Good thing. Because it looks like they’re gonna need all the practice they can get.

I’m not here to cast doubt on anyone’s work ethic, or to overreact. The Sixers are going to be very good, fun and exciting this year. They’ll win a lot of games. Maybe 54 or more. But last night was such a kick in the pants because it was a reminder that, oh yeah, nothing has changed since last year.

The Process was not about being good or even great– it was about being transcendent. Being the Warriors. Winning multiple championships. This year, this specific year, is the one where the Sixers were presumed to be able to make that move into a true contender. Unfortunately, there’s nothing they or anyone can do about the Warriors, a super team for the ages, but the Celtics are a different story. They cut right through the Sixers’ path and have cemented themselves as the best team in the East, by a wide margin. These losses to the Celtics aren’t just run-of-the-mill defeats, a temporary advantage to one side in the midst of a bitter rivalry. No. Not even close. No matter how hard TNT tries to make that case. The Celtics are a class above the Sixers, and they’ve improved tremendously since last year by returning their two best players (though I think I can make a case for Jayson Tatum).

The Sixers, meanwhile, are virtually the same.

Judgement aside, the fact of the matter is they went into the most important offseason of this era (and maybe in franchise history) without a GM, and they came away without improving the roster with an impact player or drafting a player ready to contribute now, this despite having yet another lottery pick. Those are the facts. They were clearly outclassed by the Celtics last year, and that gap has only widened.

The Sixers enter the season relying on Ben Simmons developing a better all-around game and Markelle Fultz remembering how to play basketball. That’s the nut. Their combined shot chart has to be more diverse than this:

Part and parcel with this is that the Sixers attacked the Celtics no differently than they did last year. Brett Brown has to shoulder some of that blame.

Kevin posted this in his piece, but it’s worth showing again:

I would happily make excuses for both players last season. Simmons was an all-world rookie and Fultz is a young kid who suffered through some weirdness. Massive holes in their games were to be expected. Improvement must come in the second season, however. Time will tell. But most concerning from last night is that Simmons shot 5-11 from the line. 45%. This coming off a season in which he shot 56%. He is undoubtedly a gifted, hard-working player, but improving in this regard is such a simple, obvious thing that if it was the only thing he accomplished over the offseason, it would be considered a success. If a reliable jump shot isn’t in the cards, a decent free-throw stroke has to be. Simmons can effectively get to the line at will, but it’s moot if he’s not able to covert the free throws. It’s the difference between All-Star and Superstar.

We’re going to love this team – as we should, because they’re hyper-talented and have great personalities – but last night was so incredibly disappointing because it was just more of the same, a repetition of what wasn’t good enough to beat the Celtics a year ago.