76ers this season (before the shut down) and it was clear the puzzle pieces just were not fitting together. The chemistry was off. The puzzle pieces just did not fit on offense (19th in the league), and when it finally did after the All-Star break the defense fell apart.
Don’t take my word for the chemistry being off, listen to Tobias Harris.
He was on ESPN’s “First Take” and talked about Philadelphia’s fit heading into the NBA’s restart in Orlando, via Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia.
“I’ll just say, and I’ll keep it real, we haven’t had the best chemistry throughout the whole year. It took us a while to kind of get everyone together, we battled injuries from the start to the end. And right now, if we’re the sleeper, then we’re the sleeper. Truth be told, how we’re viewed, that’s someone else’s opinion, but I know when I look my guys in the eye and we have conversations, we have one goal in mind, and that’s to go out there and play and win a championship.
“That’s the only view that matters to me. What people have to say about our team, I get it, because we haven’t met our expectations so far this year. But we have a new opportunity in Orlando to go out and just play ball, and really scratch a new surface of what we can accomplish.”
The 76ers will go into Orlando with a healthy Ben Simmons and reportedly trying a starting lineup that has played zero minutes together all season, moving Al Horford to the bench and starting Shake Milton for shooting and spacing. Maybe that and everyone healthy makes the 76ers a threat in Orlando. On paper, this team still looks like a force.
But will the 76ers chemistry be there?
Coach Brett Brown has taken the blame for the chemistry issues Philadelphia, and at this point the 76ers may need a new voice in the locker room. However, it’s fair to ask if the problem is Simmons and Joel Embiid just do not mesh in a way that forms a superstar team. Put in simple terms, both stars are most dangerous operating near the basket, and that allows opposing defenses to pack the paint and dare Philly to beat them with jumpers. Teams can take away the easy buckets from the Sixers stars. That’s not a coaching issue. Reality is, however, that it’s much harder to come by Simmons/Embiid level talent than it is a good coach, so Philly will try a coaching change before making hard decisions about moving an elite player.
Philadelphia will be one of the most interesting teams at the NBA’s restart. If things come together for them, this team is a threat, but play well and they likely move up to at least the five seed in the East — meaning they face the Bucks in the second round. The Sixers are a matchup challenge for the Bucks because Philly can match their length, and Embiid is a problem in the paint, still, that is a big ask for the Sixers.
Whatever happens, it will be the chemistry on that roster that gets the credit or blame.