bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: Why, 76ers, why?

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Every once in a while, a sports fan is faced with a strange dilemma. It sometimes becomes evident that it would be much more beneficial for a team to lose than to win. This is because of the nature of the draft, particularly in football and basketball. Sure, baseball and hockey have drafts too, and the draft orders for those sports are determined in such a way that the worst teams get the earlier picks, just like in football and basketball, but because baseball and hockey have robust minor league systems, players in those sports generally take a lot longer to get to the major league level and picks are far more speculative in nature. If you root for a bad team, you often realize that late-season wins may actually be hurting the cause of making the team better. In the spirit of that philosophy, this week’s big Bad Sports story to me was the Philadelphia 76ers’ win over the Detroit Pistons on Saturday night.

After years of mostly bad basketball, with just a few positive moments mixed in, the Sixers hired Sam Hinkie to run the franchise in May of 2013. The team had a few talented players, but was clearly going nowhere. A little over a month after he was hired, Hinkie changed the philosophy of the franchise on draft night. He traded Jrue Holiday, the team’s best player, and a 2nd round pick to the New Orleans Pelicans for Nerlens Noel, whom the Pelicans had just taken in with the 6th overall pick, as well as their first-round pick in 2014. With their own pick, the Sixers took Michael Carter-Williams out of Syracuse. By trading Holiday and grabbing two top-11 picks, Hinkie was clearly indicating a plan to build for the future rather than play to win in 2013-2014. The team then traded away or released a number of other players, leaving former 2nd-overall pick Evan Turner as the team’s most accomplished player.

At that point, Andrew Wiggins, the country’s most celebrated high school player, was headed to Kansas to play what would likely be his only college season, and I started to see a Twitter hashtag that read #winlessforwiggins, representing a movement to root for the Sixers to lose all, or at least most, of their games and grab the kid with the top pick in 2014. I have never managed to be a guy who roots for his team to lose, though, having rooted for the Eagles to win numerous times when a loss would clearly have been better. I just didn’t have it in me to root for them to lose. The over/under for wins for the Sixers in the Vegas sports books was 16.5, which is an incredibly low total. When they started the season 3-0, including wins against top teams like the Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls, I thought that new coach Brett Brown was going to show all those idiots and lead this team to a solid season.

After a much better early season than anyone had any reason to expect, things started to go south. Wins started coming much more slowly, and at the trade deadline, Hinkie really blew it up. Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes, statistically the team’s two best players on the season, were jettisoned for a bunch of nothing. They had lost nine straight games at that point. Over a month later, the losing streak had stretched to 26 games, tying the longest losing streak in NBA history. By this point, I was fully in favor of the idea of losing the rest of their games. The Milwaukee Bucks were only one game ahead of the Sixers for the league’s worst record and there were only 10 games left. They could do it, right? Unlike the NFL, an NBA team’s record does not directly determine its draft position. It just determines how many chances the team gets in the draft lottery that actually determines that order. Good enough, though, right?

Well, my dreams came crashing down on Saturday night. The 76ers not only won the game, but they actually crushed the Pistons, winning 123-98. Why would they do this? They were doing so well! Surely they could have held out for a couple more weeks, right? I was so disappointed. Sure, this win might not make any difference. There is no guarantee that the worst record would get the Sixers the first overall pick, and even if it did, is the first pick such a slam dunk? It could be Wiggins, but that seems far less certain than it did last year. There are several other legitimate options, including Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker. I think it’s just that by the time the streak had reached twenty losses in a row or so, I had finally accepted that losing was the best thing. When you take that leap, you need it to pay off.

Bad sports, continued:

2) A few weeks back, I mentioned that Jim Kelly’s cancer had come back. The former Buffalo Bills quarterback had surgery for a tumor along his jaw last year, but the cancer has returned and the has been described as “countless microscopic tumors” in his head. That sure doesn’t sound good. His chemotherapy treatment starts today.

3) Continuing the bad news for the Buffalo Bills organization, team owner Ralph Wilson, who has owned the club since its inception in 1959, died on Tuesday at the age of 95.

4) Miguel Cabrera, the superstar infielder for the Detroit Tigers, signed a ridiculously huge new contract this week. The team will pay him $292 million over the next ten years. Cabrera is as good as it gets, having won the Triple Crown in the American League in 2012 (he is the first player to have done so since 1967) and also having won the last two American League MVP awards. Still, he is about to turn 31 years old, so he will be collecting almost $30 million per season when he is over 40 years old. I have to imagine his production at that point will not be anywhere close to what it is now.

5) Tony Bagtas, a freshman basketball player for the University of Pennsylvania, has been arrested and charged with burglary. The arrest happened last Monday after a bunch of burglaries occurred in university housing over that weekend.

6) The Philadelphia Eagles cut wide receiver DeSean Jackson after weeks of rumors that the team was trying to trade him. A few hours before he was released, NJ.com published a story about his alleged gang ties. It is not known whether or not this factored into the team’s eventual decision to let him go.

7) Chris Culliver, a cornerback for the San Francisco 49ers, is in big trouble. He was arrested on Friday after he allegedly hit a cyclist while driving in San Jose. After hitting the rider, he got out of the car, brandished brass knuckles (!) and threatened a witness, and then drove away, hitting the witness’ car. This won’t end well.

8) Life just turned upside-down for Steve Masiello. After leading Manhattan College to a near-upset of Louisville in the NCAA Basketball Tournament last weekend, he was about to sign with the University of South Florida to be their head coach, which is a nice step up from Manhattan. A background check done by USF found that he never actually graduated from the University of Kentucky, in contrast to what it said on his resume. Not only did USF rescind its job offer, but Manhattan has now suspended him, both for lying and for the fact that he is out of compliance with a school bylaw that requires its coaches to have bachelor’s degrees.

Good Sports:

1) Kentucky and Michigan met in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday and it was a pretty fantastic game. It was tied at the half, and Kentucky eventually won on a three-pointer with 2.3 seconds to play by freshman Aaron Harrison. All five of Kentucky’s starters were freshman.

Bad sports, good sports appears early each week

Alan Spoll is a software quality assurance director from the suburbs of Philadelphia where he lives with his wonderful wife and children. He has spent his entire life as a passionate fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, Flyers, and Penn State. Recent Phillies success aside, you will understand his natural negativity. Follow me on Twitter - @DocAlan02
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One Response to “Bad sports, good sports: Why, 76ers, why?”

  1. Where to start with all the hits on Detroit and Michigan? Of course, the Pistons would be the team that the Sixers blow out to snap “The Streak.” Second, Detroit signs Cabrera to a Billion dollar contract and that guarantees that something bad will happen. Third, and although it was a great game vs. Kentucky and the Wolverines fought hard, they are sitting at home and watching the NCAA Championship. The Wings are still in the hunt for an 8 spot, and the Tigers (in spite of a bullpen that wants to throw games) are starting well, but it’s a rough week in Michigan.

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