There is something amazing happening in Philadelphia over the last couple months. Yes, that's right, the Ringling Brothers circus has come to the Wells Fargo Center.
While that is true, that is not quite the amazing event I am referring to. Perhaps the best story in the NBA this year is not the Heat or the Lakers. It's not the trading of Carmelo Anthony to New York or the historic losing streak of the Cavs.
No, the best story in the NBA this season is in Philadelphia where the 76ers are on the verge of catching the Knicks for the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Why is that such an amazing story? Well, for one, the 76ers started out 3-13 and looked poised to be a non-factor in the NBA this season. Second, last season under Eddie Jordan, the 76ers were a complete non-factor and in the lottery.
Most people felt that the 76ers would trade away Andre Iguodala and try to get draft picks for him. If they got an offer for other pieces, they would move them as they had to completely rebuild.
However, things have changed in Philadelphia and the credit for that has to go to new head coach Doug Collins, who is getting the most out of his young team. The 76ers do not have a superstar, but they do have eight or nine solid players, and Collins has found a way to motivate his young players.
This team plays a lot better defensively than they did last season. They hustle, they fight for loose balls and they play hard.
The 76ers are 29-17 since their 3-13 start and are playing perhaps the best basketball in the Eastern Conference as of late. They are 8-2 in their last 10 games, and 11-4 in their last 15 wins, which include wins against playoff-bound Boston, San Antonio and Atlanta.
The 76ers turnaround is amazing for several reasons. For one, they do not have a superstar. Most great teams in the NBA have a star player; the 76ers don't really have one.
Andre Iguodala is a solid NBA player, but he's not a superstar. Iguodala has elevated his game as of late though, and even recorded multiple triple-doubles to lead the 76ers.
Youngster Evan Turner is developing right before our eyes, and Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young are both playing good basketball. Jodie Meeks has emerged out of nowhere as a legitimate scorer and when he is hot, he can be a dangerous weapon. Lou Williams has cut down his bad shots somewhat, and the 76ers have been playing tough, gritty defense.
However, if there is one thing I can point to that shows why the 76ers are an amazing story and why Collins should be Coach of the Year, I will look no further than Elton Brand.
Not only has Collins appeared to motivate Brand to play harder (something most thought was impossible), but Brand has actually stayed healthy. He has also played at a high level all season.
Brand leads the team in scoring, averaging over 15 points a game, and rebounding, at over eight boards a game. He also leads the team in blocked shots, averaging over a block a game. Brand is actually playing defense for the first time in his 76ers tenure.
The 76ers have six players who average double figures in scoring and are an amazing 22-11 at home this season. In one year, Collins has turned the 76ers around. Last year, they were undisciplined and were a complete non-factor. The only thing 76ers fans had to look forward to was what lottery pick they were going to get.
This season, the 76ers are the X-factor in the Eastern Conference. They are the young, energetic team that could give a team fits in the postseason. They are the young team that no one wants to play. They just beat the Celtics, and I can guarantee you, neither the Bulls nor the Heat want to play this team in a playoff series.
So while we are all sad about the football lockout and excited about the Flyers and Phillies, let's not forget the 76ers. They have largely been ignored by Philadelphia this season, but this team has demanded our attention and is finally starting to get it.
Will this team win the NBA title? Most likely not, but this team has went from a laughingstock to a legitimate threat to press an elite team in the first round of the playoffs. I wouldn't be shocked to see the 76ers upset the Bulls or Heat in the first round of the playoffs.
No matter what happens, Collins should be Coach of the Year and I am excited to watch this team as they march toward the playoffs. The future is bright for the 76ers, and who thought we would be saying that a few months ago?