The Sixers are a fun team when playing at full strength and competing against squads that are likewise matching their personnel on the floor.
Problem is, the NBA is all over the place right now. Games are being postponed. Teams are being forced to play with eight guys. Just this past weekend, we had the Sixers lose without Joel Embiid on Saturday night, then saw Sunday night’s game get the late axe because of COVID-19 contact tracing.
If you’re keeping track, the last week of 76ers games played out like this:
- Denver loss – Sixers can only field a team with seven healthy players
- Atlanta loss – Embiid and Mike Scott return, nine-man rotation loses
- Miami win #1 – depleted Sixers beat depleted Heat in overtime
- Miami win #2 – Sixers get reinforcements, beat Heat team that still doesn’t have three of their starters
- Memphis loss – Embiid doesn’t make trip because of precautionary knee issue, Sixers lose
- OKC game – postponed because of COVID issues
Some of these games were enjoyable, though we wouldn’t say the on-court product was amazing. There was a lot of entertainment value in the overtime win. Likewise, the young and depleted Sixers gave it a good effort against Denver, and it was nice to see the rookies get some legitimate run in a game where they otherwise would have barely sniffed the floor. The storylines surrounding Tyrese Maxey, Isaiah Joe, and Dakota Mathias were fun.
But outside of that, this past Sixers week has largely been a farce, with iterations of depleted teams trying to stay afloat after running out to the NBA’s best record to begin the season.
On top of the COVID situation that is totally out of control, you’re trying to manage superstar minutes as you would in a typical year, only now the schedule is crunched. So Joel Embiid puts up 45 points in the Miami win, but now you’re asking him, and the rest of the team, to play two back-to-backs in a week where the NBA has inexplicably scheduled five games in seven days. The Suns, meantime, haven’t played in a full week, and Boston ended up with a week of inaction because of COVID issues.
The league appears to be just soldiering along, allowing this nonsense to continue, and the basic truth is that the current square peg/round hole approach doesn’t benefit:
- their wives and kids
- other assorted staffers
- the league’s reputation, after they put together a well-organized and well-run bubble to finish the prior season
Question is, who does this benefit? It benefits the owners, who make money. It benefits the TV partners, who can broadcast these games and fulfill the big money contracts that were signed. I suppose we have to do that to keep the lights on and the money flowing, or else the league will hemorrhage more cash, but how exactly are we supposed to take this product seriously?
Regardless of how individual players behave, and whether or not rules are being followed, the NBA might be best served here to shut it down temporarily, consider the situation, and think about a better way to proceed. Maybe go the Charles Barkley route and ask for permission to jump the line and get these players and coaches vaccinated, though that opens up another can of worms about what is “essential” and what is not. That idea would likely be slapped down. Otherwise, the only other option is to maybe pause, get these issues sorted, and try to resume in February or March.
They can’t keep plowing through this like nothing is wrong. It’s not fair to players and coaches and staffers who are following the rules and doing what they’re asked to do. Too much risk for them, and not enough reward.