The Sixers are a mess.
Thats the easy part identifying what they are at the moment. The hard part is figuring out whether theyre capable of something more.
The San Antonio Spurs were in town on Monday. That was unfortunate for the Sixers. The other night, the Sixers pulled out an improbable victory against the Raptors. Some people were encouraged by that result. Doug Collins was one of them.
They showed a lot of resolve against the Raptors, Collins said before the Spurs game. They showed they can do it. But can we do it against a team of this caliber?
The Spurs beat the Sixers at the Wells Fargo Center, 90-85. Right now, there arent many teams of any caliber that the Sixers can handle. Maybe the Washington Generals. Maybe not.
The Sixers went on a 24-3 run in the second half. They even took the lead and were up seven points with under four minutes left. They looked like they might shock San Antonio. Then the Spurs remembered they were the Spurs and they were playing the Sixers and that was that.
Tuesday marked the halfway point of the season. The Sixers have played 41 games. They have won just 17 of those. They are in fourth place in the Atlantic Division. They are in ninth place in the Eastern Conference. They are not having a good season not by any reasonable metric.
To put some perspective on how bad theyve been, the Sixers havent won back-to-back games since Nov. 30. That was so far in the past that its hard to remember if we were all wearing tri-corner hats and breeches.
They are 16th in points allowed per game. They are 23rd in rebounds. They are 26th in scoring. They are last in free throws.
Jrue Holiday has been excellent this year. If the NBA was a meritocracy (it isnt), he would be an All-Star. Thaddeus Young has been pretty good. Evan Turner has been inconsistent. Everyone else has fallen somewhere between mediocre and Kwame Brown.
The Sixers are a mess. It is worth repeating.
Well, were very concerned, Collins said. Were seven games below .500. Youre going to have to play over .500 basketball to make the playoffs. So, sure Im concerned.
How do you fix a team largely comprised of malfunctioning or entirely broken parts? Is it possible to get the Sixers operational, or should they be dismantled and swapped for basketball scrap metal?
The easy answer, the one the Sixers keep pushing as part of their unified talking points, is that everything will be fine when Andrew Bynum stops playing pop-a-shot and starts playing big-boy basketball against real competition. Adding Bynum certainly couldnt hurt, but you wonder whether the season will be too far gone to salvage by then.
Bynum talked to the media on Tuesday. For the first time all season, he participated in the morning shootaround before a game.
My knees feel good, Bynum insisted. Im not feeling any pain. Its just all good.
The center reiterated that he hopes to return around the All-Star Break. That will depend on the doctors. Before they clear him, Bynum will have to show that he can move laterally. As he admitted, that will be the biggest test.
For now, hes studying for the final exam, working on his shot -- post moves, hooks, that kind of thing. He said the touch is there. But what about his conditioning?
Obviously, its going to be bad, Bynum said.
Everyone laughed when he said it. Bynum laughed a little, too. It probably wont be as amusing if hes wheezing and they still arent winning.
Thats the thing. The Sixers have to worry about surviving until he returns, and they also have to worry about what kind of player hell be when he does. Hes already missed 50 percent of the year. Hes going to miss more games. When he finally takes off his street clothes and puts on his uniform, how long will it take him to scrub away all the rust? Can a guy with two bad knees parachute into a frightful situation at the last moment and save the entire season from going splat?
The Sixers are halfway through the season. They are a bad basketball team. Tony DiLeo and Rod Thorn should be on the phone every day shopping everyone not named Holiday to anyone even remotely interested.
But Collins promised they wont panic.
I always say this: Every team in this league is one day away from a crisis except the Spurs, Collins said.
One day away from a crisis? If only the Sixers were so lucky.
E-mail John Gonzalez at firstname.lastname@example.org