Why the Sixers Don’t Suck Anymore

An introduction to this city's professional basketball team.

On Friday night—after attending the Sixers home opener (a win over Detroit in which Jodie Meeks dropped 21)—some friends and I got together, had a few drinks, and watched Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals. The early deficit, a quick comeback, the stretched lead becomes a squandered lead, Iverson steps over Tyron Lue, the dagger trey, Snow’s runner and a Sixers victory still got us up out of our seats over a decade after the fact. And we knew all of that was going to happen.

Part of the reason that that game still means so much is because this city spent that entire season jumping out of its seats for that Sixers team. They opened up the year with a 10-0 run and everyone in the area was hooked. Matt Damon and Kate Winslet don’t even know the extent of the word “infectious.” And—though the star power may be a bit deluded—new owners, an inspiring coach, young talent, and an emphasis on the fundamentals may have Philadelphia ready for a basketball renaissance.

While the city was busy watching 24/7, campaigning for Jeffrey Lurie to can Andy Reid, complaining about Ilya Bryzgalov, and counting down the days to spring training, the Sixers climbed into sole possession of first place on the back of a five-game win streak.

Oh, you don’t care about the NBA? You say there’s no rebounding, there’s no defense, and that it’s a glorified three-on-three tournament dominated by colluding superstars. Well, then you must have missed it when the Sixers held the Raptors to 62 points on Saturday night. You must have been busy when Thaddeus Young took four charges last night and Spencer Hawes took one with five personal fouls on him.

You must not have noticed that Philly is one of the most efficient and balanced teams in the league. They turn the ball over an average of only 13 times a game and have had nine different players score in double-figures—five of them have eclipsed 20 at least once.

Last night, a contingent of fans chanted “M-V-P” when Spencer Hawes (Spencer Hawes!) got his first touch. Yes, the same Spencer Hawes who dramatically underperformed last year and was very close to donning a different uniform this season. He’s averaging 12 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and nearly two blocks through the first eight games. Hawes got some help from Shawn Kemp during the off-season and rocks a killer beard. (We all know Philly loves a good beard.) Can you say Reign Man 2.0?

Lou Williams, who’s averaging 16 points and four assists per game, was nearly mugged in Manayunk last month. Then, the gunman recognized him, thanked him for his work in the community, and Lou bought the guy a Big Mac.

The team’s bench scoring has been a key factor in its success. Nik Vucevic and Jodie Meeks have had a legitimate impact. Last night, the team had five players with 11 or 12 points to go with Andre Iguodala’s 20.

Two losses by a combined seven points and five double-digit margins of victory have the Sixers on a bona fide roll. With the Kings in town tonight and a third consecutive game against the Knicks tomorrow, 6-2 could turn into 8-2 very quickly.

Not since 2000 has there been this much legitimate buzz surrounding a Sixers team out of the gate. There isn’t a Sixer who’s going to drop 48 points and deliver a fuck-you move like Iverson’s infamous step-over. A big man isn’t going to block four shots a game or wag his finger at opposing shooters. The identity of this team is entirely different. I suggest you get to know them.