In March, the NBA made the first move to shut down due to the COVID 19 virus. The hiatus continues as the country slowly moves back to normal with multiple states declaring dates to allow sporting events. The NBA has even allowed teams to reopen facilities, but due to some state restrictions not all players have been back in the gym. Let’s dive into the biggest headlines from the team the past couple weeks.
Ben Simmons’ and Joel Embiid’s progress
The Sixers have not been back in the facilities as a team; however, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid have been getting at it, preparing for whatever the NBA proposes to end the season. Simmons was one of the few allowed at the 76ers facilities to get treatment for the injury he’s been dealing with.
Both Ben and Joel have been training hard during this time to get their bodies in peak condition for a possible bubble city situation on the horizon. The ESPN report on Ben was nothing but encouraging for Sixers fans, as well as GM Elton Brand saying he is “very optimistic he’ll be ready to play if and when we’re given the green light to resume.”
This hiatus could potentially help these two young stars more than most — the needed rest and time to reflect could make them as dangerous as anyone in the Eastern Conference.
With the way this team is built, a tournament style bracket could help them, especially if they can get into a rhythm once team practice resumes. This roster seems built for the playoffs, Brett needs to prepare the team to live up to that expectation.
Marc Eversley moves on
While the league is moving forward trying to create a cohesive plan to resume the season, the Sixers lost a key piece in the front office, Marc Eversley.
Eversley was brought in during the Colangelo tenure, like much of the current front office staff. He is now the General Manger of the Chicago Bulls, and credits much of his knowledge to learning from Bryan Colangelo.
Many Sixers fans have quite a distain for Colangelo following the whole Twitter debacle, with the Ringer exposing the fake accounts Bryan Colangelo used to complain about Embiid and others. The fact that much of this front office was retained after Colangelo attacked his star player is nothing but disappointing.
While Brand has done well, and Eversley surely helped with that, owner Josh Harris needs to make sure he revamps this staff to really take this organization to the next level. Harris has gotten plenty of criticism as an owner and rightfully so.
It’s astonishing that the Sixers have been a top contender in the East despite these major problems from the top of the organization. Even though some fans think EB should be fired, I would expect him to stick around for a bit, even with that New York Daily News report that the Knicks are interested in him. Hopefully EB can continue to progress this team toward a championship as things move toward normalcy.
Takeaways from Brett Brown’s conference call
Coach Brown addressed the media on a conference call last week and had plenty of interesting quotes. He dove into plenty of topics, from his thoughts on ESPN’s Michael Jordan documentary “The Last Dance”, to his thoughts on how the team would fare if the season is finished out.
Many analysts locally and nationally have been saying this delay should help the Sixers more than most NBA franchises, but Coach Brown seemed to disagree with his comments when asked about it.
“I always want the opportunity to coach our guys more together, than think like that great rest is all of a sudden gonna produce a team. Rest versus, I suppose, cohesion, continuity? I wished that we had more opportunity to have the guys together than we have had.”
Interesting to hear the perspective Brett has with the state of the Sixers. First thing that comes to mind is his concern for the lack of team cohesion, he knows this was an issue all season and with an early exit Brett knows he could be out the door.
The time to heal and train is vital, but it may not be enough to make up for the lack of chemistry. Fans can only hope that the Sixers can get things on track whenever they are allowed to practice as a team with things moving forward.
Brett also had some comments about playing in empty arenas. He always raves about the home crowd in Philadelphia, so this didn’t come as much of a surprise. When initially asked about playing with no fans Brett simply replied “Wow”.
“Obviously, playing in front of no fans, especially our fans, isn’t ideal, how will it play out? I don’t know. None of us have ever done this. But the alternative of simply not playing is obviously far less desired.”
“Do I think it’ll water down the competitive side? I don’t. Of course, it’s going to have some level of impact. I do feel just the mere fact that we’ll be playing again might be able to sort of minimize whatever awkwardness playing in front of zero fans (would have)”.
Brett makes some good points here, and I think all sports fans agree that basketball with no fans would be much better than no basketball at all. The league is set on finishing out this season so any setup will come with the odd circumstances of the current pandemic.
Brett knows the clock is ticking and if the Sixers disappoint whenever things resume, it could lead to transitioning to a new coach. Brown’s concern with the lack of cohesion is an obvious one, but they need to be working on ways to coordinate team drills remotely to negate the effects of the current circumstances.
Hopefully Brett can steer this team in the right direction while we all sit back and wait for the league to make the decision to move forward with basketball operations.
Tobias Harris stepping up to help the community
Ever since Tobias Harris was acquired last season from the Los Angeles Clippers, Tobi has made not only an impact on the hardwood, but in the Philadelphia community as well.
During this entire pandemic, Philly area athletes have been doing their part to help the essential workers keeping us safe during this unprecedented time.
On May 18, Tobias released a press release announcing that he will assist with mortgage payments to 12 families facing hardship in north and west Philadelphia. On top of that, Harris partnered with Chick-Fil-A on Tuesday, providing lunch to 250 healthcare workers at Temple Hospital.
To put a cherry on top, Tobi donated 20,000 children’s books for home libraries using the local “Read by 4th” program. Harris values reading and this was a perfect way to reach out a helping hand in these difficult times.
Tobias may need to be more consistent on the court if the Sixers want to take the next step, but there is no questioning his loyalty to this community. Doing things like this for the Philadelphia community means more than ever during this nationwide shutdown.
ALL QUOTES TAKEN FROM THE ATHLETIC’S RICH HOFMANN & DEREK BODNER