Most Sixers fans have struck an optimistic tone coming into the season. There’s a palpable energy surrounding the team, unlike any we’ve felt since at least the Andrew Bynum confetti celebration. Shout out CEO Adam. But the optimism is hedged with if-statements: if Joel Embiid stays healthy, if Ben Simmons’ hype is real, if Markelle Fultz can avoid the typical rookie struggles. Ifs lace the talk of over/unders and of playoff declarations. Pessimism is one of the four core components to a Philadelphia sports fan, which you can tell based on the tempered expectations.
Joel Embiid, for 31 games last year, proved he can be a franchise centerpiece, and the team said he should be cleared by the season opener. Sixers players and coaches are raving about Ben Simmons as much as they did Joel Embiid prior to his debut. Markelle Fultz may not be as hyped as other top rookies, but he was the consensus top selection for a reason. J.J. Redick is the best shooter the Sixers have had since maybe
Hollis Thompson Chris Johnson James Anderson early-career Kyle Korver. Robert Covington comes back as a clear fifth option, and should have more open shots than at any point in his career. Ex-starters like T.J. McConnell are now depth additions. The NBA’s Eastern Conference has five other competitive-looking teams. The stars are aligned - both the team’s and the cosmic’s - for a breakout season.
One thing I’ve learned from casual fans who have jumped aboard the bandwagon is that tempering expectations with realism, even if you’re right, makes enjoying the success a bit harder. As an example: last January, when the Sixers went 9-5 and were the talk of the town, it was harder to enjoy when you looked bigger picture. The Sixers were still rebuilding, Joel Embiid could (and eventually would) get injured at any moment, and a one-month sample is not indicative of long-term success. It’s the staying even keeled not allowing yourself to get too excited or disappointed, which in the end makes you more right but also curtails what would otherwise be great moments. It makes you numb to moments you otherwise could enjoy.
The GM-ification of sports (of which I’m guilty in taking part in) results in having to always look bigger picture and to distance yourself from the highs and lows of fandom. Now that the Sixers are turning around, let’s try to avoid the ifs and maybes and go all in on optimism. It’ll feel even better when you end up being right.
Puerto Rico Needs Our Help (Carmelo Anthony, The Players Tribune)
Puerto Rico and other islands in the Caribbean have been ravaged by multiple hurricanes over the past month, including Maria, which devastated the island and is expected to leave parts of the island without power for six months. Other islands like Barbuda and Dominica are bordering on uninhabitable after the storms. They need - and deserve - our help in the recovery process. Kudos to Melo for using his public platform to call for this aid.
Sixers Media Day Roundup
Roy Burton went on behalf of LB. Among others talked to Justin Anderson about the Sixers “sexy roster.”
Among a story chock-full of quotes and tidbits on J.J. Redick, Robert Covington, and Jahlil Okafor, here’s one on Emeka Okafor, who made his NBA comeback a year than expected, as he wanted to be home with his then-pregnant wife. (Derek Bodner, The Athletic - subscription required and recommended)
Among the Sixers setting expectations: Joel Embiid. He said he doesn’t expect to play the full season and doesn’t have leverage in contract talks. (Jake Pavorsky, NJ.com)
T.J. McConnell might not be a starter anymore, but he’s determined to be stiff competition for anyone that gets in his way. (Kyle Neubeck, at his new home, PhillyVoice.com)
All of the above are either current or former Liberty Ballers writers. If you want to apply, here’s a link to the job opening.