Sixteen straight wins, fifty-two in total. The story of the Philadelphia 76ers and their rise from the ashes of traded players such as Michael Carter-Williams has been absolutely incredible. A new chapter is about to open for the City of Philadelphia, with the Sixers set to make their first playoff berth since the 2011-2012 campaign. There’s no questioning the team is red-hot…but it’s easy to look at the stars of the show and credit them for the scintillating success.
Basketball is very much like a Swan. What you see on Television is a beautiful, grazing bird just sitting effortlessly on the water. Beneath the surface is a thunderous herd of legs driving to keep that Bird looking so elegant. This is something that Five-time NBA champion and 18x NBA All-Star, Kobe Bryant understands and what he aims to bring to the table with his brand new show ‘Detail’ which debuts on ESPN tomorrow. The new series will take a deep tape-study into NBA playoff games to help fans understand what players look for on the mornings after a game.
It should come as no shock then that when asked about the Sixers on a conference call to discuss this very topic, Kobe immediately brought up the unlikeliest of candidates, Italian marksman, Marco Belinelli.
Since joining the Sixers, his impact off the bench has been astounding. Prior to his arrival, the team often struggled to find a rhythm when their starters were rested. Belinelli’s experience in the league and his deadly decision-making that makes shooting from range so effortless due to shot selection, has really helped lift the second line. In fact, after games of 22 points and 19 points, the former first-round pick is averaging 12.1 points per game this season, shooting 44% from the field and 37.8% from beyond the arc. While his emergence has raised the eyebrows of many, Kobe Bryant was not one of them.
“I’m not surprised at all.” Bryant said during the conference call. “Marco has all the skills and he’s a thinker. He knows how to move off the ball and move screens. That’s what they need. You have Embiid who commands double teams wherever he is on the floor, you have Simmons who applies pressure and pain on defenses. From that perspective you need players who can move off the ball, who can understand where the backdoor is and can come off the screen and catch-and-shoot.”
Riding a streak of 13 consecutive games in which he has scored double-digit points, Belinelli has been a huge reason behind the team’s recent success. Another, of course is rookie sensation, Ben Simmons. While Twitter is ripe with debate over who should win rookie of the year, there is no arguing over how excellent Simmons really is.
After a ridiculous 27-point, 15-rebound and 13-assist outing against his mentor LeBron James, Simmons very much ended the ‘Rookie of the Year’ debate for many. Recording his 12th triple-double of the year, no player has ever averaged the totals that Simmons has through a winning streak of ten games or more. That streak as we know, now stands at 15. Kobe spoke glowingly of Simmons, the ferocity and just how high his ceiling really is.
“I think Ben plays with a really great tempo. I think the time he’s had to watch the game has helped slow it down for him. He’s had a chance to watch the NBA game and pick it apart so now that he’s playing, the game is in slow motion for him, which is different from most rookies.” Kobe explained. “His size gives him a clear advantage and his speed, but he also knows how to use it. His traits, weaknesses and does a great job getting there. His development will come in shooting. At some point he’s got to shoot that ball. Jason Kidd when he came into the league wasn’t a great shooter but he worked to the point he became one of the best three-point shooters in league history. Even without that, he’s been able to dominate and take the City of Philadelphia to a place where it hasn’t been in a very, very long time.”
A die-hard Eagles fan who visited the team amidst their remarkable underdog playoff campaign, Kobe Bryant didn’t exactly rule out the possibility of some playoff noise either, exuding nothing but respect for a City that has long been dragged through the dirt, only now to flourish in a completely new light.
“I’m really, really happy for the city of Philadelphia. It’s been an amazing year for sports in Philly, from the Eagles to Villanova. I’m really excited for the city.”
Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports