After Tuesday night’s open scrimmage went full baseball and was rained out, Sixers fans will finally be able to see the 2018-19 roster on the court in tonight’s preseason opener against NBL squad, Melbourne United. The Australian club comes to Philadelphia with plenty of shared connections between the two sides. Sixers head coach Brett Brown was once an assistant with the Melbourne Tigers, the organization which later became Melbourne United. There, he coached Dave Simmons, father of Ben Simmons. Both Ben and current Sixers teammate Jonah Bolden were born in Melbourne.
In the present, a familiar face will be suiting up for Melbourne United, as Casper Ware is the team’s starting point guard. Ware was a Process-era Sixer, appearing in 9 games for Philadelphia during the 2013-14 season. Ware has found more success overseas, having made the All-Star team in the NBL each of the last two seasons. Former UConn forward Josh Boone will miss the game with a strained hamstring, but former St. John’s wing and Pennsylvania native D.J. Kennedy will take the floor in his first season playing with Melbourne. Any TBT aficionados might recognize Kennedy as a member of three-time champion Overseas Elite.
Of course, most Sixers fans probably care little about the team on the opposing sideline tonight, and more about how the team’s young stars look after an offseason spent honing their craft. GM Elton Brand recently said on The Lowe Post podcast that Markelle Fultz has been taking threes in 5-on-5 competition. Will we see visual evidence tonight? Simmons said he’s not going to suddenly start shooting threes, but has worked on expanding his mid-range game. How fluid will his jumper look? Joel Embiid should be able to use his freshly-honed bully ball mentality to great effect against an undersized non-NBA roster in Melbourne United. It wouldn’t be the first time he obliterated an Australian around the rim - Aron Baynes and his man bun, anyone?
Given it’s the preseason, we’ll also have an extended look at the back half of the roster. Can Furkan Korkmaz rekindle some of that Summer League fire? How does Landry Shamet look alongside NBA-level talent after his summer was cut dreadfully short by an ankle injury?
More than anything, it’s just great to have NBA basketball back, even in this modified fashion. I enjoy grainy offseason workout footage as much as the next fan, but there’s no substitute for official on-court action. So grab some Four N’ Twenty beef pies and settle in for the Sixers and Melbourne United tonight at 7:00pm.