The Philadelphia 76ers played their third and final scrimmage game on Tuesday night (check out the recap to that here), and it went as expected. Starters like Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons played extremely well, Matisse Thybulle continued his defensive warpath on the court, and some of the reserves like Norvell Pelle and Marial Shayok got some minutes late in the matchup.
While mostly everyone was focused on hyper-analyzing the team’s final competitive matchup before the “real” games begin, something else caught my attention. Something that’s arguably more important than anything we saw on the court last night.
During a lull in the game, Sixers play by play commentators Marc Zumoff and Alaa Abdelnaby began to discuss the importance of veteran leadership during a time like this. Between the global pandemic and all the social unrest we’ve experienced in the last few weeks, this is truly a chaotic time for both NBA players and average citizens alike.
When it comes to the Sixers, a lot has been said of Tobias Harris recently when it comes to leadership. He’s stepped up outside of basketball, and he’s also stepped up in a major way within the team. He’s reportedly been the most active on Zoom calls, during team meetings, at practice, and just generally being a strong mentor figure to some of the other players (see his relationship with Thybulle for example).
However, Alaa and Zumoff were not focused on Harris last night. In fact, they actually highlighted the role that veteran Kyle O’Quinn has played over the last few months. The eight-year vet has reportedly been a massive presence in the Sixers locker room as of late, acting as a glue to keep everyone locked in and motivated.
Zumoff and Alaa mentioned how O’Quinn has repeatedly made himself available to younger players for questioning, has been proactive about spending one-on-one time with guys to bond and grow, and has stood alongside Harris as a prominent leader during the NBA’s layoff.
There was even a fantastic segment during one of Matisse Thybulle’s Youtube vlogs where O’Quinn sat down with Tobias, Matisse, and the Sixers’ VP of Player Development to discuss how they would handle social issues moving forward. The slogan that O’Quinn settled in on? “Educate Yourself”.
Leading the way on and off the court
When a team signs a veteran during the offseason, leadership (both on and off the court) is almost always a factor that goes into the decision. Obviously O’Quinn hasn’t done much for the 76ers in terms of on the court production (3.3pts, 3.8reb, 1.3ast), but his off the court presence has been undeniable.
O’Quinn has been one of the most vocal leaders in the locker room, outside the locker room, and even on the bench as he tries to motivate his teammates to play that much harder. When it comes time for playoff basketball to begin, the Sixers are going to be counting their blessings that they have a guy like O’Quinn on the team.
Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports