7 for 6: This City Can’t Be Stopped

| The Eagles’ Super Bowl win has awoken something in Philly. The Sixers have won four in a row thanks to a few individual milestones. And now they’ve brought in reinforcements for a playoff run |

Cross Town Heroes

As you may have heard, the Eagles won the Super Bowl on Feb. 4th. The city is still drunk with joy, and for a while it was easy to forget that other teams existed. But time never stopped for the Flyers and Sixers; their seasons march on. Hopefully the Sixers can take lessons away from this about coming together as a team and staying aggressive.

And now that each team in the city has a championship in the modern era, it’s natural to ask; who wins next one? Joel Embiid, who was at the Super Bowl, was quick to bet on himself. And frankly, he has reason to be confident. Obviously they aren’t nearly as collectively talented as the Eagles are, but they’re on the right track to competing. The NBA arguably has the easiest (to comprehend, not necessarily replicate) blueprint to championship success; multiple top 10 or 15 players. Having Embiid and Simmons, should they reach their full potential, puts the Sixers past the first of many hurdles to winning it all.

Markelle Fultz

No, he’s not back yet. That’s about all we know about the rookie, because this team has completely fumbled this entire situation. He’s been participating in practice, but not fully. Bryan Colangelo stepped in front of the mic last Friday and told everyone that Fultz is re-working his shot and is range doesn’t extend beyond the paint.

It’s really easy to imagine Fultz not playing for the rest of this season. The team can’t give a timeline, and he seems to be coming along at a slow pace. It’s one of the strangest situations in NBA history; a rookie, one with high expectations and very little questions about his shooting, injures his shoulder and has to spend an entire year reworking that shot. How much of it is mental versus physical? We really have no idea. The team doesn’t let players talk to the media unless they are practicing 5-on-5, but Fultz was interviewed on national TV just the other night.

It’s a dizzying, frustrating situation. If you are still struggling to understand it, PhillyVoice’s Kyle Neubeck put together a very comprehensive piece that establishes a timeline and explination (as best that anyone could) of this whole mess. Hopefully we see some resolution soon.

Trade Deadline

The Sixers were reportedly active in negotiating deals around the deadline last week, but no trade ever materialized. Memphis asked a high price for Tyreke Evans.

I don’t blame the Sixers for not accepting that one. Saric has shown tremendous improvement this year (more on that below) and giving him up for an expiring contract doesn’t make the team better in the immediate or long term sense.

Still, this didn’t stop the Sixers from making a move after the deadline had passed. The Atlanta Hawks waived guard Marco Bellineli and he signed with Philadelphia after clearing waivers.

This season he is averaging 11 points and 2 assists in 23 minutes per night. He’s a more reliable shooter than any other guard the Sixers have coming off their bench, and should help bump up the scoring ability of the 2nd unit. He can also handle a secondary ball handling role, something the Sixers lack outside of Simmons and TJ McConnell.

“People would look at him more as a three point shooter, I look at him more as a playmaker,” Brett Brown said Monday night. “And I think the [ball] movement that we play with…will help him.”

Belinelli will presumably play his first game in a Sixer uniform on Wednesday versus Miami.

The Big Man Assumes Bigger Workload

Embiid finally did it. He’s played in sets of back to back games twice in the past two weeks. In the both sets, the better of his two games came on the second night. In the first, a loss to Indiana, Embiid poured in 24/10/3 in 33 minutes. Seven days later, he posted yet another double double in a win versus the LA Clippers. It was also his fourth straight game with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds.

“I felt great,” Embiid said after the Pacers game. “My legs weren’t tired. My body was fine. I could feel it just a little bit. But I was fine.”

In a week with a personal milestone, Embiid also collected another accolade; his second Eastern Conference Player of the Week award. It’s encouraging to see Embiid not only play in a back to back, but more than one in the span of a week. It speaks volumes to the progress he’s made to become durable enough to play in the NBA at a very high level.

Is Simmons being snubbed? 

Ben Simmons is painfully close to being named an all star. After Kristaps Porzingis tore his ACL, another roster spot in the All Star Game opened up. Kemba Walker was selected as his replacement. I think Kemba should have been named before Dragic, but that all depends on whether you value wins over better stats for a losing team. Regardless, Simmons has as good a case as any other player. He voiced some minor frustration about it last week.

Dario Saric’s Newfound Excellence

The Sixers have won 5 of their last 6, and now have a three game lead of Detroit for the final playoff spot in the East. A big part of their success lately has been Dario Saric. I would say it’s a hot streak, but frankly Dario has been playing at a high level all season. He’s scored double digits in 34 straight games, and in that stretch he’s pouring in 17 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 3.2 assists on 47% shooting, including 41% from deep.

“Coach says my future is as a three-point shooter,” Saric told reporters after a 24 point night against the Pelicans.

He’s also turned into one of the best free throw shooters in the whole league, hitting 94% in that span (with Redick and the addition of Belinelli, the Sixers boast three of the top 11 shooters from the foul line in the NBA). The sharp jump in his efficiency happened far quicker than anyone reasonably expected him to.

Best of all, playing alongside Ben Simmons has worked out fine. In fact, more than fine. The Sixers’ 5 man starting lineup of Simmons, Redick, Covington, Saric, and Embiid boasts a 115+ Offensive Rating and a 96 Defensive Rating. They’re only one of three lineups in the entire league that have posted those numbers (with at least 30 games played).

TJ Continues to Shine

Can we get some love for TJ McConnell? The third year guard notched his first career triple double in a win versus the Knicks on Monday. This was also the first instance of a player coming off the bench and achieving a triple double in franchsie history.

“I just kind of took the shots when they came to me, got some rebounds, and my teammates did a good job of screening, rolling to the basket, and making shots,” McConnell said after the game. “All credit to them. It wouldn’t be possible without them.”

He’s right, but it’s classic TJ to be so deferential on a night where he achieves a personal milestone. It’s a good attitude to have, and one that will only endear him more to his teammates. May this be the first of many triple doubles in TJ’s career.

Stats are up to date as of Feb. 13th

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