The Sixers answered any and all questions that have hung over their proverbial heads the past few years. They currently have less games to be played in the regular season ahead of them than they have played overall.
Now is the time to prepare for the postseason.
The 76ers have the tools, personnel and, more importantly, the understanding of what it takes to win games. Anything less than a berth into the conference finals would be unacceptable. The reigning MVP, Joel Embiid, who could easily find himself as a back-to-back winner of the prestigious award, would echo a similar sentiment.
Every team wants to win a championship, and few have felt the sting and pain of continued letdowns and postseason defeat more than Embiid, Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris, Paul Reed, and Robert Covington. These men have endured parts or all of the process, playoff futility, and unparalleled success during the 82-game regular season, only to be bounced out of contention prematurely by the likes of Boston, Toronto, Atlanta and Miami.
That was then, this is now. Brett Brown is an assistant with San Antonio, and Doc Rivers has stealthy taken the reigns in Milwaukee. Meanwhile Nick Nurse has Philadelphia playing a brand of basketball that encompasses teamwork and defense. The roster is all in on Coach Nurse and his style. One look at a game or the win-loss column and it is easy to see how well the new philosophy has resonated with the team, staff and front office.
One subtle, yet very important change is the barbershop within the practice facility. Master Barber Kenny Duncan is one of the best in the business, and he has a chair with all the amenities, directly outside the practice court. He is there all day on Tuesdays and he has helped everyone maximize their time and productivity. More specifically, Duncan cuts by appointment for Daryl Morey, Nurse, Blue Coats GM Jameer Nelson, Embiid, Danuel House Jr., KJ Martin, De’Anthony Melton, Furkan Korkmaz, Mo Bamba, Kenneth Lofton Jr., Head Strength and Conditioning coach Ben Kenyon, and several others.
Anyone on the team can work out, get treatment, get a haircut, and have a meal without leaving the building. Philadelphia has been doing the little things correctly both on and off the court. This has helped to build a winning mentality throughout the franchise. Things have changed quickly from year-to-year for the 76ers and while they have lacked continuity season in and season out, Nurse has remarkably instilled good habits, accountability, and has established a culture of camaraderie.
The best thing the 76ers can do is continue to prepare, win the matchups against lesser teams, and remain as healthy as possible. They will need to start jockeying for playoff seeding after the All-Star break, however they are playing very well. They currently have a 29-13 record, and things are looking very good for a team that has shown steady improvement from week to week.
Philadelphia is third in the conference behind Milwaukee and Boston. They will be on the road for the next five games at Indiana, Denver, Portland, Golden State and Utah before returning home to host Brooklyn on Saturday, Feb. 3.
The preparation to get over the second-round hump starts now.