Another year in the playoffs, another year sent home early.
This time, the Philadelphia 76ers were swept out of the NBA playoffs on Sunday following a 110-106 loss to the Boston Celtics.
The 76ers, to say the least, have been the most disappointing playoff team in the NBA recently. Despite obvious power, they haven’t been able to get past the second round in three straight years in the postseason.
For sure, many thought it was just a matter of time, that all those losses, between 2013 and 2017, that enabled them to get top draft picks, were eventually going to turn into a title once Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons were united and became a tandem to die for.
They were going to reign supreme and deliver the 76ers a championship for the first time since Dr. J in 1983.
Those were the hopes and dreams.
Instead, this pair just hasn’t been able to get over the hump. And granted, Simmons’ injury put them at a disadvantage this time around.
Still, injury aside, it’s officially time to NOT trust the process anymore. Change is needed in Philly. The Sixers need real cheese, not cheese whiz.
That cheese is shooting. In the current NBA, it’s a premium, a must if you want to win a title.
The 76ers should keep Embiid and try to dump Simmons, who can’t shoot.
The team’s uncertain future is impossible to ignore. Embiid, 26, was asked about it by reporters after the game in Orlando.
“I don’t make the decisions,” he said. “I’m here in Philly. Whatever happens, happens.
“I’ve always said I want to end my career here, and if it happens, good. If it doesn’t happen, well, you move on and all that stuff.”
We get it. They are both young NBA stars with many years left. Some want to give them more time to jel, and keep adding pieces to the team.
On the other hand, some NBA people just don’t think the players go together as well as is necessary. Both need to be in the paint to be effective. Because Simmons can’t shoot well from the perimeter, you don’t have the classic inside-outside scenario to play with.
Even Embiid had to admit that he can’t get the most out of his talent playing away from the basket.
“I can dominate down low, but then again, to help the team, it’s not always about me,” he said. “And with the roster we have and — if it’s the same roster next year — I gotta be able to space the floor.”
Front office moves haven’t helped the pair, either. The selection of Markelle Fultz as the first overall pick in the 2017 draft turned into a disaster. He couldn’t shoot. The Sixers had to dump him.
They gave a boatload of money to Tobias Harris, but lost Jimmy Butler, who is flourishing in Miami. That was a mistake.
A move or two might have made a big difference. Then again, the stars still would need to operate in the same space.
The quickest and easiest fix is to get rid of coach Brett Brown. There are rumblings that he coached his last game for the Sixers. Since you can’t get rid of the whole team when things go wrong, it’s easy to just fire the coach.
And some in the NBA say it would, indeed, be a mistake to subtract one from the other at this point.
“I wouldn’t break them up honestly,” said a former NBA coach. “I think they can coexist.
“It’s up to the coaches to be creative enough offensively to put them both in situations to be successful. They also need more shooters on the floor.”
For sure, it will be no easy task moving either Embiid or Simmons. Despite both being talented, both have seen a fair share of injuries. Embiid has three years left on his contract and is owed $95 million. Simmons, 24, agreed to a five-year, $170-million deal last summer.
Many 76ers fans have seen enough and would love for Philly to strike a deal with the Golden State Warriors and, somehow, get their second overall pick in the upcoming NBA draft and a few other players in a package deal.
People in Philly know the right player at the helm can make a difference. They saw Allen Iverson lead a Cosby-kids roster to the NBA Finals and a Game 1 victory over Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers in 2001.
For sure, this wasn’t the year most had envisioned for the Sixers. According to Embiid, the team’s rhythm seemed off all year, not just in the postseason.
“It is disappointing,” Embiid said. “There’s a lot of regrets.
“I felt like the focus was not always there. And we got to do better; we just got to look at ourselves in the mirror and just do better.”
The best Philly can do is change that image in the mirror this offseason. One of those star’s reflections should be missing. The time has come.