LeGOAT? That Won’t Be Enough.

LeBron James is the best player in the NBA. He’s going to his 8th straight NBA Finals. He’s arguably the best athlete in North American sports. His presence on a roster makes that team a title contender. He essentially carried this Cavaliers team to the Eastern Conference title. The only professional athlete in North America I’d put on the same pedestal right now is Tom Brady.

LeBron is going to lose in the NBA Finals, and probably lose pretty bad. Golden State is just a hands down, far better team than Cleveland. If LeBron is the best player in this series, the next four best players are all on Golden State. Frankly, the big four of Durant, Curry, Thompson, and Green are all putting together Hall-of-Fame resumes before our eyes. They just won a much harder conference, and beat a better team in each round than Cleveland did. You can try and argue that a healthy Kevin Love could make this competitive, but he’d be the fifth best player on Golden State, and that’s arguable against the also questionably healthy Andre Iguodala.

Last year, Golden State swept a Cavaliers team that had Kyrie Irving, arguably a top ten player in the league. Does anybody actually think the bench pick-ups Cleveland made at the deadline will narrow the gap with Golden State? This Cleveland team needed LeBron James to put up arguably the greatest post-season ever to get by a not-quite-ready Indiana squad, a scared Toronto squad, and a Celtics team missing their best two players.

For me, the argument over LeBron being the best current basketball player is over in his favor, as is the argument of him being the best of his generation. LeBron will have a great series against the best team of this era. He might even average a triple-double. It won’t matter. His 2016 NBA title in Cleveland is his greatest achievement of his career, but once Durant went to Golden State, the mountain got too high. If LeBron’s supporting cast shows up, I could see this series going six games. I expect Golden State to win the title in four or five games.

Long live the king. I’m pulling for the upset. This would be a top five athletic feat of all time.

What Happened in the Lehigh Valley?

I’ve finally had enough time and distance to decipher what happened in the 7th Congressional District Primary a couple weeks back, and I think it’s mostly self-evident. I could simply write here that outside groups spent somewhere north of $600,000 tearing John Morganelli down for his positions on immigration and a woman’s right to choose, but more so for tweeting nice things at Donald Trump, and I’d be pretty much right. Sure, we should acknowledge the influence of “the year of the woman,” but two-thirds of the electorate voted for a male. We could talk about the “leftward movement” of the Democratic Party, but the Bernie-endorsed candidate came in third, with about a fourth of the vote. We could even make it a choice issue, but close to 35% of the voters picked a pro-life candidate, which is high in a Democratic Primary. Basically the race was about the front-runner, and he got torn apart by a wave of outside money for straying from the Democratic Party orthodoxy. Over-reading into this race further than that is basically going into some questionable conclusions.

There is something a bit more happening though, something beyond the candidates. Who the voters are, and where they are, changed. A cursory look at the map can give you a strong signal:

John Morganelli ran up impressive margins in the northern tier of Northampton County, in former Democratic strongholds like the Nazareth and Northampton areas, and in a generation ago’s Democratic strongholds in the Slate Belt. Susan Wild ran impressive margins in the southern and western areas of Lehigh County, former Republican strongholds full of white-collar workers. One area is a more blue-collar, traditional Democratic stronghold that is in decline as a share of the electorate. The other area is a more white-collar, traditional Republican area that is swinging against Donald Trump and his Republican Party. To be shorter and to the point, white-collar women in more affluent suburbs were more dominant over this primary than blue-collar men, in a former stronghold of unionized Democratic politics. The Lehigh Valley Democratic primary voters are changing, identity wise.

Is this trend going to help the Democrats or hurt them? This question has no obvious answer. For one thing, Democrats win both County Executive races last year with candidates who ran on their records of not raising taxes and providing core services to help those who need them, suggesting a more moderate message is what works in Lehigh Valley general elections. Secondly, we have to remember that there was a third candidate with a substantial share of the vote, largely tapping into younger voters, further left voters, and non-white voters, and it is not clearly obvious that all of these voters would have been engaged otherwise. Finally, while it’s clear that who voted in the primary election has dramatically changed, it’s not clear at all that general elections in the Lehigh Valley have changed in the same way.

