SportsProf

(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

If the 76ers were a horse, someone would have shot them a long time ago

Thankfully, the 76ers' seasons has ended.  They fielded a D-League team for the most part, extras from the casting call lot who sometimes had their moments, but all of whom are forgettable.  One might be like the character actor with the squished face whom you keep on seeing in mafia movies as an extra standing behind the capo del tutti capo uttering a few lines, but that's about it.

Call it a tanking, call it a farce, call it a charade, it was anything but worthy of the price of their tickets.  If the 76ers' were a broadway show, they would have not lasted a week.  If the 76ers' were a team in the English Premier League they'd be relegated to the Championship League, its smaller stadiums and non-existent TV money.  If they were a horse, a merciful trainer would have put him down so that he would not have to suffer.

But, instead, they'll get rewarded with a couple of lottery picks (one theirs and one the Pelicans, to whom they traded Jrue Holliday) and a chance to field the Kentucky Wildcats of the NBA (plus the wonderful leader in Thad Young).  That said, the Kentucky Wildcats struggled in their regular season and finished strong this past year, but that doesn't always happen.  The NBA season is longer, and the average NBA team is full of older, stronger, more mature men who will push the young kids around (Hall of Famer Bob Lanier has a famous story about his rookie year, when the big center out of St. Bonaventure tried to muscle Wilt Chamberlain.  After a few times up and down the floor, as Lanier recalled it, Chamberlain picked him up, put him behind the baseline and told him to stay there the rest of the game.)  And they might have the wrong coach, for while Brett Brown apprenticed for an all-timer in Gregg Popovich, the team might need a coach who can bring along younger players better and mold them.  The Spurs, after all, blended veteran and younger players; the 76ers won't have any vets unless owner Josh Harris and Sam Hinkie can convince some premium free agents that with them and a young core, they can win pretty quickly.

So, next year, instead of a "Winless for Wiggins" theme they'll try to replace it with trying to get the crowd high on the potential of the magic of youth.  It will sound good for about fifteen games, until the league solves for the fact that the team is inexperienced, that the grind is hard, that there still are not enough stars and that the bench remains thin.  But the talent might be good enough to play them back out of the lottery, and back into the NBA's never-never land, where they could be good enough not to warrant picks to get them any better but bad enough not to get the good picks.

The rules shouldn't reward loading up your roster with extras.  And the fans shouldn't be dumb enough to pay for that type of team again any time soon.  That said, the team does have a plan, and if they execute on it in this draft and with free agent signings, all will be quickly forgiven.  The relatively new ownership will get one big pass because all fans realize that with the current structure of the salary cap and the draft, the course that the team pursued was the best one to re-vamp the roster and build a new, exciting team.  They could do just that.

But the league should change the rules a bit to prevent this type of lack of effort for taking place.  You should get good prizes for winning.  You should not get them for losing in this type of way.

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