Why It's OK to Have Hope for the Philadelphia 76ers

Bernie Ollila@@bernieollilaContributor IIIAugust 23, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 08:  Head coach Doug Collins of the Philadelphia 76ers gives instructions to his team during Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Chicago Bulls in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the United Center on May 8, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the 76ers 77-69. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

It was heartbreaking when the Sixers were eliminated from the playoffs at the end of last season—but it wasn’t devastating.

There was something charming about that final game last year. It wasn’t a win, but it wasn’t Michael Vick throwing a red-zone interception in the final minutes of a playoff game; it wasn’t Ryan Howard making the last out of the playoffs, again; and, it wasn’t Ilya Bryzgalov’s sloppy play when it mattered the most. 

Rather, the culmination of last year’s season for the 76ers was an assertion from perennial bottom-dwellers and underachievers that said, “We’re for real.”

No one expected the Sixers’ postseason run to be as successful as it was. The media didn’t slam the coach, or call for the heads of any of the team’s star players (although Iguodala wasn’t exactly praised).

Instead, the city congratulated a team who, unlike any of its others, played as hard as it could until the final second...when the scoreboard said the team wasn’t good enough instead of the players giving up and saying the team wasn’t good enough.

Going into the offseason, the Sixers had a lot of question marks. But the fact that they could be taken seriously, remained.

Andre Iguodala had been the team’s centerpiece for years. But his inability to deliver ultimately led the Sixers’ front office to be take part in of one of the most significant NBA trades in recent memory.

In a blockbuster move, the Philadelphia 76ers acquired star center Andrew Bynum, along with SG/SF Jason Richardson, and dumped off Iguodala to the Nuggets. The only unfortunate part of this trade is that we’ll never know what Maurice Harkless could have been for the Sixers.

However, we do know that in a league deprived of the all-important big man, the Sixers just landed the second best in the game.

What this means for the future of the Sixers is that they can now compete with the likes of the other Eastern Conference superpowers. They’re a far cry from being in contention with the likes of the Miami Heat, but they are one giant leap closer.

It’s exciting to wonder what the addition of Andrew Bynum not only means for the success of the team as a whole, but more specifically for the development of Evan Turner. Could he now be able to reach the potential the team saw when they drafted him? Only time will tell. But the odds just got a lot better.

And if the team does lock Bynum up long term, which he has indicated that he would like, they’re probably one—maybe two—pieces away from being a legitimate NBA championship contender.

Some have questioned Bynum’s work ethic, attitude, etc. But we can speculate all we want. Regardless, he’s the man for the Sixers right now. He doesn’t have to defer to Kobe or Gasol. He’s not a role-player or someone who is a piece of a scheme. Rather, he’s Philadelphia's go-to guy, whether he wants to be or not, and all indications point to the former.

In all, when the Phillies are out of it, the Eagles are struggling  and the NHL is on the brink of obscurity, the 76ers just put themselves in the spotlight on the Philadelphia sports stage, which is somewhere they haven’t been in a very long time.

It’s more exciting being a Philadelphia fan when the Sixers are relevant. And this team, unlike the others, has given you plenty of reason to have hopes for the upcoming season.