Sixers shouldn’t be fooled by late-season success

Sixers shouldn’t be fooled by late-season success
April 4, 2013, 12:30 pm
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As win streaks go, it was pretty modest: three games. It’s over now. The Sixers lost to the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday. That had to be humbling considering the Bobcats are the worst team in the NBA. The loss should have been informative, too.
 
Lately, the Sixers have sounded pretty pleased with their effort. They won six out of nine games before falling to Charlotte, and they talked about trying to finish off the season the right way – by winning a bunch of games that are largely meaningless. But, hey, they were excited anyway.
 
Doug Collins said he liked “the way we are approaching things” and he credited his crew with being “incredibly professional” as the season funnels toward its finish (see story).
 
“The one thing I don’t want our guys to do is to get comfortable losing,” Collins said (see story). “That’s where you get beat down and losing just becomes part of your DNA. We can’t put two years in a row together like that. Because then all of a sudden you start missing the playoffs two, three or four years in a row, and that losing jumps up on you and then you find ways to lose … and we have winning players.”
 
That is a disquieting statement. The Sixers do not have winning players. The way you know that they don’t have winning players is fairly simple: You look at the wins they have amassed and you compare them to the losses they’ve totaled and you quickly realize that they have more defeats than victories. It’s a useful metric called a “record.” Stat geeks have been using it forever.
 
The Sixers are 30-44. They have eight games remaining, six of which are on the road. They are six games behind the Milwaukee Bucks for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. That means the Sixers will once again be mired in the mediocre no-man’s land, that dreaded basketball limbo between the postseason and the top of the lottery.
 
This is an important time for the Sixers’ decision makers. It is also a dangerous time. The brass is faced with many choices about the roster – about what to do with Andrew Bynum, Nick Young, Dorrell Wright, Royal Ivey, Damien Wilkins and whomever is at the end of the bench these days. All of them will all come off the books after this season. Few, if any, should be brought back.

This isn't a situation that calls for minor tweaks. The Sixers need major adjustments. Again. That should be apparent to anyone who’s watched the Sixers this season. Despite Collins’ words of encouragement, the organization is not stocked with “winning players.” Maybe falling to a dreadful team like the Bobcats will divest the Sixers of that notion. If you’re a Sixers fan, you’d better hope so. Because keeping parts of this team together next season – simply because they won a handful of games toward the end of this season – is a frightening prospect.
 
These Sixers are last in the NBA in points per game. They are last in free throws made per game. They are 22nd in three-pointers made per game. They are 23rd in point differential. They are 18th in rebounds per game, which seems OK until you consider that they’re 25th in rebound differential.
 
The point being that they aren’t particularly good at anything, which is a big reason why they’re mired in the middle-of-the-standings muck. That’s the last place any NBA team wants to be. You want to be in the postseason and play for a parade or you want to be really awful and accumulate draft picks and cap space. That in-between area is hoops purgatory.
 
Maybe Collins was just being positive, trying to rally a previously dejected group. Maybe he (and the rest of the Sixers’ front office) knows the organization needs to hit the reset button and start over. Maybe. Hopefully. I’m starting to have my doubts, though. What if they look at how the Sixers finished the season and fool themselves into thinking that this crew is better than it really is?
 
“These are all situations where we are learning and have to do a better job at, but that is why I am still teaching and telling this group the importance of finishing these games off,” Collins said after the Sixers lost to the Bobcats (see story). “Even though we probably are not going to make the playoffs, you have to learn to make the right plays whether you are playing Charlotte or Game 6 against Chicago in the playoffs.”
 
Except, as he noted, the Sixers aren't making the playoffs this year. And it’s hard – if not impossible – to imagine these players facing Chicago (or any other team) in Game 6 of some surprising future postseason utopia. The front office must realize this crew has serious limitations – right?

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