WASHINGTON - They stink, and they are in limbo, and that's all from the local basketball franchise for now. Check back in a year or so.

Forget games like last night's 116-101 shellacking by the Wizards - a team playing without its all-star leader, Gilbert Arenas, but which, nonetheless, led by more than 30 in the second half. Forget this season, for that matter. The Sixers are 3-7 on their way to 30-52, and another year praying to lottery gods.

The Sixers regularly fall behind good teams, and sometimes, against inconsistent squads like Portland the other night, they can come back for improbable victories. But it's the falling behind that defines them. That's on the starters, who aren't matching the energy of their more-talented opponents, and that's a recipe for disaster.

Star players set the tone night after night in this league, and when they smell blood, they'll blow you out, looking for an easy night and some rest - like most of Washington's starters got throughout the fourth quarter.

"Our defense was horrendous," Mo Cheeks said afterward, and it sure was.

(A question: All you who insisted Allen Iverson had to go - are you coming to a game anytime soon? Couldn't help but notice the Sixers are, uh, last in the league in attendance. Thought for sure you'd show up in droves at the Wachovia this season to watch that selfless team ball. Thought you'd grown tired of seeing one guy dominate the rock. But you're not showing up. I wonder why.)

Look: If Andre Miller is a starter, and the starters are getting their ears pinned back almost every night, the Sixers really should think seriously about moving him. It won't be to Miami - some chat yahoo started that rumor a few days ago - but it should be somewhere.

Cleveland is desperate for a starting point guard to help LeBron James, and if the Cavs don't get anywhere soon in their negotiations with their free agent, Anderson Varejao (the two sides are a million miles apart), Billy King should see if there's some way Varejao would come down from his ridiculous $10-million-a-year demands and take a reasonable contract that the Cavs could put in a package. For, say, Miller.

The Sixers cannot simply sit back and hope that all that cap room leads to an Elton Brand or an Arenas next summer. The league is littered with teams that waited, and waited, and waited for Prince Charming, and are still waiting. Very few guys want to be the first to invest in a blighted neighborhood.

That leaves the draft, and that's no guarantee, either.

For example, last night a kid named Andray Blatche killed the Sixers with a career-high 26 points, and King had better hope Blatche doesn't become a force in this league, because he had a chance to take him two years ago and passed.

The Wizards drafted Blatche with the 49th pick in 2005, and I'm not saying the kid doesn't have knucklehead tendencies - he's already been shot once and charged with soliciting a prostitute since coming to D.C. - but he's as long as he is versatile. And because of said knucklehead-dom, Washington was able to sign him for low dollars and long years this summer.

The Sixers took Lou Williams four picks ahead of Blatche that year, and he has continued to play well for the Sixers in the regular season after having a sterling summer, posting his own career high of 25 last night. But while Williams might well become a solid rotation guy, he's always going to be nine inches shorter than the 6-foot-11 Blatche, who also had eight boards and four assists.

This year's draft brought Thaddeus Young to Philly with the 12th pick, which surprised a lot of people around the league, who figured the Sixers would go for Florida State's Al Thornton or Southern Cal's Nick Young, two wing players who were ready to contribute immediately.

The Wizards took Nick Young with the 16th pick, and he's already shown in two weeks that he can make shots in this league. Thaddeus Young - as evidenced by the scant first-half minutes he's received so far - is a years-away project.

I said it after the draft and it bears repeating: Thaddeus Young has to become a star for that pick - the indirect spoils of the Iverson deal - to make sense.

Somebody asked Cheeks afterward if he was going to practice today, the day before Thanksgiving.

"You better believe it," said Cheeks, a man who deserves better than what he has received from his players, and his front office.

Contact staff writer David Aldridge at 215-854-5516 or daldridge@phillynews.com.