For the second year in a row, the Sixers’ season ended awash in the rosy glow of overachievement. It’s still an enchanting narrative, one that might feature Tom Berenger as Doug Collins in Basketball Educator: The Triumphant Ballad of Lavoy Allen. Yet again, the tough-but-golden-hearted headmaster led his plucky band of youngsters to new heights before being defeated by a heavy favorite. Last time it was the Heat, this time it was the Celtics. No shame there.
For Philly, a franchise that has reeked of mediocrity since Allen Iverson was banished to Denver, this has the intoxicating scent of progress. In 2010, they went 27-55; in 2011 they went 41-41 and made the playoffs; this season, they were 35-31 and ventured into the second round.
Superficially, the Sixers’ current trajectory resembles the ascension of the Thunder. From 2008 to 2011, Oklahoma City’s wins rose from 23 to 50 to 55. Both teams made significant leaps from the primordial muck and then gradually developed four-chambered hearts and tufty mammalian pelts. The Thunder are now bipedal, Urkel-spectacles-wearing, fully formed contenders. Philly is sort of like a giant prehistoric meerkat, awaiting opposable thumbs.