Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Declining the Playoffs

Tonight, in their last home game of the regular season, the DOA Sixers lost to the Pacers, falling to eighth in the East with five games left to play. They are 1.5 games ahead of the Bucks, who actually seem to want to play in the playoffs, and certainly have more interest in playing the Bulls in a few weeks, since the building will sell out with Bulls fans. And maybe if they completely miss the playoffs, we can blow up the franchise (again), with the new owners finally getting Andre Iguodala sold for 40 cents on the dollar, with Doug Collins limping back to the broadcast booth so that they can lose in a more traditional way, and so that the very few people in town that believed in them, at any point during the year, can forget. As soon as possible, really.

Tomorrow, they go to Cleveland, then Indiana, New Jersey, Milwaukee and Detroit. I suspect they will win two of those five games (Cleveland and New Jersey), which will get them to 33-33 -- feeling the excitement yet? Milwaukee is currently 29-31, with six games to play, and they will likely win three of those games -- Washington tomorrow, New Jersey on Saturday, and Philadelphia next Wednesday. Which will get them to 32-34, safely out despite actually going for this by trading for Monta Ellis and not giving up in the last quarter of the season, but to no benefit. (And yes, playing Chicago is a benefit; any team that relies on Carlos Boozer and the broken-down melodrama that is 2012 Derrick Rose is vulnerable. But not to this collection of dead men walking.

You see, Milwaukee actually wants to be in the playoffs. They aren't convinced that they are going to lose, that their coach is too old, that their best players aren't good enough, that they can only win with bench players and a lack of scouting or preparation, that they only got here by pounding crud teams at the start of the season. All of which is not true of the Sixers. And the really hateful thing is that if they had played the same in the second half of the season the way they played in the first, it wouldn't have mattered that the schedule got harder. Defense, not turning the ball over, and moving the ball for easy open shots that are high percentage does not just work against bad teams; it works against everyone. And it was absolutely joyous to watch.

What we have with this team, what is unique and so proudly dispiriting, is that you have a team that walked halfway across the water on faith, then looked down and drowned. Watching them play any more ball is just morbid on every level. And watching a team that's profoundly not this (Miami) blow them out of the water on sheer talent, or a team that does this but with more size, athleticism and (sigh) better coaching (Chicago), isn't the last image you want to remember of them.

Rather, you want to forget them, as soon as possible, as much as possible, just to keep the dream in your mind alive that a team can win in the NBA without just having The Best Bailout Player, or the Best Two Man Game, or at most, the best starters. That all 48 minutes matter, that there's more than lottery luck involved in building a team, that there's another way to do this rather than being a plus market and attracting your own cabal.

In short, that there's hope.

Because this team gave me that, then mocked me for having it.

And I'd rather have the mockery end in a week, not two.

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