The Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers just swapped head coaches. So what’s next for these two teams in the NBA?
The “76ers vs nets” is a matchup between the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets. The Sixers have been struggling recently, while the Nets are looking to make a push for the playoffs.
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Tim Bontemps is a writer who lives in France.
- Since 2006, Ohm Youngmisuk has covered the Giants, Jets, and NFL. Prior to that, he spent almost a decade covering the Nets, Knicks, and NBA. He graduated from Michigan State University and worked for over 12 years at the New York Daily News before joining ESPNNewYork.com.
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Prior to their home opener, teams usually present their whole squad. However, only Philadelphia’s starting five were announced to the audience as the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers prepared to play at the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night.
It was plain why: it would enable the Sixers to avoid either ignoring or presenting their star point guard, Ben Simmons, to a chorus of boos.
It was another another illustration of the liminal position that both Brooklyn and Philadelphia are in this season. They started this season as the epicenters of NBA news due to the absences of Simmons and Kyrie Irving, after finishing with the top two records in the Eastern Conference previous season only to fall in the second round of the playoffs.
While the night concluded in spectacular fashion, with Brooklyn rallying from a 10-point hole in the last five minutes with a 16-1 closing run to win 114-109, the knowledge that Simmons and Irving are unlikely to return looms over both clubs. Both teams still have a lot of star power and a lot of other issues to address than when or if their point guards will play again.
With two games completed and 80 more to go, here are four questions to consider:
The Brooklyn Nets (1-1) are currently in first place in the Eastern Conference.
Should the Nets be worried that there have been times when they didn’t appear like the squad that was supposed to win it all?
The Nets have had a string of poor beginnings, including a 127-104 defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks in which they were outhustled and physically pushed about. The Nets needed a triple-double from Kevin Durant, a throwback game from LaMarcus Aldridge, a 16-1 closing run, and three late 3-point airballs from Sixers guard Danny Green to win their first game of the season in Philadelphia.
After the victory, coach Steve Nash warned, “It’s not going to be nice for a long time here.”
Nash is preaching patience, using the start of the regular season to experiment with huge lines and varied rotations, all while Irving remains out until he meets New York City’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement. As Brooklyn strives to remain healthy, the Nets’ veteran-laden lineup is working on fitness.
There have been a few of early developments for the Nets that might be significant. Patty Mills, a guard, seems to be a potential sixth man contender, taking advantage of Irving’s absence. He hasn’t missed a 3-point attempt in his first ten attempts. And although Aldridge won’t be the Trail Blazers version of himself (he was a four-time All-Star with Portland), he is capable of a 23-point outburst like the one he had against center Joel Embiid and the Sixers, which is a huge difference-maker for the Nets.
Kevin Durant and James Harden have been hurt by Kyrie Irving’s absence.
Nash pointed out the obvious missing piece from Brooklyn’s championship jigsaw when asked how Durant and Harden had adjusted to playing with ten new teammates.
In regard to Irving, Nash stated, “We lost a significant component.” “It’s not just the new pieces; it’s the emptiness we’ve been used to. At this point in life, we have a lot on our plates. But, maybe, in the coming weeks, we’ll begin to remove some of the trash and find out how to best play together.”
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It helps to have two superstars in Durant and Harden to clear the way. Without their primary point guard, Durant and Harden will have to adapt from game to game. Durant scored early and often throughout the contest. But, because of the Sixers’ defense, he claimed he felt compelled to assault the paint and create for teammates. As a Net, he concluded with his second triple-double.
“Each game is unique,” Durant remarked. “We all know that some of these competitive teams like playing hard defense because they are so adaptable. So, heading into the game, I just have to be ready for everything.”
Harden will be given additional playmaking responsibilities. Harden may be more of a facilitator with the starters while becoming a more aggressive scorer with the second unit, according to Nash. Harden is averaging 20 points, 8 assists, and 7.5 rebounds in two games, and the idea is that he will only get better as he recovers from his hamstring injury last playoffs.
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“[The Nets] have the ability to pass the ball to Durant, who can dance one-on-one like Harden. We don’t have that kind of squad, so we’ll have to make do with mobility and movement, and we’ll have to keep believing in ourselves.”
That’s a bit of a slam on Tobias Harris, who the 76ers paid $180 million for two years ago and elected to retain over Butler. Harris had a solid game on Friday, scoring 23 points, grabbing 7 rebounds, and dishing out 4 assists. But he and Embiid couldn’t provide a bucket when Philadelphia needed one late in the game.
It’s also one that Simmons, who is known for his silence in the fourth quarter, won’t be able to fix if he returns. If Philadelphia wants to be a legitimate title contender, it will have to solve this issue at some point.
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