Tobias Harris Opens Up on ESPN's First Take

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

On Friday Tobias Harris joined Stephen A Smith and Max Kellerman on ESPN’s First Take. Along with discussing the global pandemic and social justice issues, Harris also had a lot to say about the Sixers as the NBA is closing in on its return. 

Harris was very open about the Sixers’ season before the suspension. Admitting that they “haven’t met our expectations so far this year.” 

He would also hint at some chemistry issues with the team. Saying that “we haven’t had the best chemistry throughout the year” and “it took us a while to kind of get everyone together.” 

Although Harris was very open on some of the Sixers mishaps this year, he is still very optimistic about what they can do when play resumes in July. Harris still feels that the Sixers “have a chance to win a championship.” 

Max Kellerman would mention that he has picked the Sixers as a sleeper team in the Eastern Conference. Harris would go on to say that he is not phased that his team is being looked at as a sleeper. Stating that the team has one goal and that’s “to play and win a championship.” 

Harris would then dive into how the team has been able to fix their chemistry issues during the season’s suspension. He would state the team has kept in touch through this quarantine through zoom calls and group texts. 

In the end, Harris would discuss how the team is ready to take the court in Orlando. Stating the team is looking at it as a “new opportunity.” He would also go on to say that the team will have a “refreshed feeling” when they get to take the court in Disney. 

After having a rollercoaster of a regular season, it looks like the Sixers are starting to put the pieces together. Now with more than three months to rest and get healthy, the Sixers have a chance to show the league how great they can be.

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Charles Barkley Makes Bold Statements on Sixers

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

Earlier this week Charles Barkley sat down with Michael Barkann of NBC Sports Philadelphia to talk about the NBA’s return and the Sixers. As we know Barkley’s opinion on the Sixers has changed often throughout the season, and ahead of the season’s restart, it looks like it has changed again. 

After being one of the biggest critics to his former team, it looks like sir Charles is back on the Sixers’ wagon. He would later go on to say in the interview that “[he] would not want to play the 76ers in the playoffs.” 

Barkley would then go on to make a bold statement regarding the Sixers’ two main stars. When referring to Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons he would say that the Sixers will have the best two players on the court against any team in the Eastern Conference except for the Milwaukee Bucks. 

That is a statement that he will most certainly get pushback for. In saying this Barkley is stating he feels the Sixers’ franchise players rank above All-Stars like Boston’s Jayson Tatum, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam, and former teammate Jimmy Butler just to name a few. 

Along with that bold statement, Barkley would say he has picked the Sixers as a sleeper team when play resumes. “I think they’ve got a legitimate chance. I’d be surprised if they don’t do well” he would tell Barkann. 

Strong words from a man who was outspokenly disappointed in this team in the middle of the season. One thing that cannot be denied is that the Sixers are a sleeper team in the Eastern Conference. 

A now fully healthy roster with months to recover and refocus should not be counted out. It will be interesting to see if Barkley can keep his optimism when the Sixers take the court in August.

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Report: Sixers Schedule Released

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

Earlier tonight the NBA released the schedule for all 22 teams when play resumes at the end of July. The Sixers will play their first game on August 1st against the Indiana Pacers.

Here is how the rest of their schedule will play out:

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The Sixers had one of the easiest schedules before the season was suspended, and that still holds now. Another positive for them is that they will have to play one back to back in these eight games when they will play the Suns and Raptors.

How the games have been laid out favors the Sixers nicely. Their two main opponents in this stretch are the Pacers and the Raptors, and those games will be played on opposite ends of the schedule. 

Currently, the Sixers sit at sixth place in the Eastern Conference with the potential to move up. If the Sixers can take advantage of their weaker schedule they can find themselves in the top four of the conference. 

One game you might want to circle is the final game of the schedule against the Houston Rockets. As we know the Rockets now run the smallest lineup in the league, and they will be facing off against a Sixers’ lineup that is potentially the biggest in the league. That game should be a good clash of old school versus new school. 

All in all, this could be a good stretch for the Sixers. Six of the eight games are winnable games for the Sixers, and the other two could fall their way as well. Gaining momentum before the playoffs are crucial, and the Sixers have a chance to go into the playoffs strong.

