For as down as most folks feel about the 76ers’ chances this year, there is still plenty of season left for the team to make up some ground. The Bucks hold down the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race by four games over the Sixers and the Celtics have 5½ games on the Sixers for the No. 7 seed.

That’s the optimistic view.

The realistic side is that the Sixers have been very disappointing this season and aside from clinging to hope, the second half of the season doesn’t bode to be much better. There still is no real gauge on when Andrew Bynum will ever play, and Thad Young is still recovering from a hamstring strain.

Plus, the Sixers still have issues in the low post and with All-Star Jrue Holiday doing nearly all the heavy lifting with Young out, one has to wonder how much stamina the point guard has left. With the second half to begin with a practice on Monday evening, the Sixers’ future is as cloudy as ever.

Perhaps more focus can come to light this week with a few of the storylines we’re following:

Trade deadline looms
Though Sixers general manager Tony DiLeo maintains that the Sixers are focused on the long-term development of the team, sources indicate that the Sixers have been much more active in trade banter as of late.

With the trade deadline set for Thursday, reports are that the Sixers have “dangled” both Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes and were among the many teams interested in the Hawks’ Josh Smith.

However, a league source says the Sixers were just gauging the trade value of both players and more than likely will stand pat at the 3 p.m. deadline this Thursday. In other words, DiLeo isn’t just giving lip service when he says the Sixers want to see what the team looks like with Bynum.