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. 

Sixers take lasting lessons from talk with Will Smith at team dinner

Sixers take lasting lessons from talk with Will Smith at team dinner

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The sprawling city skyline could have been the highlight of the Sixers' team dinner at One Liberty Place on Monday night. Instead, it was a surprise celebrity appearance that left them in awe.

Will Smith, who is part of the Sixers’ ownership, caught the players off guard when he visited with the team to offer advice and answer questions.

“Man, that’s one of my idols,” Nerlens Noel said following the first training camp session at Stockton University. “Everything he said I really took in and all the guys did too.”

Rather than entertaining the group with his acting or musical skills, Smith imparted important lessons that are applicable in sports. The 48-year-old has had decades of success across multiple platforms, and he offered pieces of wisdom that can resonate in any situation. 

“If you have bad people around you, that’s how people see you and that’s how you are,” Joel Embiid said. “He said to have good people around. That’s the main thing I got from that.”

The Sixers had differing memorable moments the morning after Smith’s visit, which demonstrated how many topics he addressed with the team. 

“He’s a good guy,” Ben Simmons said. “I definitely learned a lot from hearing him talk … You’ve got to look at things from a positive and negative with every situation.”

Jahlil Okafor was especially caught up in Smith’s appearance. Smith is Okafor’s favorite actor, most notably for his role in I Am Legend, and impressed Okafor with his character. 

“We already know about his accolades and how smart he is and obviously he’s an entertaining person,” Okafor said. “But it just seemed like he really wanted to be there to help us out. I just took away that he was a great person.”

Okafor also added, “It just helps [to hear from him] because the road to success is pretty much the same. It’s about being focused, it’s about knowing that you’re going to be knocked down, you’re going to fail. That was one of the messages that Will Smith shared, was expect failure but the main thing is to get back up.”

Noel previously had seen Smith courtside at Sixers games, and this was his first opportunity to hear directly from him. Noel listened to everything Smith had to say, from how to deal with the media to ranking his best and worst movies. 

“Never get caught up in too much of the negativity,” Noel recounted. 

While people view professional athletes as celebrities, the Sixers were on the opposite side Monday evening. 

“It’s hard to get starstruck nowadays,” Noel said. “But when you see Will Smith, it’s a whole different ballgame.”

Tonight's lineup: With only RHPs left, could Ryan Howard start every game?

Tonight's lineup: With only RHPs left, could Ryan Howard start every game?

If healthy, Ryan Howard is expected to start all three games in the Phillies' final series of the season Sept. 2-4 at home against the Mets.

He might also start the entire Braves series.

The Phillies' final six games are all against right-handed starting pitchers: Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz and Josh Collmenter in Atlanta; Robert Gsellman, Bartolo Colon and Noah Syndergaard with the Mets. That could mean six starts for Howard before his time with the Phillies expires.

Howard's batting average has been below .200 for practically the entire season, but he's been much better since the All-Star break, hitting .259/.325/.598 with 11 homers, five doubles and 25 RBIs in 123 plate appearances (see game notes). He went 0 for 6 in his last two starts but homered in each of his two previous starts to reach 23 for the third year in a row.

Here's the Phillies' full lineup Tuesday against Teheran:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Roman Quinn, LF
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Ryan Howard, 1B
6. Cameron Rupp, C
7. Freddy Galvis, SS
8. Aaron Altherr, RF
9. Jerad Eickhoff, P

Matt Kemp is out of the Braves' lineup.

1. Ender Inciarte, CF
2. Adonis Garcia, 3B
3. Freddie Freeman, 1B
4. Nick Markakis, RF
5. Tyler Flowers, C
6. Jace Peterson, 2B
7. Dansby Swanson, SS
8. Mallex Smith, LF
9. Julio Teheran, P

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