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Report: Sixers Sign Ryan Broekhoff to Deal

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The Sixers have made their first move since the transaction window has opened. First reported by Adrian Wojnarowski, the Sixers have signed Ryan Broekhoff to a deal. 

Broekhoff most recently played earlier this season for the Dallas Mavericks. He appeared in 17 games for the Mavericks where he would average 4.2 PPG in 10.6 minutes a night. 

There is one key stat that sticks out about this signing and that is three-point shooting. In 59 career games in the NBA Broekhoff has shot 40.3% from deep. 

At six for six, he fits the mold of this team and could potentially have a role on this team when play returns. With Mike Scott’s shooting being very inconsistent this season, having a guy like Broekhoff as insurance in that stretch power forward role can be good to have. 

This is a good move for the Sixers to make with one of their two open spots. Although he does not have the experience that some other available free-agents have, he provides a skill and role that Sixers have needed this year. 

The Sixers have now put them in a good position in terms of their bench construction. Now adding another sharpshooter to their bench, the Sixers now have a good batch of potential floor spacers to put around Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. 

In today’s game with shooting at such a premium, you can never have enough of it on your team. That makes this signing a solid one as the Sixers look to bolster their three-point shooting for the playoffs.

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Report: Sixers Travel Date Released

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

News has come out on the NBA’s travel plans and when teams will be arriving in Orlando. Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that teams will be making the trip in groups from July 7th to July 9th. 

The Sixers will be in the last group of teams to make the trip and will be arriving at Disney World on July 9th. Some of the teams that they will be arriving with include the Bucks, Lakers, Raptors, and Rockets. 

One positive for the Sixers is that their two biggest opponents will be in the same travel group as them. Although the travel days are only days apart, now the Raptors and Pacers will not have any extra time to settle in then the Sixers. The same could also be said for the Bucks, who right now is the Sixers’ biggest threat in the Eastern Conference. 

This could be looked at as a double-edged sword for the Sixers. Although they will be one of the final teams arriving in Orlando, this means they have a couple of extra days in their home facility before they have to make the trip. On the same note, the Sixers are also going to have less time to get situated in the new environment before play resumes. 

Things are starting to get real for the NBA. Two weeks from today the Sixers will pack up and head to Disney World, and we are a little over a month away from games resuming. We have reached the light at the end of the tunnel, soon the sprint to the NBA championship will begin.

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Sixers Draft Grant Riller in Latest Mock Draft

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

With the NBA on a rushed timeline, it is not too soon to start talking about the NBA draft. Although the Sixers’ potential first-round pick is not set in stone, they have been mocked to draft a different player from previous mocks. 

In the latest mock draft, the OKC pick does convey to the Sixers and they go on to draft Grant Riller out of Charleston. Riller is a point guard who is coming off a season where he averaged 21.9 PPG, 5.1 RPG, and 3.9 APG. 

Although most upperclassmen are looked down on in draft classes now, the Sixers showed that taking guys who spent more time in college can benefit greatly. Riller played all four years in college and was able to up his scoring numbers each season. 

Riller is more of a combo-guard than a point guard but this is a non-issue for the Sixers. His ball-handling skills and scoring ability could allow him to share the floor with Ben Simmons in spurts. 

Along with being a strong ball-handler who can get to the rim, he is also able to knock down shots from deep. In his four years at Charleston, Riller shot 35.6% from three on four attempts a game. 

This could be a solid pick for the Sixers if this is how things were to play out. Riller could be a cheap option to slide into the backup point guard role and play that role well. Along with being able to run an offense, he can also create shots for himself off the dribble. 

Riller’s player comparison is Fred Van Vleet of the Toronto Raptors and it is very accurate. At six foot three and 190 pounds, Riller’s build is very similar to Van Vleet, and their play styles are almost identical. 

If Riller lives up to this comparison it would be a steal for the Sixers. Having a guy who can be a primary ball-handler in small spurts and come on the floor to space and be a secondary ball-handler is something the Sixers need. 

If the Sixers do plan to make Shake Milton a starter for the future they are going to need a player like Riller to facilitate the second unit. Drafting a guard would also allow them to allocate their limited cap space to address other issues of need.

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Report: Knicks to Interview Sixer's Assistant Coach

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

As most NBA teams are gearing for play to resume, some are starting to gear up for the 2021 season. One of these teams planning for the future is the New York Knicks, as they look to fill their head coaching void. 

