The 8th seeded Philadelphia 76ers finally saw their improbable playoff run come to an end last weekend when they lost game 7 against the rival Boston Celtics. It was a game that saw the Sixers come up with plenty of opportunities and they kept it close throughout the first half. In the end though, as many suspected, the experience of the Celtics would overcome the youth of the Sixers.
For most of the basketball faithful in Philadelphia this season was something that was somewhat surprising for all. The team started off strong after the lockout forced the season to start during the holidays instead of the usual early November tip-off. The Sixers for the first month of the season played great ball and held on to first place. They beat some quality teams during the tough home stretch in February including the Lakers and Bulls but then they began to struggle. They nearly missed the playoffs entirely but managed to get in as the 8th seed where they would find themselves matched up with the top seeded Bulls and that was when the excitement began.
Let’s be real folks the Sixers never would have made it out of the first round if Bulls superstar Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah didn’t go down with injuries. The Sixers might have won a game or 2 at the most but the entire complexion of that series changed once Rose went down. The Sixers then had a date with long time rival Boston. I didn’t think the Sixers would win this series but I didn’t think they’d take them to 7 games either. The Sixers showed up and could have easily been playing right now if a few bounces went their way. Game 1 was clearly there for the taking and as I said earlier the team had opportunities in game 7. I was impressed the way the team played against a veteran, experienced bunch.
But now the season is over and the off-season questions are already beginning for this squad. Will they trade All Star Andre Iguodala? Will they amnesty veteran Elton Brand? Will Spencer Hawes return? How will they approach the draft and free agency? So many questions that will be answered throughout the summer. The bottom line is this team will not look the same going into next season. I believe the time is now to move Andre Iguodala as his value has never been higher than right now. Elton Brand it was nice to know you but age has caught up and your salary can easily be spent on younger, faster talent. This team is built for speed and getting faster will only enhance one of their key strengths going into next season.
About a month ago I wrote a piece about how the 76ers are NBA mediocrity at its finest and even after this surprisingly pleasant playoff run I still believe that. BUT it was refreshing to see (playoff video vs. Bulls) this team go deep into the playoffs and play tough, meaningful basketball up until the very end. I actually found myself at a bar Saturday night watching game 7 with some friends. The 4 of us probably haven’t watched a full season of NBA basketball in years. To me and my friends the NBA just hasn’t been the same since the 90’s when the likes of Jordan, Ewing, Malone, and Olajuwon led the way among others.
As I said a month ago the Sixers have been nothing but mediocre at best since the departure of Allen Iverson. I still believe this team needs to get really bad in order to get really good and compete on the same level as Miami, San Antonio and Oklahoma city but for what it was worth the 2012 season gave us a reason to tune-in and watch again. The beauty of sports is you never know what will happen on any given night and the Sixers proved to everyone during this playoff run that there’s always reason to watch because anything can happen once the game is played.