In one of the most unpresented times in American sports history, everyone is looking for answers. The NBA was the first league to suspend its season and there’s still little known about its plans to resume.
In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Sixers GM Elton Brand couldn’t offer a ton of answers on the league’s resumption plan. He said he’s been in contact with commissioner Adam Silver and is part of the NBA’s committee for return to play.
Brand stressed the importance of a ramp-up period before any games resume. While he talked a lot about how his players are staying physically and mentally sharp, most don’t have access to a hoop and will need time to just play basketball again.
“It's tough,” Brand said. “We've sent balls. You may have seen Matisse [Thybulle’s] TikTok where he's dribbling in his apartment, but a few players didn't have access to hoops, like most teams around the league. So, it's definitely been tough and a challenge for all the players but they're just working on taking care of their body and their mental health and doing what they can in these unique times.”
The Sixers’ practice facility is in Camden, New Jersey, a state that’s been hit hard by COVID-19. In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf has said that Philadelphia will be one of the last regions to reopen in the state.
With states like Georgia loosening their stay-at-home restrictions, there is a fear that certain teams in states where the limitations are laxer could have an advantage.
Brand has been exploring several avenues to make sure his players aren’t behind — including one in the first state, which began loosening some of its restrictions last week.
“We’ll definitely make sure our players are not at a disadvantage when the season starts,” Brand said. “We’re looking to access New Jersey and Pennsylvania as they’re loosening the stay-at-home mandates. But also, we have a great facility right in Wilmington, Delaware, that our G-League team, the Blue Coats, play in and practice in. It’s really state of the art. We have backup plans ready and available for our guys when they need it and when it’s deemed safe.”
Speaking of uncertainty, the Sixers may have have been the most mercurial team in the league this season. If the NBA resumes play, here’s an unfortunate reminder that they weren’t in a great spot. They sit at sixth in the Eastern Conference. They’ve had their share of injuries but have also underperformed.
The Al Horford signing hasn’t looked good. While Tobias Harris has been solid, he hasn’t performed like a near-max player. Then there’s the fate of head coach Brett Brown, who boldly claimed he wanted the East’s No. 1 seed before the season began.
If the season doesn’t resume, Brand will be left with a lot of questions to answer. He’s not ready to go there just yet.
“It's very hard just to speculate on what changes would be made if we don't have a season,” Brand said. “I can tell you we're preparing as if the season is coming back. I speak to Brett Brown every day still — FaceTime — and he has his staff that he's preparing for the season — regular season and playoffs. There's just so many unknowns. But he's prepping, I'm prepping, and I hope we do get a chance to play in some way once it's deemed safe.”
If the NBA goes straight into the postseason with the traditional format, the Sixers would take on the rival Celtics. The Sixers won the season series, 3-1, over Boston.
The playoffs will be a different animal, but Brand believes the team he built is ready for the challenge.
“I want to see this team in the playoffs,” Brand said. “I’ve said it many times — we were built for it. So, I’d want to see that, but I know it’s going to be based on the safety and health of not just us, our families and fans, but our communities. But we are preparing as if we’re going to go to the playoffs and play the Celtics.”
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