The news came out today that they have their sights set on a coach in the Sixers’ staff. Shams Charania of The Athletic reported today that the team plans to interview assistant coach Ime Udoka to fill their head coaching void. 

The Knicks are now the second team that has expressed interest in Brett Brown’s top assistant. The Chicago Bulls also came out and said he is one of their top choices if they plan to change head coaches. 

Udoka is looked at as one of the top assistant coaches in the league, and it’s no secret that the Sixers are going to have their hands full if they want to keep him on their sidelines moving forward. 

Between his time as a player and years spent on the sidelines, Udokah has built up quite the resume. Making it no surprise that a team is looking to allow him to run a young team looking to rebuild. 

As more teams continue to express interest in Udoka, it puts the Sixers in an interesting position. There is a good chance that this season could be Brett Brown’s last in Philadelphia, and Udoka would have to be the clear favorite to be his successor. Which could leave the organization in a position where they move on from Brown out of fear of potentially missing out on Udoka.  

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Sixers Playoff Rotation Breakdown

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

There were many positives for the Sixers with the league suspending its season, but there was one negative. The post-trade deadline Sixers did not have much time to gel together and figure out roles and rotations. 

Now with the league’s sprint to the finish right around the corner, the Sixers have little time to figure out what players are going to see the court in the postseason. Although the team has eight games to figure as much out as they can, here is how the breakdown looks heading into the return of play. 

Locks 

This is the most obvious part of the rotation heading in. Although there might be some changes, the team’s original starting five are going to carry the load of the minutes when the lights get brighter. 

We may see Al Horford become the sixth man when games return, but even off the bench, he will still see a good amount of time in the rotation as a backup center to Joel Embiid and potentially slide into his original role to close out games. 

Almost Locks

Two players fall into this category, Shake Milton and Alec Burks. They arguably could be thrown in as locks, but don’t have solidified spots like the players mentioned above. 

This could change if Brett Brown does decide to make some changes to the starting lineup. The move that has been discussed a lot in the break is Shake Milton becoming a starter and Al Horford sliding into a sixth man/super-sub role. 

These two will most likely eat up most of the minutes when Ben Simmons is off the floor. Earlier in the year, Brown brought up the idea of using Josh Richardson as a backup point guard in the playoffs, but with the acquisition of Burks and the emergence of Milton, things may change. 

The Sixers are going to need scoring and shot creation off the bench, something that both of these guards bring to the table. The team is also going to need as many ball handlers as they can get for when the game slows down and Ben Simmons is potentially moved off the ball at times. 

On The Bubble 

This is where things get tricky. After the five starters and two guards there are at most two spots open in the rotation, but three players that could essentially fill in those spots. The three players competing for these spots are Glenn Robinson III, Furkan Korkmaz, and Matisse Thybulle. 

Brett Brown has been known to have “quiet tournaments” in the past for spots in the rotation, and there is a good chance that we see that here. All three players have a valid case as to why they should be on the floor come playoffs. 

Shooting is arguably going to be the main factor in what players take these spots. The Sixers are going to need floor spacing and consistent shooting if they are going to make a serious run at the title. This means if one of these players go on a hot streak in these final eight games, it just might lock them into the playoff rotation. 

Realistically it is most likely going to be Glenn Robinson III and one of Korkmaz or Thybulle. Korkmaz has proven that he can be a rotation piece this year but is a serviceable defender at best. Thybulle has shown that he can be a lockdown defender but has shown a lot of consistency on offense to guarantee him a spot. 

There is a small chance all three could make it if coach Brown wants to use Thybulle as a situational defender at times. This pick for the final spot is going to come down to what side of the ball Brett Brown wants to focus on.

Outside Looking In

With the rotation tightening up there are always going to be players that don’t make the cut. The guys in this situation are Norvel Pelle, Kyle O’Quin, Raul Neto, and Mike Scott. 

Mike Scott could arguably be thrown into the category above but I think it will be tough to squeeze him in during the playoffs. With the starting lineup already having so much size the team could benefit more from giving the bench spots to guards and wings then throwing in another power forward to the mix.

