Stay Gold Sports; NBA Edition: Inside the Bubble with the 76ers
I’m loving the visuals from within the bubble. Joel Embiid in a hazmat suit. Tobi and Bobi performing their own version of Romeo and Juliet. The NBA whiffed on an opportunity to give us a reality show featuring the bubble teams down in Orlando. It has been refreshing to see the teams coming together again, practicing, and just having a good time in general. This tells us that the NBA is fast approaching. After suspending all action in March, the NBA devised a plan to get things rolling again and out of all the major sports, it seems as If the NBA did it the best way possible. Now, we wait for the Sixers (39-26) first game back, against the Indiana Pacers (39-26). Both teams having identical records, this game could be a factor down the line when it comes to playoff seeding.
Both teams could realistically move up all the way up to 3rd seed, currently held by the Boston Celtics. Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen several players test positive for COVID-19, most notable in the last few days, Russell Westbrook. On that front, the Sixers look to be doing well, and hopefully this isn’t the jinx that sends the Sixers into the abyss.
Before the break, the Sixers were inconsistent, unsure of their lineups, and nothing seemed to click, at least on the road. At home, the Sixers were a league best, 29-2. So, the question is, how will they fare on a neutral court with no fans? Heading into the NBA restart and seeing the chatter from inside the bubble, let’s take a look at my top three takeaways for the Sixers.
1). The overall health of the team. This may change, but as a Sixers fan, you have to be feeling pretty good about where they’re at. Several players have been hit with COVID-19, a few opting out to have surgery, but the biggest issue the team had before the suspension was the health of Ben Simmons. Which leads me into the next takeaway.
2). Ben Simmons. According to the media members that covered head coach Brett Brown’s zoom called, Brown had this to say regarding Simmons’ health,
“He’s good to go. He’s put in a tremendous amount of work for me to be able to say that… What I’m told is effectively 100% health.”
On top of a 100% healthy Ben Simmons, there was also news of Brown tinkering with the lineup, which put Ben Simmons at power forward, and Shake Milton at point guard. Apparently, Brown has liked what he has seen from Simmons at the forward position, putting emphasis on his speed, and ability to make plays from any position. This new rotation might be just what the Sixers need, as it would push Al Horford to coming off the bench, which may be beneficial to him as well.
3). As mentioned, the guy taking Simmons spot in this rotation would be Shake Milton. Shake would be my third takeaway and my x-factor heading into the restart. Milton was putting up stellar performances, like the one at the Staples Center against the Clippers. Replacing Simmons in that game, Shake shot 70% from the field, scoring 39 points, and was 7 for 9 from behind the arc. It doesn’t get much better than that and he is getting full support from his team and coach.
As reported by Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Joel Embiid had this to say about his teammate,
“I think he has a huge opportunity to help us accomplish what we believe we can,” He’s been doing an amazing job, just running the team, and we’re going to need him to knock down open shots, which he did before the league basically got shut down.”
A healthy Sixers team, a confident Shake Milton, and a rotation shakeup has this team trending in the right direction. Oh, did we mention that this team also has Joel Embiid? I would also mention that Simmons is knocking down threes again, with ease. Imagine if Simmons comes out of the bubble, knocking down three pointers.
See ya, August 1st.