NEW YORK -- The Sixers have won three of their last four games, and their recent success has Joel Embiid eyeing the playoff standings in early January.
“I think we’re seven or eight games from the eighth place, so I think that’s a goal. I think we have a chance,” Embiid said. “We’ve been hot lately. … We’re really figuring things out, we’re starting to learn how to win games.”
The Sixers moved up to 10-25 with a 105-95 win over the Nets (8-28) on Sunday (see Instant Replay). The Wizards currently are in eighth in the conference at 18-18. The Sixers are second-to-last in the East (ahead of only the Nets), half a game behind the Heat, with five teams between them and the Wizards.
Embiid views this mathematical scenario with a glass-half-full perspective.
“It’s an amazing thing to really have this mindset of potential playoffs in just a matter of a year,” Nerlens Noel said of Embiid's thoughts. “Guys are really looking forward to it. Presuming everything stays on the right road with health and the direction we’re going now, we’re playing good basketball, that’s definitely a possibility.”
This season is not about making the playoffs. The most pressing objectives are developing young talent and sorting out roster balance. The Sixers’ veterans want their teammates to focus on the other ways they can be successful.
“I don’t think that should be our concern as much,” Gerald Henderson said. “Even now, teams that are going to make the playoffs, they’re not thinking about the playoffs. They’re thinking about staying healthy, what it looks like out on the court so they can prepare themselves to play after the season. We just need to focus on playing consistently, taking care of our fourth quarters and contributions from everyone.”
Ersan Ilyasova echoed, “We do have potential but we have to consider all those obstacles obviously during the whole season. I’m not going to say we’re not going to be in the playoffs, but a season’s long … From now on, we have to take care of our business first. Obviously if we win the games, we have a chance.”
Embiid is encouraged by the Sixers' progress. They tied last season’s win total in their 35th game on Sunday. For a team what hasn't made the postseason since 2011-12, the goal is that victories this year will translate into building toward a postseason contender.
“We are winning basketball games more frequently than we have been,” Brett Brown said. “But for us it’s still, ‘How are we doing what we do? Are we doing our job? Are we not skipping steps? Are we putting in good days?’ We believe as simple as that might sound, that they will add up, they do count for something.”