With playoffs nearing, Sixers can only reminisce


With playoffs nearing, Sixers can only reminisce

The Sixers took their team picture on Wednesday. Their were plenty of new faces in this year's photo, but two in particular were absent (see story).

Can you imagine being the poor photographer who drew that assignment? Had to be tougher than doing a family portrait at the mall with a bunch of unhappy children. You could shake a stuffed animal above the camera and remind them all to say cheese and it probably still wouldn’t make the Sixers smile. It’s been that kind of season.

The annual exercise made Doug Collins wistful. The Sixers head coach said he spent some time thinking about this year and how the team is in a very different spot now than it was when it took its team picture last season.

When I told Spencer Hawes that picture day prompted Collins to reflect on this year and how it contrasted with last season, the center responded with two words: “Uh oh.”

So you didn’t do the same thing?

“No,” Hawes said before the Atlanta Hawks smacked the Sixers, 124-101, at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay). “I haven’t reflected on this year too much. I’d like to reflect on taking the positive and leaving the rest behind.”

The season is almost over. Only four games remain. If taking the positive and leaving the rest behind is like cleaning out your desk when you leave a job, then the Sixers should be able to fit all the cheery stuff into a single cardboard box. (Jrue Holiday becoming an All-Star. Thad Young becoming a consistent frontcourt option. That's about it.) Again, it’s been that kind of season.

The Sixers are 31-47. That’s four fewer wins in full season than they had last year in a 66-game lockout-shortened campaign. That says so much, none of which is good. How quickly things change.

“A year ago, we played Indiana on our team photo [day], lost, and played five straight road games to get into the playoffs and won four of them,” Collins said. “It’s just interesting where you are from this year to last year. And just the thoughts you have when you take that picture.”

Thoughts. Yes. He had a few. Even as he admitted what everyone already knows -- that this season has been “disappointing” -- Collins reminisced about last year’s Sixers, how they slipped into the playoffs and came within one win of the Eastern Conference Finals. It was a good run, and it all began with that Indiana game toward the end of the regular season.

“I’ll never forget,” Collins said. “We had our picture that night. Lost the game. Tough game. We fought back against Indy. I remember Lou [Williams] had a three late in that game. I don’t remember if it put us up, but it at least tied it. But we lost that game. I remember Julius [Erving] talking to our guys after the game. And we had to go out on the road and we had five games staring at us out on the road.

“That’s what I thought about. And I thought about how that team was really able to gather themselves. We had such tremendous leadership on that team. We had guys that had been around. I don’t think people really realize -- guys like Elton Brand and [Andre Iguodala] and Lou and Jodie [Meeks] and guys we’ve really missed this year as we’ve changed our team and our injuries and all.”

He’s right. They have missed Brand and Iguodala and Williams (Meeks was a memory too far) -- not just their leadership but also their production. Looking back on all that has to be bittersweet. Because that team accomplished more than anyone expected -- and then that team was dismantled by Collins and the rest of the Sixers power brokers.

That isn’t second-guessing. Along with lots of other people, I endorsed the decision to jettison those players and bring in new personnel. It obviously hasn’t worked out. Injuries and awful basketball have conspired to render the Sixers irrelevant this year -- which is why reflecting on last season has to be particularly painful. That’s as close as these Sixers will come to the playoffs -- leftover recollections from a year ago. How sad.

Back to photo day. It was the 11th time in his coaching career that Collins took part in one. Someone wondered whether -- since he’s the nostalgic sort -- Collins has kept all those pictures from all those teams over all those years. Collins smirked before responding.

“No,” he said.

Everyone laughed. Gallows humor is hard to beat.

Sixers apologize for replacing anthem singer, say 'wrong decision was made'

Sixers apologize for replacing anthem singer, say 'wrong decision was made'

The Sixers on Friday issued an apology to Sevyn Streeter, the artist who was supposed to perform the national anthem before Wednesday night's home opener.

Streeter was replaced by the Sixers for wearing a shirt that said "We Matter."

The team released the following statement:

“We are sorry that this happened. After receiving feedback from our players, basketball operations staff and ownership group, we believe that the wrong decision was made, and Sevyn should have been welcomed to sing. We apologize to her, and in an effort to move the conversation forward, we have reached out to offer her an opportunity to return and perform at a game of her choice. We are waiting to hear back.”

Streeter turned to social media during the game to voice her displeasure. CBS3 did report Thursday that she had signed a contract that barred her from making a political statement during the performance.

The Sixers addressed their players in a team meeting to get their opinion on how they would like to the situation to be addressed.

“At the end of the day, if we as an organization had to do what we did again, that decision would not have been made,” Brett Brown said on Friday.

The Sixers were pleased by the decision to extend an invitation to Streeter. They had discussed the situation in a team meeting on Thursday where they shared their opinions on the matter and considered options on next steps moving forward.

“Personally, I didn’t think it was right,” Gerald Henderson said. “She wanted to wear a t-shirt that she felt was important. I don’t know if telling her that she couldn’t sing was saying that her statement was unimportant. But she should be able to do what she chooses. That’s why we’re going to call her back to sing.”

Jahlil Okafor, who learned of the incident the day after the game, called it an “unfortunate situation.”

“I think the majority of us wanted to see her get a chance to come back and sing the anthem,” Nik Stauskas said. “Whether she wanted to wear the shirt or whatever it was, we felt like we should give her that opportunity.”

The Sixers do not have additional plans to address the situation. They did not share other options they had considered. Brown would like the team to continue making an impact through community outreach. On opening night, Jerami Grant and Hollis Thompson presented a check to the International Institute for Advanced Instruction-Gateway to Re-Entry on behalf of the team. The players contributed $10,000.

“We’ve talked about some things as far as declaring something to make our stand. We’re not in a position to do that,” Brown said. “I think our best effort to date has been Jerami and Hollis and the organization presenting that check pregame. Trying to do it in ways that we feel is responsible and still bold enough to make the stance that we want to make. I think as it relates to this anthem situation, we simply want to say that we apologize, we’ve made a mistake, and we want to move on.”

CSN's Jessica Camerato contributed to this report.

Sixers fan apologizes to Russell Westbrook for flashing middle fingers

Sixers fan apologizes to Russell Westbrook for flashing middle fingers

Richard Harkaway, a urologist from North Philadelphia, has been identified as the Sixers fan who flashed a double middle finger to Thunder star Russell Westbrook during opening night on Wednesday night.

Harkaway on Thursday issued an apology for his actions and revealed a new detail about the confrontation with Westbrook.

"As a part-time comedian I realize that my words and actions are sometimes inappropriate," Harkaway said in a statement to Philly.com issued by a personal representative.

"In this instance, after standing up to boo and being provoked by Russell Westbrook calling attention to my being overweight, my action in response was clearly inexcusable and I am embarrassed. I sincerely apologize to my fellow Sixers fans, the Sixers organization, my colleagues and patients, and to Mr. Westbrook for my behavior."

The story gets a little weirder with the allegation that Westbrook poked fun as Harkaway's weight, but at least he apologized for his actions. 

The incident, coinciding with the controversy over the national anthem, put a black eye on an otherwise fun night for the Sixers and their fans.