Young, Tall and Terrible: Meet Your 2014-15 Sixers

The Sixers' rebuilding plan may ultimately work out. But the live experience has never been staler.

the-show

“I think I want to get $10 tickets to the Sixers tonight, any interest?” I texted my friend. “Actually, I have no idea of your interest level in basketball.”

This is how one invites people to a Sixers game in 2014. For a while, it wasn’t hard: “Want to go see Iverson tonight?” Now I have to hedge it with promises of cheap tickets on me and a near apology for even asking.

“I’ll go,” Kelly said. “Are they gonna do the fun floor thing?” For the 2014-15 season, the Sixers have a pregame intro that makes it look like the basketball court is being destroyed by a man hitting the Liberty Bell. I told her it was an all-season thing. “Good, that’s why I’m going,” she replied.

She certainly didn’t want to go for the team. The Sixers are a team of castoffs and young players (some promising, some not). I had such little enthusiasm coming into the year I barely know anything about this year’s team yet. Last season’s rookie of the year award winner, Michael Carter-Williams, is out with an injury to begin the season. The Sixers had seven draft picks this year, and currently only one player from the 2014 NBA Draft is playing for the team. Nerlens Noel, the 2013 first-round pick who missed all of last season due to an injury, is currently the only reason to pay to watch this team — and Monday night was his fourth-ever NBA game. The only things I knew about the team is that they didn’t have a guy shorter than 6-foot-6, they were inexperienced, and they were expected to be worse than last year. The Sixers: Young, tall and terrible.

On StubHub our tickets were $8.05 each. Cheaper than a stadium beer! When we settled into our seats, a clock gave us a countdown: Not to the game, but to the show. Going to a Sixers game this year is like going to see the Harlem Globertrotters, only you’re cheering for the Generals.

Monday night’s game was just the second of the season. It felt like an end-of-season snoozer from the subway ride. A man begging for money on the Broad Street Line ended his spiel with a question: “Is there a Sixers game tonight?” Xfinity Live! was quiet an hour before game time. I counted three Sixers jerseys.

Things were weirder in the Wells Fargo Center. Despite the small turnout — the announced attendance was 12,896 — two people were in our seats. Even weirder: They were eating strawberries, purchased earlier that day from the Fresh Grocer. Later, in the bathroom, a man was eating a slice of Lorenzo’s pizza in the urinal next to me. Be you Wharton MBA student or bro — or both — there are no food rules at the Sixers this year.

There wasn’t much atmosphere, either. I thought we might be in for some cheers when I saw a gaggle of about 80 high school kids entering just after we did. But they apparently didn’t spend much time watching the game. There were a bunch of high schools on the list of tonight’s groups and none of them even cheered their own name that loudly.

The halftime entertainment was a bucket drummer.

peter-rabbit

Peter Rabbit was a good bucket drummer. But this was also just the second game of the season, and the Sixers were already on “bucket drummer” for their halftime entertainment. He sat there and drummed for what must have been several days. The rest of the in-arena experience was stale. After the impressive pregame introductions, the most popular bit we got was the “Gangnam Style” cam. When that song came out, the Sixers were just two months removed from a second-round playoff appearance!

Just like the Washington Generals, the Sixers kept it close for most of the game — but it never felt really in doubt. They rallied from a 13-point first-quarter deficit to take the lead with just seconds left in the first half — only to see the Rockets beat the buzzer at the other end to go into the half with a lead. The Harlem Globetrotters usually work harder than the Rockets were last night.

The Sixers at least made the Rockets play a little in the second half. Dwight Howard had to play 36 minutes; Noel did a decent job for a guy who appeared to be half Howard’s weight. James Harden played 38 minutes and scored 35 points; the Sixers generally couldn’t stop him. But one play by Noel on Harden was the highlight of the Sixers season so far.

K.J. McDaniels (one of the draft picks) and Tony Wroten (a holdover with the best sneaker collection in the NBA) are fun to watch, too!

But this is your 2014-15 live Sixers experience: Pay money to watch the team get run off the court most nights. There are reasons to be bullish on the Sixers’ plan — if Sam Hinkie is as good at talent evaluation as he is at acquiring assets — but the live experience is pretty dull this year. It’s quiet, it’s half-empty and you spend several minutes of game time talking to your friend about how neither of you has any idea how dry cleaning works. And there’s another 39 games of it.

But tickets were less than $10 and Noel made that one play. I’ve had worse times.

Follow @dhm on Twitter.