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Embiid vs. Jokic, Simmons showcases, other highlights from Sixers’ 2021-22 schedule

Denver Nuggets v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

With uncertainty surrounding one of the team’s All-Stars and still a few questions to answer on the back of the roster, we at least know the Sixers’ schedule for the 2021-22 season.

As the NBA goes back to its traditional 82-game season, the Sixers will open the year on Oct. 20 at Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans. The home opener will be a nationally televised game on Oct. 22 vs. Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, and the Brooklyn Nets.

Before that, they’ll play four preseason games:

The Sixers will not play on Christmas Day this season — which you might take as a sign of disrespect or you might breathe a sigh of relief knowing you can just enjoy the day.

Here are a few observations from this season’s schedule:

Intriguing matchups

Embiid vs. Jokic

Nov. 18, at Denver (NBATV); March 14, vs. Nuggets (ESPN)

We were deprived of the matchup of the two best big men in the NBA last season. MVP Nikola Jokic and MVP runner-up Joel Embiid didn’t square off in 2020-21. As we know, Embiid tends to relish these matchups. How will he go into this one having finished behind Jokic in the MVP race? Both games will be must-watch TV.

Always fun to play the Lakers

Jan. 27 vs. Lakers (TNT); March 23, at L.A. (ESPN)

There are so many reasons to enjoy this matchup. The obvious is playing against arguably the greatest player to ever walk the Earth in LeBron James. There’s also the great history each franchise shares. Plus, the Lakers are always a good barometer for where the Sixers are. When both teams were at (relatively) full strength last season, their matchup in late January was one of the more fun games of the season. It also had people starting to believe the Sixers could be for real.

The star-studded Nets

Oct. 22 vs. Nets (ESPN); Dec. 16 at Brooklyn (NBATV); Dec. 30 at Brooklyn (NBATV); March 10 vs. Nets (TNT)

The Sixers never saw Kevin Durant last season. They saw James Harden in one matchup and Kyrie Irving in another matchup. With the schedule not as condensed, there’s a good chance at least one of these matchups presents us with both teams at their best. Many thought the Sixers and Nets were on a collision course to meet in the Eastern Conference Finals. While neither team made that happen, Brooklyn will undoubtedly be near the top of the conference again this season.

The defending champs

Nov. 9 vs. Bucks (TNT); Feb. 17 at Milwaukee (TNT); March 29 vs. Bucks

The Bucks were the team that many counted out, but credit to two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and Milwaukee for bringing home the Larry O’Brien trophy. While these matchups would’ve had tons of intrigue without the Bucks winning the title, it only adds to it. Milwaukee and Philly have sort of had a dueling development to East contenders. Milwaukee is now clearly ahead. Side note — it’s always wonderful to see former Sixer Jrue Holiday.

Ben Simmons showcase games?

Dame time?

Nov. 1 vs. Trail Blazers; Nov. 20 at Portland

It should work out to both team’s benefit that they get these games out of the way ahead of the trade deadline! We’ll see if we can spot Daryl Morey and Neil Olshey chopping it up.

What can the T-Wolves offer?

Nov. 27 vs. Timberwolves; Feb. 25 at Minnesota

No, seriously. What can the Timberwolves offer the Sixers that’s remotely appealing?

Does Pop want Ben?

Jan. 7 vs. Spurs; Jan. 23 at San Antonio

The Spurs are intriguing for a couple different reasons:

1. I’m so curious to see how Simmons would develop under Gregg Popovich and his staff.

2. Of the rumored teams to have interest in Simmons, they might be able to offer the best package.

Dejounte Murray is an excellent defender and does have offensive upside at 25 years old. Keldon Johnson got a late nod to Team USA after playing on the select team. Johnson is just 21 and has intriguing shot-creation skills. Reading, Pennsylvania native Lonnie Walker IV is a pure scorer at 22. All those players are worth keeping an eye on — even though it may not be enough for Simmons.

Where will the Warriors be?

Nov. 24 at Golden State; Dec. 11 vs. Warriors

Golden State is believed to have had interest from the beginning of the offseason. If the Warriors’ interest remains, a lot will depend on where they are in the standings and what they can offer. They have intriguing young pieces — James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody — but nothing that likely makes the Sixers better now.

Will the Kings move Fox or Haliburton?

Nov. 22 at Sacramento; Jan. 29 vs. Kings

You can understand why the Kings would want Simmons. You can also understand why Morey would almost need to get De’Aaron Fox in return to make it happen. This one sort of feels like a stalemate, though things can change as the season progresses. Which side could potentially get desperate first?

Revenge games?

Butler, Lowry homecoming

Dec. 15 vs. Heat; Jan. 15 at Miami; March 5 at Miami; March 21 vs. Heat

You could throw this in the intriguing matchup category as well, but it’s more fun to think of it in a revenge game capacity. Jimmy Butler’s weird departure didn’t seem to sit well with him … or a lot of people in Philadelphia. There were rumors that Philly native Kyle Lowry could become a Sixers at last year’s trade deadline, which obviously did not happen. I already know the reception Butler will get. I’m curious how the fans greet Lowry.

Big Al and J-Rich return

Dec. 1 at Boston; Dec. 20 at Boston; Jan. 14 vs. Celtics; Feb. 15 vs. Celtics

Al Horford and Josh Richardson’s tenures in Philadelphia did not go well. I imagine both players will be booed lustily. Honestly, I feel slightly bad for both guys. Neither was put into a position to succeed here. At the same time, that was one of the most frustrating seasons in recent memory, and both players being ill-fitting were a big part of that.

Dwight vs. Drummond

See above dates vs. Lakers

C’mon, you can’t tell me you’re not looking forward to this matchup! Veteran backup centers that used to be All-Stars that have earned the scorn of their former teams? Dwight Howard vs. Andre Drummond? Sign me up!

Haunted by Maxey

Nov. 11 vs. Raptors; Dec. 28 at Toronto; March 20 vs. Raptors; April 7 at Toronto

Speaking of the rumored Lowry trade, Masai Ujiri didn’t think Tyrese Maxey was enough in a deal?! Well, have fun when dude drops a bunch of floaters on your bigs’ heads. (Disclaimer: We don’t actually know if Maxey was offered and if Ujiri rejected that offer, but let’s not spoil the fun.)

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