76ers' Sunday Morning Shootaround: A Night at the Game

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

We here at Liberty Ballers realize that a great deal of you never (or rarely) get to see the Philadelphia 76ers in person. So, to that end, we went to the Sixers-Thunder game last night, and documented the experience.

6:27 - Several hundred people are standing outside the Wells Fargo Center in sub-freezing temperatures because the Sixers choose not to open the doors until an hour before tip-off. I don't really understand the logic: Opening earlier is not only more convenient for fans, but you'll undoubtedly sell more at the merchandise and concession stands. But I digress...

6:31 - The gates finally open. A worker at the Sixers' Fan Shop sets a placard on an easel:

TONIGHT ONLY
SAVE 25%
ON ALL
EVAN TURNER
APPAREL &
NOVELTIES

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OK then.

6:32 - The three GEICO mascots from the Colonial Classic Race are milling about the Broad Street Atrium. Somewhere, Justin F. is spewing profanities.

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6:37 - I scan Twitter after getting to my seat to find out that Kevin Durant will, in fact, play this evening. I've never been so excited to learn that an opposing player plans to give it a go against my favorite team. I didn't drive through three inches of fresh snow to watch Steven Adams.

6:44 - While players from both teams get loosened up, some random Sixers' facts are displayed on the arena's Jumbotron. I thought this whole "Spencer Hawes shoots 3s" thing was a cute little novelty - I had no idea that he's third all-time in three-pointers made by a 7-footer.

6:55 - Pro tip: You should only pay attention to the pre-game festivities at a Sixers' game if you're into masochism. Several groups from a dance school which shall not be named each gave an... energetic performance about a half-hour prior to the opening tip. Maybe it's just me, but I'm not sure I'd let my 10-year-old daughter dance to French Montana's "Pop That." Granted, it was the edited version, but lyrics such as these seem just a bit too adult for children who should be out hawking Girl Scout cookies at the local Harris Teeter:

Throw it, bust it open
Show me what you twerkin' with

Am I wrong on this? Am I overreacting? I should point out that I've watched far more episodes of "Law and Order: SVU" than the average person.

7:14 - In a taped video segment called "This Or That", several Sixers are asked whether they prefer Kanye or Jay-Z. Jay-Z won the balloting by a healthy 7-to-1 margin (actually, it should have been 6.5 to 0.5 since an indecisive Turner picked both). The quote of the segment came courtesy of Hawes: "I have to go with Jay-Z. Kanye got a little too weird for me."

7:28 - Hawes, Thaddeus Young and Kevin Durant come out for the captain's huddle, and it finally hit me that there's a very good chance that the Sixers are on the verge of trading 75% of the team's veteran leadership (we didn't forget about you, Jason Richardson). We are literally three transactions away from having Tony Wroten as a team captain.

7:40 - Shortly after tip-off, Serge Ibaka knocks down a jumper and PA announcer Matt Cord says Ibaka's name with a Lavoy Allen level of enthusiasm. Cord is one of the best in the business, and it's puzzling why the team parted ways with him a while back. No disrespect, but comparing Cord to Tom Lamaine is like comparing Malik Rose to Bob Salmi. I enjoyed Lamaine as a weatherman, however.

7:52 - Hawes almost baptizes Ibaka on a dunk, and the crowd (which appears to be in the 16,000 range) nearly explodes. If Hawes had actually put it down, Liberty Ballers would have become a blog entirely focused on the life and times of a certain 7-foot center from Seattle, WA (which we very nearly became anyway back in September).

8:02 - Durant checks back in for the Thunder's final possession of the first quarter. I thought he came in specifically to roast Hollis Thompson (which he tried to do, but the iron was unkind on the 19-footer), but I realized after the game that Thunder head coach Scott Brooks had Durant on the Tom Thibodeau/Jimmy Butler Game Management Plan. Durant's four-minute first quarter break was the only rest that he had all night.

8:07 - Between quarters, it's time for the Thiller Cam. I like Michael Jackson as much as the next man, but it is 2014, right? The Thriller album came out in 1982! What else from 32 years ago gets run at sporting events? I've been to a bunch of different arenas, but I've yet to see an Olivia Newton-John "Let's Get Physical" Cam.

8:08 - Durant crosses up Dewayne Dedmon and gets to the rack for an easy 2. Dedmon tell no tales, but I have a feeling Dewayne will be telling his kids about the time he guarded The Slim Reaper.

(Editor's Note: The Slim Reaper is a horrible nickname. Let's just stick with "Durantula" until something better comes along. No need to force it).

(Editor's Note #2: I have to concentrate way too hard to spell "Dewayne", but it's incredibly easy to spell "Dwyane Wade." I don't get it.)

8:13 - The Colonial Classic Race (sponsored by GEICO) is back, and the Betsy Ross and Liberty Bell mascots finish in a dead heat. This happened because the Ben Franklin mascot relinquished the lead as he ran off of the "track" towards a strategically-placed popcorn vendor. Entertainment.

We tried to reach Sixers' CEO Scott O'Neil for his thoughts on the mascot race, but he was too busy getting ready for the upcoming Philadelphia Mans Basketball League season (where all "mans" are created equal):

8:19 - Presented without comment: The man in front of me records the Sixers' Dream Team performance while sitting in between his daughter and (presumably) his wife.

Check that... I have a few comments:
1) I'm thinking that it's creepy to tape a bunch of cheerleaders while sitting next to your daughter, but I don't want to impose my morals upon anyone else.
2) What do you do with said video? Do you show it off to friends? Do you post it on YouTube? Vine? WorldStar? I mean, you're sitting in the upper-level - you can't even make any of the faces out.
3) Props to the wife for being OK with her creepy husband's behavior. Personally, I'd win a seven-night stay at the Ritz Couchington if I even THOUGHT about pulling my phone out to do something like that. I'd also have to stop by the Verizon store and get a new phone.

