Give and Go: Who are the real 76ers?

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Give and Go: Who are the real 76ers?

Each week we'll ask questions about the Sixers to our resident basketball enthusiasts and see what they have to say.

Running the Give and Go this week are CSNPhilly.com reporter John Finger, CSNPhilly.com columnist John Gonzalez and CSN producer Sean Kane. Let's get started:

What's the biggest key for the Sixers on their three-game road trip?

Finger: Aside from winning a game (or two) and getting home in one piece with no injuries, consistency will be important for the Sixers. Give the Sixers credit for competing every game. But from night to night, it's tough to know which team we'll see -- the one that got pounded by the Spurs or the one that beat the Heat, Wizards, Bulls and Rockets.

Gonzalez: Keeping Michael Carter-Williams healthy. The Sixers and their rookie point guard have been a pleasant surprise so far. But we all know the truth: Even if they're somewhere closer to average than awful on the win-loss spectrum, they're still not a good team. Good comes later -- next year and beyond -- if everything goes to plan. MCW shouldn't rush back. Sit and rest a while if that's what's needed. There's plenty of time for him and the Sixers to acquit themselves.

Kane: Playing with the same level of intensity on the road as they do at home. It's easy to compete and overcome fourth-quarter deficits with an enthusiastic home crowd cheering you on, especially for young guys only a year or two removed from college. But will that same effort manifest itself on the road? Time will tell. All three of these games are winnable. The Hawks have been mediocre, the Pelicans have been slow to mesh with all their new parts and the Mavericks have been up and down. I don't expect the Sixers to win all three games. Two out of three would be a huge accomplishment, but a more realistic goal is avoiding an 0-3 road trip.

Are the Sixers closer to the team that lost to the Spurs or beat the Rockets?

Finger:
Is in between the two an answer? The Sixers aren't as bad as the Spurs made them out to be on Monday and they aren't as good as they were in the OT victory over the Rockets. But they are very, very young and young teams pull off the Jekyll-and-Hyde bit frequently during the season.

That's not to diminish the loss or the win. The Sixers were hanging around against San Antonio before the Spurs put the pedal down. Unlike other teams, the Spurs are disciplined enough to keep teams like the Sixers from inching back into the game. Meanwhile, the Rockets got whatever shot they wanted against the Sixers. They took 41 three-pointers, 50 shots in the paint and five mid-range twos. Five! And they lost.

Gonzalez: The Sixers are exactly what they appear to be -- a team that can run and surprise you and beat the Rockets, and a team that can play terribly and get blown out against the Spurs. Depends on the night and the personnel. (It certainly doesn't hurt when a guy like James Harden is out with an injury.) At this point, we have to start considering a real possibility: What if the Sixers aren't awful? What if they're average?

Kane: They are somewhere in between. But over time they'll come to more closely resemble the team that beat the Rockets. If one thing has been made clear through the season's first nine games, it's that the Sixers are going to compete for 48 minutes (or in Wednesday's case: 53 minutes). That trait goes a long way in a league where teams put out varying levels of effort depending on the situation, and coaches like to make sure their stars are well-rested for the playoffs. If you play hard in the NBA, you're going to win some games, regardless of your talent level.

And that's where I tend to differ from the majority. There is talent on the Sixers' roster. Carter-Williams has been a revelation, Thaddeus Young is a consummate professional, Spencer Hawes is a skilled big man and James Anderson and Tony Wroten have proven they are NBA-caliber guards. That brings us to Evan Turner. This is my fourth year as president of the E.T. Fan Club. (It's been a rocky first term no doubt.) But I've long maintained that Turner can be an All-Star if he is put in the right situation. Watching Jrue Holiday dominate the offense, and having Doug Collins criticize his every move wasn't the right situation. We are now seeing what Turner can do when given the freedom to just play basketball and utilize his various talents.

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Nerlens Noel’s recent comments on the logjam of big men on the Sixers' roster did not come as news to head coach Brett Brown. While Noel had not been this publicly outspoken on the issue, he and Brown have been having open discussions about it. 

