January 11, 2012

Any room left on the Sixers' bandwagon?

From the recap of last night's 27-point thrashing of the Sacramento Kings: "The Sixers are one of the NBA's up-and-coming teams; they've won five games by at least a 20-point margin."

Steve Kerr: The Philadelphia 76ers are "probably the best story in the league to this point."

Dei Lynam: "The Sixers have won six straight for the first time since January of 2009."

My roommate: "Should we get NBA League Pass?"
Me: "....maybe."

What the hell is happening in Philadelphia?

I'm a well-documented basketball frontrunner; when the Sixers aren't competitive, I could care less about the sport. Until last week, the only remotely recent 76ers game I'd seen was the return of Allen Iverson. And even then, I tuned out after the first quarter; they lost to the Nuggets by 10.

But these Sixers appear to be competitive and then some. Third in points per game. Second in rebounds per game. Seventh in assists per game. First in points allowed. MVP chants for Spencer Hawes. Yes, the season is only nine games old, but you can make a legitimate case that the Sixers have been the best team in basketball thus far.

I can state this with relatively certainty because our free preview of NBA League Pass just ended, and I actually sat down to watch a few of these games. Before the season, I read a whole bunch about the Sixers and coach Doug Collins expected continuity to serve them well in this shortened season; so far, that does appear to be the case. They look like an extremely functional unit, playing smart team defense and spreading out the scoring (six players averaging 10 or more points a game, not including Elton Brand at 9.6 PPG).

Yes, the seven teams they've beaten have a combined record of 25-41 (Indiana being the one shining win), but you won't get anywhere if you don't smack around the bad teams. And "smack around" is putting it mildly; they beat Phoenix by 20, Golden State by 28, Toronto by 35. That sends a message to the league, and to fair-weather fans like me: This team could be for real.

Tonight's match-up with the 5-4 New York Knicks will be telling, especially because it's the Sixers' third game in a row. This season is jam-packed into four months, which means that injuries and fatigue will start to play a big role in deciding a team's fate. Will it help that the Sixers are so young (according to Henry Abbott of ESPN.com, they're the third-youngest team in the NBA) or will such a baby-faced squad fall apart under this kind of oddly scheduled grind?

All I know is that, for now, I'm sold. I'll be front and center (albeit in the cheapest possible seats) at the Verizon Center in DC this Saturday night for Sixers vs. Wizards. And if they keep this up, maybe we'll spring for the NBA package after all.

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