Countdown To Sixers Basketball: Day 4
Disclaimer: I, unlike most of you out there, believe the 2011-12 Philadelphia 76ers are going to be a very, very good basketball team. Over the next four nights, I will count down the four biggest reasons for another season that will result in postseason basketball (along with the first back-to-back .500 or better seasons since ’01-’02/’02-’03) in the Wells Fargo Center. Why? Because A) I love this sport and B) It’s time the people of this area got on board with a young, exciting basketball team.
I heard new one of the new Sixers owners on a recent radio interview joke about why this Sixer season is poised for better than a .500 record. He referenced the 3-13 start last season and how proud he was of the group to finish 41-41. Considering that the league canceled the first 16 games of this slate for each team, a 38-28 record is what we should all expect. No need to worry about those pesky first sixteen games!
All joking aside, there are two major reasons why the Sixers regular season schedule is set up for them to succeed:
1. The compacted schedule benefits younger teams with fresh legs and depth on the roster.
2. A very favorable home/road schedule that includes very few trips to major Western Conference powers.
There are three back-to-back-to-back slates on the Sixers schedule for this season. It also includes seventeen back-to-back runs. Considering that the '10-11 slate had twenty back-t0-back's but not a single back-t0-back-to-back run shows just how different this is going to be for teams to navigate. NBA rosters are built to play two straight nights, but then have three or four nights rest before their next opponent rolls into town. A schedule like is will be uncharted territory, considering that 66 games in a short period like this will be unlike anyone in the league has ever experience. A handful of players are still around from the 50-game shortened season of 1999, but that began in February and was strange throughout.
A quick look at who and where these 66-games are taking place also gives a few clues to how things will shake out. Philly avoids trips to both Los Angeles teams (yes, both are now relevant), Oklahoma City, and Dallas. It's possible that the four best teams in the Western Conference will travel to Philadelphia for their only match-up of the year. The Western Conference road portion of the schedule begins right off the bat on December 26th with a five game tilt in Portland-Phoenix-Utah-Golden State-New Orleans, which could possibly only include one playoff team. The Sixers continuity should help them early, and a five game road trip means 33 of the final 61 are in their home building. Their last five games are also a long road trip to Cleveland-Indiana-New Jersey-Milwaukee-Detroit, which will likely only include one Eastern Conference playoff team.
Long road trips are never fun, especially with young rosters. There is a tendency to get out of rhythm, enjoy the nightlife too much, and struggle late in games. With the first and last five games away from home, it's not a perfect scenario for Philadelphia. But there is always another side of the coin. Ten road games to bookend the schedule means 33 of 56 games, or around 60% of the entire slate will be played in the Wells Fargo Center between Jan 6th and April 17th.
No trips to the Staples Center, Dallas, or OKC. A huge chunk of home games in the middle of the season. Young legs to get through three games in three nights. Among the many reasons to be excited for Sixers basketball this season, the schedule makers took care of them.
Enjoy the team, the coach, moves from the front office, and a favorable schedule. I'll be writing about them often. As for now, I'll go with 38-28 as a prediction. Maybe Adam Aron was on to something when he mentioned those first sixteen games being canceled.