NEW ORLEANS - With NBA all-star weekend just a few days away, we already know all we need to know about these 76ers.
We know the Sixers are young and talented, and that there are a few teams that may like their talent, particularly as the Feb. 18 trading deadline approaches. We also know they are choirboys of an expensive variety, likely to make as little news on the court as they're making off it, which explains why most teams are allergic to them right now - and why the rest of us should consider them a complete waste of our time.
Where's the Chairman, Mr. Ed Snider, when you need him most? He was perfect for moments like this once upon a time. Right when it was evident that the Sixers were on a path to purgatory - despite what their present, season-high four-game winning streak would imply - Snider was always good for one of those "we're gonna trade 'em" tirades the moment he was displeased. Just enough to keep us all interested.
We're still waiting.
"He's always around," Sixers general manager Ed Stefanski explained. "Always willing to give us anything we need to help us win. You know how competitive he is."
Actually, we can't tell these days.
The team's record is 19-31, just 41/2 games removed from the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but forget about whether the Sixers can make the playoffs or not. The question should be: Do we really want them to?
Despite Friday's victory in New Orleans, or Saturday's in Houston, there's absolutely nothing that tells the city of Philadelphia that this team is remotely capable of challenging for anything. So why bother?
There are 32 games left in their season, and let's be honest here: Barely anyone will care once this season ends.
There's a point guard in Lou Williams who is more of a scorer. More than $80 million has been committed to a shooter in Andre Iguodala, who is known as anything but a shooter. We could easily focus on the jump-shooting Elton Brand, a 6-foot-9 forward given $79.5 million for a power post game. Or lament Samuel Dalembert's continued lack of consistency or Allen Iverson's personal and basketball troubles. or the fact that Tracy McGrady would love to come to Philly but probably can't because the Sixers don't have enough attractive parts to lure his expiring salary of $23 million away from Houston. But we're trying to be nice here.
Oh . . . did I fail to mention how much former point guard Andre Miller is missed?
"There's no question that we have a lot of work to do," coach Eddie Jordan explained after the Sixers' victory over the Hornets. "This is far from a finished product. But I believe in what we're doing."
I'm glad someone does. But, in all honesty, coach Jordan is an incredibly nice guy who personifies class. So what is he supposed to say, really?
Individually, the Sixers have talent. Collectively, they're no better than an And1 team.
The Sixers are devoid of leadership at point guard. Jordan has absolutely no one to rely upon to run this team. There is no one to control tempo, someone who is recognized as an extension of Jordan on the court. And there's no go-to guy to call upon in clutch moments, either.
If Stefanski himself acknowledges, "We're a better team in the open court," and everyone knows the Princeton offense requires a credible point guard and a shooter to be successful, it's not hard to figure out why the Sixers, riding high right now, are still 12 games below .500.
"Obviously, you can't be happy with our record," Stefanski said. "We've been playing better basketball. I've been saying all along for us to be successful, we've got to do it on the defensive end. We're long and athletic. We have to fuel an up-tempo game. It takes time to put things together . . ."
Especially with Miller gone, and no true point guard to replace him. But so much for sour grapes.
What matters most now is where the Sixers go from here. Knowing Stefanski, he'll swear they're about making "basketball decisions," not financial ones. Well, here's one:
Tank the season. Stop wasting folks' time trying to win what amounts to meaningless games.
The Sixers need to emulate San Antonio (Tim Duncan), Cleveland (LeBron James), Miami (Dwyane Wade), Toronto (Chris Bosh) - teams that once did everything they could to position themselves for a top draft pick just to get their hands on a franchise-caliber player. They also need to keep pursuing McGrady, who told me, "I'd love to finish this season in Philadelphia." That would be a step in the right direction. At least it would look that way.
"We should be thinking ahead," Stefanski said.
This is thinking ahead. Particularly with welcomed distractions like spring training and the NFL draft coming up.
It's either that, of course, or a bunch of stories about the Sixers that we simply don't have the time, space or heart to get into.
At least not today.