Sixers mired in NBA's no man's land

Sixers mired in NBA's no man's land

March 15, 2013, 9:00 am
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It’s not going to get any easier for the 76ers.

With 18 games to go in the season, the Sixers need to go 17-1 to finish with a .500 record. In other words, it looks like it’s going to be a losing season for Doug Collins’ crew.

To complicate matters, there are very few pushovers remaining on the Sixers’ schedule. Of the final 18, the Sixers have just six home games, a pair of four-game road trips and seven games against teams in first or second place.

The tough stretch comes after the Sixers became the Heat’s 20th straight victim on Wednesday night and continues on Saturday when they face the Pacers and next Monday against the Trail Blazers. After that, the Sixers play 12 of their final 16 on the road, starting with a four-game Western Conference trip in which they will play the first-place Clippers and second-place Nuggets on consecutive nights.

With the Sixers’ CEO already talking via Twitter about draft lottery Ping-Pong balls (see story), what hope should anyone else have?

Here’s where it gets a bit surreal ...

Despite acquiring Andrew Bynum during the offseason, the Sixers are 21st in the NBA in winning percentage. They are just 10 games ahead of the Charlotte Bobcats for the worst record in the NBA and 9½ games (including the tiebreaker) behind the Milwaukee Bucks for the final playoff spot in the East.

In other words, the Sixers are perfectly in the middle between mediocre and terrible. In the NBA, that place is known as no-mans land, where it’s seemingly impossible to improve through the draft.

So what can the Sixers do?

For now, they will wait for Bynum. After that, even the Sixers’ brass has no idea what will happen.

“No one was anticipating that this would happen — that he would miss all season,” outgoing team president Rod Thorn told reporters on Wednesday. “We were hopeful that he might be able to play when the season started. Since then it has been a series of things, so that's been tough.”

Ideally, the Sixers would like to see Bynum play just so they know how he meshes with players like Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner and Thad Young on the court. However, no one in the press has heard from Bynum since he last spoke publicly on March 1. That press briefing came days after Bynum participated in practice for the first time only to suffer swelling in his knee afterwards.

Yet another setback for Bynum and the Sixers.

“Who knows what is going to happen when the season is over?” Thorn said.

Bynum can be an unrestricted free agent when the season ends. The Sixers also have the rights to offer the center a max deal up to five years and $100 million. Still, one has to assume that the team’s medical staff will largely determine Bynum’s future with the Sixers.

Once again, all we have are questions.

The Sixers look to put together that 17-1 stretch on Saturday night when they host the Central Division-leading Pacers.