My sense is that Susan Wild has a modest advantage going into the general election. Democrats did win both County Executive races in 2017, by increased (Lehigh) to record breaking (Northampton) margins. Hillary Clinton carried the district a little over 1% in 2016, and Democrats are seeing improved margins over her 2016 performance in most places. Still though, there are questions. If you look at where Wild lost, namely Northampton County and the Whitehall-Coplay area, those areas are also where Hillary lost in 2016. If Nothstein can hold Trump performance there, and mildly improve on his performance in Western Lehigh County (where he did finish first in his last County Commissioner race), he could easily overcome a 1% margin. Nothstein is probably a bit better fundraiser, at least so far, and Republicans are likely to heavily fund his quest to hold the seat. I think the race will be quite close, and quite nasty, but I think Democrats can win with Wild.

The Democratic Party is Really, Really Bad at This…

I was recently reading an article about the Democratic Party’s inability to train and retain talented campaign help, and found myself nodding along- we really suck at this. Democrats have made a conscientious choice to put their money elsewhere besides human capital. In general, I am a believer in paid communications, though I think we over-spend on it as a share of the campaign budget. The general lack of support for paying for personnel on campaigns was not the main thing that jumped out at me though.

So what was?

  1. Winning campaigns is only “part” of movement building. This is pretty much the dumbest statement in politics, and the basis for me not trusting the left to protect the marginalized people of America. In the end, the only thing that matters is winning elections. Winning political parties get to pass legislation, write executive orders, name a cabinet, and appoint judges, just to name a few powers reserved for the winners. The losers? They get to scream, yell, be mad, and watch Donald Trump hurt the people they supposedly want to help. Your issue positions are completely worthless if you’re not in office to put them into practice. It’s why compromise and moderated rhetoric are necessary to winning elections.
  2. They centralize their efforts under the overall cause, we de-centralize under our pet issues. The one thing I saw here, and it’s not new, is how the right generally has very, very broad interest groups, think tanks, and super PACs. Even their single issue groups, like say the NRA or National Right-to-Life, doesn’t mess with more moderate Republicans or those not totally with them. Why? They realize they may need those members in order to elect a pro-gun, pro-life, pro-business Speaker. While Democratic groups line up behind primary candidates most friendly to their individual cause, right-wing groups seem to come to a consensus on electability and play on the team.
  3. We really don’t have a clear package of what we’re going to do in power. I realize that this is mostly “not what Trump’s doing,” but what does that mean. Republicans are often times backed by industry groups, and rich guys like the Kochs. Those folks know what policy victories they will get for their investment. Democrats are at a disadvantage here because we have no concrete plans. I have some great places to start, if we want- moving tax incentives from fossil fuels to renewables, Medicaid expansion in every state with Democratic control, universal background checks on gun sales, repeal the Hyde Amendment, strengthening the prevailing wage protections nationally, a massive infrastructure bill, card check for union membership, a stronger equal pay bill for women at work, and an actually fair, simplified progressive tax code. I could have went further, and most of this is already in our platform, but you get the point. We often times find ourselves campaigning on values, rather than several concrete things we’re going to do- and saying we’re “stronger together” just doesn’t mean anything to the median voter.

Part of the problem that Democrats have is that we don’t use the campaign to strengthen the brand, we strengthen the candidates bona fides with the activists by appealing to buzz words like “progressive,” or identity connections between the candidate and the voters. This isn’t a shock though, we’re a de-centralized mess. The Democratic Party, to the extent it is a party, is a collection of loosely aligned interest groups that really want their candidates to win, rather than a unified collective that will share power to get a better government. Unlike Republicans, we don’t have a strong governmental ideology, but more so a collective goal of changing society and re-making it more in our image. It leaves us at a loss when people say “what are you going to do for me?” We’re too theoretical. We’re too technical. We’re too concerned with how we do it, rather than that we do it at all. I frankly don’t care who we elect, so long as they are Democrats, committed to passing out clearly stated platform agenda. That’s not how funding in Democratic campaigns gets handed out though.

