Joel Embiid

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First task for the Sixers: Don't be the Eagles

Dave Uram
October 18, 2019 - 2:05 pm

The 76ers begin their highly anticipated 2019-20 season against the Boston Celtics in less than a week—Wednesday night at Wells Fargo Center on national television. After that, is a very difficult stretch of 12 games with nine of them being on the road and four of them out west. Just look out how crazy travels aren’t helping the Flyers.

No one, though, will make excuses for this 76ers team. They’re expected to be elite. That description isn’t given. It’s earned, which is why it’s crucial for this team to start its first 13 games through November 17 on a strong note. I’ll use the 2019 Eagles as a comparison. 

Easily the most disappointing aspect of the Eagles season (and mind you—the mood around this city will change drastically if the Eagles blow out the Cowboys Sunday night) is they’re an inconsistent, underachieving, 3-3 team that might honestly be a lot worse than we initially expected. 

Remember how calm everything was during Training Camp? There was barely any controversy, if at all.

That changed once word came out that linebacker Nigel Bradham skipped the Eagles last preseason game. That changed when, all of a sudden, DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery weren’t playing against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 2. That changed when the Detroit Lions entered Lincoln Financial Field and roared out of there with an upset victory. This roster was supposed to be better than the one in 2017 that won a Super Bowl. Except, they’re not.

Things happen. In fact, there’s a more commonly used two-word phrase that fits this Eagles season more appropriately that can’t be printed in this piece because one of the words is profanity. 

The reason I bring up the Eagles because is the Sixers preseason feels very similar. 

There’s been minor injuries, if that, which is a huge deal for this franchise. There’s been zero controversy that’s dealt directly and solely with the Sixers. Ben Simmons drilled the “three heard around the world,” while speaking very honestly about the development of his jump shot. He was abrupt on the topic only once, which wasn’t a big deal at all in the grand scheme of things. The Sixers top rookie, Matisse Thybulle, is expected to contribute out of the gate. And Joel Embiid is in very good shape for October, playing excellent heading into the preseason finale. 

So, this preseason has been flawless. 

“I mean, yeah, I guess,” Embiid said when I asked him if there’s more of a “business-like” approach by him this season. “We got huge goals. Obviously the end goal is to win it all. I got to be the main catalyst to make it happen, so I got to do my job as a leader. I got to lead (my teammates). We gonna need them. They gonna need me, so we got to do whatever it is we’re supposed to do.”

I believe the Sixers are capable of winning it all, just like I thought the Eagles and their roster were capable of going all the way. While they certainly still can, I don’t think that anymore. That’s why as we embark on this 76ers season, it’s worth remembering the preseason means squat. 

“In general, and let’s call it also for what it is—we really haven’t played legitimate NBA basketball yet,” Brett Brown said when asked if he’s surprised a lot of the new players adapted so well. “We’ve had two or three periods here against some decent teams, but the rules change. You go into Wells Fargo against the Celtics on opening night, the rules change in significant ways. And that’s when we’re all gonna have more meaningful conversations about like, ‘where are we at, what have I learned, have they come together quickly and why?’ It gets far more scrutinized when it’s that type of environment then it does right now.” 

Don’t be mistaken—I’ve predicted this team will win 60 games andrepresent the East in The NBA Finals. I think Simmons will hit multiple three’s that actually go on his career stat sheet and I think Embiid is going to dominate like he’s never done so before. I think this team, with its depth, will be something 76ers fans haven’t seen since the ’80’s. 

However, a prediction is only a prediction. A lot can happen between now and the summer. 

“If we don’t win, you guys are still gonna look at me,” Embiid said to the media Thursday after practice. “It doesn’t matter what I do, so I gotta bring it and, like I said, I need those guys.”

Embiid has the right mentality, just like Carson Wentz has the right mentality. And all the comments they make look wonderful on paper. Yet, the Eagles, and even the Phillies, taught us one important lesson—the good vibes prior to the regular season can quickly vanish.​