“I have been talking to Nerlens a lot and I have a fondness for him,” Brown said Tuesday on the first day of training camp. “I don’t begrudge Nerlens Noel at all for what he said. I don’t have any problems with it.”

The Sixers' crowded frontcourt this season is a continuation of last season’s conundrum in which Brown was tasked with playing Noel and Jahlil Okafor, two natural centers, together. The depth has increased with the return of Joel Embiid and additions of Dario Saric and Ben Simmons. 

So when Noel doubled down on Monday by saying, "I don't see a way it can work,” Brown recognized where the center's opinions were coming from as he enters his fourth season in the NBA. 

“I feel if we do anything well, we communicate with our players freely,” Brown said. “It is one hundred percent transparent — hard conversations ahead, easy conversations ahead. I have spoken with Nerlens about this a lot. 

“My messaging and my mood and attitude and things that come out of my mouth haven’t changed once. I feel very confident that I’m giving him the advice that he should hear from me and it still allows me to do my job. 

“We have talked about it freely, like I have talked about it with Jahlil and Joel. Those situations are part of pro sports. They’re ever-present with me and us right now.”

Noel has been a rare mainstay among a revolving door of players over the past three years. He is in a unique situation with Brown in that the two have experienced a long list of the team’s ups and downs together. Noel feels comfortable talking honestly with Brown about his viewpoints. 

“I’ve known Brett probably longer than most guys here and we’ve built a different type of relationship,” Noel said. “It’s been very front and forward and we talk and we keep it real. That’s what he’s been doing with me and that’s why I’m able to continue to talk to him about myself and him just telling me what position I’ll be in — he’ll try to put me in — to succeed.”

With Brown having an understanding of Noel, his focus is on what Noel can bring to the team this season. He believes Noel has an edge over Embiid and Okafor for minutes early on because Noel is the only one among the trio starting camp without restrictions from previous injuries. 

There is a tough competition for playing time among the bigs, and camp is about proving oneself through basketball, not through personal opinions. Brown was impressed on the first day of camp by the manner in which Noel approached the morning practice amid the comments.

“He has handled it with me and in the training session today like a pro,” Brown said. “He came to mean it. He didn’t back down at all. There was no moping or sulking or him being stubborn. He played. That’s what he has to do. I think that’s a real reflection of anybody of how you handle adversity. Today he handled it like a true pro and a true competitor.”

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

The Sixers finished in the basement of the NBA standings last season with a league-low 10 wins. But with the influx of young talent and addition of a couple veterans to the roster, the Las Vegas oddsmakers are betting on the Sixers to make some strides upward in the 2016-17 standings.  

Last week, the WestGate Superbook in Las Vegas set the Sixers' over/under for wins this season at an optimistic 27½, which was the fourth-lowest projection in the league.

Similarly, while Bovada is projecting another season of basketball filled with mostly losses in Philadelphia, the sportsbook doesn't view the Sixers as a shoo-in to finish as the league's worst team for the second consecutive year.

Per Bovada, the Sixers have the fourth-longest odds (125/1) to capture the Atlantic Divison title for the first time since 2001-02, beating out the Nets (250/1) by a considerable margin.

The favorite to win the division is the Celtics at 20/21, trailed closely by the defending division champion Raptors (21/20). The Knicks are between the Raptors and Sixers at 10/1.

The Sixers (150/1) also edged out the Nets (200/1) in odds to win the Eastern Conference championship. The two teams in the conference directly ahead of the Sixers in that futures bet are the Hornets (100/1) and Magic (50/1).

The Cavaliers are the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference at 5/11, followed by the Celtics (5/1) and Raptors (14/1).

Least surprising of all futures odds, Bovada has the Sixers tied with four other teams for the longest odds to win the NBA title. The Nuggets, Kings, Nets and Suns were tied with the Sixers at 500/1 odds to win the Larry O'Brien trophy.

The early favorites to win it all are the same two teams that met in the 2016 NBA Finals. The Warriors are alone at top with the shortest odds at 4/5 trailed by the Cavaliers at 3/1.