If Democrats want to win elections and govern, or just be a majority party in America, we need to get serious about winning elections and making concrete laws based on what we promise. Centralize under the party as the cause, and make that mean something, rather than our pet issues. We have to nominate candidates for electability, not to make ourselves feel good. We need to behave like a political party, not a collection of individual causes. I do not have faith we’re heading in this direction though, at least not right now.

Moving Forward in PA-7

I’m obviously disappointed by the results of the Pennsylvania Primary in the 7th Congressional District. Aside from just managing John Morganelli, I count him as a friend. We have our political differences, but I was hoping for the best for him. It didn’t work out.

Susan Wild is now the Democratic nominee. I have my fears about her chances this Fall and my worries about her candidacy. This is obvious by the fact that I didn’t support her in the primary. Nevertheless, she has an impressive career and managed to win the primary. For three main reasons, I am telling my readers in the district to back her.

  1. Donald Trump is dangerous, and we need a Congress that will stand up to him. Look, I could sit here and tell you why she doesn’t excite me and why I don’t want to unify now, but that’s my privilege talking- I’m not Donald’s target as a white, straight, Christian, suburban male. Sue Wild ran in this primary as a progressive. She will vote for Nancy Pelosi or whoever else the Democrats put forward for Speaker. That vote will allow the House to pull the Trump agenda to a screeching halt, at least. Whatever issues I have with Sue Wild, I need to tell you that a vote for her is a vote against Donald Trump’s agenda.
  2. Voting for her is in line with the values I’ve been preaching for years, and it’s in line with the people I’ve supported in the past. I’ve spent most of my adult life working to elect women and minorities to higher offices, because I believe in diversity, and I believed in the people. It’s why I worked for Hillary Clinton twice in her quest for the Presidency. It’s why I went to work to elect the first African-American Congresswoman in New Jersey’s history, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman. It’s why I went to Iowa to work for the only Bosnian-American woman to ever be elected to a state legislature. It’s why, closer to home here, I worked for State Reps. Jeanne McNeill and Maureen Madden, Judges Ellen Ceisler and Maria McLaughlin, Congressman Dwight Evans, and Senators Menendez and Booker. Putting aside the personal and the petty, the arc of my work suggests my politics are close with Sue’s. Electing her does fit with my commitment to diversity, and with my values.
  3. It’s party over candidate, in the end. Charlie Dent was a good and decent man. He still voted with the Republican leadership of the U.S. House about 85% of the time in his career. Unless I’m rooting for another round of tax cuts for millionaires, I have to want the Democrats to win.

Elections come to an end and you move on. I obviously wanted a different result. The primary voters have spoken though, and I’m prepared to move on and hope for the best. While I have personal concerns and doubts about Sue, supporting her opponent on personal grounds would be a violation of what I have spent my whole career doing. In a partisan battle for control of Congress, it is important that Democrats elect a Democrat.

Why I Chose John Morganelli in PA-7, and Why You Should Too

Tomorrow is the Pennsylvania Primary Election, and through most of it I have remained relatively silent about the open seat race for Congress in my native Lehigh Valley. I have done so out of professional courtesy, first and foremost- I am generally fairly outspoken, but as the campaign manager of a candidate, I do not want my words to be misconstrued as their’s, and vice-versa. I have never agreed with any candidate, from Hillary Clinton to local County Executive candidates, on every issue. You can’t possibly do so, unless you get in the game and run yourself. If I find no daylight between my beliefs and a candidate’s, I have found a phony who I should not trust. So, as a professional, I try not to highlight any divisions.

