But, Kevin Garnett! There's More to the 'Fair-Weather' Story!

But, Kevin Garnett! There's More to the 'Fair-Weather' Story!

Two huge disclaimers to get this started. First, I personally am a self-declared fair-weather fan when it comes to the Sixers. I want them to win, I enjoy them when they're winning, but I am not tuned-in—much less present at the arena—when times are tough. I go to a few games per season, winning or not, but my enthusiasm is negligible when the team stinks. The Sixers certainly have their diehards, and a few write for this site. I'm just not one of them. Second disclaimer: What Kevin Garnett thinks about Philly fans is about as relevant as what Old Man Knees thinks of the TD Garden security staff. So we'll just give this a quick minute, link to some telling numbers that Spike Eskin put together, and move on to the game at hand tomorrow night.

If you haven't heard or read already, here's what KG had to say about the difference between Celtics fans and Sixers fans, via NESN:

“Not even close,” Garnett said. “You’ve got fans, and then you’ve got fair-weather fans. Take that how you want.”

“[Celtics fans] it for 48 minutes from the tip on, so I can’t see a difference from minute to minute,” Garnett said. “I feel like every minute I look up, I see my family, I see people yelling, I see the drunk, fat guy. I can’t decipher one from the other. This crowd is ridiculous. I love it.”

With the Sixers playing somewhere between poor and mediocre basketball for nearly a decade, fan support has indeed fallen off. But, new ownership and an early surge of success saw an embarrassingly empty arena start to fill to a more respectable level, with some nights downright frenzied. Still, KG has a point. When the team was losing, the fans weren't there in droves. When they started winning, the fans returned.

Only thing is, the same thing happened in Boston…

Check out the numbers Spike put together at CBS Philly on where the Celtics and Sixers ranked during previous winning and losing seasons.

Great stuff by Spike, and if you dig even further, you'll probably see similar trends around the league.

The Sixers' season may end tomorrow at home, or it may live to fight another day. Either way, the 2011-2012 season will hopefully be remembered as a turnaround season for the fan experience as well as the on-court product. While Garnett was right to a degree, the fans didn't just come because the team was winning. On plenty of nights, they weren't. The Sixers won four more games than they lost this season (.530). Last season, they played .500 basketball. However, their percent-capacity attendance jumped from 72.6 to 86.1 from last season to this one. A lot of factors come into play, but I doubt the fair weather of being four games over .500 was the biggest reason for a 13.5% increase in attendance.

This season is tough to gauge in terms of these trends because it was shortened by the NBA's work stoppage. Did fan support wane in any way due to games not being played until Christmas? Or did the abbreviated schedule help concentrate the fan presence on game nights? Hard to say for sure.

The timing of the Sixers' early success probably helped quite a bit, but a change in ownership and efforts to bring the team back to prominence, focusing on the in-house fan experience (complete with better deals on tickets) likely had more to do with it. People are more excited about pro basketball in Philly than they've been in years. But, there's still a long way to go before the full engagement potential is reached.

Tomorrow night, KG will likely hear a large chorus of boos from the fans he just insulted. On the one hand, that may seem a dumb motivator to hand a desperate crowd. On the other, he was answering a question asked specifically about his thoughts on how the two crowds compare, and likely playing to his own. Plus, KG's not one to have a nervy game just because an away crowd is getting on him all night. 

Either way, it gives some added fervor to a do-or-die night in South Philly. 

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

CAMDEN, N.J. — If all goes as planned, a time will come when the Sixers can roll out a dominating frontcourt duo with Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor sharing the court in lengthy stretches.

That moment has to wait, though, as both Embiid and Okafor are on minute restrictions. As he returns from a knee injury, Okafor currently is coming off the bench and backing up Embiid.

“This conversation with Jahlil and Joel is more intelligent and applicable at a later date,” Brett Brown said at practice Friday. “When Jahlil’s minutes start going up and Joel can, then it’s a real conversation. I do think you may see them sooner than even I thought together. But as far as making it a real constant part of a strategy or rotation, it’s beyond too early days.”

In an ideal world, Brown could pair the two bigs now and use all of their allotted minutes (Embiid 20, Okafor 14) at once. That would leave an extensive workload on second-year bench player Richaun Holmes.

“This is a hot topic,” Brown said. “I will say it one more time: If I play Jahlil and Jo together, I hope Richaun can play 35 minutes.”

It’s an unrealistic expectation for Holmes, who averaged 13.8 minutes in 51 games last season. Brown caps the majority of the Sixers at six-minute segments to keep them competing at a high energy level.

“Right now, he’s a backup,” Brown said of Holmes. “I think he’s going to be an NBA player for a very long time. I just feel like in the role, he’s a second-year player that didn’t really have much of a role last year. He’s shown everybody that he’s for real. He really can play a role. At this early stage, that is the key word.”

Embiid and Okafor have been envisioning competing together since Okafor was drafted two years ago. They became friends long before they were NBA players and have an easy chemistry on the court as a result.

“I think it’s going to be exciting,” Embiid said. “We played a little bit together today in practice. We’re figuring out how to play with each other. It’s a process and we’ve got trust it.”

Yes, the players know they have to wait, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for them to resist an opportunity to play with one another.  

“I think once we figure it out, we can really dominate together,” Okafor said. “We were able to flirt with it again today. We accidentally keep ending up on the same team even though Coach keeps telling us to make sure we alternate. But we’re having fun. We’re trying to put some pressure on it because we want to play together.”

Is that accidentally with air quotes?

“Yeah, exactly,” Okafor said with a laugh.

'Trust the process' has a different, more personal meaning to Joel Embiid

'Trust the process' has a different, more personal meaning to Joel Embiid

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid is all about trusting the process.

He manages to insert the well-known phrase into just about every interview, hashtags it on social media and soaks in the chants during games. 

While “trust the process” is commonly associated with former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie’s patience-required approach to building the team — which resulted in three years of dismal losing and suffering setback after setback — Embiid has his personal take on the mantra.

“I think I have my own process,” Embiid said Friday at practice.

Embiid is playing for the first time this season after waiting two years to recover from foot injuries. His long-anticipated debut was a focal point of “the process,” and his return to the court marked a new chapter in the organization.

“I went through two surgeries, lost my brother, thought about some stuff I shouldn’t have thought about, so that’s my own process,” he said. “And then the process of going through the rehab and finally getting back on the court and getting the chance to finally play in the league, that’s my process.”

Embiid is now synonymous with the word. He credits Sixers fans for the moniker, which he added to his Instagram profile. 

“I don’t think it came from me,” he said. “Fans just started and then I just went along with it.”

Wednesday marked the next step in the process, both for the Sixers and Embiid. His regular-season debut (20 points, seven rebounds, two blocks) was a long time coming and garnered buzz all over the NBA world.

“I was the third pick and then I missed two years,” Embiid said. “The excitement in the city, everybody’s happy to finally see me play. Even though it was weird because a lot of people kind of wrote me off a long time ago saying that I’d never play as a Sixer, I’d never play in the league. So it’s all fun. Everybody’s going to have an opinion.”

He’s just got to trust in his own.