Are Sixers too far gone for even Bynum to save?

986909.jpg

Are Sixers too far gone for even Bynum to save?

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?

Nope.

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 jgonzalez@comcastsportsnet.com

Dario Saric halts slump with 'best game as a 76er'

Dario Saric halts slump with 'best game as a 76er'

Dario Saric came into the NBA knowing his rookie season would be one of ups and downs. He would have successes based on his talent and struggle because of the newness of the league and matchups.

Saturday’s performance against the Celtics was one of those highlight nights. Saric scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, both tying career-highs, for his third double-double. He was efficient in his performance, playing 27 minutes off the bench in the Sixers' 107-106 loss.

“I thought that was his best game as a 76er,” Brett Brown said.

Saric had struggled the night before against the Magic. He barely made a dent in 16 minutes, posting just two points (1 for 5 from the field) without a single rebound. The poor showing was on his mind Saturday, as he got ready for the second game of the back-to-back. He went in early to get up extra shots, met with coaches, studied film and thought about the matchup throughout the day.

“I prepared a little bit more for this game,” Saric said. “After I have some bad rhythm of five or six, maybe, games. Now I concentrate more. I try to give my best, try to play my best, try to think before everything happens.”

Saric showed his aggressiveness in crunch time in the fourth quarter, when he scored seven points and five rebounds in eight minutes. He nailed a three to cut the Celtics' lead to 92-91 with 4:28 to play. Then with 1:09 remaining, Saric’s free throws cut the Celtics' lead to two points. On the other end of the court, he snagged the rebound off an Isaiah Thomas miss and scored a game-tying layup from Jahlil Okafor.  

“He played great,” Okafor said. “He’s working hard every day, getting used to the NBA process. It was good to see hard work paying off for him.”

Saric has been adjusting to new roles throughout the season. He was thrown into the starting power forward spot when Ben Simmons was injured, and then moved to the bench when the team acquired Ersan Ilyasova. On Saturday, Brown also played Saric at small forward in Robert Covington’s (knee) absence, a shift the Sixers may try again.

“He’s a good teammate,” Brown said. “He’s biding his time. He understands he’s a rookie. Incrementally, he’ll be given these opportunities. Tonight he did and he responded and you’re seeing continued growth.”

Saric still is early in his NBA career, and Saturday's showing was a game he can look back on and study for the rest of the season. 

“I feel like tonight … you’d walk away and say, ‘Shoot, that’s a hell of a player for playing 20 games in the NBA and he did what he just did against a hell of a team,’” Brown said. “I’m proud of what we saw all over the place from Dario.”

Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

As part of their “Salute Saturday” series, the Sixers honored the 1966-67 championship team at halftime of their 107-106 loss the Celtics on Saturday.

Fifty years after winning the title, the success of the squad (which went 68-13 in the regular season) still resonates with those representing the Sixers today. After all, they are the group Wilt Chamberlain described as “the best team ever.” 

“It’s just part of the history of this city and the organization,” said Brett Brown, who has established a relationship with Billy Cunningham through practice visits and emails. “There was a toughness with that team that he personified and the city sort of reflects. It’s stuff you hear me talk about all the time how you want our team to reflect the spirit of the city. That team did it.”

Prior to their tribute ceremony, members of the team reflected on their run in which they beat the San Francisco Warriors for the title. 

On Wilt Chamberlain
“Wilt was such a dominant figure, not only as a basketball player, but he’s almost bigger than the game,” Matt Goukas said. “He played so well, he was such a good team player – he started really passing the ball right around that time --and that enabled great scorers like Hal (Greer) and Billy and Chet Walker to do their thing, and Wilt was very happy to give them that leeway.”.

On fond memories
“It was a team that we played well together and we lived as a family and that’s what made it so good for us," Greer said. "A lot of fun, a lot of fun. We missed the next year, but 68-13 is not bad at all.”

“It’s hard to forget a situation like that where we had such a terrific team and the season went so quickly, we won so many games and then of course winning a championship,” Goukas said. “As a first year player I said, ‘This is the way it’s supposed to be, I guess.’ But of course I never won another championship as a player, but we had such a terrific group of guys and true professionals that for me as a rookie, Billy Melchionni as a rookie, we really benefited from guys like Hal Greer, Wally Jones and Harry Costello, they really showed us the way.”

On team chemistry
“It was very difficult times when you look at the sixties from a social aspect,” Cunningham said. “Martin Luther King was killed the following year we won the championship. Race relationships weren’t the best. And this time, which was just about half black-half white, I’m not even sure, it was never an issue. That’s the beauty I think of being on a team you know getting to know people, you judge them as an individual and nothing more than that.”

“I think it was our coach Alex Hannum, for one (that kept the team together),” Greer said. “And of course the big guy. He held us together most of the time, he could rebound, play defense, do it all.”