We are days away from flipping the calendar to 2011; we are balanced between this year and next year.
In the same way, the 76ers seem suspended between two places: the poorly formed roster that has lost more than it has won and the future moves that would change the team's core.
For the Sixers, this is where we are as 2010 winds to a close: bouncing between what exists now and what needs to be done.
It's been a long time coming, but it seems that as of today the Sixers are closer to change - thanks in part to the additions of Doug Collins and Rod Thorn - than they were one year ago.
Change has been necessary for at least a year, but change has been slower here than in other places.
For example, look at the Orlando Magic, whose situation is undoubtedly different with the existence of a superstar, Dwight Howard. Unsatisfied with a 16-9 record to start the 2010-11 season, the Magic traded four of their top nine players, including quasi-stars Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter, in an effort to go from really good to great. In Orlando, someone at the top sniffed out a looming second-round exit and took a chance at greatness. It might become a costly flop, but no one is accusing Orlando of complacency.
Here in Philly, you can see the Sixers stuck in this in-between. A poor start of 3-13 set the phones ringing off the hook. What are the trading options? Who is available? Who can we get for this guy?
When Collins tightened his team's defense and had the Sixers playing well in an 11-game stretch, all of a sudden those phone calls slowed and the team seemed to take a wait-and-see approach, which was fair. Maybe we're better than everyone thinks? Maybe Doug has worked magic on this roster? Let's let the good times roll before we do anything rash, right?
So hopeful, this franchise seems to be, that their big-time decisions of the past - Elton Brand's $80 million free-agent contract, Andre Iguodala's $80 million extension - will prove them shrewd. It's hard for the Sixers to make drastic changes to their roster when it has been built on their own decisions.
But it's even worse torture to be stuck in between. The great thing about the days leading up to New Year's is charting the highs and lows of the previous year and preparing for the year ahead. It's great because it's temporary. The change comes and it's unstoppable.
Right now, the Sixers are in that time in between, where they're caught looking at what they've done in the past and wondering what they might become in the future.
If they are fortunate, the limbo won't last too much longer.
Inside the Sixers:
5 Things Looking Ahead
1. The future of Evan Turner
So much was expected of Turner, the No. 2 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. Through the first third of the season, Turner's impact has been dulled through shortened minutes, missed jump shots, and struggling confidence. In the next couple of months, something must give with Turner. He'll either be on the court with the Sixers, or on the court somewhere else.
2. The team's record by Jan. 17
After starting 3-13, the Sixers then went 8-3 in their next 11 games, pulling their record to 11-16 before dropping two straight to the Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics. Beginning with Sunday's game at the Denver Nuggets, the Sixers have a stretch of six difficult away games followed by six winnable games, five of which are at home. By Jan. 17, we will have a clear indication of which direction this team is going.
3. The February trade deadline
In the NBA, it's right around Valentine's Day when teams have their final chance to swap players. In the last two seasons, despite seeming as if they'd be "players" as the deadline approached, the Sixers have made only one small trade, acquiring Jodie Meeks, to improve their team. This season will almost certainly be different, with Andre Iguodala headlining the deadline-day talk.
4. The future of Andre Iguodala
Life as a Sixer is slowly shifting for Iguodala. For stretches of the early season, Iguodala has been on the trade market. As the team's play improved, Iguodala was taken off the market, but signs exist that Iguodala's days with the franchise are numbered.
5. Progression of youth
Before this season, the backcourt of the future was supposed to be Jrue Holiday and Turner. About 15 games into the season, the shooting guard position was turned over to Meeks. Now the Sixers start a backcourt of two second-year players, two guys who can be electric on some nights and epically bad on others.
- Kate Fagan