The regular season begins in less than 10 days. The Eagles sit at 3-3, with an overwhelming amount of uncertainty as to where their season is headed, and the Phillies are not quite sure which end is up. So, it’s fair to say that Philadelphia is salivating for the Sixers to return to the court for their revenge tour.
Fresh off of a 32-point drubbing of the Magic in Orlando, the Sixers are 3-0 with just two preseason games remaining. They undoubtedly would like to wrap up the pregame tour on a positive note, but a pair of Eastern Conference foes stand in their way of 5-0.
October 15, 7 PM, Wells Fargo Center (NBATV)
Andre Drummond must be excited–this is the only time he’ll ever encounter a restricted Joel Embiid. Embiid will likely play just a bit over 20 minutes, with Kyle O’Quinn and Al Horford sharing the remaining minutes at center.
This game is more about assessing the viability of Josh Richardson as the team’s backup point guard (in addition to him being the starting shooting guard), as well as identifying who Brett Brown can call on to get defensive stops against quick guards. The Pistons have a pair of those in Derrick Rose and Reggie Jackson. I would imagine that there will be times when Matisse Thybulle will be charged with thwarting them, as he’s been one of the team’s most electrifying defensive players this preseason. Seeing what he can do against point guards would be another opportunity for the rookie to prove that he can be a fixture in the rotation this season.
Another storyline to follow for this game, as well as the final game, will be Zhaire Smith. The second-year guard has yet to play meaningful minutes in any of the three preseason games. From an outsider’s perspective, there is some logic that makes it more than understandable as to why he hasn’t gotten playing time — he nearly died less than a year ago and has been trying to recover his body and develop his skills since his nearly-fatal illness. That incident set him back quite a hefty length of time, and one calendar year to completely recover and be prepared to play a critical role on a team with championship aspirations is no small goal.
Thinking about it from Zhaire’s perspective, however, is disheartening. He’s worked tirelessly to catch himself up with the time he missed. To work so hard just to be able to do what you love, and then be told that you’re just not ready yet, would be painful for anyone to handle.
It is certainly possible that Brett Brown calls on him in these next two games to show that he can provide something on a nightly basis from the start of the season, but all signs point to Zhaire being buried on the bench until further notice.
This game is the final dress rehearsal, just like the third week of the NFL’s preseason.
October 18, 7 PM, Wells Fargo Center
It would be fantastic if the Sixers could emerge from the five scrimmages with a clean bill of health. That is always the primary objective with this group of players. So, if you placed a bet on Embiid playing more than 20 minutes in this game, I would call my bookie, log into FanDuel, or use whatever you use to hedge that bet. In fact, I would probably put my money on Joel sitting this one out.
With the primary objective set as opening the regular season with a blank injury report, I don’t expect any of the starters to play more than 25 minutes. The vast majority of the minutes in this exhibition will be donated to the likes of Marial Shayok, Shake Milton, Jonah Bolden, and you get the point. Brett will likely experiment with some lineups that we’ve never envisioned in our wildest dreams (or nightmares). But that’s fine, this game is just the final tune-up before cuts are made. The players on the fringe will be doing everything they can to grab the last few spots on the roster.