The rest of the guys are just stuck in a situation where they play a position that is at a surplus on this team. Al Horford will be the backup to Joel Embiid so there is no need to throw O’Quin or Pelle into the mix, and Neto could be a mismatch on defense leaving him out of the rotation. 

There is still a lot of time before the league returns and playoffs start, so things could change. But right now this is a good indication as to how the makeup of a potential playoff rotation looks for the Sixers. 

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Breaking Down The Sixers Eight Remaining Games

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The NBA’s return plan has been voted on and approved as of Thursday afternoon. Disney World will host 22 of the league’s 30 teams for eight regular-season games to determine which 16 teams will head on to the playoffs. Games will begin on July 31st. 

Although only nine teams from the Eastern Conference will be making the trip to Disney, the standings are far from set in stone. There is still room for multiple teams to change their playoff fate in these final eight games, one of them being the Sixers. 

Currently, the Sixers find themselves tied for fifth place in the conference with the Indiana Pacers, but sit just four games out of the third seed currently held by the Boston Celtics. The Sixers have a real chance to move up in the standings as they have a rather favorable final stretch. 

Five of their final games will be against teams with a sub .500 record. Realistically the Sixers have a chance to go 6-2 in this stretch heading into the playoffs. 

There is one not so glamorous stat for the Sixers heading into this regular-season finale. In the 13 games against the seven opponents the Sixers have left this year they posted a 4-9 record. That being said with three months off you can say that these games are a clean slate for every returning team. 

The team is going to have to be ready to hit the ground running because game one is arguably the most important game of this sprint to the playoffs. They kick off the return against the Indiana Pacers, and the winner will get sole possession of fifth place in the standings.

Other than the Pacers, the only other teams over .500 the Sixers will face are the Raptors and the Rockets. A win over the Raptors wouldn’t mean much in terms of moving up in the standings, but getting a win over the defending champs this close to the playoffs could be a real confidence boost. Without Capela to anchor their defense Joel Embiid should dominate the new small-ball Rockets leading to what should be an easy win. 

The biggest goal for the Sixers needs to be not letting teams that don’t want to win beat them. Before the suspension of the season, the Sixers had some bad losses against teams that have been competing for ping pong balls, that can’t be the case now. 

This means taking care of the Wizards twice, the Magic, and you could throw the Suns in this mix as well. These teams are not anywhere close to winning a championship, and the Sixers can’t let them pick up wins and ruin their chance of moving up in the standings. 

Getting the two biggest obstacles out of the way can be big for the Sixers. With every team starting from scratch again after three months off, momentum will be crucial. Getting hot at the right time is a key part of making a run at a championship. With the way this makeshift schedule was made, the Sixers have a great opportunity to build momentum to head into this playoffs.

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Five Sixers Storylines For When Play Resumes

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

It seems that we are closing in on an official return plan for the NBA season to resume. Although it has not been made clear how the NBA will resume its season, we have an idea of when. 

Shams Charania of The Athletic recently reported that commissioner Adam Silver informed the Board of Governors that his target date for the season to return is July 31st. This would be about a four and a half month layoff as the season was suspended on March 11th.

With the Sixers potentially returning to action soon, here are five storylines to look out for when the action resumes. 

5) Will we see a change in Al Horford’s role?

It has been no secret that the Sixers and Al Horford have not been a match made in heaven throughout this season. There have been numerous issues on offense and he has not been the best pairing with Joel Embiid in the frontcourt. But could we see a change?

We saw that Horford was much more effective as a sixth man for the Sixers, sadly we only got to see it in action once. With all this time off to analyze and discuss with coaching, it will be interesting to see if Brett Brown decides to move Horford to the sixth man role permanently. 

Turning Horford into a super-sub brings a lot of benefits. The biggest one being Horford playing center, where he has looked much better this season. Sliding Horford to the bench would also open up the floor for the starting lineup and give Embiid and Simmons more space around the rim to attack. 

Just because Horford starts the game off the bench does not mean he has to end the game there. An ideal situation with Horford would be using him off the bench to start the game, and then letting him run with the starters to close games when the Sixers want to shut down teams on defense and overwhelm opponents with their size. 

4) Can the role players continue to show progress?

Role players are a key piece in the making of a championship team. Having those guys on cheap contracts who can produce when needed is what separates the good teams from the great teams. This has been something the Sixers have lacked in recent years, but there were a handful of players this season that showed a lot of progress over the year. 

