A long, trying season for Sixers

Posted: April 19, 2014

Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes were two of the faces of the 76ers - then they were traded.

The franchise acquired Danny Granger from the Indiana Pacers in the Turner trade, only to buy out his contact days later. Add a 26-game losing streak, the release of Kwame Brown, six 10-day-contract acquisitions, and Nerlens Noel, the sidelined rookie.

The Sixers had more story lines this 19-63 season that you can count.

But, at the end of the day, all is well in Sixersville.

Love it. Hate it. You cannot deny the Sixers' plan to tank has been a success.

They are guaranteed a top-five selection in the June draft by finishing with the second-worst record in the NBA. They also have a 19 percent chance of getting the top pick in the lottery.

That's just one of their two lottery picks.

The Sixers acquired Noel and a first-round pick from the New Orleans Pelicans in a 2013 draft-day trade for Jrue Holiday. That first-round pick is top-five-protected. All signs, however, point to the Sixersusing that pick after the Pelicans finished with the 10th-worst record. Because of the way the lottery is configured, New Orleans can't finish in fourth through ninth place. The Pelicans also have only a 4 percent chance of moving up to the top three spots in the May 20 lottery.

"That night, when you find out where you pick, is a nerve-wracking night for me," Sixers coach Brett Brown said. "That night, I'll be nervous. It's a really important night for the club.

"We'll continue moving forward no matter what happens. I'd be lying if I said it any other way."

All of the excitement came courtesy of a season based on sacrificing wins and developing players.

In the process, the Sixers became punch lines for perceived basketball dysfunction and countless roster moves.

The first shakeup came Nov. 20, when the Sixers released reserve post player Kwame Brown and backup point guard Darius Morris. The two were let go to make room for point guard Lorenzo Brown and shooting guard Elliot Williams.

"We are going to evaluate players all year. All year," general manager Sam Hinkie said at the time.

The Sixers believed the best way to do that was to sign them to see up close what they would do in the team setting.

That's what led to a total of 28 players on the roster over the season. Six of those players were on 10-day contracts. Two others - Danny Granger and Earl Clark - never even came close to being in a practice setting.

The Sixers acquired Granger and a 2015 second-round draft pick for Turner and reserve center Lavoy Allen on Feb. 20. That same day, the franchise shipped Hawes to Cleveland for Clark, Henry Sims, and two second-round picks in this draft.

And, in a three-team trade, the Sixers acquired Washington Wizards guard Eric Maynor, the New Orleans Pelicans' 2015 second-round pick, and the Denver Nuggets' 2016 second-round pick.

Meanwhile, the Sixers traded a conditional second-round pick to the Los Angeles Clippers for center Byron Mullens and a 2018 second-round pick.

Granger, who had an expiring contract, was bought out. Clark was cut hours after the trade, and Maynor was released weeks later.

"It was kind of rough building relationships with some guys, and they are gone one day," shooting guard James Anderson said of the revolving roster. "That's just part of the business, stuff that you have to get used to."

But that was far from the toughest part of this season.

There was a 13-game road losing streak - they also suffered back-to-back road losses to the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors by a combined 88 points. And there was the 26-game losing streak that matched the record for consecutive losses by a U.S. pro team.

Through it all, the Sixers were unfazed - at least publicly.

"To have the national media scrutiny as we were getting close to the record, you saw the media swell as we were getting closer and closer," Brown said. "None of those guys . . . flinched, and we stayed together. They stayed the course."

At least, they were able to play.

Noel's career was put on hold while he rehabbed a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee suffered in his lone season at Kentucky. For the 6-foot-11 center, this season was all about developing patience.

All the players and coaches had to develop patience during the learning experience. Outside the locker room, they'll be recognized for their futility. But they don't see it that way.

"It's just been a long grind, a lot of ups and downs," swingman Hollis Thompson said. "I think we all continued to learn each other and continue to play with each other. It's been a lot of fun."


kpompey@phillynews.com

@PompeyOnSixers

www.inquirer.com/deepsixer

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