Growing pains to be expected for young Sixers
After several consecutive seasons of struggle and strife, Sixers fans are excited to have a talented team that is potentially capable of contention to cheer for. And that’s completely understandable.
However, some of the Philadelphia faithful apparently expected an immediately polished product, one devoid of the growing pains that come with the development of a young team.
Scrolling through Twitter after the Sixers’ loss to the Raptors in Toronto on Saturday night – their third consecutive loss to start the season –you would think that they had just lost a seven-game series to the Dimner Beeber Middle School boys basketball team.
“Fire Brett Brown.”
“Embiid isn’t serious enough about winning.”
“Fultz is a bust.”
“Saric should be starting over Covington.”
“McConnell should be starting over Bayless”
“Saric should be traded.”
Those were all real statements that made their way onto my timeline on Saturday night.
The takes simmered after the Sixers pulled out their first victory of the season in impressive fashion in Detroit on Monday night, but returned in full force after the team dropped a home heartbreaker to the Rockets on Wednesday night to fall to 1-4 on the season.
Should the Sixers have won that game against the Rockets considering the position they put themselves in? Yes. Is there a whole lot that both Brett and the players need to work on – especially down the stretch – moving forward? Absolutely.
But, the fact that the Sixers were even in position to blow that game in classic Sixers fashion says something. I thought that the Rockets’ style of play – a style very similar to the one that the Sixers are looking to cultivate – combined with their experience would have closed the young Sixers squad out earlier in the evening. I said as much to my dad in a text message before the game.
Though The Process may be past the point of moral victories, the league’s learning curve is a real thing, as are growing pains for inexperienced – albeit talented – young players. Late game execution, especially, is consistently pointed to as one of the biggest hurdles that younger teams need to overcome. The Sixers are the NBA’s second-youngest team.
Ben Simmons has never played NBA basketball before. Neither has Markelle Fultz. J.J. Redick has never played for Brett Brown, and neither has Amir Johnson. Joel Embiid had just 31 games of [restricted] experience prior to this season’s start. None of them have ever played together before, and Brett has never coached a team so talented. He went from coaching a roster that was regularly referred to as 'G-League' caliber to a team with postseason expectations.
This is important to remember when it comes to Brown’s early season rotations. He’s still getting a feel for which players play best where, when, and paired with who. Despite the difficult of getting acclimated amid expectations, the Sixers have been on the verge of victory – against legitimate playoff teams in the Wizards, Celtics, and Rockets – in three of their early losses, and they took care of business against another playoff hopeful in the Pistons.
Simmons has looked really good – and sometimes downright dominant – early on, as has Embiid; the franchise’s two most important pieces. Covington has stepped into his three-and-D role nicely, and Redick has done exactly what he was brought to Philly for (except for late against the Rockets, but that’s OK J.J.).
The desire for immediate gratification in the form of W’s is only natural, especially for a success-starved fan base. But it rarely works like that in the NBA, especially when dealing with core players as young as the Sixers are. Where were the Golden State Warriors six seasons ago?
The development of the team’s foundational pieces - and their ability to play together – should be as much of a focus as their win-loss record at this early point in the season. Let Ben get his feet wet. Let him and Joel get a feel for each other as a duo and let the team develop its identity.
Sure, if we hit the All-Star break, and late-game execution and the rotation are still sticking points than there might be legitimate issues to address moving forward. But for now, considering the strength of schedule and collective lack of experience as a unit, such struggles are to be expected.
For a fan base that has shown so much of it over the past several seasons, now is not the time to abandon the practice of patience.
Follow Michael Kaskey-Blomain on Twitter @therealmikekb.