Draymond Green

NBA Finals rematch shows Sixers there's no specific way to build contender

NBA Finals rematch shows Sixers there's no specific way to build contender

The NBA Finals are officially set and for a fourth straight year, we’ll see a Golden State Warriors-Cleveland Cavaliers showdown for the title.

While fans of the league let out a collective yawn at yet another championship rematch, the Sixers should be paying close attention to the participants.

Sure, the Sixers know both the Warriors and Cavaliers have all the ingredients that make up true contenders — great players, veteran leadership, strong coaching, positive culture, etc. But the biggest takeaway should be that there is no specific way to climb the NBA mountaintop.

With an important summer ahead of them, the Sixers have the ability to keep adding to their young core with more draft picks to grow organically or shake up their roster with superstar talent through free agency/trade.

Loyal supporters of “the process” would prefer the first model, one perfected by the Warriors. The Dubs have eight players on their current roster drafted by the club, including perennial All-Stars Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. That group has blossomed together to reach incredible heights and will now go for a third crown in four years.

It’s a prototype the Sixers could definitely continue to follow with young studs Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Dario Saric already making their mark in the league.

“We have to figure out what’s the best way that we can continue to develop our core, supplement that core with good veteran experience and players that are going to help them grow and develop, and exercise patience along the way,” Sixers president Bryan Colangelo said earlier this month.

Or … the Sixers could throw that patience right out the window and make a splash for big-name talent. The top target, of course, being LeBron James, who stars for a Cavs squad that features 12 players acquired via free agency or a trade.

“With respect to adding — I’m going to say talent, not free agent — because talent comes in many forms,” Colangelo said. “Talent comes in a possible trade, possible free agency. Both options loom with cap space and flexibility. If the right deal comes along, we’ll certainly pursue it. We will explore any and all options to add that talent. 

“But to say that this group can do it now, they obviously proved they couldn’t.”

And proving it is all that matters in the end.

Whether it’s the Warriors or Cavaliers that finish the Finals hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy while splashing champagne all around, neither side will be worrying about how their roster was constructed to reach that point.

If the Sixers want to have that feeling again for the first time since 1983, they won’t concern themselves with what people think about their plan to assemble the best team either.

Joel Embiid ready for home playoff debut, says Sixers' 'time is now'

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USA Today Images

Joel Embiid ready for home playoff debut, says Sixers' 'time is now'

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid received a text message from across the NBA following the Sixers’ 27-point win over the Heat in Game 1. 

It was from Draymond Green, sending his championship-winning insight. 

“Draymond texted me after the first game when we blew Miami out,” Embiid recalled Monday. “He basically told me that it’s not going to be the same in Game 2. They came back and they won that game.” 

Green was right. Each contest has been a match of adjustments, including Embiid’s return from a 10-game layoff. Wearing a required mask with goggles, Embiid played in the Sixers’ Game 3 and Game 4 victories. 

Now he’s poised to make his postseason home debut Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Center, where he’s been eager to compete in a playoff game his entire career. 

“The atmosphere was amazing, it was insane,” Embiid said of the home crowd in Games 1 and 2. “After going to Miami, I felt like nothing compared to it. … We’ve been almost perfect [at home] since the beginning of the year. It just shows you how much we need them. Especially myself, I play better in that type of environment. I need the fans to get into it and push me. That makes me elevate my game.” 

Embiid’s offensive game has been impacted since coming back from a concussion and left orbital fracture suffered on March 28. He scored 23 points (5 for 11 FG) with seven rebounds, four assists, three blocks and three turnovers in Game 3. The following game, he posted 14 points (2 for 11 FG, 0 for 4 from three), 12 rebounds, five blocks and eight turnovers. Embiid is shooting 31.8 percent from the field and 71.4 percent from the line in the series. 

“The main thing, especially when it (the offense) doesn’t go my way, is just be a beast defensively,” he said. 

Embiid cannot play without the protective mask, though, which he has described as “annoying” and “weird.” Markelle Fultz and Amir Johnson tried on the goggles after practice Monday to get a glimpse into his line of vision. 

“They kind of saw my pain when I have to wear them,” Embiid said. “But that can’t be an excuse. I have to get used to it.” 

Embiid’s mindset going into Game 5 is to close out the Heat series and get some extra time before the second round (see story). The Celtics and Bucks series is tied 2-2. He sees the first round as just the starting point for the Sixers’ postseason. 

“A lot of people say that we have a bright future, but I think our time is now,” Embiid said. “We have a pretty good chance. We have a special team, a lot of great guys. I don’t think we need anybody else. We’ve just got to work with what we have, and we have a special team. I feel like we have a pretty good chance to go far. 

"So it’s just about us taking care of the little things, like not turning the ball over, just playing together, like we've been doing, sharing the ball, not be selfish, and everything is going to take care of itself." 

Embiid will take the court for his first postseason game in Philadelphia when the Sixers tip off against the Heat at 8 p.m. Tuesday on NBCSP.

"The playoffs, that’s kind of like you play in front of the whole world," Embiid said. "I feel like I thrive in that type of situation because I feel like I was made for this." 

Our NBA All-Star challenge — describe Embiid in one word

Our NBA All-Star challenge — describe Embiid in one word

LOS ANGELES —  From trash talking on the court to expressing himself on social media, Joel Embiid is a player of many (many) words. So if his fellow All-Stars had to describe him in just one, what would it be? 

Draymond Green: "'Funny.' He's hilarious. The stuff he says, he goes on TV talking about (Kevin Durant's) burner account, he's talking how he's a savage. His Instagram locations, pretty funny. He's a good guy." 

Andre Drummond: "I’d probably say 'charismatic,' 'funny,' 'savage.' He don’t care, he just does what he wants to.”

Paul George: “Personality,' in all caps."

(Why all caps?)

“Because he’s a big dude.”

John Wall: "He's just 'himself.' He's very confident."

Anthony Davis: “'Savage.' Cool dude, he lives by his own rules. He’s just enjoying life and having fun.”

Jimmy Butler: "'Remarkable' in the fact that his game on the court is insane. Then the way he's always saying something to somebody on social media is really 'remarkable.'"

Bradley Beal: “'Wild.' He has no filter, he doesn’t care. That’s my boy, but he just has no remorse, doesn’t care."

LaMarcus Aldridge: “'Entertaining,' because he’s always on TV expressing how he feels. So, entertaining.”