76ers

Charles Barkley hopes NBA doesn't 'do something stupid just for money'

Charles Barkley hopes NBA doesn't 'do something stupid just for money'

Some NBA teams in states where state-at-home orders have been eased will open their practice facilities on Friday for voluntary workouts. The Sixers, whose practice facility is in Camden, New Jersey, won’t be among those teams, though general manager Elton Brand said Tuesday the team has “backup plans,” including possibly using 76ers Fieldhouse in Wilmington, Delaware (see story).

In the context of those developments, Charles Barkley on Thursday afternoon joined The Mike Missanelli show on 97.5 The Fanatic and was asked about the possibility of the NBA resuming the 2019-20 season, which has been suspended since March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

As usual, Barkley had a strong opinion.

I don’t know how they can play basketball safe,” he said. "That’s the most important thing. I just don’t know how they can do it and make everybody safe.” 

“You’ve heard this stupid idea, they’re going to keep guys in Vegas and Florida for the playoffs. And I’m like well, once they’re in the hotel, they can’t leave, they can’t see their families … I don’t see all the players going for that. Then they’ve got to worry about everybody in the hotel who brings room service, the maid and everything. You would have to have total lockdown — the maids couldn’t go home. I just don’t see how they would be able to do it and make it safe. The one thing you can’t have happen is — just talking to my attorney — if you get one of these guys sick and they get one of their kids sick, and god forbid, they die or somebody in their family dies, they’re going to sue the hell out of TNT, ESPN and the NBA. It’s a really dangerous situation. 

Commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA executive director Michele Roberts will hold a call with all NBA players on Friday, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported. 

Does Barkley think the NBA should cancel the season, given the risks he outlined?

“What I think they should do,” Barkley said, “is say, ‘Listen guys, this is a bad situation.’ These guys that own the teams, they’ve got a gazillion dollars. The TV networks are going to be around forever. Let’s just pay the players and say, ‘Guys, we’re going to start the season next year.’ … I’ve always believed we should start the season in December anyway so we don’t have to compete with pro football or college football. I’ve said that five years. ... But it’s obviously always about money.

"I just hope we don’t do something stupid just for money and somebody gets really sick or dies. That doesn’t make sense for me.”

That said, Barkley was not enthusiastic about the idea of playing games without fans.

“I think it’s going to suck,” he said of fan-less games. “I think it’s going to suck for the players. Obviously it’s going to suck for the fans, but it’s going to suck for the players. … There’s a really big advantage to playing at home and you lose that ability when there are no crowds there.” 

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Ron Brooks, virtual fans and what to expect for Sixers' 'home' games

Ron Brooks, virtual fans and what to expect for Sixers' 'home' games

The Sixers have yet to lose a home game this calendar year.

Monday night, they’ll look to maintain their home excellence, just not at Wells Fargo Center. They lost their seeding game opener at Disney World, a designated road matchup against the Pacers, and "host" the Spurs tonight.

The team has worked to replicate the environment in which the Sixers went 29-2 this season as closely as possible.

“We want to keep that going,” Sixers Chief Marketing Office Katie O'Reilly told NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Paul Hudrick in an interview Monday. “Our fans are incredible. Our season ticket members are incredible, they’re loyal, they’re passionate. They really create that environment.”

For Monday's game against San Antonio, you’ll see on screens courtside “virtual fans," which will include, according to O’Reilly, “season ticket members, our marketing partners, our community partners, as well as friends and family of the players.” Those virtual fans have been given packs that have T-shirts, hats and noisemakers.

Several unique features of a typical Wells Fargo Center game night aren’t going anywhere. PA announcer Matt Cord has some pre-recorded segments, and, per O’Reilly, the beloved Ron Brooks — “the world’s first double amputee to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout,” as Cord always introduces him — will still be belting out the national anthem. 

“Even in-arena for our home games, we’ll have Ron Brooks, our guy, singing the national anthem,” O’Reilly said. “We’ll have our traditional bell ringing, we’ll have our player intros, we’ll have our open video. So that sort of entire pregame ritual that we have will run really exactly the same, just virtually on video.”