8:28 - Big Bella clearly isn't enough... the Sixers wheel out THREE T-shirt guns (I assume the two smaller ones are referred to as "Baby Bellas") in an attempt to appease the masses. Apparently, this is what you have to do when the opposing team's best player has already put 18/6/3 on you before halftime.

By the way, Ben Franklin and Betsy Ross from the Colonial Rat Race (or whatever it's called) come back out on the court. Guys... I think these ARE the new mascots. When you get a chance, pour out a little liquor for B. Franklin Dogg.

8:30 - During a break in the action, a homemade sign brought by a fan is shown on the big screen. The sign was supposed to say "76ers will steal their Thunder", and it would have if the 7 in "76ers" wasn't stenciled incorrectly.

A couple of thoughts:

1) There are some kids falling through the cracks of the "No Child Left Behind" initiative.
2) This is a prime example of bad parenting. Not only did you not teach your child how to properly use a stencil, but you're allowing them to walk out of the house with a sign that hasn't been proofread.

We have to do better, America.

8:32 - The most Sixers' sequence in the history of Sixers happened late in the second quarter:

02:08 Young 3pt Shot: Missed
02:06 Allen Rebound (Off:1 Def:1)
01:52 Carter-Williams 3pt Shot: Missed
01:51 Allen Rebound (Off:2 Def:1)
01:46 Anderson 3pt Shot: Missed
01:44 Young Rebound (Off:3 Def:1)
01:42 Anderson 3pt Shot: Missed
01:40 Young Rebound (Off:4 Def:1)
01:34 Turner Jump Shot: Missed
01:32 Allen Rebound (Off:3 Def:1)
01:28 Turner Turnover : Bad Pass (1 TO) Steal:Jackson (1 ST)
01:13 Young Foul: Shooting (1 PF) (2 FTA)

If you filled out the registration card that came with your copy of the 76ers' NBA Dynasty Series Collection, you should expect to receive a bonus DVD of this particular sequence within 5-7 business days.

I'd like to think that the end of that stretch was the exact moment that Russell Westbrook did this:

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8:38 -

With Red Panda out for the season with a torn ACL, we get treated to a halftime performance by an outfit known as Sandou Russian Bar. I figured the trio were shunned by the Russian Olympic gymnastics community and decided to go rogue, but I just learned that Cassie Sandou isn't even Russian.

All of this time, we've been hoodwinked, bamboozled, led astray. This is like finding out that all of the different colored O's in a box of Froot Loops are the same flavor.

8:48 - In the midst of a "bio break", a man stands at the urinal next to me and texts with one hand while handling his business with the other. Unless you're texting nuclear unlock codes to the President of the United States, there's nothing in the world important enough that you HAVE to send a text message while you're relieving yourself. It can wait.

9:00 - I've officially reached the point of oversaturation with the PartyPoker.com advertisements in the Wells Fargo Center. On one hand, I have to give the Sixers kudos for getting a few million bucks from an outfit that only caters to a subset of the team's fanbase (nj.partypoker.com only works for NJ residents). Then again, it would be nice to go five minutes without Texas Hold 'Em being shoved in my face. Can't wait to see those PartyPoker.com ads on the Sixers' sleeved jerseys next season.

9:03 - World B. Free (looking sharp as usual) comes out to give the Heroes Among Us award to a deserving couple that has been working with the Boys and Girls Club for the past 27 years. I'd love to do a ride along with Mr. Free as he scours the area's mens' stores this May while searching for the finest Easter suits that have been left on the clearance rack. You aren't finding the suits he wears at Jos. A. Bank, I can tell you that much.

9:15 - There was almost a little dustup in Section 214: An Oklahoma City fan expressed excitement at a particular Kevin Durant play, and someone else in the section told him to "Go home!" The disagreement never got past the verbal stage, however: As the great philosopher Swaggy P once told us, no one really wants to get beat up at a basketball game.

9:28 - Dozens of fans used their cell phones to name Michael Carter-Williams the "Player of the Game." And that point in the contest, Carter-Williams had eight points, two rebounds and four assists. And that's exactly why fans shouldn't vote on anything.

Scratch that: THIS is why fans should never be allowed to vote on anything.

9:35 - Air Guitar Cam? Air Guitar Cam. At this point, all we need is Carlton Cam to make the night complete.

(I should point out that they tried to do Kiss Cam with Hasheem Thabeet and Royal Ivey (!!!), but Thabeet stood just as the camera focused on the two. The cameraman called an audible and turned his attention to Ivey and Westbrook, but Russ wasn't having any of it).

9:38 - Durant's 10th assist gives him a triple-double (he finished with 32/14/10), and the crowd... cheers. I don't cheer (I was still concerned about he man who "threatened" the "Oklahoma City fan"), but I started sketching out a design for my "I Want To Smoke Hookah With Kevin Durant" blog.

9:40 - Big Bella and the Baby Bellas get dragged out for one more go-around. Big Bella is stationed directly on the center court logo, loaded with a few dozen projectiles... and fails to launch any of the T-shirts into the stands. Seriously... some of those T-shirts barely made it to the baseline.

Sixers.

9:45 - Gangnam Style Cam. This is an actual thing that happened. Again... this is 2014.

9:52 - And... there's the Carlton Cam. And... there's my cue to head for the exit. I wasn't alone: 5,000 of my closest friends came to the same decision at the same time.

#TogetherWeLeaveBeforeTheFinalBuzzerSoWeCanAllBeatTheTraffic

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