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April 02, 2021

Eytan Shander: We asked, and the Sixers answered. So why aren't they getting more love?

This is a glass-half-empty sports city — and it's our own damn fault.

Opinion Sixers
Daryl_Morey_Josh_Harris_2_Hornets_Sixers_Frese.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, right, and managing partner Josh Harris.

There is no factory. 

Nobody in South Philadelphia is manufacturing quarterbacks — nor are they pumping out general managers.

We don’t even have a “utility infielder to starting CF” factory, or a “young stud defenseman stays stud defenseman” hockey assembly line.

This is brutal. 

Right now, we may only have one of our “big” four pro teams make the playoffs. Our only hopes of making it past the first round in any of those sports rest on the shoulders of Joel Embiid. And Daryl Morey appears to be the only competent executive in town.

Scott Kingery ain’t it. Ghost-Bear makes too much money for anyone else to want him – right now. Carson Wentz is gone. Gone! Carter Hart may not be too far off either.

What is going on with the teams in our city, and why does it feel like a failure on multiple levels?

Poor coaching? Check. Bad talent evaluation? Check. Having your hands too deep — or not nearly deep enough — as an owner? Check. And, finally and most importantly, poor performance? Check.

Being truly free from caller-driven radio, and the lowest-common-denominator topics I would have to scrape up for a show, has given me new vision on this very topic. Typically, a host would be yelling into a microphone demanding to know from “the people” (callers make up less than 5% of the listening audience) who they think is to blame for this mess, like they're the experts.

But as I mentioned, things have changed. I'm no longer chained to the same mechanical and meaningless interaction of faking emotions through a ninety-second phone call. I would be yelling at someone in the front office, or maybe on the coaching staff, or possibly on the field of play. I would be recruiting you through means of a phone number or social media account to tell me who you want to blame.

Nope. Not anymore. Now the crosshairs are focused squarely on us. We have allowed our city’s sports scene to be a glass-half-empty scenario, despite having a good amount of water in the cup. We continue to pound this Eagles team and their inability to do anything right after winning a Super Bowl four years ago. We constantly use Howie Roseman or Jeff Lurie as barometers for failure in both their sport and the rest of our teams.

Shame on us. Seriously, we suck.

Ask yourself: What is the point of the yelling, screaming, complaining, calling, pounding fists, breaking TVs, or anything else encapsulating how you deal with the Eagles misery? Are you doing it simply because you were told to do it by family? Is it because your friends are also doing it?

Of course not. You want change. You want to see the team react and make a damn move or draft a ridiculous talent at No. 6 instead of waiting to see who falls through the cracks six picks later. You want these people who run teams, who coach teams, who play, to actually listen. It can’t just be to brag that you got to talk to the Cuz or Ike Reese, right? Both are genuinely awesome human beings and I wouldn’t blame you for bragging, or even tweeting about it. But that can’t be the ONLY reason, right? 

No, you wanted to get your opinion out there in the hopes of either having it validated by the host — or, perhaps, in the off chance that John Middleton or Jeff Lurie or any other owner happens to be tuned in at that time. 

The bottom line is that we spend so much energy in this city – one of the things that is not duplicated elsewhere – complaining about what our teams do wrong. It takes up so much of our time and focus that when we actually see a team not named the Eagles respond, it goes unnoticed.

And there are different degrees of being unnoticed. From being insultingly invisible (like the Philadelphia Union) to where the Philadelphia 76ers are now. It’s a barrier that even this year’s Sixers team, near the top of the Eastern Conference standings, can’t crack. Despite all their winning, they've been unable to truly take over the city.

It’s different in the playoffs — and it’s certainly different in the NBA Finals. We see it every time the Flyers make the post-season, where everyone jumps on the bandwagon only to fall off the minute their run comes to an end.

That’s not this.

The Sixers listened. They actually listened. I don’t know who they heard or what was said, but with all of the rightful complaining that was done about the direction of the franchise, the team responded by hiring and new coach and a new front office chief. And not just any two, but two of the best, which has led to an impressive season so far from the Sixers, who just capped off a 4-2 road trip without their best player. 

This is the type of organizational shift that should be rewarded with them being equal — if not higher — than the Eagles.

Yes, the team that hasn’t won in decades versus the team that delivered the Holy Grail a few short years ago. Yes, I am asking you to take that level of passion, mostly negative at the current moment, directed at the Eagles, and show that same energy when it comes to the Sixers. Only in the Sixers case, it should be overwhelmingly positive at the moment. The conversations about the Birds are so far removed from getting back to the Super Bowl, it’s how many top draft picks can they accumulate next year. It’s a test year for Jalen Hurts. The people charged with fixing the mess are the same who caused it.

Oh, hey, what’s up NBA Coach of the Year Doc Rivers!

Hey, what’s good (before he got hurt) first “5” in forever to be a shoo-in for MVP, Joel Embiid?

Hello, best defender (not named Rudy Gobert) in the NBA, Ben Simmons?

What up, definitive top 3 team in the East?

I see you Executive of the Year candidate, Daryl Morey!

All of that and then some. We have been telling process-deniers for years this would come. We have been telling ourselves that a true change in direction in the front office and bench would make a huge difference. We just needed some help. Morey is providing the means while Rivers is creating culture through accountability.

Allowing any coach to exist should be a basic principle for a general manager or president of any operations. Rivers and Morey are what Pederson and Roseman could have been — and what Sirianni and Roseman never will.

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Follow Eytan on Twitter: @shandershow

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