Despite the feeling that the season ended a couple of weeks ago, there are still 12 games left on the schedule. 12 important games if what happens between now and the draft means anything to you. None more important the the two this weekend, starting with the Orlando Magic tonight on Fan Appreciation Night.
When the Orlando Magic convinced Dwight Howard to sign a piece of paper stating he would not exercise his ETO, I assume they thought they could put the "Will he stay, or will he go?" headache behind them for the remainder of the season and focus on the playoffs. Things didn't quite turn out that way. The soap opera in Orlando has shifted from Howard's departure, to Howard's wishes. Namely, does he wish to play for Stan Van Gundy anymore. This current round of speculation has submarined the Magic, who have lost five straight and seven of their last 10.
Unfortunately, the Sixers aren't exactly setting the world on fire, either. In the midst of nearly a two-month string of mediocre-to-poor play, rumblings are starting to surface about their own coach. Two 20-point losses to Washington and Toronto in the span of a week have many hoping for a complete reset at season's end, and the lofty goals of winning the Atlantic Division and advancing beyond the first round in the playoffs seem less and less likely.
There's no way to sugarcoat this. Whatever happened in the first 54 games does not matter right now. How they got here is immaterial. When the Sixers get to the gym today, lace up their sneakers and prepare to take on the premier big man in the game they have everything right in front of them. If their goals matter to them at all, they'll be able to tune everything else out and play hard basketball this weekend. On the one hand, winning the division is on the line. They can catch and pass Boston with two wins. On the other hand, simply making the playoffs might be on the line as well. When the Bucks beat the Bobcats last night, they pulled to within 2.5 games of the Sixers. Finishing out of the playoffs is a legitimate result right now.
It's time for the players to answer the only question they really can answer about their future. How much do you want it? Even if Collins' haranguing is driving you crazy, even if you're tired as a dog, even if you maybe don't want to be here next year, you can still go out there and hustle. You can still get on the floor for every loose ball. Put a body on someone every time a shot goes up. Rotate faster. Drive harder. Move your feet. Put someone on their backside instead of giving up a layup. No matter what's going on, that stuff will always be in your control. How badly do you want it?
The tip is at 8pm. This is your game thread. I have a family obligation, so I'm going to be watching this one on delay. Keep it civil.
Prediction: absolutely 100% no idea.