The 76ers and the Five Stages of Grief


Dallas was up as many as 58 points. The Sixers ultimately fell behind by 44 points at halftime and with no end in sight as the “water dripping” continues. There were more turnovers than field-goals in the first-half for the 76ers. Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle treated the game like a scrimmage.

ESPN’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss has joined in on the Sixer bashing. The media feels it is owed a mediocre Sixer team for some reason. If in 3-4 years, the 76ers are not winning Hinkie will be blamed for the failure in team construction. But give this a chance. This is not re-building. This is building. The Sixers have not won since 1983.

What would fans and the media like to see? Jeff Ruland? Roy Hinson? Clarence Witherspoon? Jerry Stackhouse? All good players/All-Stars, but also did not represent the 76ers golden era.

This is an organization that traded away Wilt Chamberlain and Charles Barkley and almost dealt Julius Erving and Allen Iverson. Hinkie cannot come in and steam roll? He is not justified? What are writers defending?

It will be a difficult year especially for those that are not as easily distracted by the Eagles, Phillies and Flyers. This is a very hard thing to endure for basketball purists.

II can see what fans and media are experiencing. The trajectory can be linked to the infamous Kübler-Ross series, or the five stages of grief. These are steps of emotional stages experienced when faced with loss. I do not aim to trivialize loss, for I know the model is for understanding coping in severe forms of crisis, but think somehow the model applies.

The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Denial – “This is a huge turn of events for Hinkie, for Philadelphia, for the NBA. Full-steam tanking for a season is one thing. Trying obviously to be the league’s worst team two years in a row is something else entirely. We’re going to be talking about the Sixers’ 2014 draft haul a lot, and not for the right reasons.”

Anger – “Waldo.” Hinkie doesn’t have basketball IQ. He’s just a numbers guy. all he tries to do is create his own job security.”  . . . “I hate what’s going on in Philly,” the Hall of Fame coach said. “They don’t have a basketball person in the organization. It makes me sick to my stomach.”

Bargaining – “They have to win. Eventually. Probably. The question, ever lingering, is when? The Sixers are 0-8. Maybe you noticed. Or maybe not. They’ve lost some close games (a two-point buzzer-beater to Orlando; a three-point close-call to Chicago) and they’ve been blown out (against Miami, Houston, and, most recently, Toronto).”

Depression – “That’s an uncomfortable situation on the ground level. There’s something uniquely depressing about a man trying to prove competence in an atmosphere that craves failure. Certain rosters are always going to be bad, but they should at least be able to prove themselves in an environment that encourages them to try their best.”

Acceptance – “No one knows if any of the stashed Sixers will develop into a legitimate NBA talent. Nor do they know if Noel, Embiid, and Carter-Williams are long-term answers. If they aren’t, the rebuilding process will be extended for a few more seasons as Hinkie tries to discover more gems. If Hinkie gets this right, it would validate an approach in which patience and forethought are the keys to success.”

The Sixers can use this to frame their identity, the fans can as well.