Since the season started, Sixers fans have been apt to check social media for the latest team news. Injuries, COVID-19 safety measures, Ben Simmons gossip, and so on. There doesn’t seem to be an end to the Sixers’ presence in the NBA’s media coverage.
Despite all the noise and distractions, though, this team has been hot and enjoyable to watch. The Sixers’ 8-3 start has put them atop the Eastern Conference early into the season. They’re ranked fourth in NBA.com’s most recent power rankings. A lot of the team’s success can be credited to their mental toughness, and their “next man up” motto has been coming to fruition.
Georges Niang and Furkan Korkmaz, if they continue to put up their numbers and affect the game’s flow off the bench throughout the regular season, have solid cases for being Sixth Man of the Year. Seth Curry has been a lights-out shooter and the team’s closer, and he currently holds the crown for the NBA’s highest three-point percentage. Andre Drummond has been a machine on the glass as he secured 25 rebounds last night against the Knicks, making him the first Sixer to grab 25-plus rebounds in a game since Charles Barkley in 1987. Barring minutes played, Matisse Thybulle would undoubtedly be a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, yet even off the bench his defensive-minded play has earned him a spot on the NBA’s Second Team All-Defense.
With everyone stepping up on a nightly basis, the team has helped alleviate a lot of the offensive and defensive burdens off Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris (when they were available). However, with the team’s All-Star center and emotional leader now sidelined while in the league’s health and safety protocols, the Sixers had yet another obstacle to hurdle as their winning streak came to an end last night against the Knicks.
Another component to this Sixers team’s success has been its chemistry. This team’s chemistry has been visible on and off the court, and it’s infectious.
“Immaculate,” Tyrese Maxey told reporters of the vibes during Monday’s shootaround. “It’s just great. It’s so amazing. Everybody’s happy, everybody’s smiling, everybody’s bringing great energy no matter who’s out here. … Whoever’s missing, we’ve got to keep rolling and keep trying to go out there and compete.”
Georges Niang, who has quickly secured a spot in the hearts of Philly fans, has also commented on the team’s strong bond.
“I think the biggest thing with this team is we’re having fun playing alongside each other,” Niang said after last Wednesday’s win over the Bulls.
And that enjoyment has definitely showed in games with every man on the floor showing a willingness to pass. Along the same lines, “The Minivan” also has highlighted his own desire to celebrate his teammates’ successes and let them know that their greatness doesn’t go unnoticed.
With all that being said, as the hurdles continue to increase for this talented Sixers team, it will be interesting to see how they handle themselves as a group. The constant setbacks might take a toll on the team’s connectedness and morale, so it will be worth noting whether or not the team’s unity sustains itself over the course of the season.
With Embiid’s absence and an unknown timetable for his return, the team’s energy as well as their confidence are going to be put to the test, especially during the team’s upcoming road trip against tough teams like Milwaukee, Utah and Golden State.
Ariel Durant once said, “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.” So, with it seeming like negative news in the league always pertains to the Sixers (it really does feel that way), one of the threats to the team’s excellent start to the season is whether or not their collectiveness as one entity will falter.