Tobias Harris

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Nowhere near time to panic on the Sixers

Dave Uram
January 16, 2020 - 2:41 pm

The 76ers are one game into the second half of their season and there’s been more negativity surrounding this team than positivity. People talk about coaching, roster chemistry and effort—all fair criticisms for different reasons. Let’s be honest, a 26-16 record 42 games in doesn’t scream a 60-plus win team, which is what many predicted and expected before Opening Night. But these critiques are also met with suggestions of trades, firings and imminent failure.

Pump the breaks.

Do those who doubt this team believe drastic in-season changes will save this season from another second-round exit, or worse? Are you someone who dramatically believes multiple years of “tanking” is all for naught because of the Sixers current cap situation, roster construction and apparent lack of improvement?

Man, I thought I was harsh on sports figures.

Yes, the Sixers are brutal on the road. They lack energy, play down to inferior opponents and look nothing like a legitimate contender. You don’t need sophisticated stats to know that a 7-14 record is terrible. The encouraging aspect this inconsistent season is they’re 19-2 at home, which prior to Thursday night is tied for the second best home mark in the NBA with the Milwaukee Bucks.

“I’m not really sure,” Josh Richardson said when asked what is giving them so much success at Wells Fargo Center. “I just think right now we need to figure out how to win this next game (against the Bulls Friday at home), and then once we go on the road we really got to start figuring out what to do to start getting those wins because if we play on the road like we do at home, we’re a 30-something win team already.”

And if they do figure out what’s up with their poor performances away from South Philadelphia, that’s when you’ll start feeling better about this team.

Take Wednesday night’s fourth quarter against visiting Brooklyn as an example. For the first three quarters against the visiting Nets, it felt like a road game. The energy in the building was understandably down, the Sixers were bricking shots three’s left and right and Brooklyn was getting to the foul line fairly often. But, the defense tightened up in the final quarter, which ended up being a 31-16 advantage for the Sixers.

“I’m going to give the very, very large majority of the credit to us,” Brett Brown said after Thursday’s practice. “I think that defensively we were smart, we were frugal. I thought that there was a toughness and a physicality that we need. The holy grail is to grab that more often than we do on the road, and I think that when you assess this team, we have a better chance to play better defense than we have a better chance to grow all of a sudden this unfounded offensive firepower.”

And Brown doesn’t even really want to factor in that Brooklyn was playing part two of a back-to-back. He really liked what he saw, and for good reason. They looked great, even if it was against a Nets team that might’ve been tired.

Yes, the Sixers should have more than 26 wins—probably somewhere between 33-35. But, that doesn’t mean it’s time to tear things apart, or make significant alterations like they did multiple times last season.

Neither Joel Embiid nor Ben Simmons should be traded even if their lucrative contracts were easy to move. I often hear they can’t play together. Embiid is approaching 26-years-old and Simmons is 23. Neither has been playing NBA basketball for more than four seasons. Yes, Simmons needs to shoot mid-range jumpers. Yes, Embiid needs to dominate more often than he has this season once he returns from his finger injury, which the team said is progressing well. Giving up on this tandem now would be over reactionary.

Moving on from any of the other starters after the commitments made before the season would be panicking. Yes, General Manager Elton Brand should look to upgrade in terms of bench or shooting before the February 6 trade deadline, but not at the expense of any of their young or core players.

And most of all, there shouldn’t be any in-season coaching changes. What will that accomplish? Who would you hire that would suddenly spark this team to the two-seed?

This Sixers season has been puzzling, but Wednesday’s fourth quarter was a reminder of their defensive potential and ability to get hot with guys like Tobias Harris, who might be getting slightly overpaid, but is still a quality player.

If this team starts showing their full ability on the road and maintains that, they’ll move up the standings. This “process” is far from over. It’s only in its next stage.