Philadelphia 76ers: A nightmare season comes to a fittingly swift end

(Photo by Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia 76ers’ 2019-20 season is over.

No recap, no grades for today’s loss to Boston. It just doesn’t feel necessary. It’s the same story, told time and time again. Different iterations of the same inescapable problems. The Sixers were not a very good team this season. Home record and all, this was never a Philadelphia team capable of living up to last summer’s expectations.

The Celtics completed the sweep on Sunday afternoon. It was, for the most part, a competitive game. The Sixers even held a one-point lead at halftime. A gruesome fall from Tobias Harris midway through the third quarter — which sent him back to the locker room after a scary scene on the floor — proved pivotal in swinging the momentum toward Boston one last time.

A final score of 110-106 feels inconsequential. There was never a chance of Philadelphia winning this game. It never felt possible. Not in the first quarter, when the Sixers controlled the tempo, nor in the fourth quarter, when Boston drove the nail into the coffin.

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This has been a season of nightmarish quality for the Sixers. Philadelphia — initially billed as title contenders in a wide-open Eastern Conference — was plagued by incompetence at every level. We have beaten this dead horse far too many times to count at this website, but everyone — from the front office, to the coaching staff, to the players — must reckon with this disaster of a campaign.

The Al Horford and Tobias Harris contracts loom large over the City of Brotherly Love this offseason. Philadelphia will no doubt look to trade them, or at least consider the possibility. But color me shocked if there are any willing takers out there.

Also in question, of course, is who will look to trade those players. Elton Brand’s second full season as GM was bad from start to finish. The contracts he dished out last summer, combined with the contracts he didn’t dish out, will haunt him forever. He should get fired — probably before anyone else. But if he’s not, an acknowledgement of his failure is essential.

Then we get to Brett Brown, who led Philadelphia through the most publicly scrutinized rebuild in recent memory. From a 10-win season to a 52-win season, Brown has been through immeasurable ups and downs in South Philly, all without a negative mark on his character. He’s a compulsively good human, and someone who teammates have always seemed to respect — with one notable exception, of course.

Brown will probably get fired in the coming days. The writing has been on the wall ever since Game 2, if not well before then. While Brown is certainly not a bad coach, his inability to produce matchup advantages — even with such a poorly constructed roster — was the finally straw for even his most ardent supporters. He’s too rigid and set in his ways to lead this team forward.

With so many questions looming large for Philadelphia, let the vague and slightly alarming comments begin.

Embiid has committed his entire career to Philadelphia, and very recently said he wants to play his entire career next to Ben Simmons. If the Sixers can’t do more to surround him (and Simmons) with complementary talent in the future, Philadelphia will be at fault for one of the biggest wastes of talent in recent basketball history.

The Sixers should not look to trade Embiid, nor should they look to trade Simmons. That is a championship caliber duo with the right blend of talent, coaching, and culture around them. I’m very confident in that.

Even the acknowledgement of a potential future outside Philadelphia, however, is new from Embiid. He has never mentioned the possibility before. If the Sixers can’t find a way to meaningfully progress next season, Embiid’s future — and that of Philadelphia — will only get murkier.

After the game, Brett Brown — undoubtedly aware of the fire burning beneath his coaching seat — had this to say about the season and his performance as head coach.

It’s good to see Brown take responsibility for the Sixers’ season-long struggles on offense. It’s not entirely his fault — he was dealt an unworkable hand — but in the end, Philadelphia’s sustained inability to take advantage of their size does at some point fall on Brown’s shoulders. He certainly didn’t get creative enough, even if more creative sets would have merely placed a bandaid on a bullet wound.

The Sixers will probably have a new coach next season. Which is, frankly, weird to write. It’s difficult to imagine someone else coaching Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. And yet, this is where the Sixers find themselves.

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You can expect a lot more content here at the site in the coming weeks. Something tells me there will be plenty to talk about this offseason. To all our readers, thank you for a wonderful 2019-20 season. Hopefully the basketball will be better next time we do this.