Throughout the primary in PA-7, there has been a second phenomenon though, one of rising passions and resentment. This race has become nasty, but I’m less referring to the television ads and campaign mailers, and more so the comments sections on local blogs, the Facebook comments, and even anonymous Tumblr and Facebook pages. Overall, I’ve tried to avoid the confrontations over it. Some of the most negative people were/are friends of mine. Some endorsers of other candidates have been elected officials I’ve done political work for. While I have very strong opinions on the PA-7 race, I’ve kept telling myself to remember May 16th will eventually arrive, and I should not make reconciliation worse than it has to be.

I chose months ago to go and work for John Morganelli’s campaign for Congress. I didn’t do so for any other reason than believing in the man. No, I won’t agree with all of his policies, he is most certainly a little bit more conservative than me. I didn’t do it for money, or out of lack of other opportunities, with so many Democrats running for office this year I could have easily extracted a couple grand more a month to do a race elsewhere, with over a decade of political management experience under my belt. I could have sought a job in Northampton County after serving on the Executive’s transition, or in Lehigh County after managing their new Executive. Politically, I could have sought to manage a less contentious race here locally, as Democrats are running a full slate of state legislative candidates. I had plenty of options, but I chose this. Me, the veteran of Hillary Clinton (twice), Barack Obama (twice), Chris Dodd, Bob Menendez, Cory Booker, Bonnie Watson Coleman, the former PA House Majority Leader, and a whole bunch of other liberal Democrats, chose to work for the guy that is taking fire from virtually the entire left.

If it wasn’t expediency, there has to be another reason why, right? There are many reasons I chose the tough assignment of managing John Morganelli in this political climate. He’s been a very good District Attorney, as is evidenced by the safe streets in Northampton County. I identify with his past, as he grew up blue collar in Bethlehem, and like me graduated from Moravian College with a degree in political science. I know he is a tough prosecutor, but not a heartless one, instituting reforms to bring more women and minorities into his office, create a mental health court, and supporting the decriminalization of marijuana. He has always supported the men and women in our local unions, prosecuting violations of labor law on work sites across Northampton County. John was advocating for legislation a decade ago in Harrisburg to force gun owners to report lost and stolen hand guns and for gun owners to securely store all fire arms in their home, especially if children or the mentally ill were present. He supports public education, and fully funding it. John is a solid Democrat on 85% of the issues. As a person, I know him to be a good and fair man- and that’s the thing, I’ve known him for years. Many of the activists now crying and screaming about him not being “blue” enough just arrived to the party on November 9th, 2016, or later. They don’t know what they’re talking about.

I would be remiss if I didn’t address the few differences I have with him, and why I can live with them. I knew about his tweets to Trump before this race, I had read them, and I had processed them as someone who spent years advocating for and fighting for Hillary Clinton to be our President. I also knew that he endorsed Hillary for President in 2016. I also knew the tweets were all after the election. Do I like them? Not really. I also get that not every Democrat in the country reacted to Trump’s victory by crying and protesting in the streets- some like Barack Obama wished him well and hoped for the best for him. I wouldn’t have sent the tweets, but I can live with them. I could say the same for his abortion and immigration positions. I knew he was “pro-life” in a manner similar to Bob Casey, in that he’d respect settled law and vote for funding for Planned Parenthood. I find it somewhat amusing we’re not applying a litmus test to Senator Casey, but are here. I also knew all about his history on immigration- including his support of the DACA bill. That he wants to deport undocumented immigrants who violate the laws while in the United States is fine by me, and most voters. We are a nation of laws, not a free-for-all.

Most of us in politics here in the Lehigh Valley knew all of this stuff before he entered. Many of us have chosen to support him anyway. The most popular Democrat in the Valley, State Senator Lisa Boscola is joined by the Northampton County Executive, Bethlehem Mayor, former Lehigh County Judge Tom Wallitsch, multiple Northampton County Council members, and several city council members have endorsed John. The Lehigh Valley Building Trades Unions have been joined by the Fire Fighters Union locals in Allentown, Bethlehem, and Philadelphia in supporting him. Many of our local Democrats realize John would be a fine representative in Congress.

