningful, seeing how the top three teams will get the Celtics, Cavs and Magic in the first round. They've won 14 of their last 19, and are 18-10 under interim head coach Tony DiLeo.

So what do we have, really? A team that has recovered from a terrible start, that's playing its best ball of the year, with more than a puncher's chance of getting into the top half of the draw in the East, especially if Atlanta slips a bit. Realistically, it's the best chance for the franchise to achieve that modest Final 8 standard since, gulp, 2003. So, let's all be happy, right?

Well, no. The Sixers have the worst personality trait you can ever give to a professional team: they have disappointed. After signing Elton Brand to give them the half-court scoring option that they sorely lacked against the ready to be taken Pistons in last year's playoffs, they were supposed to be on the cusp of 50 wins and some significant sweat from the Celtics. We all dreamed of them as the clear #2 in the Atlantic (well, they are still that, thanks to the Raptors also having issues), and maybe even a little more than that with the application of a few breaks.

Specifically, that would be the breaking of a Kevin Garnett kneecap or two. (Hey, the Celtics do have real miles on the odometer and too many carries from the previous year. The town has seen worse bets.)

Of course, that's not how things worked out. Brand didn't fit in when he was healthy, or he was never really all that healthy. When he tried to return after the injury, nothing looked good, and the team can only hope like Hades that this is just a temporary problem, given the number of years and revenue that he's got on the clock. Trade rumors continue to swirl around Andre Miller, because he's good and not young, and everyone thinks that you should tank in the Association if you're not a title contender, because no one values a just good team.

Well, almost no one.

This isn't something that you can explain to all of the fans of teams that have won titles in the last 25 years, but there is actually some value to a team that's not terrible. It makes the winter months pass a little faster, gives you some small amount of false hope that you can catch lightning in a bottle and take out a better team in a playoff, and in general, makes going to the games less of an obvious waste of time and money.

It was all far more exciting last year, of course, when this all came out of nowhere, Sam Dalembert looked like he was emerging as a top-tier center, and we were in no way disappointed. There's also the simple fact that they play five out of their next six games on the road, so this might all be complete false hopes.

But what the hey. We could be rooting for the Knicks. Or the Clippers. Or the Bulls, Raptors or Wizards...

1 comment:

Dirty Davey said...

"After signing Elton Brand..."

If management is dumb enough to think that grabbing a Dookie will help things, there's no real hope for the future.

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