Any hopes the Sixers had for the season are quickly getting away as they continue their free fall. Last night's defeat to the Houston Rockets makes an even dozen, as they have now registered their 12th consecutive loss. It also marked their third straight loss since re-acquiring Allen Iverson.
If they cannot get a win Monday night against the struggling Golden State Warriors, things have the potential to get even uglier. The next two games are against the powerhouse Cavs and Celtics. The Sixers then host the perpetually lackluster LA Clippers before heading on their annual west coast holiday tour after a quick stop in DC. Even if they find a way to break the losing streak, they face the specter of being totally buried by the time they return home in the new year.
After advancing to the playoffs for a second consecutive year and playing pretty well against a tough Orlando team, the organization viewed the young team as an up and comer. President and GM Ed Stefanski opted to pass on signing veteran Andre Miller and hang onto his big ticket purchase from a year earlier, Elton Brand. He then decided that Eddie Jordan and his Ivy League system were the right formula to cultivate his young team. And, with no true point guard on the roster, Stefanski elected to draft a 19 year old project in the 1st round of the draft.
It would be safe to assume that if Stefanski had to do it all over again, he would have made different decisions, starting with Brand. The high priced free agent has been a large disappointment and encumbered the team financially. Jordan has done nothing to make Sixers fans forget Billy Cunningham and Larry Brown- or Doug Moe and Roy Rubin for that matter. It still remains to be seen how his latest move of signing Iverson will work out.
The Sixers got off to a bad start last season as well and then were able to recover enough to qualify for the playoffs, so it may seem premature to write off the season. In theory, the Sixers could still start to get the hang of their new system and roles. Players such as Marreese Speights and Lou Williams could return from injury and provide a boost. Brand could regain the form of his glory years as a Clipper. Once he gets his legs under him and loses the inhibitions associated with trying to prove himself a good teammate, Iverson could move from being "The Question" to "The Answer."
Right now, though, the odds do not appear to be with them. They do not have a big inside presence, they still lack perimeter shooting and do not distinguish themselves on defense. The Sixers appeared to be at their best over the past couple seasons when they used their athleticism and pushed the ball up the floor, yet are not organized to capitalize on those strengths.
Unfortunately, the team appears to have a major identity crisis. They are not sure what they want to be and are a collection of pieces that do not necessarily fit together. They have some talented players, but no rain makers.
The pressure mounts to turn losses into victories as the hole gets deeper. Although there was some risk in letting Miller walk, the return of Brand and Jason Smith as well as the experience gained by young players last year had the team thinking optimistically. As this season's attendance would suggest, fans were obviously less bullish.
The upcoming stretch of games will likely define the course of the season. Registering enough wins to see outside light from the deep hole in which they currently stand might have them trying to meld the team around the two A.I.'s. Conversely, no more than a couple wins might have the team throwing in the towel, releasing Iverson and " going young" for the balance of the season. Heck, they might even abandon the "Princeton Offense."