Is the NBA season suspension a blessing in disguise for the Philadelphia 76ers? Regrouping and getting healthy may be the best thing for the team long-run.
First and foremost, to those affected by COVID-19, I wish you a healthy and speedy recovery. And secondly, a round of applause for the Philadelphia 76ers, Flyers, and the other teams around the leagues for compensating their hourly/game staff for postponed games.
“As you know, we have temporarily suspended our season in response to the coronavirus pandemic. We made this decision to safeguard the health and well-being of fans, players, everyone connected to our game and the general public. This hiatus will last at least 30 days and we intend to resume the season, if and when it becomes safe for all concerned.”
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Regardless of whether or not the hiatus will extend past the 30-day period, the NBA will return when playoffs would be scheduled to start. During an interview with TNT on Thursday, Adam Silver said; “Even if we’re out for a month, even if we’re out for six weeks, we can still restart the season. It might mean the Finals take place in July or late July…”
So, what does this mean for the Sixers?
Currently, the 76ers are in sixth place with a record of 39-26; 7.5 games back from the second-seeded Toronto Raptors. Considering the remaining schedule and the team’s road record, the chances of earning a top-seed are slim. If playoffs started today, the 76ers would face the third-seed Boston Celtics; a favorable 3-1 series for Philadelphia. Or in a different scenario, the 76ers can face a daunting Miami Heat team, or a similar Indiana Pacers team given the Sixers winning percentage on the road.
According to VegasInsider, the 76ers are 40/1 odds to win the 2019-2020 NBA Championship. After this roller coaster of a season, it’s obvious as to why the odds are not in their favor, but that doesn’t mean the team is out of the championship picture.
LeBron James once said; “Playoff sweat is different than regular season sweat.” If last year’s playoff run is of any indication, the 76ers are capable of winning the East and the NBA Finals. Granted, they had Jimmy Butler and J.J. Redick last season, but if the team can gel together, find their shooters, and stay healthy, the City of Brotherly Love may be partying on Broad Street sometime this year.
Thus, leading to why the NBA hiatus is a blessing in disguise for this team…
Per The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Ben Simmons is progressing in rehab for his lower back nerve impingement and will be re-evaluated in three weeks. Joel Embiid (shoulder), returned for one game prior to the NBA suspension. If the 76ers are to have any chance in playoffs, it’ll be because of their two stars. Given the league’s open-ended hiatus, Simmons may be back to full strength before the NBA is set to return. And knowing the 76ers’ history of allowing players to return when they’re not close to being healthy, the hiatus should be beneficial for Embiid if he still has impending shoulder issues to rest before playoffs.
And on another note, let’s also hope that Brett Brown is using this time to re-evaluate the team’s playbook.
In the absence of Simmons, Embiid, and Josh Richardson, several players rose to the occasion to prove that they can benefit the 76ers in the long-run. Shake Milton stepped up as a viable point guard in the absence of Simmons, and Brown has made it clear that Milton will still have a significant role once Simmons returns. Tobias Harris was also asked to carry more of the load with Embiid, Simmons, and Richardson sidelined and vindicated his five-year, $180 million max contract. And fans saw a pulse from Al Horford for the first time in months during the sprawl of games in California.
All of which are important pieces moving forward, in the (hopefully) modified playbook of Coach Brown.
The NBA hiatus, to quote Commissioner Silver, is a restart to the NBA season. And as 76ers’ fans, let’s hope that it can also be a restart to the undertaking of what we’ve seen so far.
The Sixers have seventeen games left on the regular-season schedule when it eventually starts back up, ten of which are at home. If the Sixers are saying they have the answers, it’s time to prove it. Use the hiatus to regroup, refocus, and get healthy. The team is 0-0 at the return of the season, and now is a better time than ever to prove we’re an NBA championship-caliber team.
If the 76ers can realistically close out the remainder of the season 14-3, we’ll head into playoffs being the team that everyone fears come spring, or in this case – summer.
So, in an odd way, the NBA hiatus may actually help to save the 76ers’ season. We can only hope this will recharge the batteries of the Sixers, and get us on the right track for playoffs.
As we cross off our calendars and inch closer to the return, I’ll leave you with this Philadelphia 76ers fans – to quote Adam Sandler’s character, Sonny Koufax, in Big Daddy, “Rumpelstiltskin’s a good man. So are you guys. Hey, stay clean, stay focused, stay strong.”
We’ll see you again soon at Well’s Fargo Center.