The Sixers went from 3-13 to 13-21; good for 9th place.
Who says you can't go home?
After two-and-a-half grueling weeks, the Sixers have finally returned to Philadelphia after concluding their longest road trip of the season. While their 3-5 record on the journey isn't all that remarkable, the trip could be considered moderately successful, given the circumstances.
Andre Iguodala missed the last four games of the trip due to a sore right Achilles' tendon. Lou Williams didn't play in two games due to the birth of his daughter, and Spencer Hawes was out against the New Orleans Hornets on Monday night because of back spasms.
A 4-4 record under any conditions would be a great road trip. But to pull out three wins when 3 of the top 6 guys in your rotation miss time is a pretty decent effort.
On and off of the court, the past eight games have been an adventure, if nothing else. It all began in Orlando on December 18, with the Sixers pulling out a victory against a Magic team that had traded away nearly half of its team earlier that day.
Three nights later, the Sixers were blown out by the Chicago Bulls 121-76. But much to everyone's surprise, they fought the Boston Celtics tooth-and-nail the following night, and only lost by four points, 84-80.
They alternated wins and losses for the next four games until they arrived in the Staples Center on New Year's Eve. Without Andre Iguodala, and with Kobe looking to improve on his 9-point effort in the teams' first meeting earlier this year, it didn't bode well for Doug Collins's squad.
So, of course, they found themselves tied with the Los Angeles Lakers with 90 seconds to go before Bryant iced the game with a 12-footer - the game-winning basket in a 102-98 Lakers' win.
On Monday night, the Sixers looked every bit of a team that was just playing out the string. "Lifeless" would be the best word to describe their performance during the final three quarters against the Hornets, finishing the game 19-for-66 from the field.
Despite all of that, the Sixers return to the Wells Fargo Center 13-21, solidly in the 9th spot in the Eastern Conference - pretty much where they were when the trip started. But even after these past 17 days, we haven't learned much about the team that we didn't already know.
34 games into the season, Evan Turner remains an enigma. In Phoenix on December 29, he had his best game of the year, scoring 23 points in the Sixers' 123-110 victory. However, in the other seven games of the road trip, he shot a combined 16-for-62 (25.8 percent) and even racked up a DNP-CD (Did Not Play - Coach's Decision) against the Boston Celtics on December 22.
Simply put, Evan Turner doesn't do anything exceptionally well. He's a solid defender who gives you 100% effort, and he rebounds well for his size. However, he isn't a very good shooter (38.8 percent on the season) whose jump shot is somewhat of a liability.
With Iguodala out for at least another three games, Turner should get some additional experience that will prove invaluable down the road. But there are and will be some growing pains - a side effect that many fans didn't expect with a player selected #2 overall in this year's draft.
On the flip side, Thaddeus Young appears to be developing rather nicely under the tutelage of Doug Collins. Despite his decreased scoring output (11.7 PPG vs. 13.8 last season), Young is a more effective player than ever, shooting a career-high 54.2 percent from the field.
Unfortunately, he's stuck in a logjam at small forward with Iguodala, Turner and Andres Nocioni. So that, along with the fact that the Sixers decided not to extend his deal earlier this season, means that Young might take his emerging game elsewhere next season.
One young star who won't be leaving any time soon is Jrue Holiday. One of the benefits of hiring a former point guard as a head coach (Collins) is the fact that he can impart his wisdom on a player such as Holiday, who is fast become one of the better PGs in the East.
He's second on the team in scoring at 14.3 points per game, and his assist-to-turnover ratio is an impressive 2.4 to 1. Holiday is clearly part of the team's foundation, and as he grows, so will the Sixers.
The 76ers will have plenty of chances to grow over the next few weeks. With a travel-heavy schedule early in the season (20 of 34 games have been on the road), comes a reward. 27 of the Sixers' final 48 games are at the Wells Fargo Center, where they've played pretty well this year (8-6).
Even though the roster is the same, this is a different team than the one that started the season 3-13. So with the help of a little home cooking, Doug Collins and his young squad could finally start to put it all together.