Aside from Wilson Chandler’s hamstring injury, a lot of good vibes swirled around Friday night’s preseason opener against Melbourne United. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons looked as dominant as ever, Markelle Fultz hit the elbow jumper heard round the world, and the Sixers coasted to an easy 20-point victory.
Understandably, the cynical nature of the Philadelphia sports fan led many to dismiss anything that happened based upon the nature of the opponent. How will the team perform when pitted against quality NBA competition? Well, we’re not quite there yet, but we will get to see the Sixers against the Magic Monday night.
Over the last six seasons, Orlando has sported five campaigns with win totals in the 20’s, sandwiching one legendary 35-47 season. If you detect some bitterness in my tone, it’s because the talking heads built a narrative around the fact that the Magic were building “the right way,” as opposed to the Sixers who were transparent and fully committed to their tanking efforts.
Now, Orlando has its fifth different head coach over the last five seasons in Steve Clifford, and was forced to pay over $20 million per year to retain Aaron Gordon because he’s the only guy on the roster with even a whiff of star potential (apologies to the young and unproven Mo Bamba and Jonathan Isaac). If this was the right way to rebuild, I want to be wrong.
If the basketball gods are just, we’ll see plenty of Embiid against Bamba tonight, as the pair has a good-natured feud brewing. In offseason workouts, JoJo gave the rookie his “welcome to the league” moment, and the pair have done some light trolling of each other on social media.
Embiid says “welcome to the f-cking league” to Mo Bamba pic.twitter.com/jdlTvI6Uji— Drew Corrigan (@Dcorrigan50) June 28, 2018
The two big men appear to have a good relationship though, as Bamba has made a point to state how much he admires Embiid’s game on a few occasions.
Mo Bamba is at the Sixers game. He’s in town to work out with Joel Embiid between games. He’s also getting some film sessions in with Jo this week. Told me Embiid is “giving me the cheat codes.”— Jawn Gonzalez (@_JohnGonz) April 14, 2018
Outside the paint, Simmons vs. Gordon could make for some intriguing basketball, a matchup pitting very large men who move with the athleticism and fluidity of smaller counterparts. Also, as great as it was to see Fultz out there hitting an elbow jumper, finding open teammates, and sending the ball out of play with a chase-down block, an actual willingness to attempt some threes would go a long way to assuaging lingering concerns around his game. As of this morning, we’re still unsure if Brett Brown will continue with the Fultz-as-starter experiment, or return to last year’s starting five with JJ Redick opening the game.
Preseason basketball against an NBA opponent is here. Kick your feet up, put something on ice to pop the Korkmaz, and follow allow in the comments as the Sixers look to move to 2-0 in their exhibition season.
Time: 7:00 pm EST
Location: The Wells Fargo Center (or, the Center, if you’re feeling particularly petty)
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBA TV
Follow along on Twitter: @Liberty_Ballers