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10 things to know about the Sixers and the NBA bubble before the Jazz and Pelicans tip off

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2020 NBA Restart - All Access Practice Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

No. 1: The Sixers have already clinched a playoff spot regardless of their performance in the seeding games.

They can not play themselves out of a playoff berth.

No. 2: The seeding games determine the Sixers’ first round match up but there is no home court advantage.

Well, technically there is home court advantage. It includes having the public address announcer wryly identify which player from the “away” team scored and plastering Zoom streams of “home team” fans in the background of free throws. But all games are played at a neutral site (within the Disney World/ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Florida).

Wins from the seeding games will be tacked on to teams’ records from before the COVID-19 shutdown. The Sixers currently sit at 6th place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 39-26 and if the playoffs started today they would take on the 3rd place Boston Celtics in the first round. The best the Sixers can finish is 47-26, the worst is 39-34.

No. 3: According to Jacob Goldstein (@JacobEGoldstein/WinsAdded.com), the Sixers have the 2nd easiest schedule in the bubble:

Sixers’ Schedule

Saturday, Aug. 1: @ Indiana Pacers, 7:00 pm ET

Monday, Aug. 3: vs. San Antonio Spurs, 8:00 pm ET

Wednesday, Aug. 5: @ Washington Wizards, 4:00 pm ET

Friday, Aug. 7: vs. Orlando Magic, 6:30 pm ET

Sunday, Aug. 9: @ Portland Trail Blazers, 6:30 pm ET

Tuesday, Aug. 11: vs. Phoenix Suns, 4:30 pm ET

Wednesday, Aug. 12: vs. Toronto Raptors, 6:30 pm ET

Friday, Aug. 14: @ Houston Rockets, TBD

Note: The Sixers have one back-to-back (Suns/Raptors).

No. 4: Brett Brown has publicly spoken about using Ben Simmons off-ball as a four/point forward and allowing Shake Milton to occasionally run the first team offense as a point guard.

From Tom West (7/13/20):

Early on when speaking to media at today’s Philadelphia 76ers practice, Brett Brown hinted at some of the things he’s been experimenting with. He mentioned some changes which he described as “high-level stuff,” such as using Ben Simmons more off the ball, rotations, and who’s going to be starting. It didn’t take long for a big takeaway to emerge as Brown and players continued to speak.

The Sixers have been using Shake Milton at point guard and Simmons at power forward during their practices in Orlando.

Brown has spoken about using Simmons more off the ball already, and he expressed again that it’s been on his mind a lot recently. “The last few days I’ve played [Simmons] exclusively as a 4 man,” Brown said. “He’s so dynamic.”

“To always have Ben have to have the ball and dribble it up against five guys after made baskets especially... to do that I think dilutes some of his potent weapons, speed. And so watching him fly up the floor, watching Joel [Embiid] and him play off each other, has been a really good look. I think that they’ve been fantastic together.”

When explaining how Simmons has responded to playing more off-ball, Brown said Simmons has done so, “like a star. Just a mature, ‘whatever it’s going to take to get this team to be the best that it can be’ [attitude], with the pieces that we have that can be, I don’t know, just designed into a smooth thing, something that’s not clunky. That is one of the pieces that he has to offer, and I think he’s been great accepting that and really killing it in practice.”

The talk of adjusted roles went a step further when Embiid said that Shake Milton has been playing as the Sixers’ starting point guard in practices.

“[Shake has] been amazing,” Embiid said when asked about how Milton has been performing in practice. “He’s been the starting point guard, and I think he has a huge opportunity to help us accomplish what we believe we can. He’s been doing an amazing job and he’s running the team and we’re going to need him to knock down shots, which he did, before the league got shut down. He was on a roll, so we’re going to need him to keep it going. But it’s great.”

No. 5: Shake Milton in means...

Al Horford out. In the Sixers first exhibition in Orlando (vs. Memphis Grizzlies, W 90-83), Horford moved to the bench to make room for Milton in the starting lineup. Horford went on to start in the next two exhibitions (@ Oklahoma City Thunder L 102-97, vs. Dallas Mavericks L-OT 118-115), but that was due to...

No. 5. Joel Embiid’s calf tightness

Embiid sat out of the Sixers’ last two exhibitions for precautionary reasons after experiencing tightness in his right calf during the scrimmage against the Grizzlies. Fortunately, Embiid partcipated in Sixers’ practices despite not playing in the games and is expected to play in the Sixers’ first seeding game:

No 6. Ben Simmons took two corner three-pointers in the Sixers’ first exhibition.

And they actually looked pretty good:

Simmons did not attempt a three in the next two games, but hey, he tried:

No. 7: The Sixers’ wing rotation will partially depend on who has the hot shooting hand.

(Given that Embiid did not play in the last two exjibitions, the following is based entirely on the Memphis Grizzlies scrimmage.)

Brett Brown’s starting line up seems to be: Shake Milton, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid. It wouldn’t be a total shock to see Horford make his way back in there at some point, but Shake Milton would have to struggle. So it’s safe to say Horford will be a part of the first group of substitutions, relieving Embiid.

Included in that first group is also Furkan Korkmaz, replacing Shake Milton and allowing Ben Simmons to move to point guard. That brings us to: Simmons, Korkmaz, Richardson, Harris, Horford.

The next group of subs brings Matisse Thybulle in for Richardson, Embiid back in for Harris, and Milton back in for Simmons. Milton, Korkmaz, Thybulle, Horford, Embiid to end the 1st.

When the 2nd quarter started, Brown threw out Milton, Richardson, Glenn Robinson III, Horford and Embiid. Robinson played a decent portion of the 2nd quarter (5:36 of 10 minute qtrs. in the exhibitions). For the remainder of the 1st half, Brown used personnel from the lineups above before inserting Alec Burks into the game with 2:40 left.

So, here are the locks for significant minutes, at least to begin bubble play: Milton, Richardson, Harris, Simmons, Embiid, Horford.

Korkmaz and Thybulle are likely to be the 7th and 8th guy, respectively. They’ve both got the minutes advantage over Glenn Robinson III for now, who seems to be 9th. But GRIII could get hot from 3PT and gain some leverage. Burks (10th) is the best ball handler of the four bench wings, which is why we can’t count him out as a member of the wing rotation.

No. 8: Six Sixers will wear social justice messages on their jerseys

From Sean Kennedy (7/30/20):

With seeding games set to begin tonight in the official resumption of the 2019-20 NBA season, the league released the full list of which social justice messages would be worn by which players. As players seek to keep focus on the Black Lives Matter movement and other social justice initiatives, the ability to select from a pre-negotiated list was one of the solutions the NBPA and NBA sought collectively. We learned earlier this month that Matisse Thybulle would be wearing “Vote” on his jersey; now, here’s the entire list from the Sixers roster, per NBA.com:

Philadelphia 76ers

Alec Burks | Enough
Furkan Korkmaz | Equality
Raul Neto | Equality
Kyle O’Quinn | Hear Us
Josh Richardson | Say Their Names
Matisse Thybulle | Vote

No. 9: The NBA bubble seeding games begin tonight, July 30th, as the Utah Jazz take on the New Orleans Pelicans at 6:30 pm ET on TNT.

Zion Williamson is expected to play.

No 10.: The Jazz-Pelicans game will be followed up by the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers at 9:00 pm ET on TNT.

LeBron James and Anthony Davis against Paul George and Kawhi Leonard.