Inside the Sixers: A third season of tanking may be too much to ask
Having witnessed an embarrassing, 63-loss season in 2013-14 and a 64-setback campaign this season, 76ers fans have suffered greatly. For the most part, they supported the Tank I and Tank II seasons while others dubbed the Sixers a laughingstock.
Having witnessed an embarrassing, 63-loss season in 2013-14 and a 64-setback campaign this season, 76ers fans have suffered greatly.
For the most part, they supported the Tank I and Tank II seasons while others dubbed the Sixers a laughingstock.
But another intentional 60-loss season could be different. It could become personal to hometown fans eagerly awaiting a turnaround.
We could see radio station-sponsored billboards calling for the firing of general manager Sam Hinkie, the architect of the tanking blueprint. We could see fans hurling insults at anyone associated with the franchise after lopsided losses at the Wells Fargo Center. Local sports-talk hosts could start mocking the Sixers more frequently, calling them a disgrace to the NBA and Philadelphia.
Who can say for sure what the level of bile spewed at the Sixers will be? But there definitely will be some if winning is not important next season.
Fans patiently sat through 26 consecutive losses during the 2013-14 season, matching the record by a U.S. professional team. They also endured 17 consecutive losses at the start of the 2014-15 season. And they tolerated the Sixers' shuffling 48 players on and off the court over the last two seasons.
It appears that they'll have to do more Google searches to learn about some of next season's Sixers. But fans will be familiar with guys such as Robert Covington, JaKarr Sampson, and Hollis Thompson, relatively unknown and undrafted players who could fit into the franchise's long-term plans.
"Let's face it. The roster is going to have some fluid aspects again next year," coach Brett Brown said. "I said [Wednesday] night, we don't want to become pregnant with players that just aren't needle movers. . . . So I expect a level of volatility next year, and we inch along and we keep identifying these players that can grow with us."
Yet Sixers co-managing owner Josh Harris said the team is "making progress" after its second season of tanking. He talked of Nerlens Noel's emergence as a rookie-of-the-year candidate and the team's use of analytics, sports science, and sleep monitoring.
Harris just can't answer this question: When will his team show progress in the win-loss column?
"I just don't think we're there yet," he said. "I think over time, the team will tell you. We're going to continue to add great players, the best players we can, and really make sure they are well-coached and well-conditioned and ready to play and excited to be part of our organization and to bring it.
"And they are going to ultimately answer that question themselves."
If everything goes as planned, it could take several seasons before the Sixers are viewed as a legitimate Eastern Conference contender.
"There aren't any shortcuts, unfortunately, that I know of," Harris said. "There are shortcuts to the middle. There are no shortcuts to the top. There's not."
But how much longer can they sell fans on the process needed to draft the next LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, or Shaquille O'Neal?
It will become increasingly harder to ask fans to remain patient over an uncertain future when the Milwaukee Bucks reached the playoffs one season after finishing with the league's worst record.
The Sixers' message during the rebuilding process has always been one born out of confidence. An organization with conviction, the Sixers believe their approach is the best option.
We will improve, they say.
We will succeed, they say.
We will win, they say.
Sixers fans are wondering, "But when?"