Sixers Surge to Better-Than-Expected Start: Sebastian Carpenter

The fall has brought many surprises to the Philadelphia sports fan including the firing of Flyers coach Peter Laviolette and the recent record setting success of Eagles quarterback Nick Foles. Yet one thing most fans could count on was the Sixers having a dismal season. During the offseason, management made some intriguing moves by trading All Star point guard Jrue Holiday to New Orleans and letting many notable contributors like Dorell Wright and Nick Young walk. Capping it off, the decision to let the notable non-contribution that was Andrew Bynum leave for Cleveland signified the Sixers full effort to start over and find a new nucleus of talent.  With a team who advertises the slogan “Together We Build” on their website, no one expected the Sixers to be competitive. Fans have adapted their own slogans of the rebuild including “Riggin for Wiggins” and “Winless for Wiggins” or (insert your favorite here).  These slogans embody the idea of the team losing the most possible games in order to acquire Andrew Wiggins, the next “great one” with the top pick in the draft. The first few weeks of the season, however, have shown Philadelphia fans that the Sixers will at least be a tough out for many opposing teams this season.

Thus far, the Sixers have not only competed with the upper echelon of the league, but have taken away a few wins. This includes wins against the Bulls, Rockets and most notably, the star-studded Miami Heat. Each of these teams are supposed to compete for a bid in the NBA Finals this season.

Contributing to these winning efforts are old and new faces. The player garnering the most attention undoubtedly has been rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams (MCW). Drafted with the pick acquired in the Jrue Holiday trade, Carter-Williams has done nothing but impress fans.  The season opener against the heat proved to be Carter-Williams’ coming out party in which he dropped 22 points to go along with 12 assists, 7 rebounds and a franchise-tying 9 steals! Though simmering down since his hot start, in his 8 games played, MCW has averaged 17 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds and over 2 and a half steals per game. Getting such numbers from a point guard shows Carter-Williams’ commitment to team basketball, hustle and execution of talent.

Besides Carter-Williams, veteran players have continued to improve, most notably Evan Turner. It is a noted fact that in the past few years, old head coach Doug Collins did not fully trust Turner with an important role on the team.  With Coach Collins and Holiday (last season’s leading scorer) gone, it seems that Turner can now play his style of basketball without constraints. Thus far, his almost 22 points per game lead the Sixers and fans to believe that Turner could still potentially live up to the hype of being the number 2 pick in the draft.

Some of the credit for the play of these two players and the rest of the team has to go to new head coach Brett Brown. A previous assistant under title-winning Coach Gregg Popovich, Brown has the team playing with confidence, energy and exuberance–all characteristics he displays himself. His belief in his players’ talent and ability to put themselves in positions to succeed on the basketball court has paid dividends in the team’s unexpected 5-7 record through 12 games.

The season has sure brought many questions to the minds of fans in Philadelphia and around the country. Is this just a façade or simply a good start that will end in failure as expected? Are Evan Turner and Michael Carter-Williams pieces that can be built around to compete for a championship? Could MCW win Rookie for the Year? Will the team’s play improve more when lottery pick Nerlins Noel returns from injury? Or are the Sixers just taking more steps to being stuck in NBA purgatory by being a middle of the road team. As the season unfolds, many of these questions will be answered. But for now, the team’s exciting and spirited play has the city buzzing about basketball again.

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