CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Sixers are over it.
They are tired of being viewed as a so-called “easy win” or on the receiving end of victory proclamations.
When Nicolas Batum guaranteed a victory in Monday’s game in Charlotte, the Sixers had enough.
“You can’t say that with us,” Nerlens Noel said. “We’re not the team that we used to be in the past few years.”
On Saturday, Batum vowed to end the Hornets’ recent struggles at the Sixers’ expense. The Hornets had lost nine of their last 10 games and were tumbling down the standings. The Sixers, Batum decided, would be their next ‘W.’
"We're going to win this game on Monday,” Batum said to the Charlotte Observer. “We will."
Former Hornet Gerald Henderson caught wind of this statement. He made sure his teammates were aware of Batum’s comments before the game. The Sixers responded with a 105-99 win at the Spectrum Center, their first win in Charlotte since Nov. 30, 2012 (see Instant Replay).
“It’s not the first guarantee that’s ever been issued, but it’s something I think some guys on our team would look at and use in the game for sure,” Henderson said.
The Sixers, playing without Joel Embiid for the 10th straight game, rallied for a collaborative team win. Dario Saric led the Sixers with 18 points and 11 rebounds off the bench. Robert Covington followed right behind with 17 points. Henderson, Noel, T.J. McConnell and Nik Stauskas also scored in double digits while Ersan Ilyasova pulled down 10 rebounds (see featured highlight).
“I know he has a lot of confidence in his team and whatnot but — I’m not calling anyone out — but I think it’s a little absurd to guarantee a win,” McConnell said. “And if you do, I think you should just back it up. I’m not taking shots at anyone by any means, but it’s disrespectful towards our team and I thought we responded well today.”
Batum scored 16 points with one board and four assists. Following the Hornets’ loss, he stood by his comments and cited the context of his guarantee.
“I don’t know why people are getting mad about it,” Batum said. “The question was like, ‘Are you going to win the next game?’ I wasn’t going to say we were going to lose the next game.”
When asked if he had any regrets about the situation, he replied, "No, why should I regret? I have done it a couple times this season."
His previous words, regardless of how they came about, resonated with the Sixers. After losing 199 games in the last three seasons, they are finally moving toward a new phase with direction and clearer vision of what their future could look like. When an opponent points to them as a way out of a slump, they don’t take it lightly.
“[It was] more than motivation,” Noel said. “It definitely adds to the chip on all these guys’ shoulders to come out here and show what we’re capable of. I think we have throughout the season. I’m proud of these guys for being able to come out and step up and play with a little more heart, play with a little more passion, and give it to them.”
As for Henderson, it was mission accomplished for the eighth-year player the Sixers signed to add leadership to the locker room.
“We like to just worry about us and what we’re doing,” Henderson said. “But stuff like that happens. It’s worth a look.”