As a big Philadelphia sports fan, it’s hard to remember the last time the 76ers were truly worth talking about.
With all of the success the Phillies, Eagles, and Flyers have been having the last couple of years, the Sixers have really taken a backseat. When I was a kid I remember wearing my Allen Iverson jersey to Sixers games and watching a team that was a serious contender while hearing stories about Dr. J and the legendary teams of the 1980’s.
Now, as you travel down Pattison Avenue, you see Lincoln Financial Field where the Eagles go to the playoffs just about every year and have won the NFC countless times in the past decade. Citizens’ Bank Park is where the Phillies are almost a lock for the World Series every year now and the Wells Fargo Center is where the Flyers have endured great success recently, playing in the Stanley Cup Finals just two seasons ago.
Then as you’re pulling away you remember “ah yes I almost forgot, the Sixers play at the Wells Fargo Center as well.” Now that the lockout has ended for the 2011-2012 NBA season, the Sixers have not only been playing there, but they have also been reeling in giant crowds and putting on a show night in and night out consistently for the first time in about a decade.
Earning a record that has put them at the top of the Atlantic Division and in the top five teams in the NBA has not been a successful start for the Sixers, it has been a dream start to the season.
Doug Collins, in his second season as head coach of the 76ers, has this young team firing on all cylinders and playing with great energy every night. With the condensed schedule this year due to the lockout, the Sixers youth has changed their label from inexperienced to a great threat.
Older teams like the Lakers and Celtics are bound to struggle because playing a game every night will be almost impossible on the legs of guys who are 35+ years old.
Meanwhile the Sixers are one of the youngest and deepest teams in the league; 26 is the average age on the roster. That being said, the team is almost completely different than all the highly touted NBA super franchises that bring in multi-star players, paying the players billions of dollars to play together and hopefully bring home a championship.
It is almost fitting to say that the team from Philadelphia consists of a bunch of no-name, blue collar, low key players that go out there night in and night out and scrap for each win because it fits the image of the city. What also makes them different from just about every other NBA team is the fact that Doug Collins has his men playing defense.
The concept of defense has really been a lost art in the NBA now that high flying players like Lebron James and Dwayne Wade are the main focus of basketball fans and analysts. However it has never been proven wrong that defense wins championships and giving up only about 87 points a night has the 76ers at the top of the league in total defense.
The buzz around this team where I am from is unbelievably exciting. Fans are not talking about a team that is expected to miss the playoffs or that there may be another early exit in the first round, but instead they are talking about a team who has a strong chance to bring home an NBA Championship for the first time in almost 20 years.
They don’t play like the Miami Heat or Oklahoma City Thunder and put up 100 points a night; however, they play tough, hard-nosed, old-school basketball that has them clawing out victories.
Critics of this team have argued that their strength of schedule has been weak and that they haven’t beaten anyone significant to prove anything. In the back of my mind I agreed with this and knew it was correct but going into this last week I knew we would be put to the test and really get a measure of where we stood this year.
After wins against powerhouses like the Magic, Bulls, Hawks, and Lakers I think it is safe to say that the Sixers are a battle tested and a force to be reckoned with when it comes down to stretch this season.
This is a team who plays their own style of basketball unlike anyone else in the league. They have no star players and a bunch of guys who accept their roles on arguably the best bench in the NBA as part of the Sixers “Night Shift” (as they call it in Philly), knowing they could probably start for any other team in the league.
They have the fans of Philadelphia and all over the country wondering, with this unusual post lockout season giving other teams problems, could this be the perfect storm for our 76ers?