The Philadelphia 76ers already hold a prominent place in the sports annals when it comes to ineptitude. At 9-73, the 1972-73 edition of the Sixers has the worst record in NBA history for a full 82-game schedule. Sorry, 2012 Charlotte Bobcats, but your 7-59 record, although a lower percentage than the Sixers, came in an abbreviated season.
Could the Minnesota Lynx beat the Sixers? In terms of talent, or lack thereof, the 2013-14 76ers could give the ’72-73 team a run for its money. After the completion of a fire sale near the trade deadline that saw the team part ways with Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes, the 2013-14 Sixers now resemble a shell of a team that would be hard-pressed to beat the Wichita State Shockers or the Florida Gators. And it does seem entirely possible the 2013 WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx, led by Maya Moore, could pose a serious challenge for the Sixers.
Las Vegas frowns on Sixers. Even before the season started, Las Vegas oddsmakers predicted the Sixers would be the lousiest team in the NBA. The over-under number for Sixers victories was installed at 16.5, the lowest for any team. As of this writing, the Sixers sit at 15 wins, so they will exceed preseason expectations. However, they won’t surpass it by much, judging by how lame they have been playing lately.
Great start. The 2013-14 season actually started auspiciously for the Sixers. They sported a 3-0 record that included defeating the defending champion Miami Heat on opening night. Those who jumped on the bandwagon at that point must feel pretty foolish now, because as expected the Sixers quickly raced to the bottom.
How low can you go? During their latest skid, which at the end of February was a 12-game losing streak and a perfect 0-for February, the Sixers lost road games on consecutive nights Feb. 9 and 10 by more than 40 points each game. That takes some doing. They also lost at home Feb. 24 by 20 points to the Milwaukee Bucks, a team that has somehow managed to have an even worse record than the 76ers. And on Feb. 26 the Sixers lost at home to the Orlando Magic, extending their own home losing streak to 11 while ending Orlando’s 16-game road losing streak.
Glory days. Since moving to Philadelphia in 1963 and changing their name from the Syracuse Nationals to the 76ers, the franchise has won two NBA titles. The first came in the 1966-67 season by a team that is considered by many to be the greatest in NBA history. That team featured Hall of Famers Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer, Billy Cunningham and Chet Walker. The supporting cast was no slouch either, as the names Luke Jackson and Wali Jones will attest. The other Sixers title came in 1982-83 when all-time greats Julius Erving and Moses Malone led them to the mountaintop. Clever point guard Maurice Cheeks, versatile Bobby Jones and ace shooter Andrew Toney rounded out the star group. Malone predicted they would roll through the three rounds of playoffs “fo’, fo’, fo’.” He was off by just one game, as they roared through the rounds in four, five and four games, just one over the minimum.
Lack of star power. Since that last title over three decades ago, the Sixers have appeared in only one NBA Finals, the 2000-01 series. After the departures of Moses and Dr. J., the Sixers have had only two superstars in their prime, Charles Barkley and Allen Iverson. Barkley was too outspoken and controversial for the 76ers organization, and in a highly criticized move, the club traded Barkley in 1992. The move came back to haunt the Sixers as Barkley immediately led his new team, the Phoenix Suns, to the NBA Finals in 1993. Iverson was too hip-hop and had several conflicts and run-ins with his coaches and the front office.
Ridiculous moves. Every time the Sixers make boneheaded trades like the one that brought them the lethargic, unmotivated center Andrew Bynum for one injury-plagued season, they are setting themselves back. In terms of hit-or-miss with free agents and trades, the Sixers too often miss. It’s unimaginable that a team can strike out as often as the Sixers do.
Poor drafting. During this decade the 76ers have used their number one pick to select Evan Turner (2010), Nikola Vucevic (2011), Maurice Harkless (2012) and Michael Carter-Williams (2013). Only Carter-Williams is still with the team. Since drafting Iverson in 1996, the Sixers have failed to come up with anyone who even approaches franchise-player status, unless you count Andre Iguodala who was drafted in the first round in 2004. With the recent shedding of players and salaries, the lowly Sixers are in freefall and are tanking the season. However, they are now well under the salary cap and have stockpiled draft picks. They are almost guaranteed to have one of the top five picks in the upcoming 2014 draft. Why not make the most of it for a change and bring in someone who can be a franchise player?
Inexperienced coach. When it came time to replace Doug Collins as head coach, the Sixers didn’t select a successful college or NBA coach. Instead they signed unproven San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Brett Brown. Although it is too soon to label this a mistake or a failure, it is still a great mystery why the Sixers chose to go in the direction of hiring a rookie NBA coach when there were so many established veteran coaches with stronger credentials and excellent track records available. Or were they in fact available? Maybe they didn’t want to join the sinking ship and the Sixers couldn’t find a top-notch coach.
Can this misery be turned around? If you were to write down a list of the top 50 current players in the NBA, you would find the Sixers do not have even one of those players on their roster. Basketball franchises are easier to turn around than clubs in other sports. This is because there are fewer players on the playing surface (five) and team (up to 15) in hoops than in other major sports, so each player carries more importance. Finding one LeBron or Kobe or Kevin Durant can reverse the misfortunes of a team in a hurry, even a team that is just masquerading as an NBA franchise the way the Sixers have been doing.
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