First off, we would like to give a GIANT thank you to the Delaware Blue Coats. We were beyond blessed to have a presence at the Blue Coats’ home opener on November 13th at the Wells Fargo Center. With media passes and Joel Embiid bobbleheads in our hands, we had an unforgettable time covering the Blue Coats and celebrating their first home win of the season. Here is our experience.
The experience of getting credentialed for the first time defies all expectation. It doesn’t matter what you think it’ll be like – it isn’t. For me, this meant doing a lap around the Wells Fargo Center, looking for the media entrance. For the vets, getting from parking lot to sideline is familiar. For a first-timer, each step is a fresh challenge. The guy at the door has never heard of you; you have to repeat yourself a few times to be identified. There are no signs, no directions, so you walk straight ahead, trying your best to look like you belong. You approach the glass, say your name (if you can remember it in time), receive your pass, and put it on, trying to seem nonchalant. (Not seeming nonchalant.)
Then the tunnel.
In my mind, there were always signs, or a staff member, telling everyone where to be, how long to wait. The reality is much closer to full access. When I received my pass and walked out the door, there were no directions. Well, there was one direction, from Jason. Meet us courtside. Courtside it is.
This is around when everything becomes surreal. We sat opposite the locker room – the same seats where hours later, during the game, Joel Embiid would sit. That part is still crazy to me. Hanging out courtside at the Wells Fargo Center. That’s usually a space for Embiids and Jenners, but for a little while, we sat and caught up with one another and discussed the warmups happening in front of us.
But it’s important to remember that a media pass isn’t for fun, it’s for work. We started in one of the locker rooms with most of the Blue Coats roster. This part is a little awkward, and that shouldn’t be surprising. Pre-games always feel a little stiff – after the game there’s a narrative that just happened you can talk about – what went right, what went wrong. Before a game, there’s a little bit of a disconnect. If I had to bet, I’d guess most player’s honest answers to questions like “What are you going to do to be ready tonight?” wouldn’t be “Answer lots of questions from strangers.” Of course, they still do, out of professionalism or politeness. But eventually, they have work to do, and the time comes to relocate to media seating.
And so begins a singular consumption experience – tasked with watching, not reacting. Blocks, steals, dunks, doesn’t matter. Media is there to report. I don’t think I’ve ever sat so quietly through a game. The seats themselves are excellent, and the monitors you can see all display counting stats, efficiency stats, and team stats on a carousel. It adds a lot to the experience to have all the data presented to you rather than having to search it out. It really does help paint a clearer picture of the game’s trends.
The strangest part comes after the game – the final buzzer sounds, the players walk off, and you walk across the court. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but when you’ve only ever seen the court, walking diagonally to the other side with all the fans and spectators watching from above is truly surreal. By this point, everyone’s exhausted and the postgame interviews (after a win like the Blue Coats had that night) are relaxed, quick, and everyone goes about their business. For us, that meant snapping a few pictures together before we left. I had to stay a few minutes longer and admire the building from the floor, seeing the Wells Fargo Center the way the players do.
A P.O.V. FROM A 76ERS FAN
Watching the Blue Coats home opener before, during, and after the game was a refreshing renewal of my “Process” fanhood. What I mean by that is I found myself far less concerned with the outcome of the game and much more concerned with the plays and flashes of brilliance from the individual players for the first time in what felt like years. Don’t get me wrong – as a Sixers season ticket holder, I certainly have been enjoying the Sixers successes and feeling for their failures as they’ve climbed from bottom-feeders to contenders. But as possibilities have turned into realities, there has been a little less romance in favor of a bit more stability and comfort.
The Blue Coats home opener brought me back to that early-Process years romance. Whether it was tracking Haywood Highsmith running off-ball for a catch-and-shoot three, seeing Norvel Pelle rise above the rim, or watching Cam Oliver fight for yet another rebound, I was enthralled with getting to know the Blue Coats players and letting my mind run wild with their potential on an NBA roster – our Sixers NBA roster!
Watching the Blue Coats made me think back to how I felt with players like Robert Covington or KJ McDaniels only a few years ago, when their bright sparks in games would show me, “Hey, this is a guy worth keeping.” The whole experience gave me plenty of new possibilities – and people – to root for. And seeing the Blue Coats in the same venue with the same arena events (dunk squad, fan-games, etc.) that typically surround the Sixers made those possibilities seem even closer to reality. This was my first Blue Coats game, but it certainly won’t be my last!
The 76ers G-League affiliate the Delaware Blue Coats weren’t the only winners at Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday, November 20. While the Blue Coats pulled off a comfortable 113-94 victory against the Canton Charge, the record 8,023 fans in attendance enjoyed a complimentary Joel Embiid bobblehead, the presence of Elton Brand, Markelle Fultz and Embiid himself, and a look at the future of the NBA.
