One of these days, the Philadelphia 76ers will win a game. And once of these years, Sam Hinkie will find a better-that-decent player who is not 6-foot-10 or taller.
And in the meantime, folks in Philadelphia will suffer.
Our message to them comes in the form of an acronym — H-O-P-E. It stands for “hang on, pain ends.”
Monday night’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks in another winnable game that got away moved the Sixers to 0-11 on the season and 0-21 since they last won a game in March. They are within five losses of matching the longest losing streak in franchise history, 26, which also happens to be the NBA record for consecutive losses, shared with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first season after LeBron James relocated to Miami.
Also within reach is the worst record to start a season in NBA history, which is 0-18 by the New Jersey Nets in the fall of 2009.
And as they have been doing for a long, long time, fans in Philly are asking themselves: When does this madness end? Can the Sixers really be this bad after being equally bad two years ago, along with last season, sporting a 37-138 record since the Brett Brown era began?
In a poll being run on philly.com, a healthy 48.5 percent of respondents said they are still on board with Hinkie’s plan. Also, 31.1 percent said they are not on board, and 20.4 percent said they were never on board with the plan at all. Then again, fewer than 4,000 ballots have been cast in that poll, which is buried deep within the sports section of that Web site. So take it with a grain of salt as to whether that poll is an accurate reflection of a broad cross-section of Sixers fans.
Apathy in Philadelphia regarding the 76ers runs so deep, most of their fans cannot even be bothered to read the latest bad news installment. On Monday night it was the 27 turnovers, ballooning the team’s season average to 16.9 — the second most in the NBA behind Oklahoma City’s 17.0.
From Bob Cooney in the Philadelphia Inquirer: “Even with that many giveaways, the Sixers found themselves on the verge of collecting win No. 1. They held a two-point lead on a Nerlens Noel dunk with 5 minutes, 12 seconds to go. With only 3:23 to go, the game was knotted at 82. But Dirk Nowitzki hit a big three with 1:47 to go for a six-point lead and an improbable Sixers victory became another sloppy loss. If the past three games have shown anything, it is that there is such a thing as moral victories, at least when it comes to the 76ers. The coaches and players will say there isn’t, but there must be. Otherwise there would be absolutely nothing to be happy about.”
Of course, everyone knew the Sixers would be bad this season — same as last year, and the year before. This is all part of Hinkie’s well-documented tanking plan, a strategy that has never been taken to this kind of an extreme. In the past three seasons, the following names have appeared in Sixers box scores: Brandon Davies, Chris Johnson, Tim Frazier, Malcolm Thomas, Drew Gordon, Malcolm Lee, Casper Ware, James Nunnally, Lorenzo Brown, Adonis Thomas, Darius Johnson-Odom, Maalik Wayns and Charles Jenkins.
If you recognize these names — Richaun Holmes and Christian Wood — you are either a fan of UNLV or Bowling Green or you are about as die-hard as a Sixers fan as exists. Both are on this season’s roster.
So as the Sixers stumble through another season of infamy, where is the hope?
Well, the Duke-Kentucky game will provide some.
Chances are, at least one player from one of those two top college programs will be playing for the Sixers next season.
Hinkie has stockpiled four first-round picks in the upcoming draft, although one of them (the Lakers’) will stay in Los Angeles if it lands in the top 3. Philadelphia also has its own pick, Miami’s and Oklahoma City’s. Also, between now and 2021, the Sixers will have 16 second-round picks. Yes, sixteen. Heck, they may end this season with more future second-round picks than victories.
But as Noah Coslov of CineSport notes in this video exchange between us, second-round picks aren’t getting him excited. He believes, as do I, that Hinkie should have surrounded Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor with more talent by now. At a certain point, unused salary cap space should be put to use.
The question is, when will Hinkie believe the time is right to go after a free agent or two who can start to instill a culture of winning? Not to mention another question: What free agent with any kind of a healthy level of self-esteem would want to join forces with a league laughingstock?
At this moment in time, it is hard to imagine anyone with anything approaching All-Star talent looking at Philadelphia as a desirable destination. But then again, two years from now the picture may be substantially altered depending on the caliber of players that are drafted. Before we can write off Hinkie and his plan, we need to wait and see what he gets done at the trading deadline this February, and at the draft next June.
In the meantime, the misery will endure.
Chris Sheridan is publisher and editor-in-chief of SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.