People not from here are spending a lot of money to drown out those local voices. Emily’s List has spent close to $400,000 alone, as of the beginning of last week. Billionaire Tom Steyer’s NextGen organization pledged “at least” $100k to the race. There are plenty of other groups spending here too. While John’s closest competitor had to lay off their manager, communications director, and field director because they couldn’t pay them, and they never aired a television ad of their own, outside money is doing their best to prop up a candidacy that is incapable of sustaining itself. The message here is that Washington, and not Bethlehem, knows best. That message has been sent before, and it’s part of why we currently have Donald Trump in office. Listening to out of touch voices, most of whom have never been here, is a sure way to lose.

It’s also part of why I support John- the job is REPRESENTATIVE of the people of the 7th Congressional District, not of the National Democratic Party. John Morganelli’s life experiences and political positions best represent the Lehigh Valley. Sure, some activists don’t approve, but they are not representative of the broader masses here. Donald Trump won Northampton County, barely lost Monroe County, and only lost Lehigh County because of the large presence of Allentown to pull it across for Hillary. Both Democratic County Executives won in 2017 in large part by running on their records of never raising taxes and preserving services for senior citizens, not some anti-Trump “BlueWave” message. This is a moderate area. They will elect the most moderate Congressman. Nominating an inauthentic version in the primary will end the way Congressional campaigns have here for the last 20 years. The Lehigh Valley is not Philadelphia. It is not similar to Philadelphia. Stop fooling yourself into thinking Philadelphia politics will work here. If the Democratic Party is going to start winning again, we will have to start representing the districts, not trying to force them to represent us.

In short, I believe in John Morganelli, flaws and all. I know he’ll fight to expand health care access, limit gun violence, rebuild our infrastructure, and protect the rights of unions to organize. I believe John will win in November, in fact he is the only candidate I can say that about. I know John will provide a vote for a Democratic Speaker in January, one we desperately need.

I have mostly refrained from engaging during this race, in part to try to keep the temperature down. In these final hours, I see no need to. I’m supporting the best, strongest candidate in PA-7 that the Democrats can nominate to win in November. I hope you will join me.

35.

I was sitting in the Hotel Bethlehem having dinner with a friend on the final night I would be 34 as I looked out the window and saw the bus roll up to the door, with “MORAVIAN” scrolled across it. Out rolled repeated 22 year olds, dressed in their suits and dresses, smiles beaming across their faces. This was their night, May 10th, 2018, the gala celebration for members of the Class of 2018. These young Hounds had their lives in front of them. Twelve years ago, that was me.

Time is both our most precious resource and the most unforgiving critic. Time, inevitably will pass us by. For all of us, time is finite, and we don’t know how much of it we will have, only that we have now, the time between this moment and that morning when we are summoned home.

I turned 35 years old Friday, a semi-milestone in my life, one made easier by the fact that some bartenders and waitresses still ask me to see my ID. I feel my age some days, but others I still feel 25. I’m pretty proud of my life to this point. Professionally, I’ve worked for Presidents, Governors, Senators, Congress members, state legislators, judges, and local leaders, all over America, for diverse people, managing staffs and campaigns that were big and small. I’ve got a good relationship to my family, and I have stayed close with my friends from childhood to now. I serve on my college alumni board, my township board of auditors, and the Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee. I’ve got a very sizable social media following. I go to lots of baseball games. I spent my birthday weekend at a wedding for one of my best friends. I came home and my dogs were happy to see me.

There are things that I’m either unhappy with or anxious about though. I’d like to be wealthier, maybe have a family life of my own, get more degrees, eat better, buy a home, get back into my athletic shape, and travel more. The good news though is that I’m not consumed by any of those things. They would all be added benefits. If they don’t happen, I’ll deal with it.

