By Chris Murray
For the Sunday Sun
ABOVE PHOTO: Philadelphia 76ers’ Lou Williams (23) shoots over Miami Heat’s Joel Anthony (50) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012, in Miami. The Heat defeated the 76ers 113-92.
(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
The Philadelphia 76ers are in first place in the NBA’s Atlantic Division and are the only team in that division with a record above .500.
But for all of the newfound success that this young team has had, I get the feeling that the city isn’t completely behind them yet. Don’t get me wrong. The fans that come out to Wells Fargo Center are loud and boisterous. But they’ve only had one sellout since the home opener.
That might be because the teams they’ve beaten for the most part are also-rans. This weekend, the Sixers take on the Charlotte Bobcats and the Detroit Pistons, teams that are hardly world beaters.
But the team’s big tests come later this week in the form of the Miami Heat, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Chicago Bulls and the Orlando Magic, teams that are laden with superstars. While it’s been easy to have at least five guys routinely score in double figures, teams with actual defenses will determine whether or not this is a fluke.
Between Jan. 30 and Feb. 10 the Sixers will face the Magic, the Bulls, the Atlanta Hawks (on the road), the Lakers, San Antonio Spurs and an improved Los Angeles Clippers squad. If they can win at least half of these games, it might attract fans to the Wells Fargo Center.
But even if they don’t, this team still deserves some love from the Philly faithful.
While they may be in first place in their division, I still think the Sixers are a work in progress. As a part of that growth, they’re probably going to lose some of the games. But they’re not going to stink up the joint like they would have in years past…mostly because coach Doug Collins won’t allow them to.
At this point, the Sixers are not expected to get to the NBA Finals or even the Eastern Conference Finals, but you have to like the unselfish way they’re playing this season. Almost every night a different player seems to lead the team in scoring or makes a big play down the stretch. One night it’s Andre Iguodala or Lou Williams.
“For one thing, we can score,” said Sixers point guard Jrue Holiday earlier this month after a win over the Indiana Pacers. “We know each other really well as a team and that’s really it. It’s our chemistry. We don’t really have a go-to guy. The way we win is by playing as a team and everybody scoring and playing defense collectively.”
With their record, the Sixers are beating up on the bad teams, something that good teams should do on a consistent basis. When they met the Miami Heat on the road last Saturday, they hung in the game until late in third quarter when the Heat went on a 23-8 scoring-spurt to put the Sixers in a deep hole.
This group of young Sixers is probably the best this city has seen in quite some time, at least to this point. That’s the fun part about this team is that they are at the beginning stages of becoming a perennial contender in the NBA.
To be sure, the Sixers are going to take their knocks against some of the league’s tougher teams, but I believe that this team will get better, whether it’s with young veteran players like Williams and Thaddeus Young, or via the trade of free agency route.
I can understand the cynics and skeptics in this city who want the Sixers to get to the point where they’re a contender for an NBA title. All I can say to them is be patient and enjoy the ride.
Chris Murray, Vice President for Print, Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists. You can reach Chris at, The Chris Murray Report, Freelance Sports Writer and broadcaster Cell: 267-348-5781 Home: 267-773-7499