Color me surprised: The Philadelphia 76ers are (at least for this news cycle) winners.
After a predictable 0-17 start, the team built to lose finally accomplished something to be proud of with their 85-77 road victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Behind 20 points, nine rebounds and nine assists from reigning Rookie of the Year winner Michael Carter-Williams, Philly achieved something concrete to hang their hats on.
Previously, the team and their fanbase have been relegated to satisfaction of a more abstract kind. General manager Sam Hinkie has led the franchise into a campaign of intentional losing of unprecedented proportions.
The team has signed an unheard-of number of fringe NBA players, leaving them with almost no tested, reliable veterans to learn winning habits from — or even the many mundane tricks of the day-to-day NBA lifestyle.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, a 28-year-old who’s never averaged ten points or been out of the first round of the playoffs, is the closest thing they have to an active player with an impressive pedigree. For the most part, this is band of amateurs, lost at sea. And winning a professional game was clearly a bit of a surprise to them.
"For me personally, I think it's a big relief off my chest," Carter-Williams said after the game. "And the same is for the rest of the guys now that we got a win.”
It wasn’t hard to see, prior to last night, how the constant losing was weighing on the squad. Pain was etched on the Sixers’ faces; nobody wants to be one of the gerbils at the center of Hinkie’s experiment. Whether or not his project (which seems like more of a thesis toward a PhD in economics than anything we’d call “team-building”) works or not is yet to be seen. In the meantime, though, we know we’ve got some of the most interesting NBA losers we’ve ever watched.
— John Wilmes