Sixers Basketball returns with home preseason matchup against Grizzlies

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By Josh Liddick, Sports Talk Philly editor 

It's Wednesday October 4, and we are just two weeks away from the tip-off of the much anticipated 2017-18 NBA season. The Sixers have made the moves necessary to go on the playoff run they have been waiting years for, and it's finally here. The preseason starts tonight, and the Sixers are ready to host the Memphis Grizzlies.

The debuts of Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons completely overshadows literally every storyline you could possibly go through, as the Sixers have been waiting to see what these two can do together on the same court playing for the same team.

How will head coach Brett Brown utilize Simmons in a game situation. Stick to the original "point guard" type plan, or defer to a more traditional plan that fits Simmons best with his size and position?

Fultz has already publicly stated what teams should expect when they have to scout him and Simmons together for a game.

“It’s unpredictable,” Fultz said. “I feel sorry for the teams that are going to have to go against that.”

But other than the obvious debuts of young talent, there's just so many other things to look out for in this contest against Memphis, and the fact that tonight's game won't even do this regular season justice, is what makes this team so exciting.

Sports Talk Philly's Brandon Apter put out his "Sixers Six Pack: What to watch for in tonight's preseason opener," article early Wednesday morning, and talked about certain players to watch for in tonight's game for the Sixers.

On Ben Simmons, an excerpt on Brandon's story:

After fracturing his foot in training camp last year, Ben Simmons sat out the entirety of the 2016-17 season. Now 1000 percent, Simmons will take the roll of being the Sixers' primary-ball handler and fans got to see a sneak peak of this during the teams' scrimmage at the Palestra over the weekend. Simmons' court vision is filthy, finding open teammates on the perimeter and in the paint. He can take over a game too. Sure, it was just a scrimmage, but the former LSU product scored 14 of his 23 points in Sunday's scrimmage in the fourth quarter.

Simmons goes into tonight's game with not a whole lot of NBA experience, but what he does know is how to play basketball. There's a reason why no player, general manager, or media professional has even been heard voicing doubts on what Simmons can do on the court. He's feared. And the fact that he's been out for a season with an injury, allows him to have worked on his jump shot and his mid-range game.

I think you'll see a much different Ben Simmons tonight than the Simmons the Sixers drafted in June 2016. If that doesn't make you salivate at what is about to happen, then I'm not sure what else will.

With Embiid out, look at Richaun Holmes and Jahlil Okafor tonight

The bummer for tonight's game is that yes, Joel Embiid will not be suiting up for the Sixers due to his recovery from knee surgery back in February. It's disheartening especially because of it being almost eight months since the surgery, and he still isn't cleared for full basketball activity.

Keep in mind that Embiid is a large, large man. Knee injuries are so much more increased for a bigger man like Embiid than for you and me.

It's a good thing that Embiid isn't playing tonight because you don't want to rush someone back who just isn't ready quite yet. When he's ready to come back to play, he will. Some good things just take way more time to mature than others.

With that being said, the center position is an interesting one to look at for tonight's matchup. Richaun Holmes had a very good second half of the season last year. For a guy that went from playing for the 87ers to a bench role with the Sixers, and then establishing starter minutes once Embiid went down with a season ender, Holmes has very much matured into a very reliable option of the bench, with fringe starter minutes when need be.

Now, Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia said earlier today that Jahlil Okafor will play limited minutes when inserted into the lineup tonight.

I'm very interested on seeing how Jah will play now after recovering from his knee injury and completely changing his diet to a vegan diet, slimming down in the process.

On Okafor, Brandon Apter wrote:

This offseason, Okafor became vegan, slimmed down and is no longer experiencing effects of his meniscus issue. He told reporters during media day that last season his knee was on his mind, but now that he's healthy and is taking better care of his body, he feels much more comfortable and can play care-free basketball without fear of injury. Jah looked good in Sunday's scrimmage, driving into the post for a few layups while also not looking completely out of place on defense. As he gets into his first game action tonight for a while, he'll need to show improvements on defense if he plans to earn the spot as the Sixers' back-up going into Opening Night against Washington.

While you will see Holmes with more minutes tonight as the starting center, I wouldn't be surprised to see Okafor spend his minutes the right way, showing more of an improvement offensively than last season, though, yes, his defense still needs quite a bit of maintenance.

A lot of no-name Grizzlies tonight:

I'm not sure if I really need to reiterate this, but we're dealing with the preseason here. So the stars that you might've seen in a regular season game might not be who see on the court tonight.

Even for the Sixers, the probability of seeing Fultz and Simmons play more than 25-30 minutes is very slim. It's preseason, so you want to give these guys enough experience and minutes so it'll carryover to the next preseason game and so on.

And no injuries. God, please no injuries. We're already hyped from the Eagles being in first place, and the Flyers and Sixers seasons starting up, we really don't need a heart attack like the one we collectively suffered when Markelle Fultz went down with an ankle injury in Summer League.

But the Grizzlies are also doing the same, in fact, they aren't playing any of their key players tonight. No Mike Conley, no Marc Gasol, or Tyreke Evans or Ben McLemore. The highest profile starter for the Griz tonight is small forward Chandler Parsons. Other than that, the Sixers have a way more complete roster for tonight's preseason game.

The atmosphere:

I went to two games last season, one at the beginning of the season and one at the end. I can't even imagine what tonight is going to feel like with a packed Wells Fargo Center, the fresh Nike unis, and Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz together on the same court.

Tonight's game might just be the loudest the Center has ever gotten in its storied history as an arena. Prepare for the loudest crowd in Philadelphia tonight, especially surrounding all the hype and excitement this team has generated in the last six months.

In the wise words of Sam Hinkie and recently Ben Simmons, "They'll remember."

Matchup Preview  |  October 4, 2017
Memphis Grizzlies
(1-0, 0-0 Away)
  Philadelphia 76ers
(0-0, 0-0 Home)
Projected Starters
Wade Baldwin Point Guard Markelle Fultz
Wayne Selden Shooting Guard J.J. Redick
Chandler Parsons Small Forward Robert Covington
JaMychal Green Power Forward Ben Simmons
Brendan Wright Center Richaun Holmes
Injury Report
Ben McLemore
  Amir Johnson
Mike Conley
game-time decision
  Dario Saric
Marc Gasol
game-time decision
  Joel Embiid
Tyreke Evans
game-time decision
  Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot

Broadcast Info:

Where: Wells Fargo Center

When: 7 p.m. ET

Watch: TCN-PHI

Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic

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