"Life is about perspective and how you look at something ... ultimately, you have to zoom out." -- Whitney Wolfe
An NBA-record 16-game win streak to end the season, a first-round dispatching of the Miami Heat and the renewal of a rivalry gone by had us all jazzed. "The Sixers," some opined, "are good enough to go to the NBA Finals." And so there was little consolation after the 76ers succumbed to the, ugh, Boston Celtics. It would be a loss in Game 5 of their second round playoff series at TD Garden. The dreaded parquet floor serving as a painful reminder for the old, as well as new angst for the young, that this is a rivalry … again.
In the meantime, here's some perspective to at least help you with the disappointment many are feeling now.
Perspective allows us to go back to October, when Sixers fans issued their modest hopes for their squad: a .500 record, a berth in the playoffs and good health for Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
The journey to this point, though, came with some off-roading. On Christmas Day, The Sixers pulled into Madison Square Garden with a 14-18 record, three games behind the New York Knicks for the eighth and final playoff spot. The Sixers won that day, the game itself proving to be a seminal event for both teams. The Knicks plunged into an abyss, while the Sixers played the remaining 50 games at a .760 clip, a percentage that projects to a 62-win season.
Now, with an actual 52-win season and two rounds of the playoffs in the rearview, the Sixers are set up for an interesting offseason. On May 15, keep your eyes on the Los Angeles Lakers pick at the NBA Draft Lottery. The Sixers own that pick unless it falls between 2 and 5 (owed to Boston when the Sixers acquired the top pick in last year's draft). The Sixers also have their own first-round pick and four in the second round, any combination of which can be utilized in a trade if so desired.
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Then there's the matter of free agency, where pre-planning will allow the Sixers to be true players. Any re-signing of JJ Redick or Amir Johnson may require some roster maneuvering as it relates to an arcane salary cap rule called "cap holds," but the point is, the team is in position for a major free agent signing (see LeBron James, Paul George, etc.). Meantime, Redick and Johnson are just two of the free agents the Sixers will have to contemplate. Late season signings Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli are also free to go their separate ways.
The Boston series would serve as a good template for whatever the Sixers offseason plan becomes. The Celtics toughness and switchability on defense wouldn't be bad to emulate, let alone the need to have offensive players who can create their own shots against such defenses. Plus, Boston, like the Sixers, is going to be a standard-bearer in the East for years to come. Matching up better against a team you might meet every May for the foreseeable future would be a good thing.
In the meantime, All-Star Joel Embiid and odds on Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons both go into a summer healthy for the first time in their fledgling careers. Without the preoccupation of rehab and caution, the two kingpins can go about their business of absorbing their playoff experiences and translating that to off-season workouts.
So allow that to assuage some of the anxiety you may be feeling after a two-point loss in an elimination game. Like coach Brad Stevens told his Celtics after Game 5, go outside tomorrow and enjoy the sunshine. My advice is, do the same for yourself and put a little time between yourself and the 2017-18 Sixers.