On Monday night, the Sixers played their best, and worst game of the season. How is that possible? Well for starters, three of the Sixers first four possessions ended in a turnover. They then proceeded to enter halftime with as many turnovers as they had made field goals. Yes, it was that bad. The most mystifying part of it all was how they were turning the ball over. On one play Jahlil Okafor got a block and then went on to throw it off of the back of Isaiah Canaan.
Then the second half started and the Sixers won the third quarter for only the second time all season. They even erased a 19 point Maverick lead and held a lead in the fourth quarter. All signs were pointing toward a Sixers victory, then Dirk Nowitzki happened. Nowitzki had a 12 point fourth quarter after having 9 points through the first three combined. He is the type of shooter that in crunch time, no matter how bad he has shot all game, you know that his next shot is going in.
Despite the great comeback effort, the Sixers drop to 0-11 and have lost their last 21 heading back to last season. With prospects that have the potential that Jamal Murray, Ben Simmons, and Skal Labissiere have, losing may not be the worst thing ion the world. But this kind of losing may begin to take its toll.
There is no one that I feel worse for than Sixers head coach Brett Brown. This is a guy that was an assistant to Greg Popovich, so he has been around a lot of winning basketball. Every time the Sixers play, the opposing coach remarks about how hard the Sixers play. This is a credit to the kind of coach I think Brett Brown is. He comes to work everyday and does his job to the best of his ability. But he has not been rewarded with a real NBA roster and it is taking its toll on him. After last night’s game, Brown said “This team is built to turn the ball over. I hope it’s not at that margin.” If that doesn’t sound like a guy that is defeated than I don’t know what does. That quote sounds like a guy that has given this press conference 100 times and has run out of creative ways to talk around it.
Losing can also take its toll on the players. The one I am most concerned about is Jahlil Okafor. He has always been a winner. He won a state championship in high school, a national title in college, and was the top player in his class since high school. Now he comes into a situation where he has averaged 19 points and 7 rebounds on 48 percent shooting and has no wins to show for it. That must be frustrating. There is also this gif via Crossing Broad. This can be taken two ways. One, he is frustrated and hates being here. I really don’t think that is it but it is a possibility. The other possibility is that he really cares and takes losing personally.
I can’t believe I am about to say this (yes I can) but their is one benefit to losing a lot. Draft, draft, draft. I have banged this drum in many of my posts and will continue to do so until my days are numbered. In order to win a championship, in any sports but specifically the NBA, you must build through the draft. There is not one example of a team that did not do it this way. The Miami Heat big three is not built without drafting Dwyane Wade. If Wade is not their LeBron James would not have “taken his talents to South Beach.” If the Celtics did not have assets upon assets, like the fifth round pick in the 2007 draft, they would not have gotten Ray Allen, there would have been no “big three,” and Kobe Bryant would have 6 rings. Now back to the Sixers situation. Entering last night, the Sixers had a 77.9% chance of getting a top 3 pick and a 62.2% chance of having the Lakers pick fall outside of the top-3. I think that Lakers pick would definitely fall out of the top-3 if Byron Scott got fired and Kobe Bryant retired but don’t tell the Kobe fans that. These are some impressive chances although we are only 11 games in but their are big rewards. Let’s say the Sixers have picks 1 and 4. That would give them a point guard in Jamal Murray and the star in Ben Simmons. I would take 100 straight losses if I knew that was the reward. The Sixers would actually have a team forming, especially with Saric set to come over next season. Oh yeah, that Joel Embiid fella may be around as well.
Has it been tough watching a losing team night in and night out? Of course it has. It comes at a price but the rewards are too much to get bent out of shape over another 50 or 60 loss season. As a Sixers fan, you have to trust the process.