Okay, as of July 11th, 2019, it is time for the Brooklyn Nets, the Boston Celtics, the Indiana Pacers, the Toronto Raptors, and the Milwaukee Bucks to circle every date that they play the Philadelphia 76ers. On this day, James Ennis III discussed why he chose to sign back with the Sixers.
“The East is going to be wide open. We had a good chance last year. Kawhi is gone. He went to the West. So we are going to walk to the Finals in the East.”– James Ennis, while talking to the Philadelphia Inquirer
That’s right, don’t even bother, we’re walking right into the championship series. Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Myles Turner, Marc Gasol, and Giannis Antetokounmpo are going to their respective team’s bulletin board and putting this quote up there. We’re hardly out of the shallow end of the National Basketball Association Summer League and Philadelphia is already on the clock.
The faith that James Ennis III has in this team is thick. Personally, I love it. I am also wary of all the consequence that comes with making such a bold statement. Breaking down what Ennis said, however, he didn’t say that the Philadelphia 76ers were a “dream team.” The team will be quite good this season and, in all fairness, Ennis nailed it when he mentioned the Sixers having a good chance last year.
All that is currently missing is a good shooter to fill in what JJ Redick did last season. However, “walk to the Finals in the East,” is the part that makes this quote pop. The same teams that Philadelphia would have potentially faced throughout the playoffs last season are going to be good this upcoming season.
The Brooklyn Nets are improved, the Milwaukee Bucks alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to be a strong team for years, and the Toronto Raptors really only lost Kawhi Leonard. The bag is by no means yet secured.
It is understandable why so many people would be reluctant to buy in to the claims from James Ennis III. Outside of the Philadelphia 76ers arguably, but not clearly, being the best team in the East, a lot of people want to hear this kind of confidence from a star player or a player who already brings that tenacity and audacity to the table.
For example, if Joel Embiid said this or even Mike Scott, I think that more Sixers fans would look at this quote as a passing glance. It still would generate buzz, but it wouldn’t be analyzed as intensely. This would be more of a one-off because we could say that Embiid is just a “wild character” or refer to Scott’s quote of “I ain’t no b*tch.” I do love the confidence of the role players. Ennis getting in the action, in my opinion, is good for the entire roster. The bench needs to pop all season because they proved the last post-season that they are vital to the success of Philadelphia.
There is no doubt that this comment, in the reality that is the drama of the NBA, has painted a target on the back of the Philadelphia 76ers. In fact, I think the joke is on those other teams because the Sixers enjoy that bright target. Joel Embiid called himself “the most unstoppable player in the league” last season. In the post-season, he wasn’t invincible. He is an ultra-talented player for sure, but that comment caught up with him. Even Embiid couldn’t escape that comment karma. It didn’t stop him and it won’t. When Embiid missed games, Mike Scott came out hot. Someone is always going to have something to say and I think that Philadelphia has a better shot than not to back it up.
However, for the city of Philadelphia, the last time someone called their shot like this, the outcome wasn’t so good. Philadelphia Eagles linebacker, Kamu Grugier-Hill, said a week before playing the Dallas Cowboys, “Look at Dallas’ history. They always choke, so we’ll go down there and make them choke.” Similarly, Grugier-Hill wasn’t supposed to be a starting linebacker that season but played after the injury bug went through the Eagles. The Cowboys won that game after the ball took a bad bounce off of Rasul Douglas’ arm into the open hands of Amari Cooper in overtime. Time will tell if James Ennis III follows in Grugier-Hill’s footsteps or if he is truly correct about calling the Philadelphia 76ers shot.
Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports