At All-Star Break, Assessing State of Team
The unofficial first half of the 2018-19 campaign has indeed been a journey for the 76ers, to say the least.
From an eight-day pre-season trek halfway around the world for the NBA China Games, to a pair of blockbuster trades that further accelerated the franchise’s already promising trajectory, the Sixers have packed a ton into the last four months.
And through it all, the club managed to arrive at the All-Star Game break with a record of 37-21.
The last time the Sixers reached their mid-year hiatus with at least 37 victories? Over three decades ago, when they were 39-10 at the 1984-85 All-Star break.
With this success serving as the backdrop, several prominent members of the squad shared their thoughts on the state of the organization following Wednesday’s solid victory over the New York Knicks.
After leading the Sixers last season to their best finish since the team’s 2001 Finals run, Brett Brown has his eyes on an even deeper playoff push this spring. To date, he’s been happy with the group’s progress, but has higher aspirations for the home stretch.
“I’m excited because I like what I see in the locker room, but I feel that I’ve been with this group for such a tiny amount of time. I’m excited to move the group forward, not look at what the group’s done. I think what we’ve done is good, and we’ve done it with two [different looking] teams. Now we’ve got the final team. This is the period of the season that interests me the most. I feel like we’re doing some good things, I’m proud of our record, but my enthusiasm is pointed north. It’s not looking the rearview mirror.”
Ben Simmons has taken a positive step forward in his second playing season as a pro, as reflected by him achieving his first All-Star selection. Up to this point, he ranks third in the NBA with eight triple doubles, and is fourth in assists (7.9).
“We’re in a good position. Everywhere, offensively, defensively, guys are still getting better. We are still trying to learn.”
At the All-Star break, Joel Embiid has clearly established himself as one of the NBA’s best players. His 48 double-doubles (in 54 games!) paces the league, as do his 40 20-point x 10-rebound performances. The big man will deservedly make his second straight All-Star start this Sunday in Charlotte.
“We’re getting better, we’ve got a chance. We’re starting to figure out that it’s all about ball movement. It was like that before but I feel like when the ball moves, great things happen. We have to keep it that way.”
In 36 outings since being traded to the Sixers, Jimmy Butler has averaged 18.8 points per game on a career-high 48.6 percent shooting. Defensively, he ranks fourth in the NBA in steals (2.0). His selfless, team-oriented approach, combined with his well-rounded wing skill set, has been integral to moving the Sixers forward.
“I think we’re doing great. With all the pieces we have now since this latest trade, everybody’s still learning one another, but I think we’re a really good team, go out there and compete, do what we’re supposed to do, we’ll be just fine. Everybody is going to refocus coming in after this break, and do alright.”