3 In The Key: Who will be the first Sixer traded?
LeBron James averaged 23.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 7.3 assists in four games against the Sixers last season. (USA Today Images)
To call opening night a challenge for Brett Brown’s young team is an understatement. The Miami Heat have played in the NBA Finals each of the last three years and have claimed the last two NBA championships.
Many on Brown’s team have no idea the physicality necessary to putting the smallest dent in LeBron James’ game. Evan Turner, on the other hand, knows far too well the personal task that awaits him Wednesday night at the defensive end.
“He is one of the toughest to guard, especially now since he is posting up and playing closer to the rim,” Turner said of guarding James, who was fourth in the NBA last season with 26.8 points per game. “It gets tough when you think you played him your toughest and he still comes out with 28 points. It is a group thing and you can’t get lackadaisical.”
Turner joked that it was his 30th time facing James since coming into the league. That is a slight exaggeration, but Wednesday night will be the 17th time Turner has squared off with James as a pro.
James has been victorious the last 11 regular-season games and he also won four of five in a first-round playoff series three years ago.
The Heat are a dominant team that is coming off a season-opening win over the Bulls and has three-peat aspirations. On the flip side, the Sixers are just so far from being able to compete with such a team for 48 minutes.
“I think just the reality of what is the benchmark of our sport,” Brown said of the opening-night challenge. “Any time you can get a true guideline of where you stand as an individual or as a team, then I think it will be an honest reflection of the things we are going to have to do to aspire to get where we want to go.”
Turner suggested that knowing what outsiders are expecting from the Sixers and paying attention to those expectations do not have to be one and the same.
“Don’t pay attention to any of it,” Turner said. “Any time you are doing something, outside influence is never good whether it is basketball or anything else.”
Can the Sixers win 20 games? Are 15 victories more realistic?
Look at the first couple weeks of the season for the Sixers and you see opposing rosters that include names such as James, Dwyane Wade, John Wall, Derrick Rose, Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Dwight Howard and James Harden.
It all starts on Wednesday night with the Heat. Halloween just might come a day early this year.