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Yesterday, for the first time, I checked when training camp starts for the Sixers this year. Not the regular season. Not the preseason. Training camp. Training camp is boring -- nothing really happens, and if it does, it usually doesn’t get captured on video. You’re lucky if you get a noteworthy quote or two, or Evan Turner accidentally cursing loudly into a live mic on Media Day. But it’s something. I figured it must be coming up in a week at this point, two weeks tops. Turns out it’s still an entire calendar page away. Three weeks. At least two more of these columns after this one.
I have never lived through an NBA offseason this goddamn long before.
Now OK, this offseason was always going to feel long. Every offseason feels long once you get to around this part, and most offseasons don’t traditionally kick off with your team being slayed after the conference semis Game Seven buzzer by a Santeria-practicing jump shot. We were chomping to get back in the ring before free agency even started -- and now that it has, and the Philadelphia 76ers officially have a roster that could contend for, like, all of it, it’s hardly surprising that we’d be counting down the days, hours, seconds until the Sixers get to put right what once went wrong.
But this year, the offseason actually is longer. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that the NBA is a 12-month league, or that it’s becoming any closer to being one: It was for a while, but it peaked at around 11 and a half, and now it’s getting shorter again. Not that long ago, free agency began on July 1 and mostly ended sometime in August, with at least one Tristan Thompson/Eric Bledsoe-type holdout carrying content on its shoulders into September. Now, free agency begins sometime during the conference finals, closes in earnest around July 8, and wraps all loose ends by the end of the month -- with two long, long, long months still to follow.
Remember the Russell Westbrook / Chris Paul trade? The last truly interesting thing that happened this offseason, the final major domino to fall after it felt like there couldn’t possibly be any more major NBA news for one summer? That happened on July 11. Over two months ago. Earlier this week I caught a few minutes of a Rocket-Spurs regular season replay on NBA TV, and I had to remind myself that that trade even happened (“Huh. Weird.”) Who even knows what other dealings I’ve already filed away to my subconscious? I mean, who’s the starting backcourt for the Pacers? Are both Lopezim really on the Bucks right now? Dario Saric ended up in… I wanna say Phoenix? This entire summer has become the “[Checks notes]” meme.
And the Sixers? Forget about it. When Spike and Mike were breaking down the proposed Athletic lineups on the pod the other day I realized I had totally forgotten just how many dudes there are on this team. Oh right, Furkan Korkmaz. Oh right, Shake Milton. Oh right, Al Horford. That last one still kills me every time. Al Hoford? The actor? Then who’s our Vice President, Terry Rozier? The offseason has been long enough that I’ve come in and out of terms with Al Horford being on the Sixers at least a half-dozen times. Now when I think about it I just start laughing.
Basically, we got greedy. The whirlwind of this early summer was so intoxicating that no one considered the hangover that was to come. But now it’s seven years of famine for that week or two of harvest. We’ve debated whether or not the Sixers are top two in the East now that I’ve started to make a mental case for the Heat being East contenders just to keep things the tiniest bit spicy. The poor Athletic is currently in the midst of writing and publishing the same “Josh Richardson as an offensive initiator” film breakdown for the fourth time. Joel Embiid could have joined up with Mike Posner’s walk across America for all we know. The drought is real, and there’s still no rain in sight.
And what have we had to work with in the meantime? Team USA? I doubt there was a Sixers fan watching that wasn’t secretly -- hell, more likely openly -- hoping for their failure. A basketball team built around four Celtics and Donovan Mitchell? Great! Where do I buy a jersey?! The team was filled to the brim with not quite Enemies of the Process maybe, but certainly Antagonists of the Process -- and they stunk, anyway. Rooting for America in this case meant really rooting for Rudy Gobert swatting Kemba Walker and Officer Donovan back into the G-League. And who wants to root for Rudy Gobert?
When the Sixers are working out Spencer Hawes, it’s time for the summer to end already. When Eagles fans are starting fights with Mike Scott in the Linc parking lot, it’s time for the summer to end already. When Sixers Twitter doesn’t even have any more grainy workout footage left to go nuts over, it’s time for the summer to end already. At this point, I’m not nearly as excited for the Sixers season to actually start as I am for the offseason to just fucking end already. Is there like a pre-training camp camp? Some off-the-grid five on five games somewhere? I’ll give you five bucks to make up a rumor about Ben Simmons working on righty jumpers with Steve Nash.