The rabid win-starved 76ers fan base was raucous at tip-off of last Friday’s home opener against the Boston Celtics.
In the waning minutes, there was an eerie silence.
The Sixers fell to the Celtics and then got crushed the next night at Toronto.
Three games, three losses. The next two games are Monday night at Detroit and home Wednesday against the upstart Houston Rockets. The Sixers could easily be 0-5.
Their first 20 games are brutally difficult. They could be 5-15 and facing an uphill battle the entire season.
None of this should come as a surprise.
The Sixers are young. They’re talented. They’re gritty.
But they have deficiencies and that has been painfully evident in the first three games.
Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz, both rookies, aren’t very good shooters, especially from the free throw line. They can get to the basket. They can pass and run the court. Their inexperience is showing.
Joel Embiid is far from being in tip-top physical shape. He’s also 0-for-10 from the beyond the arc and has shown a reluctance to play in the low post.
Dario Saric’s shot looks a bit flat.
JJ Redick can really connect from 3-point land, but he’ll need the inside game to be more effective to set up his presence from the perimeter.
Defensively, the Sixers are a major work-in-progress. They’re struggling mightily in pick-and-roll and that will happen with young players. It can take a whole season for rookies to adjust in regards to all the nuances with defense in the NBA.
Those “Trust The Process” chants calmed down as the fourth quarter dragged on against the Gordon Hayward-less Celtics. Technically, this is the fifth season of “The Process.” Winning 75 games in four seasons was unacceptable.
Much more was expected in 2017-18 and the Sixers will get better. They’ll win games. They’ll be a different team by March and April.
There are so many “ifs” with the Sixers: If Embiid can play back-to-back games … If Embiid can stay healthy … If Simmons and Fultz can find their rhythm and not get bogged down in a marathon season … if Jahlil Okafor can offer them quality minutes off the bench … if Redick can continue knocking down threes on a consistent basis … if T.J. McConnell and Robert Covington and Amir Johnson, etc, can assist with production … if coach Brett Brown can find a way to mesh this young group with all the minute restrictions and injuries that have plagued them.
Lots of ifs.
“I like this team and we know in this locker room what kind of talent we have,” McConnell said. “We can be really, really good and we all know it. We just have to put it all together and as a group, we’re confident that we can do it. We know we can do it. We have the confidence that we can do it. I’m excited to see how this group progresses.”
They will progress. How long will it take? Will the fans have patience to wait another season?