Two players in particular that come to mind are Furkan Korkmaz and Shake Milton, but you can also give an honorable mention to Matisse Thybulle even though this was his first season in the league. 

Korkmaz came into his own this season and showed he could be a solid rotation piece when given regular minutes. This season he upped his scoring numbers to just under ten points a game (9.7) and increased his three-point percentage to 39.7 while shooting two more attempts a game than last season. 

Shake Milton was a huge opportunist this season. The injury bug cost him a regular spot in the rotation throughout the year, but he came into his own before the season being suspended. 

When the Sixers lost multiple starters to injury Milton took that opportunity as a chance to show the Sixers’ coaching staff what he can do when given the chance. In the 16 games, he started this season he averaged 14.1 PPG, 3.0 RPG, and 3.6 APG. Including a 39 point outburst against the Clippers on national television. 

Sadly the suspended season has taken the momentum these two guys were building, but it will be interesting to see if they can take what they did this season and continue to build on it when they can step back on the court. 

3) What kind of Joel Embiid will we see? 

Conditioning has always been an issue for Joel Embiid throughout his career. He has always been one of those players that opt to “play himself into shape”. Throughout a regular season it might not be as much of an issue, but it could be now. 

If the league decides to go right to the playoffs then Embiid is going to need to be ready to go day one. Having one of your best players and anchor of your defense sluggish and not being able to keep up in playoff basketball is not going to get you to the championship. 

With that being said, Joel Embiid looked very locked in before the suspended season. After a good showing in the All-Star game, things seemed to be starting to click for him. Excluding a game against the Cavaliers when he got injured, he was nothing short of dominant. 

Whatever kind of shape and mindset Embiid is in when play resumes is going to play a major factor in how far the Sixers go in this crazy season finale. If he comes back locked in how he was after the All-Star break the league is going to be in trouble. But only time will tell what form of the All-Star big man we see when the action picks back up.  

2) Will we see a jump-shooting Ben Simmons?

This has been a primary Sixers’ storyline for years now, the mystery of Ben Simmons and his reluctance to shoot three-point shots. One positive note is that although they were far and in-between, Ben Simmons shot and made multiple three-point shots this season. 

Back in April ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan wrote a column about Simmons and the journey that has been the development of his jumper. In this piece, Simmons admits that there was a confidence issue that led to his lack of shooting from range. At the end of the article, Simmons is quoted saying that he is ready to start shooting now, the question is will we see it?

Simmons taking this leap in his game could do wonders for the Sixers. We all know he is capable of knocking down shots from deep as every time he did it this year his jumper looked fluid and the shots went right in. 

That jumper is the missing link of Ben Simmons launching himself into the conversation of elite players in the NBA right now. He has already shown this season that he is going to be one of the top defenders in the league for years to come, now is time to elevate his game on the other side of the ball. 

On top of opening up the floor for Embiid down low with his shot, Simmons pulling out this new weapon now could throw teams off. Defenses are now going to have to develop a new game plan of how to defend the Sixers, which could give them an edge in this sprint to the NBA championship when play resumes. 

1) How will no crowds affect the Sixers?

“There’s no place like home” is about the perfect quote to describe the Philadelphia 76ers this season. When playing on their homecourt the Sixers were one of the most elite teams in the league, but when they went on the road things got shaky. 

When on the Wells Fargo Center floor the Sixers posted a record of 29-2, beating NBA elites like the Bucks, Lakers, and Clippers. Then outside of Philadelphia were 10-24 losing to teams like the Cavaliers, Magic, and Wizards. 

This night and day play between home and road games was very concerning. It can also be magnified as the NBA plans its return to play. As when the NBA does return, games will be played at neutral sites and with no crowds. 

Playing in front of the Philadelphia faithful gave the Sixers a positive environment to go out and show just how good they can be. It will be interesting to see how they can perform in an empty arena. 

On one side you can say there will be no opposing fans booing and heckling them as there would be in a road game, but there will also not be a roaring Philadelphia crowd backing the Sixers in big moments. 

There are plenty of things to keep an eye on with the Sixers when play resumes, but these are key storylines that will gauge just how far the team can go this year when the NBA has its return plan set in stone. 

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