Remember when the Boston Celtics were terrible in 2007? Then they traded their first-round pick (No. 5) and three players to Seattle for All-Star guard Ray Allen, and two weeks later sent another bunch of players and picks to Minnesota for former MVP Kevin Garnett. All of a sudden, Paul Pierce had some very good company. The Celtics won the NBA title less than a year later.
From 24 wins one season to 66 the next. Remember?
Yeah, that's not going to happen with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Ever since the Celtics did the seemingly impossible, executing the biggest turnaround in NBA history, every team's fan base has been looking for the quick fix. And now the hope in Philly seems to be that because the Sixers have gotten so bad so fast, somehow their negative energy will reverse itself and they will slingshot back to the top -- as if rebuilding an NBA roster is like snapping a rubber band.
The Sixers have flawlessly executed the "get bad" part of the equation. They started the 2011-12 season with a 20-9 record and made the playoffs, looking like a young team on the rise. But last season they won only 34 games, and this season, despite owning two more wins than the 13-58 Milwaukee Bucks, they are by far the league's worst team. If they fall in Houston on Thursday night, the Sixers will tie the NBA record for consecutive losses, matching the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers, who dropped 26 in a row. And the way the Sixers are playing, it's easy to imagine them going winless over their final 11 games of the season.
Perhaps no NBA city deserves a big turnaround more than Philly. The Sixers last won a championship in 1983, and they haven't been relevant since Allen Iverson stepped over Los Angeles Lakers guard Tyronn Lue in the 2001 NBA Finals.
But the Slingshot Theory just isn't realistic. This is a three- to four-year rebuilding job, folks.
When Sam Hinkie took over as Sixers general manager in May, he had no interest in running a middle-of-the-pack team for the next few years. In the NBA, the 14th- or 17th-ranked club is actually in a worse position than the league's worst club. Even when the Sixers were making the playoffs in 2009 and 2011, they were light-years away -- really, a superstar player away -- from competing for a title. Former Sixers point guard Jrue Holiday, whom Hinkie traded last summer, is a really nice player. With him, the Sixers probably win seven to nine more games this season. But where does that put them? In the range of 22 to 24 wins? In other words: still irrelevant.
The Sixers needed to be dismantled, and Hinkie finished the job at this year's trading deadline.
The good news is that when the rebuild is complete -- assuming Hinkie is a flawless evaluator of draft talent, as some have suggested he will need to be -- the Sixers have something in their favor that not every franchise can claim, and that's an ownership group willing to spend serious money to be good and stay good.