A week after officially becoming a member of the Sixers, Danny Green is about to play his first game for the team. With all of the changes the franchise experienced this offseason, his debut will be far from the only notable first Tuesday night.
We surely won’t see the best version of the 2020-21 Sixers in their preseason opener against the Celtics, especially given this abbreviated and atypical offseason, but we’ll see the team in action for the first time since Boston finished off its first-round playoff sweep of the Sixers on Aug. 23.
Here are the essentials:
- When: 7:30 p.m. with Sixers Pregame Live at 7 p.m.
- Where: Wells Fargo Center
- Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
- Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the MyTeams app
And here are three storylines to watch:
A peek at the stars
No, this won’t be much like a regular-season game, but the shortened nature of the 2020-21 preseason means we’ll see more than brief cameos for important players.
“Yeah, I’m not going to mess around,” head coach Doc Rivers said Sunday. “I’m not going to play guys 48 minutes, but I’m going to play our key guys, at least in the first half, a lot of minutes, and just let them kind of build a rotation. Then in the second half, probably go back to preseason basketball.”
Ben Simmons said before training camp that he’s “100 percent” physically after undergoing surgery to remove a loose body from his left knee in August. The only Sixer listed on the NBA’s injury report is Terrance Ferguson, who is questionable with a left ankle sprain.
Boston will be without All-Star point guard Kemba Walker (left knee strengthening), Romeo Langford (right wrist surgery) and Tristan Thompson (right hamstring strain).
Offensive work in progress
As part of the NBA’s top-rated offense last season with the Mavericks, Seth Curry has high standards. He’s excepting some bumpiness Tuesday night as the Sixers run new actions installed by Rivers and assistant coach Dave Joerger.
“I think our defense is pretty far along,” Curry said Sunday. “We’ve got a lot of talent on the defensive end. We’ve got a big lineup, a lot of versatile defenders and smart guys on that end of the floor. So I think our defense is further along than our offense. We’ve got to continue to work offensively. We’re not going to be as sharp as we want to be Tuesday night. … As long as we’re getting better as the season goes along and we’re sharp come the end of the season, playoff time, that’s our main goal. It’s a day-by-day process on the offensive end.”
Something worth monitoring with Curry, as we noted in our preseason preview, is his screening for Simmons and Joel Embiid. He’s not an identical player to JJ Redick, but it seems the Sixers hope Curry will have similar success putting defenses in compromised positions with his screens for the Sixers’ stars.
Searching for the right speed
Increasing the Sixers’ pace and running more pick-and-rolls have been points of emphasis for Rivers.
On the pace front, the team will look to find offensive fluidity without turning the ball over too often in pursuit of looks early in the shot clock. Simmons can be a brilliant facilitator but had a career-high 18.0 turnover percentage last season, in the sixth percentile among point guards according to Cleaning the Glass.
“There’s a number (of turnovers), obviously, that you don’t want to go over per game,” Rivers said Monday. “I think we’ll find out what our pace is, No. 1. And I’m going to keep saying, pace doesn’t mean race. Pace means find your pace, constant movement, constant playing. I don’t want this team to get stuck.
"I want them to keep playing through their errors. Yeah, you have to be patient a little bit, but if it’s the same turnovers by the same guys, then that would become a problem.”