They should never have shown up at all.
A show of hands from those who still think the Sixers are better these days. Who still think this team is heading in the right direction, with the right players, after a 124-74 annihilation by Tracy McGrady and the Houston Rockets.
Please raise your hand if you still think it's an absolute plus that these players even bothered to win games over the last few weeks, diminishing the Sixers' chances at grabbing a coveted franchise-caliber draft pick.
Let your voice be heard if you're comfortable with the idea that more wins do nothing but ensure that resurrection will be left in the hands of Billy King and Co. - without a sniff in the direction of Greg Oden or Kevin Durant.
"It was a whipping from start to finish," a depressed Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks deadpanned, stating the obvious. "There's not even a whole lot I can say about it. From the start of the game to the end of the game, they just beat us from beginning to end. From coaches to players.
"I've been in this league, and that's a very good basketball team. I told the players, 'They're not 50 points better than us but [Houston's] a good team.' Certainly the progress we've made over the last few games is not going to be negated by the game we played tonight. We throw this game out the window and try to come back tomorrow and, obviously, be a lot better."
It can't get much worse.
The Sixers have two 56-point losses in franchise history, but it wasn't this bad because it wasn't under these circumstances. Back in 1993 when both losses occurred, they finished 26-56, so everyone knew this franchise was garbage.
Ignorance was bliss before yesterday, as the Sixers entered the game having won eight of 10 contests, sauntering around with their chests poked out as if better times were actually on the horizon. Even chairman Ed Snider was seen smiling, appearing lost in all the artificial hoopla surrounding this franchise.
Then we have the audacity to wonder what's wrong, while evidence continues to stare right in our faces.
"We were up by 40, dunking the basketball," Rockets point guard Rafer Alston said after the game.
The Sixers "didn't give any hard fouls," surprised Rockets guard Kirk Snyder added. "They didn't get called for any technicals."
The Rockets weren't saying this to insult the Sixers. But their faces told the story. Houston cringed at the Sixers' lack of competitive fervor, their unwillingness to compete, to fight.
"Please don't put my name to this quote," another Rockets player said. "But damn! They broke the code. Everyone knows you could be playing in the park and if someone is running it up you say, 'Yo! Enough's enough.' "
Not to waste anyone's time, but numbers are needed to illustrate a point. The Sixers were outrebounded by 54-36. Houston recorded 29 assists; Philadelphia had just 10 the entire game. Samuel Dalembert looked asleep. Steven Hunter looked despondent. Andre Iguodala looked like he should consider changing his initials, and Kyle Korver looked like the Sixers' best player.
"It was just one of those games where everything went right for us and everything went wrong for them," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy explained. "We played well, shot well, defended well on one of those nights when they just didn't. That's the way it goes on occasion."
Not when you're a good team.
The truth is, the Sixers are not a good team. They're not a playoff-caliber team, either. And there not about to be any time in the near future unless risks are taken and people stop fooling themselves.
Without one single change to this roster, this coaching staff, their brass or ownership, the Sixers aren't better than 36 wins next season. And that's assuming they lose enough games early enough in the season to gain defeats later through apathy from the opposition.
Stop fooling yourselves, folks! Stop believing the hype that better times are coming when subtractions are more notable than additions.
Larry Brown left years ago. Allen Iverson left months ago. And King's in China.
What more do you need now?
Contact columnist Stephen A. Smith at 215-854-5846 or firstname.lastname@example.org.