While the Philadelphia 76ers were in the throes of rebuilding over the past few years, it was somewhat reasonable to assume that their G-League affiliate - the Delaware 87ers - could serve as a possible feeder system for the parent club.
However, with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric and others logging extended minutes for the Sixers this season (and for the foreseeable future), things are a bit different in Newark these days.
Save for a few Furkan Korkmaz appearances (and the brief two-way stints of James Michael McAdoo and Jacob Pullen), the Sevens have more or less existed within their own bubble this year. But on Saturday, the Sevens were able to steal a few headlines on a day where the defending NBA champions were knocked off by the Houston Rockets, and the defending Eastern Conference champions gave up 148 points in regulation.
Last night began as most Sevens’ games do: During warm-ups, Beyonce music played as 87ers’ general manager Elton Brand made his rounds prior to tip-off, signing autographs, shaking hands and posing for pictures. But on this night, Brand was the second-most famous person in the building pressing the flesh with the fans.
On Saturday, the Sevens hosted their second annual Beau Biden Foundation night. And, for the second straight year, former Vice President Joe Biden addressed the sellout crowd at the Bob Carpenter Center at halftime, thanking them for their support of the foundation’s mission to protect abused and neglected children.
Most events attended by someone with the political heft of a Joe Biden typically turn into afterthoughts, but the Sevens stole the show last night. Thanks to a 38-point, 14-rebound performance by Christian Wood, the 87ers treated the capacity crowd of more than 2,800 fans to an exciting contest that ultimately ended in a 128-123 defeat to the Erie Bayhawks in OT.
The talent level on the Sevens isn’t quite what it has been in previous seasons, but the game night atmosphere is as fun and raucous as ever. That experience only figures to improve next season when the 87ers move into the 76ers Fieldhouse: a 140,000-square-foot multi-purpose sports complex and training center set to open in Wilmington, DE next fall.
The standalone facility is just the latest example of the Sixers’ commitment to their G-League affiliate (which is slated to undergo a rebrand in conjunction with the move). More importantly, the 76ers Fieldhouse - which is designed to be 15,000 square feet larger than the Sixers’ practice complex in Camden - will be available for use by youth programs located in and around the Wilmington area.
There was always a point during an 87ers’ game where you could look out on the floor and see a player who clearly belonged in The Show. That’s no longer the case this year, but the mission statement for the Sevens has changed a bit in recent months. While the Sixers will lean on their affiliate club for players that will complement the infrastructure already in place in Philadelphia, Sevens GM Elton Brand is focused on building a foundation of his own.