76ers

Joel Embiid, Justin Anderson recount 'insane' Super Bowl experience

Joel Embiid, Justin Anderson recount 'insane' Super Bowl experience

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid and Justin Anderson tried to soak up everything from inside U.S. Bank Stadium — the game, the crowd, the passionate celebration when the clock ran out and the Eagles were hoisting the trophy. 

The magnitude of the opportunity to experience their city's team winning it all over the Patriots was not lost on the pair of Sixers

"I can't believe I went to the Super Bowl," Anderson said after practice Monday. "Coming from where I come from, Joel was the same way, we were talking about how incredible the moment is. We were trying to take pictures and videos so we could just hold on to them forever."

Anderson and Embiid flew to Minneapolis following the Sixers' loss to the Pacers Saturday night in Indianapolis. The team did not practice Sunday after back-to-back games, making it a geographically ideal scenario.

Embiid wanted to be a part of the crowd as much as he could, so they alternated seats between the stands and a suite. Even though Embiid drew a lot of attention (it's kind of hard for a 7-foot-2 All-Star to blend in, after all), he embraced every part of it. 

"Well, it wasn't exactly being treated like a regular fan because it was kind of crazy," Embiid said. "People following you all over the place, people coming up to you, pushing you, asking for pictures. It was actually insane in that case. But I always think about myself like a regular person. I want to be able to enjoy everything because I'm only 23. I want to be out and about, just seeing the whole world."

While they were at the Super Bowl, they watched celebratory reactions from a distance as fans flooded the streets of Philadelphia. 

"It was insane," Embiid said. "I wish I was in town. I would have been jumping over cars and doing the same thing they were doing. But I saw the videos, it was amazing. It just shows you the passion the fans and this city have. I want to be in that type of situation, too. I was just excited about it all."

Anderson and Embiid took a charter plane back after the game. They landed in Philadelphia around 3 a.m. Monday following some delays on the runway. The Sixers practiced Monday afternoon, where they discussed the victory and what it means for the city and its fans.

"It's just an amazing story of perseverance. It's an amazing story of belief," Brett Brown said. "One of the common threads with it all is our fanbase is very unique in pro sport. To envision what a Wells Fargo arena would look like during the playoffs gets us all going."

NBA stars taking notice of Sixers' rise

NBA stars taking notice of Sixers' rise

The Sixers have been rising steadily in the standings and players around the league are taking notice. 

The young squad improved to 31-25 with a victory over the Bulls Thursday. They have won six straight and have not lost at the Wells Fargo Center in 2018. That totals up to the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, only two games behind the Wizards for the fourth spot and two games ahead of the Heat for the eighth. 

"I like them," Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler said at the All-Star break. "They've got a lot of great young talent. We do as well. But I think the way that they're going and how they play so hard and play so together, that's how you win basketball games. They're going to be really, really good for a long time."

The Sixers turned heads with a statement win over the Rockets in only their seventh game of the season. From there, they have defeated playoff teams, including a rare sweep of the Spurs, while struggling against sub.-500 opponents. 

They have 26 games remaining to make a postseason push. Of their upcoming opponents, only 10 games are against current top-eight teams in their conferences. Brett Brown has emphasized they can't take any team lightly. This is the time for the Sixers to maximize their schedule and show they learned from previous letdowns.

"They look good," Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard said. "Obviously as a young team, it takes time to learn how to win. ... The mature, really high-level teams, they find a way to get it done. I think for them, that's what their record shows. You play against them and it's hard to play against them. 

"They're really talented, they play hard, they play for a great coach. It's just those nights where you might not have it, having that understanding and that experience that'll lead you to more wins. I think once they get to that point, that's when maybe nine or 10 games that they've let slip, maybe they win those games."

The Sixers wrapped up the majority of their Western Conference schedule prior to the All-Star break. They have only the Timberwolves, Nuggets and Mavericks left to play. Those in the conference still are keeping an eye on the Sixers' progress, even if they may not face off again for months. 

"Everyone definitely sees the talent there," Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. "Any time you've got Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid to build around, they've got a very bright future. I think everyone had very high expectations, but it's hard to have high expectations with a team that's got a lot of first-, second-year guys that have never been in the playoffs. 

"But you can tell that they're going to be in the playoffs for, shoot, the next decade or so, probably be upper echelon pretty soon."

Leave the NBA playoffs alone

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USA Today Images

Leave the NBA playoffs alone

You can't kill NBA commissioner Adam Silver for trying.

Last week, Silver announced to the media during All-Star weekend in Los Angeles that he's considering a change to the playoffs, where rather than the top eight seeds in each conference competing to determine a conference champ, playoff teams will be seeded 1 through 16.

More recently, ESPN reported that the league is kicking around a "play-in tournament" to determine the final two seeds in each conference.

Let's take these ideas one at a time:

Re-seeding the postseason may sound fun, and even kind of fair, but it completely dissolves conference rivalries that the league has celebrated for decades. Looking for the Warriors and Rockets in the Western Conference Finals? Sorry. Under the new format, there would be no more West Finals. Right now, those are the two best teams in the NBA. So you might see them in the Finals in that format — if they both get that far.

I could understand this argument in years when the disparity in balance of power is egregious. That's not the case this season. If the NBA season ended today, one team would reap the benefits of a 1-16 playoff format: the 9-seed in the West, the Clippers, who are a half-game better than Eastern Conference 8-seed Miami.

(Psst, right now the 5-12 matchup in a 1-16 format would be Sixers-Cavaliers. But let's stay on topic.)

As for the play-in tournament, this completely contradicts the re-seeding idea. The NBA wants the best teams in the playoffs, right? Is a Pistons-Hornets play-in game must-see TV? Or what's left of the Clippers vs. the Jazz?

And how long do you want the postseason to be? Last season, the playoffs lasted nearly nine weeks. It was only that "brief" because the Finals didn't go the full seven games. Adding another round could extend the NBA season into July (unless it corresponds with a shortening of the schedule). We have seen what happens in Olympic years when players don't get enough offseason rest and it ain't pretty.

I'm guessing this is a backhanded way for Silver to keep more teams from tanking for better draft picks. "Hey, you may be 11th in the conference, but you're one 3-game win streak away from a shot at the postseason!!"

I'm all for change, but in the case of the NBA playoffs, commish, I think we're good for now.