As a child, I loved basketball. I annoyed the neighbors many evenings with hours of the repetitive ring of the ball bouncing off of the driveway. I played rec-league ball from a young age, and even refereed games as a high-schooler.
One of my favorites memories during those middle school years was when my father – also our rec-league coach – would take us to watch the Philadelphia 76ers play at the old Spectrum. Being a fan during this period meant watching the great Julius Erving-era Sixers transition into the entertaining Charles Barkley-era Sixers, with some Bobby Jones/Moses Malone on the front end and guys like Hersey Hawkins, Mike Gminski and Johnny Dawkins on the back end.
I graduated from high school in 1992, and the Sixers celebrated by trading Barkley to Phoenix – a trade that worked out great. For the Suns. Philadelphia proceeded to win 28% of their games over the next four seasons. I was far away, freezing to the bone in Syracuse, NY, which added to the apathy about Philadelphia basketball, and allowed the team to escape my consciousness.
And then there were the Iverson years, which despite creating some wins, never appealed to me. So I became a full-fledged grown-up, got married and had kids, and moved on. But then my son turned five. Then six. Then seven. He started getting into sports, playing sports, talking about sports. Which of course led me to thinking about myself at that age, and what I would have cared about, which led me to thinking about the Sixers again.
So last season, I paid attention, and I began to like what I saw. Under new head coach Doug Collins, the team started very slow, finished very strong, and even took a game from the LeBron-Wade-Bosh Miami Heat in the playoffs. Following that moderate success, the Sixers were sold by Comcast to a group led by Joshua Harris and David Blitzer. The new ownership group and new CEO Adam Aron injected new life into the franchise (including Aron’s regular Twitter dialogue with fans). Storied 76ers of the past were brought into the fold. Moses, Bobby Jones and more will be on hand for the team’s home opener this week.
More importantly, the team brought back the top 8 scorers from a year ago, creating an unlikely continuity in today’s fluid sports universe. In a lockout-shortened season, while other teams are struggling to find their footing, the Sixers are a solid unit. They opened the season with an unprecedented five-game road trip, including four games out west. Close losses to the Blazers & Jazz paired with big wins over Phoenix and Golden State left the Sixers at 2-2 headed into last night’s tilt at New Orleans.
The team opened the game by falling behind by 14 points, and trailed by seven at the half, but clawed back, little by little, despite a physical and aggressive Hornets squad. Trailing by six headed into the fourth, the Sixers turned it up a notch with a 34-20 quarter and won the game 101-93.
This team is fun to watch. Each night, it seems like a different member of the primary rotation of eight steps up. Last night it was starting point guard Jrue Holliday scoring 14 in the fourth and the steady play of second-year guard Evan Turner throughout the game. Other nights the electric Lou Williams takes over. Spencer Hawes leads the league in field-goal percentage and is averaging a double-double. Andre Iguodala couldn’t miss during the four-game western swing. Thad Young and Elton Brand log solid minutes in between those aggressive spurts from the backcourt. They rebound. They pass. They seem to do all the things a team should do. And I for one am enjoying it immensely, and look forward to following the team all season.
The Sixers open at home (finally) against the Detroit Pistons tomorrow night. Tickets can be purchased at Sixers.com for the opener and every other Sixers game this year. So go check out this fun and exciting edition of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Maybe you’ll even run into my son and I.