The effects of COVID-19 are being felt by everyone around the world, whether you’re a basketball fan or not. With everyone stuck inside during the quarantine with no games being played I thought it would be a good idea to get the opinions of several of the talented writers here at Liberty Ballers on the past, present, and future of the Philadelphia 76ers. This roundtable focuses mainly on the Sixers as they stand right now, but look out for future editions centered around both the past and the future of our favorite basketball team.
What was your favorite Sixers game to watch this season?
Daniel Olinger: December 12, 2019: Joel Embiid, after being challenged by Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal on live TV, goes off for 38 points in a dominating win in Boston. I have a lot of problems with the idea that teams just need to force feed big guys in the post in order to succeed, but this is one of the few games where it succeeded. Enes Kanter and Daniel Theis (who admittedly has been awesome this year) were no match for Embiid, as he backed them down time and time again and just willed the Sixers to the rare road win. At this point, the team looked like a true title contender, and I was all in up to that point.
Adio Royster: My pick is Sixers vs Clippers from February 11th. The Sixers had lost four in a row (all on the road), but they rebounded to beat Memphis and Chicago at home before hosting the Clippers on the 11th on ABC. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid both had 26 points. Simmons had a triple-double, and Josh Richardson added 21. Kawhi Leonard scored 30, but the Sixers held Paul George to 11 points. It was a nice, feel good win to show everyone that this team is still a player in the championship picture.
Dan Volpone: Christmas. Not just because I was able to convince myself this team was great, but also because Bucks Twitter went full poopy diaper after the game, hurling offensive insults at the entire city of Philadelphia on Christmas. It was pretty funny honestly.
Sean Kennedy: The Furkan Korkmaz game-winner over Portland was such a surreal experience. The Sixers trailed the Blazers by 21 points in the third quarter of that game, and I was seriously questioning the life choices that had led me to having to go to work on about five hours sleep because I was staying up to watch a blowout late-night West Coast road game. Then, the Sixers stormed back, and magic happened from the right corner with 0.4 seconds left. Philadelphia remained undefeated, the team’s road woes weren’t yet a thing, and it was one of those magical sports moments that make all the other late-night blowouts worthwhile.
Tom West: The Sixers’ 117-111 win at Brooklyn on January 20. The game had a great atmosphere and Philly kept fighting without Embiid, ultimately executing a comeback after going down by double digits several times. Al Horford played well and Matisse Thybulle had one of the finest defensive performances of his young career. But it was Ben Simmons who stole the show. At the time, I wrote that it was the best game of his career. He carried the Sixers with absolutely brilliant defense and a monster line of 34 points (tying his career-high) on 12-of-14 shooting, 12 rebounds, 12 assists to just 3 turnovers, 5 steals, and 2 blocks. He even went 10-of-14 from the free throw line. It was a fun game, a rare road win, and showed off Simmons at the height of his two-way powers during his best stretch of basketball yet.
Should the season resume, would you like to see the league go straight to the playoffs or attempt to finish the regular season?
Daniel Olinger: From most things I’ve read, the general idea is that the NBA will have each team play five more regular season games in order to get back in game-shape and shake off the rust. From there, I’d like to see them do a 30-team tournament in order to give incentive to the lesser teams. Perhaps you give the top seven teams in each conference a first round bye, and have the bottom eight do a single elimination tournament for the eight seed. After that, the first two rounds could be best of five, and the last two could go back to the normal best of seven. That’s my best idea at least.
Steve Lipman: Straight into the playoffs. I honestly think most likely is the season being cancelled outright. But I think the league will/should try to keep next season on schedule, and in order to do that it would probably mean going right into the playoffs with an abridged first round (and maybe second, too). And that may mean playoff games with 0 fans. It’s all very surreal. But from a Sixers perspective, I think we’ve seen enough, and it’s time to see if their ceiling is reachable when it matters most.
Emily Anderson: I think they need to do some kind of small end to the regular season, to let the guys get back into a rhythm, but not push the playoffs back too far. Otherwise, we’re going to see next season get pushed back, and basketball will become more of a spring sport than a winter one. I don’t know about you, but I like to be inside and watching basketball games in the winter. As for what the end of the regular season looks like, I’m not sure how they pick which games are played. That’s why they pay Adam Silver the big bucks.
David Early: If it somehow happens, I’d rather they get some warm up regular season games under the belts before the tournament. Assuming Ben Simmons has recovered from his back injury by this point and can suit up, he might need some extra time to get right. And I’d feel better about Joel Embiid’s conditioning if he had a couple of weeks to ramp up activity before the games really matter as well.
With all of the Sixers struggles so far in the regular season do you still feel like they are built for the playoffs?
Dan Volpone: No. I’m not sure I ever really bought that to begin with. Other than having a horrible bench that would play less, I’m not sure what gets better in the playoffs. The starters still don’t all fit. Elton Brand pretty clearly based the construction of the team off of the same series Uncut Gems was based on — 2012 vs. Boston, when the Sixers probably would have won if they didn’t get out-rebounded by 20 every night. Unfortunately, the game has changed quite a bit since then, and you need to break 100 to win games.
Tyler Monahan: Call me naive all you want, I still feel like if given the chance the Sixers would look at least a bit better in the playoffs than they have so far in the regular season. I think the slower pace would give the Sixers an advantage and a healthy Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid surrounded by better role players would be nice to see. This could also be the first signs of me having Stockholm Syndrome, who knows.
