Yesterday, was a full circle of events in Philadelphia. Five years of tanking, to get two generational athletes. In a close out game, in an extremely physical series, back at the Wells Fargo Center, and a chance to advance to the second round for the first time, since 2012, emotion and the fans should be enough to carry you home. In a city that has been on cloud 9 since February, and a town celebrating its first Superbowl Championship, the Sixers look to continue the euphoria.
The big question is who in a game like this, should ring the bell. Obvious choices are anyone from the Eagles, even though Doug P, Carson Wentz, and other players already have done that. The Mayor? The Govener, he was in attendance but not really a Philly Guy. How bout this Guy?
That is right, none other the Meek Mill (Philly’s own) himself, who was just recently released from prison in Chester, per the supreme court at about 3PM yesterday. Plenty of time, to go get a jersey, get to the game, ring the bell and have a front row seat right next to the players, ownership, and a 5 foot 0 comedian Kevin Hart. Yes, correct, that Meek Mill. The Meek Mill who another team in this town used as an anthem for the entire season, including as their entrance song into Super Bowl 52 and rode it all the way to victory.
At this point, as fans, we kind of knew that the game was over, but would still need to go finish it on the court. On the court this game, was not much different from the prior 4, the Heat came out played a physical style, and did some things, that I would view as questionable, maybe even dirty, to light a spark to their over matched team.
I have been watching basketball for years, and I still do not understand how this was not a flagrant and Johnson was not removed from the game at this point. There was no effort it was not even a basketball act. Johnson literally went straight for his legs. The props on this play go straight to Ben though, got up shrugged it off, cause he knew his team needed him, in reality, had this happened in a game of street ball, an all out brawl would have ensued. This was early in the game and the intent to injure, seemed pretty obvious to me.
That being said, the game continued, and it went into half time all tied up at 46, even thought it was tied at the half I was confident, just like they have every game in this series, the team would open it up in the second half and where them down in the 4th quarter.
But then this happened, literally at the start of the 2nd half.
Literally, slapped in the back of the head, the kind of slap your mother gives you when you are caught underage drinking at your friends house in high school, and still not a flagrant. The growth and composure of this kid, is really impressive, he could have easily blown his top on either of these dirty plays, and I do not think anyone would have been able to blame him, had it happened. But ultimately, he kept his composure, dominated all 94 feet of the floor as he usually does, got into some foul trouble, but did plenty in order to get his team to victory. The game was close in the 4th quarter, until a dagger 3 by JJ Reddick drilled a 3 and put the game out of reach. The Sixers won 104-91 and win the series in 5 games to move on to play the winner of the Celtics/Bucks. I know we do not get home court if it is the Celtics, but after shit-caning the Brady led, Patriots in the Superbowl and ending that dynasty at its core, I kind of want the Celtics, so we can crush their dreams on more time.
Numbers From Last Night
Simmons had 14 pts, 10 boards, 6 assists, played 35 minutes and had 4 fouls.
Embiid went for 19 pts, 12 boards, dominated the inside, but did have 5 fouls, in a 29 minute run.
JJ Reddick led all scorers with 27 went 5-10 from 3 point range and hit the dagger to put it away.
In closing what we saw yesterday, showed us that the tanking was a good thing, and that the process worked. Sure we had to sit through a 4 year stretch in which this team had a record of 75 and 253 including a 10-72 season 2 years ago, but it all paid off. There are two–once in a generation players on this team both under the age of 25, and will lead this team for the next 6-8 years. Sure it is exciting to win a playoff series at this point, and are spirits are high today but we should expect this going forward.
Sam Hinke found a flaw in the system exposed it, and made it work, by getting as many assets as he could, and believed that eventually some of those assets would stick. Look at the move to trade Elfrid Payton for Dario Saric. What a move that was, sure Elfrid is a nice player and Dario stayed over see for 2 years, but look at the value he adds to this team, where would we be without his ability to shoot the three and play the stretch four on this team, hes a much better fit then Elfrid would be with this team.
You also have to look at this from a league perspective, and how it is currently setup. Before the process, Philadelphia was not a destination for Free Agents, and there were no superstars to build around. The only way to build in this league is to either pay the luxury tax, build a big 3 (with the ownership at that time) or tank and build through the draft with youth. For example, the team you just beat in the playoffs, the Heat, are a team that has reached it peak, as a 6 seed. While its nice to make the playoffs, winning is the ultimate goal. Lets look at some of the contracts on that team:
The cap in basketball without the luxury tax is about 100 million. I know that JJ makes 23 million but that is mainly due to the fact you have to hit the minimum. Look at some of this money to awful players. Whiteside, Dragic, Olynyk, literally make over 50 million a year combined. Do those players sound like a winning formula to you. Had it not been for the process, this is what the Sixers would have to do, overpay players who do not equal the value they produce based on league structure. In comparison lets look at the Sixers payroll.
Yes I get it Covington is overpaid, and you should never put to much belief in the best player on a bad team, but then imagine if we had 4 or 5 those guys. Embiids contract kicks in next year, and from what we have seen he deserves this money more importantly that contract was written so well, and there are so many performance game played clauses, it is easy for the Sixers to get out of. The far right shows the full guarantee of the contract over its life is only 6.1 million should injury arise. Ben Simmons is still on his rookie deal at this time, and all JJ was a one year, low risk, high reward. Technically there is still plenty of money to go around next year, to give a max deal of something like 3 years, 120 million to Lebron as a Free Agent and still be way under the cap. So we need at this point to continuetheprocess, and build for a future, that includes multiple titles and parades, with generational talent.