76ers Tip Off Regular Season in New Orleans

Sixers meet Pelicans for first road stop in 82-game slate Wednesday
by Lauren Rosen

It’s that time once again - the 76ers are back in action.

With training camp and the preseason in the rearview, the 76ers are New Orleans bound, taking on the Pelicans for the first of 82 games in their 2021-22 campaign.

Following Monday’s practice, Georges Niang - who appeared in all four of the 76ers’ preseason outings - shed light on the team’s areas of focus heading into the opener:

“Just dominating the details, focusing on the little things,” Niang said. “Whether that’s getting back in transition, how to defend certain actions that New Orleans is going to run - just fine-tuning some things going forward, so that we can get off to a good start.”

For Tyrese Maxey, recent months have represented his first traditional and full offseason - and he’s appreciated each phase:

“Full training camp, preseason, Summer League, offseason - it’s been great,” Maxey said Monday. “I feel more comfortable than last year.”

The second-year standout is itching to get competitive play underway:

“Man, let’s do it. I’m extremely excited. I’m ready to play against someone else. I’m tired of Andre Drummond screening me, and Joel (Embiid) screening me,” Maxey said with a laugh.

Niang added that Tobias Harris has been a tone-setter for the group, both on and off the floor, throughout camp:

“Besides [Tobias] being a great leader - which I don’t think he gets enough credit for - I think he does a great job of giving himself up to get better shots for the team. And you can’t put a price tag on that. Being here with him has opened my eyes to how unselfish he is as a player.”

Doc Rivers likes the tone that the team’s leaders have set, and sees the team’s spirit coming together nicely.

“Chemistry is huge,” Rivers said Monday. “I think overall, our chemistry’s phenomenal right now. And we want to keep it going.”

Coming off his 2020-21 MVP-finalist-caliber campaign, Embiid feels what his head coach sees.

“We love playing with each other,” Embiid said Tuesday. “You can see it in practice - the way we move the ball, we talk to each other.”

The ultimate goal is lofty - and the pursuit begins Wednesday night. Niang is embracing his new team and the challenge ahead:

“The vibes are still really high, and we’re still really excited to push forward and compete for a championship this season.”

Maxey echoed Niang:

“The vibes are good - I’m just ready to get out there and compete with [this team].”

Wednesday’s opener tips at 8:00 p.m. ET.

Opponent Outlook:

New Orleans will begin its season without All-Star Zion Williamson (foot). Williamson averaged 27.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists in the 2020-21 season.

Behind Williamson, Brandon Ingram was the Pelicans’ leading scorer last season, averaging 23.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game. After dealing Lonzo Ball to the Chicago Bulls in the offseason, the Pelicans will be without last season’s team leader in assists (5.7 apg) and steals (1.5 spg).

The Pelicans finished at 31-41 in the 2020-21 season, ending the season at No. 11 in the West.

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