Delaware starters Haywood Highsmith, Cory Jefferson, Norvel Pelle, Shake Milton, and Demetrius Jackson had impressive showings, all with at least 6 rebounds and an offensive ease that pulled pages out of Brett Brown’s playbook. Demetrius Jackson was matched by Canton’s Jaron Blossomgame for a game-high 21 points, while Haywood Highsmith followed closely behind with 19 points, six rebounds, and three assists.
The Blue Coats’ bench had an equally strong presence, with Jared Brownridge nailing six 3-pointers for all 18 of his points and Cameron Oliver registering the double-double with 13 points and 15 rebounds.
Shake Milton and Norvel Pelle were especially exciting to watch, showing glimmers of their NBA counterparts. While Milton quietly does work and puts up numbers à la Ben Simmons, Norvel Pelle is a disrupter in the paint proving he’s a force to be reckoned with. The other quality reminiscent of the 76ers? Lots of turnovers. The Blue Coats committed 19 turnovers, while the Canton Charge kept theirs limited to 12. Perhaps this can be attributed to attempting the creative plays their NBA-affiliate is known for that makes them so fun to watch, but no one player can be to blame as turnovers were pretty evenly split amongst all the Blue Coats players.
With Sixers GM Elton Brand, center Joel Embiid, and backup point guard Markelle Fultz in attendance, it was a good night to look good. With the announcement of Markelle Fultz’ ongoing injury assessment earlier that morning, The Center and Twitter alike were abuzz over whether Brand was taking a look at his options in the Blue Coats, if the players and GM were on good terms, and whether or not Fultz should have even been present to support his G-League teammates. More curious, as Brand exited the facility at the end of the first half, he addressed Embiid and as he turned the corner to pass Fultz, just kept walking as if passing any other row of fans.
Considering that Elton Brand may have been present to assess his options within the Blue Coats with the aforementioned announcement and the Sixers’ thinning roster, PFO caught up with Shake Milton after the game and asked if he felt ready to step up if called.
“That’s the position I’m based in and that’s what I’m supposed to do,” says Milton. “I’m supposed to be prepared for it. I’m definitely ready.”
Highlights from the Blue Coat’s home opener
The Delaware Blue Coats are less than a week removed from their formidable showing against the Canton Charge at the Wells Fargo Center. Playing at the Farg was clearly important to the team and coach Connor Johnson for various reasons. In his post-game availability, Johnson said he wishes the team could play every game at the Sixers’ home, and it’s no wonder why after seeing how the home crowd was into the game.
In the pregame shoot-around, the two teams’ different philosophies were clear. On Canton’s end, it was a mix of midrange shots and lay-ups. On the Blue Coats’ end however, it was a barrage of three-pointers, mostly on catch-and-shoot after sprints to a certain spot around the perimeter. Demetrius Jackson, Shake Milton, DJ Hogg, and Ryan Anderson all put up a significant number of shots, but one player in particular stuck out. Jared Brownridge was out for shoot-around slightly longer than everyone else, and was hitting the deep ball from all over. Sprints to the corner for three, splash. Catch it at the foul-line, pass out, and run to the perimeter for an attempt, splash. Dribble handoff at the wing, splash. Brownridge had it going pregame, and after finishing with 18 points and going 6 of 12 from three, it certainly carried over well after tip.
With Jonah Bolden out, it changes some players’ roles and positioning, including DJ Hogg. When asked about Bolden being out, Hogg told us, “Jonah’s a four, so I play a little more at the three when he’s here and maybe backing him up a little at the four.” When asked if he has a position he prefers, Hogg simply said, “It don’t matter, I just like being on the court.” He played 21 minutes against Canton and was able to connect on two threes, which has been a focus for Hogg. “Shooting the ball at a high clip has been a focus, and getting to the basket when they’re pressuring or using a shot fake to get by.” In terms of Hogg’s overall goals this season, he told us, “I just want to get better at every aspect honestly.” He’s not the only to share that sentiment. Cameron Oliver, a more natural big man who will be relied on more now that Bolden will miss time, told us that he wants to show how versatile he can be on the court. “As far as my size and position goes, I want to be able to go down low and post-up, be that tenacity person on defense, shoot threes, and be able to do multiple things on the court.” He brought that tenacity against the Charge, hauling in 15 rebounds and finishing with 13 points on 6 of 10 shooting.
As I already mentioned, the Blue Coats finished with a 113-94 victory and were in charge for most of the game. Shake Milton played a big part of that. He finished with 15 points on 6 of 12 shooting, but his impact on the court was adamantly felt when you see that he was a +29 while on the floor. It’s no secret that Sixers roster is a little thin right now, so when Shake was asked if he’d be ready should the Sixers ask him to play some minutes for them, he confidently said, “For sure. They’re not going to ask me to be an ISO scorer, just catch and shoot and play defense, and I can do that.”
Sixers draft pick Shake Milton on his home opener performance and readiness to step in during Markelle Fultz’s absence
Head Coach Connor Johnson on his 1st home win
Again, a huge thank you to the Delaware Blue Coats for such a phenomenal night. We are beyond excited to bring you all the Blue Coats and G League coverage throughout this season and moving forward. LET’S GO BLUE COATS!!!