I’m pretty happy at 35, and pretty content with who I am. I’m a product of my community, family, friends, work experiences, and education, and I’m quite happy with that. Thank you for knowing me, and reading me.

A San Francisco Billionaire Knows What’s Best for Easton?

I don’t know Tom Steyer. Tom Steyer doesn’t know me. I don’t plan on spending money on deciding who is Tom Steyer’s Congressman, I’ve never been to San Francisco. Tom is spending on who my Congressman in Easton is though. I’m not sure he could find the 7th Congressional District on a map, much less any of the specific towns (unless his large staff helps him). I’m certain he knows and cares very little about what the people here would think though- he’s never stepped foot here in his life.

Tom Steyer is spending here in the 7th District because he wants a more liberal nominee than the front-runner. The front-runner has the largest lead against the Republican candidates, he’s the only candidate with a double digit lead, in a district that Hillary Clinton won by 1% or so. Basically Tom Steyer would like to make a lay-up election into a competitive one. He thinks this because he thinks he knows best- better than the people who live in the district over 3,000 miles away, people he is showing he knows nothing about. Forget the local elected officials and unions who disagree with his views, based on their experience, Tom Steyer knows best. After all, he’s never been here.

Tom is a rich guy with personal ambitions. He runs his NextGen organization nationally, basically targeting climate change and youth voter engagement- both very noble causes. He has decided to launch “Need to Impeach” commercials this year though, to push the Democratic Party to pledge to impeach Donald Trump- something not politically beneficial to Democratic Congressional candidates in swing districts or red states, but very beneficial to a potential Presidential candidate. As he collects online sign-ups and data from passionate supporters around the country who he can target later in a campaign, Democrats in tough races are confronted with a question most of them would rather ignore, if possible, until at least the point where Robert Mueller issues a report implicating Donald Trump of wrong-doing, or Trump obstructs him by firing him. Steyer can’t let this play out to it’s rightful ending though, because that costs him his opening to garner attention and valuable data. That’s more important than a majority to him.

Tom Steyer doesn’t give a rat’s behind about the Democratic Party, winning a majority, or the people you’d see down on Northampton Street in Easton on any sunny afternoon. Tom Steyer cares about his out-of-touch national agenda and himself. He’ll spend his money to advance himself, and nothing more. Steyer was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, attending the same private Buckley School in New York City that hosted Roosevelts, Rockefellers, and a young Donald Trump. He wouldn’t be capable of conversing with the good people of Easton. His rich guy, hedge fund values wouldn’t mesh well with the working class people here.

I’ll tell you what though- any time he wants to actually come here instead of spending his money here, I’ll show him the folks.

Your Congress Sucks Because You Believe the BS From Outside Money

A week from today is the Pennsylvania Primary, and here in the Lehigh Valley that’s clear to anyone who has ever voted. Glossy mailers, television ads, robo calls- you’re getting it all. The crazy thing is, most of it isn’t from the candidates.

There has been well north of half-a-million dollars spent here in the past two weeks by outside groups. The leading three Democrats have probably only raised a total of around $750,000 to this date. They may be outspent by outside money.

Just about every Democrat and liberal in the country says they oppose money in politics, especially “dark” money. When push comes to shove though, we all seem to be okay with it, when the money supports them. Why? The money usually has an impact. Principles take a back seat to winning, for most.

Just take a minute to consider what you are doing though- selling your representation in Congress. You’re selling your seat to people who have never stepped foot in your district, and don’t care about your people. Perhaps the most troubling thing, if you’re accepting this in order to win is that you probably won’t- these outside liberal and conservative interest groups are largely out of touch with general election voters in swing districts. This isn’t helpful on any level.

The Process Hits It’s Latest Wall

Back before the season, I predicted the Sixers would go 47-35, finish as the six seed in the Eastern Conference, and maybe win a playoff series. After a 52-30 season, the Sixers were third in the conference. They took down Miami in the first round. They’ve exceeded all of my expectations.

