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Five Overreactions: Embiid’s knee, Doc disappoints, Maxey-Mania, Minivan & Penguin, Ben Simmons optimism

NBA: Preseason-Brooklyn Nets at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Just a couple of games into the season and the Sixers are 1-1. Uncharacteristically, it was the road game they won and the home game they lost. But for much of that home loss, which came at the hands of the odds-on finals favorite Nets, the Sixers appeared in control of things. Reactions aren’t nearly as fun as overreactions. Here are five overreactions from Friday’s 114-109 defeat. I’ll give you two negative ones and three positive ones just in case you’re already contemplating a break from fanhood like Liberty Ballers’ Dan Volpone.

First the bad news...

5) Joel Embiid is already dealing with a bit of a knee issue

Calling this an “issue” is probably an overreaction. But we hoped to avoid anything like this one for at least another few weeks.

Coming into the season, one question we had was how Joel Embiid’s knee might look. Embiid opted not to have meniscus surgery this summer, (a signal that the issue was insignificant enough to heal on its own) and all reports were that he’d be a full-go for the season’s opener, which he was.

But he appears to have banged that knee in the win over New Orleans. He popped up on the injury report before the Sixers hosted the Nets. He wound up playing, albeit a bit limited.

Here was what The Process said following the loss:

“Yeah, it happened last game. I got kneed right into it so it’s been sore, extremely sore, but I think I’ll be fine.”

Embiid added “I want to keep playing as long as there is not any big damage on that.”

Embiid is going to miss a chunk of games this season. This Sixers are going to really struggle when he’s not available, more than they usually do, when at least Ben Simmons is around. Hopefully, the games Embiid misses are more for preventative reasons than reactionary ones. An ounce of prevention... and all of those cliches.

4) Doc Rivers disappoints

The normal reaction might go something like this: “Doc Rivers missed a couple of crucial chances to use a challenge last night. The missed opportunity may have cost his team the game.” But we’re looking for overreactions here. Let’s try to step it up a notch.

Doc Rivers has never liked the challenge rule. That tendency followed him to Philly and was a problem at times last season. It reared its head again Friday.

But worse than not challenging, after the game Rivers missed a golden opportunity to shoulder the responsibility for his mistake and set a clear example of accountability moving forwards. Instead, Rivers chose to shift blame on to his assistant?!

It has been said that a lack of accountability has been a problem for this team and its players over the years. And in both of the team’s last two losses, dating back to last season, of course, Rivers has deflected a bit of the blame away from himself in post-game scenarios. There was an entire off-season for Rivers to think about this exact topic. Two games into the year and buck-passing is apparently still a theme.

Now onto some much needed good news....

3) Tyrese Maxey is your huckleberry

Tyrese Maxey entered his sophomore year with some pretty lofty expectations. If Simmons isn’t expected to play in the early-going (more on that later) the team will need ball-handling to come from those with far less experience.

Rivers leaned on the 20 year old out of Kentucky. Maxey is already a fan favorite in Philadelphia and he’s answered the bell through two games. He’s averaging 17.5 points, 3.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds, and connected on 3-of-8 from downtown. The 6-2 combo guard is stepping up in the way a seasoned veteran might, without even being able to legally order a locally brewed HopDevil yet.

If you were sure Maxey would make a leap this season like our Tom West predicted, your bet is looking great so far:

2) Georges Niang & Andre Drummond are big upgrades over their former rotation doppelgängers

This isn’t an anti Mike Scott and Dwight Howard point. The latter deserved to make the top 75 greatest players of all time list. It’s a mistake on the part of the voters that the former Frosty-Freeze Out king didn’t make it. But man, Andre “Big Penguin” Drummond and Georges “Minivan” Niang look like they’re going to be a big lift over The Threegional Manager and Superman.

1) If this team ever eventually returns a healthy and motivated Ben Simmons to the lineup, they will be legitimate title contenders

Call me an eternal optimist, but Friday represented, at least theoretically, a very good day for the 76ers as an organization. It felt like there were signs of icy tensions thawing.

We have not been able to say that much lately. But Simmons, it was reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, met with his teammates and Team Brass and admitted not being mentally ready to hoop at this point. He is going to meet with medical professionals, and has no clear timetable for a potential return, per Woj. It can’t be an easy thing to talk about and big props to Simmons for doing just that Friday.

Yet Woj’s inclusion of this next tidbit below, has led to some very cynical interpretations of the latest on the Aussie-playmaker, at least on Twitter:

“The Sixers have been fining Simmons for missing games, practices and meetings — nearing $2 million this season — but there is a provision in the collective bargaining agreement that protects players’ salaries for failing to render services “if such failure has been caused by the player’s mental disability.”

My read here is not a cynical one. Since this reported meeting, the Sixers themselves have behaved anything but cynically. Indeed, Embiid addressed the crowd before the game per our Paul Hudrick, where Embiid had this to say:

“A lot has happened in the last few months,” Embiid said, “and I ask you guys to continue to support us and our teammate Ben [Simmons] because he is still our brother.”

After the game both Embiid and Tobias Harris showed more than a bit of support for Simmons. And the reaction from the Sixers’ two leaders here makes it seem as if there has been a genuine shift. Remember, just days ago, Embiid was reminding us all that he has not spoken with Simmons and that it’s not the team’s job to “babysit” anyone. The Process even added that he can be “too honest” at times.

If Embiid and Harris had even the faintest whiff that Simmons wasn’t genuine during their meeting, it’s impossible to imagine things having played out quite the way they have since.

My hunch is that Simmons revealed some rare vulnerability and his courage led to these patient and empathetic notes later struck by his teammates.

I have a hard time buying that Embiid could have left a meeting with Simmons feeling highly suspicious then turn around and ask his beloved fans to support his “brother.” Embiid is too real for a “play” like that if he didn’t believe in it. All summer long we have been decoding chess moves and plays and making poker analogies and for once I think this is all straight up.

Something happened. I’m not sure what. And it may not feel like it today, but it could (in theory) represent a best case scenario for the Sixers here.

Because from a basketball standpoint, the final score of the Nets game belies what became clear: the Sixers should have beaten the most talented team in the NBA. With their off-season upgrades, with the improved play of a few young guys, they might very well be one 6-10 Defensive Player of the Year candidate away from legit title contention in 2022. Patience is a virtue. If Embiid and Harris are asking for our patience and support regarding their teammate then they already have mine. Go Sixers.

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