There may be a tougher job in Philadelphia than selling Sixers tickets, but it would be awfully hard to find. I suppose the guy who has to clean the mess off the top of William Penn’s hat isn’t too happy. Or the person who has to clean up after City Council, for that matter.
The Sixers have had some bad seasons before, with the historic 1972-73 debacle atop the list, but there has never been a year in which it was trying to be so obviously rotten. We are at a point in the franchise’s history where fans may actually boo the team’s successes, however few they may be.
The desire to surrender the season is so profound that there isn’t even a hint of speculation in people’s voices when they talk about the team. The Sixers want to be bad–very bad–and it appears as if they are willing to do practically anything to achieve that goal. Things aren’t so good right now for the Eagles and Flyers, and the Phillies season was a 162-game downer, but the Sixers could make all of them look like champions. This team could be so bad, its players wouldn’t even get participation trophies from the local Little League.
It’s going to be surreal, spending six months rooting against the home team and questioning moves made that actually end with positive results. But make no mistake; the Sixers are guaranteed nothing. Andrew Wiggins could very well be wearing another squad’s uniform next year. The same goes for Jabari Parker. And Julius Randle. The Suns are trying to be awful–and should succeed. The Celtics have tickets for the tank. The Magic started its race to the bottom last season, and the Bucks ought to be pretty wretched, too.
Come Lottery Night, the Sixers could be in line behind a couple of teams in the ping-pong ball derby. And if that little kid in the bow tie shows up for the Cavs, look out. He’s like a human four-leaf clover. In other words, even if the Sixers win 10 games, they aren’t guaranteed anything. And none of the aforementioned prospects is a sure bet to become the type of star capable of lifting the Sixers out of the morass. This is a calculated trip to the NBA graveyard, but it’s the only choice GM Sam Hinkie has.
The former Houston exec is a believer in the NBA philosophy that if you aren’t great, you had better be terrible. Hinkie learned as part of Rockets GM Daryl Morey’s staff that there is nothing to be gained from mediocrity. And though Houston went a different direction than a free-fall into the abyss by remaining good enough to entice top players (James Harden, Dwight Howard) to join the team, Morey believes there is a lot to be gained by losing big.
“There is more evidence that getting really terrible is better,” Morey told me. “But that is a direction we didn’t want to choose. We didn’t think we could follow through and do that.”
The Sixers have decided they can absolutely do that, and efforts in that direction are under way. But there are some moves that can be made to ensure maximum failure.
• Don’t Evan Think About It: Thursday is the deadline for the Sixers to make guard/forward Evan Turner an $8.7 million qualifying offer for 2014-15, and they had better not do it. Turner cannot shoot, needs the ball in his hands way too often and isn’t a starter on a good team. By not making an offer to Turner, the Sixers make sure his contract will expire after this season, making him more attractive trade bait and assuring themselves of great cap flexibility for the summer.
• Trade Thad: Unlike Turner, Thaddeus Young has plenty of value, and on a contender, he would be a great third forward, thanks to his ability to play the three and four. He’s due about $27.4 million over the next three years, should he accept a player option for 2015-16. That’s not particularly onerous, but since he isn’t a future star, the Sixers should try to accumulate some young, inexpensive talent in return for a player who could thrive in a winning situation.
• All Together Now: This year’s lose-a-thon has to be a fully collective effort, beginning with ownership and going down to the hot dog vendors. The Sixers can’t get intoxicated by a couple wins–should they manage that many–and think a charge to the post-season is possible. Coach Brett Brown must commit to playing Michael Carter-Williams 35 minutes a night, even if he’s turning the ball over as regularly as Matt Barkley. He has to use Kwame Brown a lot. He must dip deep into the bench to use the 11th and 12th men, even in close games. It will require discipline and stamina to stink for 82 games, so everybody has to be devoted to the cause.
That’s how it has to go. While the Heat try for a three-peat (bet on it), Brooklyn wonders whether Jason Kidd can manage the Nets’ high-priced roster of egos (hello, train wreck), the Bulls hope Derrick Rose can return to form (he will), and the Lakers try to figure out what to do with Kobe Bryant (they have to sign the Mamba), the Sixers will be numbingly bad all year.
Good seats are still available.
• It is astounding and borderline irresponsible that the Phillies have re-signed Michael Martinez, even if it’s to a minor-league contract. The Phillies have lost more games than any other franchise in organized sports history and have had some truly inept players. But Martinez may be the worst ever. Putting him on a major-league field is an insult to the people who pay to watch this team play.
• If the Eagles’ personnel brain trust of GM Howie Roseman and head coach Chip Kelly thinks the 2014 draft is going to provide the quarterback the team needs, there could be some pretty disappointed people at the Nova Care Complex. Even though Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny F. Football and Marcus Mariota have put up some big numbers, none is as good a prospect as Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III were two years ago. And there is no guarantee the Eagles will get any of the three top prospects in the draft. So don’t think 2014 will necessarily be better than this year.
• More Eagles: As rotten as the team has been the past two weeks, it remains just a game out of first place in the NFC Island of Misfit Toys Division. That makes Sunday’s trip to Oakland the most important game of the year. Win, and the Birds are still in business, thanks to games remaining with the likes of Minnesota, Washington and Arizona (a combined 7-15). Lose, and it could be all over.