After losing to the Celtics in the second round of the NBA playoffs last year after being up 3-2, many considered that to be the end and the final straw of The Process.
Harden was asked not to travel with the team and denied place access with the Sixers on their trip to Milwaukee for their season opener tonight against the Bucks in hopes of ramping up his activity and easing him into the start of the regular season on the right foot. The ten-time all-star called President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey “a liar” just over a month ago and has not been with the team for various reasons and it looks like he will start the season away from the team.
Certainly, Sixers fans are no strangers to drama. From multiple top draft picks ultimately being busts, to previous owner Brian Colangelo creating a burner to justify his decisions, to ungodly trades that have not sent the team back, the fans in the city of brotherly love just want consistency from this team, but will they get it under first-year Head Coach Nick Nurse?
Despite the Harden antics, Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey, and Tobias Harris, the three other key pieces are slated to have heavy roles in Nurse’s offense. The reigning MVP Embiid disagreed with claims that other Eastern conference teams had leaped past them in free agency asking, “Who said they surpassed us, we just got to go out there and compete.”
Those eastern conference teams include the Bucks and the Boston Celtics, who added Kristaps Porzingus and former Sixer Jrue Holiday while the Bucks added Damien Lillard, a perennial scorer to match up with future HOF Giannis Antetakoumpo. With these additions, it is being predicted that the Sixers’ win total will drop and another second-round exit is looming in South Philadelphia.
New additions from the Sixers include Kelly Oubre Jr., Patrick Beverly, and Mo Bamba, who obviously don’t carry as much weight as the other additions but could provide a spark both offensively and defensively to give the Sixers a great chance to still be a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
With Nurse now at the helm, I believe you will see a sense of urgency to distribute the ball around to all players and limit Embiid’s isolation plays to give him the ability to share the ball and become an even better defender.
The current win total is set a 46.5 for the 76ers and I expect the number to total right around the prediction when the season ends. The new regime will take a few weeks, maybe even months to grow and form into this team’s identity but I believe the Sixers will find their footing and continue to be competitive with anyone in the league. It will be interesting to see how Nurse attacks Giannis and the Bucks tonight as Nurse did defeat the Bucks in six games on his way to winning the 2019 NBA Finals with Toronto.
As for Harden, it is believed he will be ready to go around 3-4 games in, though it hasn’t been known his demeanor and the attitude of Harden will affect the rest of the team. Doc Rivers last night on the TNT broadcast mentioned another big step coming from now-fourth-year guard Tyrese Maxey. I believe Nurse will put the team in his hands to lead as Harden prepares to come back.
One thing remains for sure, if Sixers fans are subjected to another second-round loss in May, the impatience may overcome the will to win and it might be time to start the original process all over again. The Sixers play the Bucks tonight in Milwaukee for their season opener and another game in Toronto on Saturday for a Nick Nurse homecoming. They will play the Trail Blazers on Sunday in South Philadelphia for their home opener against Portland.
After all the brutality of the last few sports seasons from Philly fans, another collapse will push this fanbase into a deep state of sadness. The second round is guaranteed with these teams with the talent level and coaching, but will they finally be able to get over the hump and reach a greater distance… We certainly shall see.