PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Daryl Morey posed for a photo in a bookstore wearing a T-shirt
of the Liberty Bell emblazoned with a “Come To Philly For The
Crack” slogan and held a copy of “Basketball for Dummies.”
“Playoff Prep,” Morey, the 76ers’ top decision maker, wrote on
Oh, the Sixers were called much worse than a group of dolts when
the franchise embarked on the strip-for-parts rebuilding seasons
known as the Process. The Sixers were Team Tank. Larry Brown, the
coach who led the Sixers to the 2001 NBA finals, said the early
seasons “made me sick to my stomach.”
Philly lost some games. Well, lots of them. It had two, 26-plus
game losing streaks that made even the most loyal fan feel
Through it all, Philly stood by its ethos: Trust the
The motto spawned books, merchandise, podcasts and endless
debate. Lottery busts and a Twitter scandal. Laughter,
derision -- and in some corners around the NBA, admiration for the
open and bold manner of building a winner.
“Listen, I was there when we were ‘Trusting the Process,’”
Wizards guard and former 10-win Sixers member Ish Smith said. “And
as you know, they’ve come a long way.”
Look at the Sixers now.
Fan or critic, this season represented a litmus test for the
Process and the results were sensational: Philadelphia (49-23) has
an MVP candidate in Joel Embiid, a defensive player of the year
candidate in Ben Simmons and the top seed and home court throughout
the East playoffs.
The Sixers (with 8-1 odds) really can win
the NBA championship for the first time since 1983.
No Super Team assembly required.
The mission starts at home with Game 1 Sunday and Game 2
Wednesday against the Washington Wizards (34-38).
“It’s funny, you can go either way on if that was a success or
not,” coach Doc Rivers said. “I think if you came to every GM and
said, ‘I’ll give you a 12-year plan,’ I think they’ll take it. ...
I don’t know how long it takes each franchise to win the
Rivers already had future Hall of Famer Paul Pierce in place
when the Boston Celtics traded for superstars Kevin Garnett and Ray
Allen before the 2007-08 season and they immediately won the NBA
The Sixers’ championship pursuit has simmered in a slow cooker
since 2013, as Embiid missed his first two seasons and Simmons sat
out one with injuries. The Sixers reached the Eastern Conference
semifinal with consecutive 50-win seasons in 2018 and 2019 and
bottomed out last season when they were swept in the first round by
Boston. That sparked roster changes that brought in starters Danny
Green and Seth Curry and backup big man Dwight Howard and, perhaps
of most importance, the one who found the formula to make it all
work in Rivers.
Rivers is nine wins shy of becoming the
fifth coach in NBA history with 100 postseason victories.
“We’ve done nothing,” Rivers said. “We’ve had a great regular
season. Everyone starts 0-0 right now. This is a huge
accomplishment. But this is the first one.”
NOBODY BEATS THE WIZ?
The Wizards face long odds -- and an ugly history as they try
and knock off the Sixers. The Wizards are trying to become the
first team with a losing record to win a playoff series since the
1987 Seattle SuperSonics. That’s 30-straight postseason series
losses for teams with losing records. Russell Westbrook and
Bradley Beal, who torched the Sixers for 60 points
this season, led a late-season surge that took the Wizards from
15 games below .500 into the postseason. The Wizards are the
sixth team under the current playoff
format (since 1984) to make the playoffs after being 15-plus
games below .500. Teams that made it out of the first round?
Wizards coach Scott Brooks, a former Sixer, said an upset could
“They put their socks on one sock at a time, like us. Unless
they do something different, putting both on at the same time. But
I don’t think so; that’s some tricky stuff there,” Brooks said.
Washington advanced by routing the Indiana Pacers 145-117 on
Thursday night — “It’s probably the most beautiful thing I’ve seen
us do all year,” Beal called it -- to emerge from the play-in round
as the East’s No. 8 seed, returning to the playoffs after a
The Wizards were a disaster early in the season, dealing with
injuries and a COVID-19 outbreak, soft defense and little cohesion,
and starting 0-5. then sitting at 17-32 in early April.
The Sixers swept the season series 3-0.
JOSTLING WITH JOEL
The Wizards will use a center-by-committee to go up against
Embiid: Alex Len usually starts and offers some measure of rim
protection; Daniel Gafford usually is the first big man off the
bench and can run the floor on offense — the guards will look to
lob the ball to him — and is a shot blocker on defense; Robin
Lopez, 33, knows every paint move in the book and has a hook shot
that is often successful. Against the Pacers, that trio combined
for 28 points and 23 rebounds. Gafford, acquired in a trade
deadline deal with Chicago, contributed 15 points, 13 rebounds and
five blocks. “The three centers — look what they did. They all
chipped in. They all contributed,” Brooks said. “They don’t get a
lot of credit. They deserve a lot of credit.” One issue Gafford
needs to be careful with is foul trouble, and he acknowledged as
much, saying with a chuckle: “I’m sometimes a foul magnet. I want
to put an end to that.”
GIMME A BREAK
It’s only a two-day break from Thursday’s win to Sunday’s series
opener for the Wizards, but that might seem like forever to them.
Washington hasn’t had this much time without competing since the
same lag between its contests March 18 and 21 — more than two
months and 30 games ago. By Sunday, in contrast, the 76ers will
have gone a week without playing and they had two days off between
regular-season games as recently as May 9-10. “It is kind of
interesting that two days feels like an eternity at this point,”
Washington center Robin Lopez said. “I’m sure it’ll make somewhat
of a difference. The human body’s got to be able to recuperate a
little more in two days than in one day, I would assume.” That
could be useful for someone like Beal, who missed three games late
in the season with a strained left hamstring and hasn’t been back
to 100% yet.
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