Back before game one of the Eastern Conference semi-final series in Boston, I said the Sixers would win the series convincingly in six games. I said Boston lacked a star on par with Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons. I thought Boston was simply too banged up by the injury bug to compete with a far more athletic club. I looked at Rozier and Smart as the worst back court of the eight teams left and expected to exploit them. Clearly this series has met none of the expectations.

Depending on how you want to view those two paragraphs, that pretty much dictates your view of this team now.

You have to give Boston a lot of credit, they have exceeded expectations. Al Horford is showing himself as possibly the most valuable player on that roster, healthy or hurt. While I still see Jayson Tatum as the 2017-2018 answer to the NFL’s 2016 Dak Prescott, it’s very clear that he is an excellent player, and arguably the most matured player to come out of last year’s draft. Smart and Rozier are proving they are more than rotational players. Jaylen Brown is playing effectively through injury. Brad Stephens game plan to effectively deal with Ben Simmons has worked perfectly. It’s not just Philly playing badly, Boston plays great team basketball, and it’s shown up in getting them through the last two games. Up 3-0 now, they’re probably going to be hosting LeBron for game one next week.

This series has been really disappointing though for a Philadelphia fan. The team’s ability to light up the scoreboard against Miami is gone. Simmons lack of a jumper is finally hurting. Joel Embiid has actually been really good, but he can’t seem to buy a foul call (God, the NBA loves Boston.). Markelle Fultz is back in the abyss, not even appearing in these games. Dario Saric finally looks tired. Belinelli, Ilyasova, and the rest of the bench cast that was so good for the last two months just hasn’t decimated Boston as hoped. Brett Brown seems overwhelmed finally. He’s been questionable in using his bench. He’s been questionable in not using his bench, like the gritty Justin Anderson, at times. He’s let the team jack up threes even when ice cold (looking at you, Robert Covington), despite the fact that they aren’t built to live that way. And of course, he’s refused to use his timeouts to stop Boston runs, even with a very young team. Things have gone bad.

Despite all that, I will tend to judge the 2017-2018 Philadelphia 76’ers by the first paragraph I wrote here. This team exceeded every reasonable expectation I had for them. They won 52 games and a playoff series. Two years ago they won 10 games, last year it was 28. Ben Simmons played a full season and would get my Rookie-of-the-Year vote. Joel Embiid went from playing about one college season’s worth of games in his first three years to having an All-Star season that he got through with only modest injury issues. Dario Saric showed you his rookie year was real. Brett Brown showed you he can manage and motivate his young squad. In short, they accomplished most of the missions.

Unfortunately, or fortunately if you want, the Sixers future faces a far higher bar now, due to their success. The Sixers were third in their division, and must drastically improve to pass Boston or Toronto. They face major issues ahead. Ben Simmons has to learn how to shoot. Can they re-sign J.J. Redick, and to a contract that doesn’t restrict their ability to spend. After a very troubling rookie season, what is Markelle Fultz? As great as Joel Embiid is, can he take the next step, and dominate the paint like a Hakeem Olajuwon for years to come? Can Robert Covington gain consistency? What are the future roles of bench pieces like T.J. McConnell, Justin Anderson, and Richaun Holmes? Can Brett Brown get the team to cut the turnovers and take better shots? Can Brown manage his timeouts better?

The Sixers need to be honest about where they are now. The fans will expect this team to quickly become real contenders. They probably need to obtain a real star piece this Summer- whether it’s LeBron or someone else. They need to answer the questions about the team they have. They have to realize that while this season was a lot of fun, the Sixers aren’t really all that close to where they need to be yet, and Boston isn’t going away. We traded them another high pick in swapping the Fultz and Tatum picks, they get their best two players back next year, they have a solid roster now, and they have a great coach. The Boston mountain in front of the Sixers is quite tall, and not going away soon. It’d be nice if they started scaling it a little by winning a game or two now to extend this series, if only to show everyone they aren’t so far away now.