The Philadelphia 76ers could start the year 2023 off right in a lot of ways, and I’m not talking about losing weight or calling their parents more. Even the best teams in the NBA can do little things to keep refining themselves and improve their stock and the Sixers aren’t any different.
As we zero in on the new year and the halfway point of the NBA season, there are three new year’s resolutions the boys on broad street can practice in order to keep this season as smooth as it possibly can be.
Be More Considerate: Stop Scaring Fans with Slow Starts
Everyone leaving 2022 with a pair of working eyes can see that the Sixers are no strangers to strange first quarters. Of the 14 losses the Sixers have been dealt so far this season, 11 had them scoring less than 30 points in the first quarter. And it always feels pretty binary: either Joel Embiid is scorching hot in the paint while everyone else goes cold, or everyone is getting random shots down except Embiid and the offense can’t run its normal course.
Doc Rivers needs to keep it simple and feed the ball to Embiid as early and as often as possible. Yet once he’s done his work, Rivers shouldn’t be afraid to take Embiid out a little early to allow the role players to get their shots in while they can and enter the second quarter with some warmed-up momentum for when Embiid does get back.
Be More Healthy: No, Literally
Nobody likes crossing their fingers so long that it starts to hurt.
When Tyrese Maxey suffered his injury earlier in the season, it was a classic “here we go again” for the Sixers – Maxey had all the momentum in the world and it was shut down in its tracks until last night when he returned against the Pelicans in what will now be a desperate attempt on his end to get back into the All-Star conversation.
Embiid’s missed a handful of games himself already, something that cannot continue towards the end of the season when the Sixers will look to take a critical Philadelphia home-court advantage in the playoffs in an Eastern Conference with many underperforming clubs outside of Boston, Milwaukee, and Brooklyn. That fourth spot will be up for grabs, but not if everyone doesn’t chip in.
What does this mean? Even if playoffs are secured, I would not rest starters. But I would do it mindfully in a way that acknowledges the history the Sixers’ core has with fatigue.
Be More Assertive: Don’t Let Doc Off the Hook
The Sixers have been “right there” for what feels like four years. While Embiid is here and in his prime, all necessary actions must be taken, including finding the right guy to lead. What that means is that a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals is the only thing keeping Doc Rivers from heading somewhere else.
And, to keep the high emotions of Philadelphia fans out of it: that is not a knock on Doc Rivers as a coach. It’s simply an acknowledgment of the reality that he is not the right person for this group of guys.
Maybe we’ll learn that the right guy is, in fact, Doc Rivers. Maybe it’s Quinn Snyder. Maybe it’s an assistant or a hot-shot college coach. But the Sixers need to be firm in what they’re looking for and keep an open mind as to who can help.