It’s Next Man Up for Sixers Rookie Curse

The Philadelphia 76ers have had a wretched summer. Their front office got noticeably thinner when Bryan Colangelo had to abruptly leave the building because his wife was doing naughty social media things on burner accounts. On draft night, local kid whose momma works for the Sixers, Mikal Bridges, was the Philly pick. Everyone cry on cue. Until the dream crashed and burned and Mikal Bridges was traded twenty minutes after the Sixers drafted him.  It got worse. Their LeBron free agent pitch didn’t even rank. They couldn’t get a meeting with LeBron despite trying to spin it afterward as they were in the mix. No, they weren’t. There was no mix. It was Los Angeles and Los Angeles.

The Sixers lost Ersan Ilysova and Marco Belinelli, two key fixtures in their playoff 50 wins run. They added a Wilson Chandler consolation prize- whatever. They still don’t have a GM.

It has not been a bed of roses since we last saw the 76ers lose in the playoffs. They are not a better team than they were last year. They have not fixed the holes, despite having iconic leadership in Joel Embiid who wants to be the MVP this year.  But your team wins you the MVP. They help you get it. The Sixers team is still a work in progress.

And now this oh so Sixer thing as a summer epilogue.

The player they traded for on draft night, ruining a particularly pleasing Hollywood-esque story, Zhaire Smith, well he just broke his foot so goodbye rookie season. Join the cast of thousands who break something or injure something or hobble their way into the Sixers trainer’s room and will see no action as a first year player.

Why does this keep happening to the 76ers? Or a better question is, why doesn’t it happen to other teams? Why don’t the Warriors ever have any of their players break something? Or the Spurs?

It did happen to Blake Griffin who broke his kneecap before his rookie year and Julius Randle broke his leg during the first game of the season but those are outliers because it was just a one time thing. The Lakers and Clippers never suffered repetitive summer injury sorrows like Philly.

Markelle Fultz did something funky to his shoulder. Ben Simmons sat out his rookie year hurt, a broken foot. Joel Embiid came into the draft after surgery then needed a second procedure after a setback. Nerlens Noel had the ACL blues. Jahil Okafor did play opening night but he eventually tore his meniscus. That was in the last five years,  Someone always has a sad rookie story.

Joel Embiid tweeted CURSE. #NUTS

Zhaire Smith won’t have his career derailed because he broke his foot. It’s bad luck. He gets an apprenticeship and will sit on the sidelines, be part of the NBA culture without being part of the culture. It takes the pressure off because all he has to do is learn. But still.

This Philly team needed him. They need another athlete who has a high IQ they could use on their second unit which is quite thin. The Sixers are heavy at the top but swiss cheese at the bottom. They don’t have proven six man guys and that’s what you need to win. Stars don’t win titles. Stars and competent role players do. Right now the Sixers are depending on Embiid and Simmons for everything. Embiid has the complete game, but can he make it through a season of back-to-backs and log 75 games? Simmons is more durable but has he taken his offense to another level, meaning, can he put the ball in the hole? Though Simmons doesn’t need to be a knock down shot maker he does need to have confidence at the free throw line and not run away from the ball in the last two minutes.

The Sixers have a lot of confidence when they should have a lot of caution. The hardest thing to do is to not make the playoffs and then have a 50 win season. The next hardest thing to do is to have back to back 50 win seasons. The Sixers are not sneaking up on anybody. Their talents are extreme but their flaws are not invisible and everyone will be waiting for them.

Waiting too will be Zhaire Smith. Foot in boot. A member of a club he wanted no part of. Rookie and broken.