(Pictured from left to right: Demoted, Deluded, Discarded, Departed).
If you're feeling a little too good about yourself, I highly recommend looking back to how you felt about this team a year ago after the first day of training camp.
You know it's sad and funny. I remember feeling sick to my stomach the night the Sixers announced Eddie Jordan as their head coach last summer. That feeling never fully disappeared, but at some point over the summer I somehow kidded myself into a 46-win prediction. Something about better offense and not messing with the team's defense.
When I look back on the post I wrote on this day last year, I really should've known better. Check out the second-team lineup Jordan used on the first day for scrimmages.
From there, it was quickly downhill. You had Eddie Jordan benching Jrue for an entire preseason game against the Knicks because he was worried about the intense pressure Knicks guards apply. You had guys confused about the systems, spending way too much time on the PO in practice, you name it. When the season started, it only got worse.
I guess I was banking on a big comeback from Elton Brand, the only problem was Brand wasn't the Brand of old, and Eddie Jordan loved publicly rubbing salt in that wound. Patience wore extremely thin with Jordan, the lowpoint of the season for me was probably when I finally admitted the team was better off keeping EFJ in order to lose as many games as possible.
Fast forward to this summer. The roster hasn't changed dramatically. They've gotten much stronger (hopefully) at one position, much weaker (probably) at another. Ed Stefanski was sent back to the kids' table. EFJ has been replaced with a guy who can not only get through an interview without licking his braces 478 times, but makes sense when he talks. The young guys have gotten a little more experience, they should improve. By all accounts, things are better. The only problem is, I'm having trouble mustering any kind of optimism.
Is it reality setting in? Maybe. More likely, though, is that it's the old once-bitten, twice shy thing (or 27th bitten, as the case may be). Not only is the roster still a big problem, but I'm just not convinced the front office isn't going to do something insanely stupid. I'm like a battered wife, constantly afraid that right when I let my guard down the front office is going to deliver a ridiculous blow.
There is one thing I still have to hang my hat on, though. In less than a month now, the Sixers will lace up their sneakers for real. At that point, every team is tied for first, including the Sixers, and I get to just sit back and be a fan for two-and-a-half hours a couple nights a week. I get to see Jrue's development. I get to see Iguodala and Turner figure things out on the wing. On certain nights, I'm hoping I'll get to see what this team can become two, three or four years down the road when the young core hopefully just becomes the core.
As the reports trickle in from Tom Moore and Kate Fagan, the anticipation will grow and the feeling of dread will ever-so-slowly dissipate. Basketball is the salve for this constant state of unease, and I can't wait for it to begin.
Until then, the pit at the bottom of my stomach is definitely a front court bereft of defensive talent, and that's not a problem you can wish away. I guess it's a sign of growth that I'm not making faulty leaps of logic to fool myself into an optimistic outlook on the upcoming season, but part of me is jealous of the guy who was sitting at this keyboard a year ago. I kind of feel like I've lost my innocence. Thanks a lot, Stefanski.