76ers

Julius Erving on Sixers: 'We should make a good run at the playoffs'

Julius Erving on Sixers: 'We should make a good run at the playoffs'

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Julius Erving stood underneath the Sixers' championship banners hanging above the practice court. The Hall of Famer has experienced winning in Philadelphia and is eager for his former team to bring it back to the city. 

“I think we should make a good run at the playoffs,” Erving said. “There’s enough young talent on the team and the system is good enough, it’s proven itself, that, if we can keep a healthy team out there, then we should be able to make a run at the playoffs.” 

Erving is in town for the Julius Erving Golf Classic, a three-day event supporting the Salvation Army of Greater Philadelphia. On Saturday he hosted the Erving Youth Basketball Experience at the Sixers training complex. 

Markelle Fultz made a special appearance and Erving got to spend some time with the No. 1 pick. 

“I think he’ll have an understated type of leadership because I don’t know whether he’s a verbal leader or whether he’s a lead-by-example type guy,” Erving said of Fultz. “Either way, he’s a significant piece to the puzzle.”

Another key piece is Joel Embiid, whose name drew an enthusiastic response from the crowd of children while Erving held a Q&A. Erving referred to watching Embiid play last season as “a welcome sight.” 

“Having had conversations with Coach (Brett) Brown, he had such high expectations of Joel,” Erving said. “From a skill standpoint, he knew he was as as skilled as any big man in the league. Now it’s just a matter of maturity and confidence, and Joel seems to be very confident.” 

Erving pulls for the Sixers from afar. He tries to catch their games when they are in Atlanta, where he resides, and if his travel schedule overlaps with their road games in other cities. 

“I’m ready,” Erving said of a turnaround. “We want to have a team that’s a contender for the title.”

Details on NBA’s playoff format and timeline are coming into shape

Details on NBA’s playoff format and timeline are coming into shape

So, what’s the plan?

Though the NBA reportedly has not yet reached a final consensus on a format to resume the 2019-20 season, it might be close to receiving approval from one key coalition.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Ramona Shelburne and Zach Lowe reported Friday night that the league is planning to hold a Board of Governors vote on Thursday, and that owners are expected to approve the plan commissioner Adam Silver proposes to resume the season at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Teams expect Silver’s plan to include 20-22 teams, per ESPN.

Though this report doesn’t provide complete clarity on what Silver will specifically bring forward, it does at least help elucidate the NBA’s timeline. Another helpful piece of information on that front was a report from The Athletic’s Shams Charania that Silver told the Board of Governors that July 31 is a target date for a return to play. The approval of the National Basketball Players Association is another important component. Michele Roberts, the NBPA’s executive director, told Shelburne on Tuesday that the “overwhelming” sentiment is players “really want to play.” The season has been suspended since March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

A format involving 20-22 teams could take several different forms. Charania reported earlier Friday that the Board of Governors had discussed four potential scenarios.

A “group stage,” which The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor had previously outlined, would be similar to the FIFA World Cup. Twenty teams would be assigned a “tier” based on their regular-season records, then grouped into pools, with the teams who perform best within their pools advancing. In theory, the possibility of a highly seeded team underperforming and failing to advance from pool play would be beneficial to the Sixers. However, the elimination of conference alignments could be a downside, since the Sixers would likely have to compete against strong Western Conference teams such as the Lakers and Clippers whom they’d prefer not to play at such an early stage. O’Connor reported this is one reason Eastern Conference teams have pushed back against the idea.

A play-in tournament would presumably not apply to the Sixers, who are 39-26 and not on the playoff bubble. That said, it might impact the probability of early upsets, one way or the another. It remains to be seen whether a team performing well in the play-in tournament would carry over to the playoffs, or whether it would be adversely impacted by the extra games played. Both factors could have an influence. 

The Sixers should prefer a format that retains the traditional conference alignments. Their route to a championship would be both rough and unusual under any of the circumstances reportedly under consideration, but meeting the Lakers or Clippers in a group stage or early playoff round would add another layer of difficulty. 

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Which NBA playoff format should Sixers prefer?

Which NBA playoff format should Sixers prefer?

In a normal year, the NBA would be nearing the conclusion of a 16-team postseason organized by conferences. This is not a normal year.

As the league considers how it might restart the 2019-20 season, a handful of unorthodox options are on the table. Which of these possibilities would be best for the Sixers?

Let’s take a look:

No conference affiliation? Straight to the playoffs?  

According to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, about half of NBA general managers voted for a 16-team playoff format with no conference affiliation. The Athletic's Shams Charania reported that 53 percent of GMs voted to go straight to the postseason instead of playing any further regular-season games. In such a scenario, the Sixers would hold on to Oklahoma City’s top-20 protected first round pick (currently No. 22), while any additional regular-season games would jeopardize that selection conveying. 

The Sixers’ path looks a bit more difficult without a traditional conference setup. They’d be seeded No. 6 in the Eastern Conference and play the Celtics in the first round, whom they hold a 3-1 advantage over this season. In a no-conferences format, the Sixers would also play Boston, in a 12 vs. 5 matchup. If they advanced, they’d potentially have to get through the following teams to win the NBA Finals: Clippers, Bucks, Lakers. Their most challenging path in a traditional format, on paper, would be facing the Celtics, Raptors, Bucks and winner of the West. 

Neither path is easy, but the no-conferences model would possibly force the Sixers to face better teams at earlier stages. The Sixers do, however, have regular-season wins over both Los Angeles teams, Milwaukee and Toronto. While they’ve been searching for consistency and continuity all season, they have shown they can beat the league’s elite teams. 

Play-in tournament? Group stage? 

Per O'Connor, about 75 percent of teams voted for a play-in tournament, while 25 percent of teams voted for a group stage model. 

A play-in tournament wouldn’t directly impact the Sixers, who aren’t on the playoff bubble. This is one method of widening the playoff field, which NBC Sports NBA insider Tom Haberstroh reports would be “partially motivated” by a desire to include star names like Zion Williamson and Damian Lillard. Perhaps a bubble team winning the play-in tournament, gaining momentum and then upsetting a top seed would eventually help the Sixers, but that’s a stretch. The toll of earning a playoff spot could be depleting, too. We haven’t seen it before, so there aren’t any safe assumptions. 

A group stage format would be similar to the FIFA World Cup, where teams are drawn into pool play and those who perform best among their pool advance to the next round. It wouldn’t be a random draw — the league would presumably distribute teams based on regular-season performance — but the chance for more chaos and more top seeds falling in that setting would be a positive for the Sixers. 

Picking opponents? 

As a means to mitigate the loss of home-court advantage — Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida is reportedly the frontrunner single location if/when the season resumes — Haberstroh suggests the idea of having higher-seeded teams pick their opponents in every round.

For those who feel the Sixers are better than their 39-26 record, that wouldn’t be an advantageous model, since higher-seeded teams could "avoid" the Sixers. In Round 1 of a no-conference 16-team playoffs, Haberstroh projects the No. 5 seed Celtics would decide to play the Mavericks. He thinks the No. 7 Jazz would choose to play the Sixers, who have split their two matchups with Utah. 

Commissioner Adam Silver is set to talk with the NBA’s board of governors on Friday and will discuss various formats, according to multiple reports. In the event that the season resumes, the Sixers’ route to a title will be a tough one — regardless of which format the league might ultimately settle on. 

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