The 76ers Do Need Veterans, But Not Chaperones.


The 76ers Do Need Veterans, But Not Chaperones

Most fans thought the discourse surrounding the 76ers would only change when they finally won a game. I’m sure Jahlil Okafor wishes a win was what we’re all talking about.

It’s been a tough couple weeks from Big Jah, with seemingly each passing day bringing a new revelation of his late-night hijinks. The media has eaten it up, and who can blame them? “Jahlil Okafor playing fast and loose with the law has certainly injected some life into a stagnant beat,” according to Dan Gelston, the AP reporter covering the Sixers beat. And hey, this stuff is news worthy. This is not an indictment of the media. They’re doing their job.

One line of criticism that has come out of this discussion is that if the Sixers had some veterans on the team, none of this would be happening (or less of it anyway). The idea is simple: the kids are running amok, and some adults (veterans) would help keep them in check. This logic though flows from the observation that a) the Sixers have young players getting into some trouble, and b) the Sixers lack veterans. While both of those things are true, that doesn’t mean they are necessarily related. Lord knows I had plenty of mentors in my life when I was 19 and I still committed numerous epic moments of idiocy. Only difference was no one was paying any attention to me. The idea that lack of veterans directly causes poor behavior is a fallacy and a narrative constructed to support a negative view of Hinkie and his plan.

That being said, you know what veteran players can help you do? WIN BASKETBALL GAMES. And you know what winning basketball games does? Takes the air out of the negative focus by giving the media something positive to talk about. It was impossible to not appreciate the positive on-court impact of veterans while watching the Sixers take on the Timberwolves last week.

That was me. Yeah, I’m a Kevin Garnett hater. But man, was I jealous watching him bump chests with Wiggins, hollering in his face like a mad man, while the Timberwolves completed the late comeback and stole a potential first win from the Sixers. Forget off the court, I wanna see that mentorship on the court. The TWolves have taken the veteran leadership angle to a bit of an extreme, signing KG (no brainer) as well as Andre Miller (worthwhile) AND Tayshaun Prince (eh??). I’m not saying we need a whole lineup of vets, but one or two couldn’t hurt.

Take last year. The Sixers had two vets on the team in Jason Richardson (12 years experience) and Luc Mbah a Moute (6 years), although only LMAM played the entire year. I think most fans viewed Luc’s role on the team as “friend for Embiid,” as he was personally responsible for bringing Embiid over from Cameroon to the United States. Here’s what Brett Brown had to say about Luc a mere 2 months into the season:

"“He helps us defensively, with his versatility, growing his own game from the perimeter, being a veteran stability in a locker room.“I can’t ask any more from him. Today I asked him, ‘Can you cook?’ because I will find a way to bring him into my family.”"

Sounds like a pretty important cog for the team. Luc went on to be one of the teams better on-ball defenders (players shot 3% worse than their season average when guarded by LMAM) and visibly helped calm the team down in late game situations. That steadying hand is so important when the pressure rises in games, as we are witnessing right now while our beloved young Sixers do everything right to win a game except finishing the freaking game. Brown had similar praise for J-Rich, his contributions were limited on the court but not in the locker room. To be honest, I don’t understand why Luc is not still on this team.

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The bottom line is these guys helped the team win games. While I don’t believe that vets will keep Jah from getting in trouble (he and his friends/family have to sort that out), I do think vets would help this team get a few Ws and change the conversation away from Jah. Something has to fill the news vacuum, and Jah’s shenanigans will continue to do so until a better story comes along. And what could be better than breaking the longest losing streak in professional sports history? A veteran player could help with that.