Silver "Excited" About Sixers' Progress
Stepping back a bit from the day-to-day, and taking a broader view of the events that have transpired over the past 10 months or so, it would be hard to argue that the Sixers - from an all-encompassing organizational standpoint - haven’t been moving forward in a positive direction, and better positioned themselves for long-term, sustained success.
Last May, the first domino fell, and it was a big one. The Sixers, for the second time in history, scored a draft lottery win, setting the team up to land 2016 number one pick Ben Simmons. As the versatile forward showed in summer league action, he boasts game-changing potential.
Then, as fall rolled around, the first bona fide glimpses of Joel Embiid began to emerge. Initially, these flashes were limited to training camp workouts and practice sessions. Then, soon after that, he began putting his staggering talent and abilities on display in game settings.
Along the way, the Sixers opened the doors to a brand new, highly-anticipated training complex in Camden, New Jersey, representing a major step towards improving the year-round quality of life and resources available to players under the team’s care.
When the calendar turned to 2017, January provided a memorable spurt, with the club enjoying a breakout, re-energizing month. It won 10 times in 15 games, generating the NBA’s sixth-best winning percentage during that stretch.
From league headquarters on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, commissioner Adam Silver has been keeping tabs on the Sixers, and is convinced that progress is being made.
“It gets me really excited,” Silver told Sixers Radio Network announcer Tom McGinnis Monday. Silver was in town to attend that evening’s game at The Center between the Sixers and Milwaukee Bucks.
“It’s fun coming to games here,” said Silver, who lives in New York. “Just as I was walking through the tunnel pre-game, I ran into Allen Iverson and Julius Erving. [It’s] nice to see that they’re back, they’re believers, and I am, too.”
Over the course of the franchise’s 68-year existence, the Sixers have built up an immense amount of tradition. Between the Sixers, and their predecessor, the Syracuse Nationals, there have been three championship seasons, in 1955, 1967, and 1983. Fourteen Hall of Fame players have donned either a Nationals or Sixers uniform, with Iverson the most recent to do so.
Only two NBA organizations, the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, have won more games than the Sixers and Nationals’ combined total of nearly 2,800 victories.
“This is a great sports town,” Silver said of Philadelphia. “Understandably, the fans are very demanding here. They expect to see a great product on the floor. I know the ownership is committed to that. It takes time to build a great franchise.”
Lately, Silver acknowledged, the Sixers have run into a “little bit of bad luck” in the form of season-ending injuries to Simmons and Embiid. The head of the league, however, believes the Sixers are well-equipped to get both blue-chip prospects back on the court, and healthy.
“About a month ago, I spent the afternoon in Camden, and I got a tour of the new facility,” said Silver, who’s overseen the NBA since February of 2014. “It’s spectacular - everything, from state of the art training machines for every part of your body, beautiful new kitchen facility...creating optimal meals for players, great film room.
“Also, just as importantly, there’s kind of a clubhouse feel to it. Part of building a culture is creating an environment where guys want to be with each other and get comfortable with each other, and that new facility accomplishes all of those things.”
The composition of the Sixers’ roster this year is a dynamic that’s caught Silver’s attention as well, especially given the eye he has towards the sport’s global reach.
“This year, 25 percent of the players in this league were born outside the United States, and this Philadelphia 76ers team is just a great example of that,” Silver said.
Of the 15 players the Sixers currently have under contract, seven - Joel Embiid (Cameroon), Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (France), Sergio Rodriguez (Spain), Dario Saric (Croatia), Ben Simmons (Australia), Tiago Splitter (Brazil), and Nik Stauskas (Canada) - hail from international territories.
“Our vision is to bring NBA basketball to people all around the world,” said Silver. “Right now, even [Monday’s] game against the Bucks, because of our international broadcasting relationships, it’s available in 215 countries and territories. In this day and age of smartphones and apps, it’s one click away.
“What we’re seeing...there’s a whole new generation of global citizens who are falling in love with the league.”