It was clear early on that there was going to be something different about the 2011-12 Sixers.
New ownership. New energy. Potentially a new mascot.
Okay, let's forget about that last one.
Before any games had been played, the Sixers accomplished the unthinkable. After a lockout, from which the ability of the entire NBA to bounce back was in question, the 76ers were grabbing headlines for the first time in years.The team battled to a playoff spot last season, but still didn't generate much excitement, much less bodies in seats at the Wells Fargo Center.
What a difference a season makes.
But if you say that you expected the team's stunning 18-7 start, I will call you a liar.
Philadelphians were showing their love for this 76ers squad, perhaps never more than after what has thus far been the apex of the season--the defeat Philadelphia handed Kobe Bryant and the Lakers a 95-90 defeat on February 6.
Ah. Life can be so beautiful sometimes.
Even the league took notice of the Sixers' strong performance, naming Andre Iguodala to the Eastern Conference All-Star team as a reserve.
Excitement for the Sixers was bubbling over.
This team is the real deal, we all thought. Maybe they won't win a championship, but they may be able to at least win a round of the playoffs.
Sccreeech. Hold up. Put on the breaks. This is a Philadelphia sports team we're talking about, after all.
The Sixers, now in the midst of a 3-game losing streak, have put the excitement and confidence about the team's future to the test. They fell first to the Magic. Then to the Mavs. Most recently, they lost a 92-91 heartbreaker to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday.
It's not like they're doing that badly. Their record stands at 20-12. They sit atop the Atlantic Division and are 3rd in Eastern Conference, behind Miami and Chicago. That's not too shabby, particularly when considering that last season the team's .500 record was considered a major accomplishment.
Let's keep some perspective: It took the Sixers 27 games until they lost back-to-back games.That's pretty remarkable.
Can anyone question the heart of this team? Absolutely not. Coach Doug Collins has not wavered in his belief in this team. Despite the continued absence of center Spencer Hawes, who is suffering from a sore left Achilles, the Sixers have found ways to stay competitive. The ugliest loss was suffered at the hands LeBron James and the Miami Heat in their 20-point loss on February 3.
There's a lot to remain hopeful about with this team. No, they don't have that one superstar that the perennial playoff contenders in the league have. But what they do have is true talent and ability at all positions, not a total reliance on one guy. Lou. Jrue. Thad. Elton. Jodie. Evan. Andre. Maybe not one "superstar" among these names, but all are stars.
But things won't get any easier. The team will be further tested with back-to-back road games at Memphis on Tuesday and at Detroit on Wednesday before the All-Star break. Can the team shake off this rough patch and get some momentum before the break?
Regardless of what happens in the next few games, the Sixers have already accomplished a remarkable feat. They have made the City of Brotherly Love care about basketball once again, for the first time since the one and only AI, Allen Iverson, played ball in this town.
The ride of the 2011-12 Sixers season has been fun for the team and its fans, and even those who are just curious to see what all the buzz is about. We can't let that end.
This team will not waste its new-found support. They have come too far to let it all waste away. They believe in themselves, but in an understated way. They don't need boast about what they can do. There's no need--they can just go out and do it.
Let's be realistic: The euphoria of that 18-7 start couldn't be sustained. This team is going to lose some games, and some or them are going to be heartbreakers. But it is the reaction to those losses that is what will tell the most about the future of this squad. If they fight and show what they've done to make us fall in love with them all over again, we're gonna be just fine. And why should we expect otherwise.
The Philadelphia 76ers have successfully overcome ownership changes, a lockout, and the death of Hip-Hop. There's absolutely no reason to think that they are going to give up on themselves now.