The 76ers' Problem with Its Ticket Holders
Nerlens Noel had knee surgery and is out indefinitely, has not played all year.
Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid are on a diet of restricted minutes owing to Okafor's pre-season knee surgery and Embiid's well-chronicled foot malady.
The team worked hard to sell season ticket plans in the off-season. Really hard.
It's bad enough to have four high first-round picks out. What's worse, though, is that Embiid is getting needed rest, sometimes at home. The tickets aren't cheap, especially not for a product as inept as the 76ers' product has been over the past several years. It has been inept even to those who trust the process. If it has not been, then they are lying to themselves. There is some good basketball on certain nights and at certain times, but on other night it is plum awful. It's a given that Noel (who doesn't excite the fans) and Simmons (who will) are out for a while. Okafor seems like a dinosaur out there, a throwback to the days where teams pounded the ball into the post. The fans are indifferent about him. Embiid, though, is a different story.
He is everything the fans hoped for. He is THAT tall, at 7'2". He can put the ball on the floor. He can shoot the three, and he is a presence in the paint at both ends of the ball. Atop that, he plays with a zing, an oomph, a zest, a zeal, well, a personality. Simmons might have one; Okafor does not, and neither does Noel. Then again, the latter two might re-develop them after being cogs in Duke Hoops, Inc. and Kentucky Basketball Corporation, where the coaches and the brand take precedence over any individual, even if the individuals have transcending talent.
Yet, the fans who have ponied up some very good money are looking at a D-League to D-League Plus team on any given night. True, Okafor is hard to guard in the paint and foreign imports Ilyasova and Saric are good; the former can score and the latter can do a lot of things. Nick Stauskas might have jump-started his career again, but Robert Covington is a shooter who right now cannot shoot and Gerald Henderson is a well-intentioned journeyman at the two guard position. Point guards Sergio Rodriguez and T.J. McConnell are back-ups, and Jerryd Bayless is a journeyman too. Put differently, they scare no one. Healthy, the team is lopsided and has too many promising, potentially very good bigs. Injured? It is more balanced but without consistent appearances from good bigs it is not a good basketball team.
As for the fans, yes, they did pay their money, probably because they trust the process and the potential of Simmons and Embiid particularly is tough to argue with. That said, they deserve far better than not knowing when Embiid will and will not play and in all likelihood some nice gifts from the 76ers because the fans this year did not sign up for a season without Ben Simmons and for a partial season of Joel Embiid.
These fans might trust the process, but they are running out of trust for management.