BY PAUL MANCANO – Sixers fans are pissed. Just turn on WIP, you’ll hear the outrage. Another year of tanking? Hinkie doesn’t know what it’s doing. We’ll never be good!
That seems to be the sentiment of some very angry, very vocal haters of the Sam Hinkie regime. Apparently, drafting the best player available is a crime punishable by public shaming on radio stations and Twitter. Less aggressive dissenters use phrases like “It’s a tough sell” and “the strategy is questionable.”
I (kind of) understand the reasoning behind the frustration. Fans want entertainment now, dammit! They require instant gratification. Suddenly, the plan that everybody seemed to be on-board with just a few days after last year’s draft has become an absurd dream, all because we won’t get to see two more players on the court this very year.
But don’t believe what you hear. The majority of Sixer fans understand the direction of the franchise. They understand that being terrible for two or three years before blossoming into a fully-fledged dynasty pales in comparison to being mediocre for a decade.
Everybody likes to point to home attendance as a gauge of interest in a sports team. The Sixers were second-to-last in that category last year, ahead of only – you guessed it – the Bucks. We drew in an average of 13,869 per game. But if you consider the team’s home attendance records of the last ten years, that number isn’t as pathetic as it sounds.
Check it out: even in some of the years when we made the playoffs, like 2007-08, 2008-09, and 2010-2011, we ranked in the bottom third of the league in terms of attendance. We also drew just one or two thousand more per game. And guess which of these ten teams drew some of the best attendance? The ones under Doug Collins. Wanna go back to that time? Yeah, didn’t think so.
True, last year’s team drew the lowest number of fans per game than any other team of the last ten years, but they were also way worse. The 2010-11 team that won 22 more games but brought in less than 1,000 more fans on average. That 13,869 number isn’t way off compared to the rest of the decade’s totals.
But a team’s yearly home attendance isn’t the only gauge of fan interest. In the past year, Sam Hinkie and the rest of the front office have raised the level of excitement around the 76ers to a level it has not attained since, perhaps, the Iverson years (not even the introduction of a new potential mascot, Phil E. Moose, could drum up that much excitement (great pun by the way, someone should use it for a blog title)). Even Hinkie is impressed. At his post-draft press conference, he said he’s found the level of patience and understanding in the fan base “remarkable.”
There was more anticipation leading up to this draft than any in recent memory. The Twittisphere has been ablaze with Sixer talk all year. Point guard Michael Carter-Williams stole this city’s heart, and he’s not giving it back. Draft discussions have dominated Philadelphia sports talk radio for weeks, even though the Phillies are just about halfway into the season and are only a handful of games out of first place in the division. People aren’t excited about the Philles, a once-great franchise swiftly slipping into a dark age from whence they may not return for a while. People are more excited about the team that plays across the street, the team that won 19 games last year, because they appear to be headed toward a golden age.
Plus, it’s not like Sixer fans won’t have anybody to entertain them. MCW wasn’t traded (thank God). Nerlens Noel, a talent worthy of the #1 pick, will suit up for the first time ever. KJ McDaniels, Jerami Grant, and the other second-rounders are ready to impress. Then, in year, we’ll likely draft another top-5 prospect. We’ll also see the Twin Towers block everybody east of the Mississippi (and west of it. Why is that a phrase people use?) We’ll laugh at our losses, not wallow in them.
I can wait. Maybe Hinkie has brainwashed us and we’ll actually never be good. Maybe we’ll just acquire assets and take injured centers until the end of time. Or maybe he’s actually got a plan, and he’s sticking to it. I’d rather believe that.