And the Wendy’s Frosty Freeze-out? 

“If someone misses two (straight) free throws, you will still be able to redeem for your free Frosty,” O’Reilly said. 

The roar of the crowd obviously won’t be nearly as loud or intense after a big play, but many of the “sounds of the game” should be familiar for players. O’Reilly didn’t mention the boos that both Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid hope to hear if the Sixers aren’t playing well, but player input factored into the new home gameday experience. 

“Our players are constantly collaborating with our marketing and game operations department on the look and feel,” O’Reilly said, “and they really feed off that home energy, so it was important for us to maintain as much of it as we could down in Orlando, and we’re excited to see it come to life tonight.

“Our players’ voices are always heard. We’re always receiving feedback from everybody, whether it’s front office, season ticket members, the players, the coaches, and we really take pride in delivering on that. … Every player has a song that they get to pick to play in-arena when they make a big play or a big shot. So it is really important to us that we sort of curate the experience based on everyone who is there, and we’re collaborating all the time.”

Given how invincible the Sixers appeared at home before the coronavirus pandemic forced the season to pause, the idea to essentially duplicate a normal home atmosphere that players feel comfortable in seems intuitive. We'll learn soon just how effective it is.  

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Sixers vs. Spurs: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Sixers vs. Spurs: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Updated: 1:48 p.m. 

The Sixers (39-27) and Spurs (29-36) will meet Monday over eight months after their first matchup this season, a 115-104 Sixers win on Nov. 22. It’s technically a home game for the Sixers, the team’s first since March 11. They were 29-2 at Wells Fargo Center. 

Mike Scott (right knee soreness) is out and Glenn Robinson III (left hip pointer) is doubtful. Kyle O'Quinn missed his coronavirus test on Sunday and is not eligible to play, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.

Here are the essentials for tonight’s game:

When: 8 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 7 
Where: Visa Athletic Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch: 

An outlier opener? 

In several ways, Saturday’s defeat to the Pacers wasn’t like most for the Sixers this season.

The team outscored Indiana by a point in nine Joel Embiid-Al Horford minutes but saw their 10-point fourth-quarter lead evaporate when Horford stepped in at center, the opposite of the trend this year. The starting backcourt combined for four points on five field goal attempts. Turnover problems that had characterized seasons past resurfaced as the Sixers gave it away 14 times in the first half and 21 times in the game. They’d been 10th in turnovers (14.2 per game) before the hiatus. Ben Simmons’ defense was not anywhere close to as great as it’s been for much of the season. 

A loss is a loss, but perhaps the Sixers on Monday will look more like the team we saw in their first 65 games. 

Another size disparity 

Jakob Poeltl is the only traditional frontcourt player in San Antonio’s starting lineup, which means the Sixers will again have plenty of size advantages. With LaMarcus Aldridge out for the season after right shoulder surgery, DeMar DeRozan is the Spurs’ second-tallest starter at 6-foot-6. Shake Milton and Josh Richardson are the Sixers’ shortest starters at 6-5. 

The Spurs have opened well at Disney World, winning their first two games and moving into ninth in the Western Conference, but the Sixers will present a unique challenge. 

'Walking that line'

Brett Brown doesn’t generally have an endless level of patience with younger players. He’s sometimes quick to pull the plug when they make mistakes or have trouble adjusting to a new situation.

Following Milton’s poor first game in the new starting lineup (no points, three assists, three turnovers, five fouls), it will be interesting to see Brown’s approach if Milton struggles again early. 

“The tolerance level … whether it’s trying to persevere and grow Shake, whether it’s the distribution of how you actually use Ben Simmons, all of those things are always on my mind,” he said Sunday. “It’s the launching pad that we have now where you’ve got some games before you enter the playoffs. And life moves quickly where you get stuck in this current where you’re going to blink and the playoffs are going to be right at your doorstep. 

“Walking that line of persevering and patience vs. gut feel — you like it or you don’t — that ecosystem is my job.”

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