And time to think about the next step for this franchise if Thursday's NBA trading deadline passes without a headline-worthy deal, which is seeming more and more likely as trade talks brew between the Dallas Mavericks and Washington Wizards and between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns - but not, as yet, involving the Sixers.
Before Wednesday's 104-93 loss to the Raptors, a game in which the Sixers trailed by 23 points and still came back to tie, the Sixers had won five in a row. They'd won 7 of 11 since coach Eddie Jordan switched the starting lineup against the Dallas Mavericks on Jan. 22, and had a record of 13-10 since a blowout loss to the Utah Jazz on Dec. 26.
Translation: Since Christmas, the Sixers have been playing better-than-average basketball.
The formula for success had gone something like this: Let rookie Jrue Holiday set the defensive tone, give Samuel Dalembert enough minutes to win the battle of the boards, dump the ball to Elton Brand on the block in half-court sets, but avoid plenty of those possessions with the speed, athleticism, and defensive intensity of the second unit.
Over the previous 10-plus games, there appeared to be growing stability.
On Wednesday, just hours before a much-needed respite, just a few minutes before going into the break with momentum and good feeling, Jordan tossed all that hard-earned stability into a gigantic blender.
In a fit of ill-conceived cleverness, he benched Brand for Royal Ivey, hoping to boost his team's speed and run out on the Raptors. Instead, the Raptors went ahead by 23, essentially winning the game because of Jordan's decision.
The Sixers went into the break the same way they've spent much of the season: frustrated.
Why did Jordan have to make himself the key element - conjuring a halftime decision that went against what had made the team successful - instead of trusting his players to either win or lose the game?
It's a question that Sixers fans have been asking since the end of October.
In their last 10 games before the break, the Sixers played a team with 30 or more wins only once: the Los Angeles Lakers on Jan. 29. In their first 10 games after the break, the Sixers will play six teams with 30 or more wins and only one team not currently holding a playoff spot.
Quickly, the Sixers could be slammed out of the playoff picture, especially considering the visible frustration of Brand, one of their go-to guys.
These 10 games will set the table for the 22 following: Will Holiday get his 30-plus minutes? Will Thaddeus Young get off the yo-yo swing of minutes? Will Lou Williams find some level of consistency? Will Marreese Speights get off the bench and play some defense? Will Jason Smith be given the time to prove himself valuable?
These are the questions that, if answered affirmatively, will set the Sixers on a different course - likely more losses, but with some discovery of their future.
Although the Sixers have managed to stay out of the current trade-rumor mill, they're far from shut down as this trading deadline approaches. According to one source, they're progressing forward on a few options.
Change is not necessarily likely, but possible.
There's too much good in the Sixers to turn off the TV and walk away, but too much bad to think they're fine the way they are.
Like Jordan's recent lineup change, something has to give.
Only this time, the move must be productive.
Inside the Sixers:
Read Kate Fagan's 76ers blog, Deep Sixer, at http://go.philly.com/sports.
Blog response of the week
Posted 07:52 p.m., 02/11/2010
Of all the bizarre Sixer moves this year, the handling of Elton Brand by Eddie Jordan puzzles me most. I know he is not the player he once was, but he is an accomplished pro who I would think would generally garner more respect. He does have some left in the tank, and is the team's most highly paid player and the GM's big bet. He seems more intelligent and professional than most in the league and would seem to be a good leader if given the chance - but that usually requires minutes. I generally think I can sniff out some ulterior motives to this organization's actions, but in this case I am stuck on just believing Eddie J doesn't think he does enough on the court to help them win. Since Brand is not likely to be movable, I can't see where this goes. What Stefanski thinks of this I wouldn't know, but he is in no place to be firing Jordan given he just brought him here and has already had three coaches in two years.
Contact staff writer Kate Fagan
at 856-779-3844 or firstname.lastname@example.org.