Harrison Grimm: I do feel like this team would perform better in a 7-game series compared to the regular season. The Sixers are a team with great size and I do feel like that could play a factor against a team facing off against them. Health willing, I think the Sixers are a dangerous team in postseason play. That being said, I don’t think Al Horford is (or will ever be) the answer to the Sixers taking the next step. I think the current constructed roster could have limited postseason success. You can never count out a fully healthy Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid.
Which Sixer has impressed you most this season?
Daniel Olinger: Ben Simmons — his extreme commitment on the defensive end of the floor has turned him into a legit DPOY candidate, and I’ve grown fond of his downhill, going 100-miles-per-hour style on offense. He went from a guy who maybe shouldn’t have been an All-Star last year to someone that got robbed of an All-Star starting spot this year.
Adio Royster: POP THE GEE DEE KORKMAZ! Furkan Korkmaz saw an increase in minutes (over 20), and he responded to Brett Brown’s faith in him by averaging close to 10 points per game shooting damn near 40 percent from three (39.7 percent). Brown “grew a bombah” with Korkmaz, and I hope it translates to next season.
Emily Anderson: I think the young guys, Matisse and Shake. I don’t watch a ton of college basketball so I never really have fully formed expectations for young players as they come onto the roster. I’ve been impressed with how they’ve both stepped up into starting roles with injuries and haven’t shied away from big moments.
Tom West: Shake Milton. Admittedly, I wasn’t too high on him before the season, but he proved himself as a genuinely good rotation guard as the year progressed and he received more minutes. From his confident, quick-trigger three-point shooting to his consistent poise and sharp decision-making, he had a really impressive breakout season.
With everyone in quarantine, how are you staying busy?
Daniel Olinger: I’ve been writing a lot of NBA draft profiles in order to provide content for our readers, which also means I’ve been watching a ton of college basketball game film. Besides that, I like to go on a run for about an hour every day, I’m doing some filing work at home for my Dad’s business in order to make some money, and next week Northwestern’s spring quarter online classes start, so I’ll be doing that.
Adio Royster: Lots of Netflix. Lots of Hulu. Working my non-basketball job. I recently started watching the complete series of “Scrubs”, and I have to say that I definitely missed out on something in the early 2000s. I love this show. I have a whole new respect for John C. McGinley, who plays “Dr. Perry Cox”. I’m pretty sure he’s my new spirit animal. The show I was going to choose was this or “The Office”, but I tried watching that before. It didn’t take. I didn’t really find it that funny after two seasons.
Steve Lipman: Watching lots of movies and shows with my girlfriend (big shoutout Gabrielle). Obviously we devoured Tiger King. Others like In Bruges, Guava Island, Queen and Slim were all excellent. Also she’s introduced me to real housewives of New York. I’m a novice but I have some takes. Dorinda’s slurred speech when she drinks is really funny, Ramona seems super mean spirited, I miss Carol, Luann’s ex husband is gross, Bethaney is my favorite.
Tyler Monahan: I’m in the middle of reading Tanking to the Top: The Philadelphia 76ers and the Most Audacious Process in the History of Professional Sports by Yaron Weitzman and can’t put it down. It’s an awesome read with a lot of inside details on one of the weirdest spans in Philadelphia sports. Our own Steve Lipman interviewed Weitzman about the book, you can read that interview here. Besides that I’ve picked up sudoku because I guess I’ve become an old man during quarantine. It’s a lot more fun than you’d think.
Dan Volpone: I am studying for the MCAT exam.
Emily Anderson: I’ve been trying to read more, and have been watching a lot of sports documentaries for another project I’m working on. I’ve also become quite the jigsaw puzzle master - if anyone wants to set up a contact-less puzzle swap, let me know!
Sean Kennedy: I’m fortunate enough to have two jobs which both allow me to work remotely, so I’m still staying plenty busy, but I’ve caught up on Better Call Saul and am halfway through a Breaking Bad rewatch. S’all good, man.
Harrison Grimm: I’m very excited to tell you all that I’ve enrolled in Zoom University for the rest of the semester. The whole appeal and feel of Zoom was too much to turn down. Sarcasm aside, I’ve been doing college courses online which takes up a good amount of time. When I’m not doing school work you can catch me writing about something or gaming on Xbox. Some of my personal game choices: Monopoly (I’m serious it’s so much fun), CoD Warzone, Rainbow Six Siege, and NBA 2K.
David Early: Lots of reading (lately some Wendell Berry, Wim Hoff, and Jack London) and watching shows (lately Ozarks and The Wire). Some at home workouts and I put a lot of minutes on my Headspace app. Cooking and playing some piano. And I tried my hand at water colors.
Tom West: I’m fortunate to still be working my usual full-time job from home, so that’s keeping me busy. But with all my other extra spare time, I’ve also started digging into college games to study prospects for this year’s draft. I’m getting back into more regular guitar practice, reading a lot (I just finished Stephen King’s “End of Watch” and now I’m reading “Tanking to the Top” by Yaron Weitzman as well, which is a fantastic book), and watching plenty of TV shows like everyone else — The Mandalorian is next on my list now that we finally have Disney+ in the UK.
Be on the lookout for new roundtables in the next few weeks about the past and future of the Sixers and an update on what we’re all doing during quarantine. Stay safe, stay healthy, stay indoors, and please wash your hands. Help each other in the comments with ideas to pass the time during quarantine. We’re one big community and we’re in this together.