Sports fans always look forward to “Games of the Year” whereby two teams considered to be “The Best” meet on the field/court/ice/pitch to determine the superior squad. However, there is inherent symmetry in the world and tonight will provide fans with a chance to glance at the other end of the stick. Tonight, at 7:00 EST, the Los Angeles Lakers tote their 2-14 record to South Philadelphia to play against the Philadelphia 76ers and their 0-18 record. You might be surprised to learn that the Sixers are favored by 1.5 points in this Race-to-the-Bottom Classic.
The fact that Kobe Bryant – who went to high school in suburban Philly before jumping to the NBA – has just announced that this will be his final season as a player will likely goose the attendance for the game. Might it actually be a sellout? If it is, it could be the only sellout of the season for the Sixers.
Philly fans like basketball; they generally support teams well even if those teams are “not fully functional”. Nevertheless, the Sixers of the past few years have been well below the descriptor of “not fully functional”; for the past several years, the Sixers have been “painfully pathetic”. Most folks identify the arrival of GM Sam Hinkie a little over 2 seasons ago as the start of the “painfully pathetic” era; I happen to think that the origin of this giant puddle of dog-barf began with the idiotic trade the Sixers made to acquire Andrew Bynum. However, that is quibbling so I will move on.
From the fans’ perspective the problem with the Sixers these days is that they are not only losing but they are losing every way you can imagine.
Sometimes, they get blown out from the start and lose by a huge number.
Sometimes they lead in the 4th quarter and then lose.
Sometimes they rally from behind to take the lead late and then lose.
There is no fixed script for Sixers’ games except for the outcome. They lose. Moreover, one has to wonder if there is anything more than rhetorical gas behind the pronouncements that there is a master plan behind all of this. The front office plan/philosophy is to tear down the team to nothing and then proceed to use the assets gained by the tear down to rebuild the team. Indeed, they been wheeling and dealing for draft picks and foreign players. The problem is that the product on the court after 2 full years of restructuring is abjectly awful – or painfully pathetic if you prefer.
GM, Sam Hinkie, is trying to implement an NBA version of Moneyball; he is a devotee of advanced analytics for the game and he believes – probably correctly – that if/when he assembles a team with 5 or 7 outstanding young players at one time, that the Sixers will become a dynastic team. As Hamlet said, “Aye, there’s the rub…” So far, Hinkie’s top picks in the draft have been:
Nerlins Noel: Good defensive player but no offense
Michael Carter Williams: Traded away to Bucks and now benched there
Joel Embiid: Has yet to see the floor due to foot injuries/surgeries
Jahlil Okafor: Good offensive player but no defense
In the 2+ seasons of the Hinkie Master Plan, the Sixers cumulative record is 37-145. One need not resort to advanced analytics to recognize that is beneath miserable. The Sixers potentially have as many as 5 first round draft picks for next summer. Hey there, that has to be the light at the end of the tunnel. Well, if you look at the prior draft picks (note that three of the four top picks all play center) you have to wonder if that light at the end of the tunnel might actually be a gorilla with a flashlight.
And just when it seemed as if the Sixers were due for just a smidgen of good news, we learned that the latest top pick, Jahlil Okafor has had 3 “off-court incidents” in the last month to include an altercations where punches were thrown, a gun outside a club in the late-night hours and a speeding ticket on the Benjamin Franklin Bridge where the vehicle was clocked at 108 mph. Okafor is only 19 years old but that speeding ticket indicates to me that he knows that his future lies in getting out of this situation as fast as possible.
There is a report on CBSSports.com this morning that the Sixers will provide Okafor with a security guard “whenever he goes out”. Obviously, the Sixers want to protect the value of their asset; not so obviously, the Sixers seem not to understand the difficulty of protecting anyone from oneself.
However, all of that drama regarding the Sixers will be on hold tonight as the Lakers come to town with their “local kid made good” who is on his farewell tour on a team so bad that the Sixers might actually win the game. For one night, Philly basketball fans might actually enjoy going to the arena for a game – unless and until the Sixers find a way to lose at the end yet again.
Meanwhile, the world of college football finds itself in the situation whereby they are not going to have 80 bowl-eligible teams available for the 40 stupid bowl games that will transpire. As of this morning there are 75 teams with 6 wins. Of the teams with 5 wins, only 3 of them (Georgia State, Kansas State and South Alabama) have another game to play this weekend. Ergo, the NCAA will have to name at least 2 and as many as 5 ineligible teams “good enough to participate in a bowl game.” Never an entity to miss an opportunity to perpetuate a fiction, the NCAA will determine which ineligible teams to anoint with pixie dust by using:
The Academic Progress Rate
I am not going to try to explain what this is other than to say it is a concoction of the NCAA that tries to hold schools accountable for having athletes take courses and progress toward degrees. And if you think that is effective, you have already bought into the fiction of the student-athlete in revenue sports and do not need to have your eyes diverted by smoke and mirrors. If you care to know more about that nonsense, here is a link to Wikipedia’s explanation.
Finally, here is a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:
“Wisconsin fans hurled snowballs at their own cheerleaders at last Saturday’s football game.
“Coincidence? Irate school officials immediately announced they will no longer accept student applications postmarked Philadelphia.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………