James Harden is no longer a Philadelphia 76er, so we here at Liberty Ballers can finally move back from being a TMZ-adjacent drama blog to covering a professional basketball team. Philadelphia’s first game post-Harden comes tonight at home against the Toronto Raptors, who the Sixers defeated in Toronto on Saturday, 114-107. I’m sure new Sixers head coach Nick Nurse wasn’t expecting to face his old club in 50 percent of games, but here we are. The Raptors are now 2-3 on the season, following last night’s surprising 130-111 win over the Milwaukee Bucks in Toronto.
As for the Sixers, it’s unclear when we might see new arrivals Robert Covington, Nic Batum, Marcus Morris Sr., and KJ Martin in action. Initially, Nick Nurse said yesterday that tonight’s game was likely a little too soon for any of the new players to take the floor. None of the four former Clippers participated in yesterday’s practice. However, Batum was then the only one listed as Out on the injury report, so the other three players may be available.
Nic Batum (personal reasons) and the two-way guys are out for the Sixers in tomorrow’s game vs the Raptors.— Austin Krell (@NBAKrell) November 1, 2023
Joel Embiid is not listed, nor are new acquisitions Robert Covington, Marcus Morris Sr, and KJ Martin.
Meanwhile, with PJ Tucker now a Clipper, a spot in the starting lineup has opened up. Nurse said that Kelly Oubre Jr. will get the start tonight, but he has liked what Oubre has brought to the bench unit, so he will continue to re-evaluate the team’s options. Oubre was excellent across the team’s first three games, averaging 19 points on 50.0 percent shooting in 29.3 minutes per game. We’ll keep an eye on how Oubre continues to gel with the starting group with more time on the floor with them.
Elsewhere, the developing chemistry within the two-man game of Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey is the story. Now the team’s PG1 for good with The Beard in California, Maxey has exploded out of the gates with 30.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game, earning him Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors. Tyrese and Joel have looked to be finding their way more and more in their on-court partnership, particularly across the last two games when Embiid scored 34 and 35 points. With the Harden saga officially behind us, this Sixers franchise is going to fly as high as these two players can propel them, and the early returns this season have been excellent.
The Sixers are at home, objectively have the superior roster, and have the rest advantage against a Raptors group that played last night. Although the Sixers may be missing some or all of the Clippers guys from the trade, they’d only be missing PJ Tucker from the rotation that dispatched these Raptors in Toronto less than a week ago. Tune in and see if Philadelphia can keep the positive vibes flowing as they look to move to 3-1 on this young season.