This could be the trip where the 76ers either bond with each other and turn what has been an abysmal season into a tolerable one, or it could be the trip where they fall just short of killing each other.
Tensions are understandably high, after Saturday's 97-76 loss in Utah dropped the Sixers to 7-22. There are still questions about coach Eddie Jordan's rotation. Offensive and defensive lapses are the norm. Losses seem almost expected by players, and now some finger-pointing is starting.
Not a good scenario, but when you've lost so many games and focus, it is almost to be expected.
Following last Tuesday's loss in Washington, Elton Brand talked of some players having longer leashes than others, even though those particular players were getting beat for rebounds and not playing tough enough.
The forward reiterated his disappointment at Thursday's practice, but was quick to point out the positives of the team getting away. It plays in Portland tonight before playing in Sacramento on Wednesday, Los Angeles (Clippers) Thursday and finishing in Denver on Sunday.
"It's good to be together, guys are getting healthy, guys are practicing together," Brand said. "If we can get some wins on the road, it will give us some confidence. It's good to be together.
"Absolutely, there's tension. But at the end of the day, we're a team and we want to get better. Guys are working hard and we're a very close-knit unit. We're chippy, we want to win. We need a chip on our shoulders to win ballgames and bring that aggressiveness to the court."
It wasn't brought in Utah, as the Jazz led for most of the game, limiting the Sixers to just 27 field goals on 33.8 percent shooting. It was the 76ers' 19th loss in 22 games.
Allen Iverson is expected to return to the lineup tonight after sitting out four games with arthritis in his left knee. Whether he will start will be a game-time decision. Fellow guard Lou Williams appears close to 100 percent after returning from his broken jaw. Saturday was his third game back, and he played just over 30 minutes, collecting seven points in his first start since returning.
Williams somewhat agreed with Brand's assessment that a road trip could be what the team needs.
"Road trips are always good when things are going bad," Williams said. "It allows guys to be back around each other. It could be a good or a bad thing, it depends on the mind-set of the guys. I know I'm sick of losing. I know a couple of the other guys are sick of losing. We've got to get everybody on the same page as far as what we want to accomplish. The season isn't a wash yet. We still can put some games together and make a run [at a playoff spot]."
That seems a little far-fetched now as the Sixers own the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference, behind New Jersey's 2-28.
Jordan was particularly upset after the Washington game, the most visible display he's shown after a loss. It led to him giving the players off on Wednesday, which was odd because the team had another day off 2 days later, on Christmas, to fly to Utah.
"It was an emotional loss," Jordan said. "I didn't think we defended. I just wanted to settle down myself."