Ben Simmons and LeBron James

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The Future Is Philly

If Dwyane Wade knows it and we all know it, then I’m guessing LeBron knows it too.

April 16, 2018 - 10:47 am
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If there is one lesson to come from all the series openers over the weekend it is this: Philadelphia is coming and you betting look the hell out. The 76ers were playing their first playoff game since 2012. They were supposed to be too raw and too young for the playoffs. They were supposed to be surprised by how the intensity ramps up in the playoffs. And they were supposed to take a step back without Joel Embiid. 

And sure enough, they were down six to Miami at the end of the first quarter. Too much, too soon. Trust the process, but trust that the process has many steps in it and making the playoffs might have been the biggest step here. If you thought that and turned off the game at that point, then you missed something spectacular.

Philadelphia 130, Miami 103.

Philly tasted their own blood and then started pummeling Miami. One three after another. 18 in all. I’m not sure who was hotter – the Sixer players or Sixer fans, because that barn was electric. Five players with 17 or more, including JJ Redick with 28. They won their first playoff game in six years by 27 on a night where Joel Embiid didn’t even play. 

 

But that doesn’t mean he didn’t make a contribution. The Phantom of the Process was in the house and ringing the bell before the game. And then celebrating on the bench throughout the game. Oh, and then there was his casual Instagram game.

A shot of him from a game. Him with the ball in the post. Hugging LeBron. Jawing with Draymond. Just a nice trip down memory lane. Except not with Joel. He’s always working on another level.

Look closer.  Look at the opponents.  Miami. Boston. Cleveland. Golden State. That’s the path to the title. The Phantom of the Process is showing the path. He is an international treasure. 

But maybe Embiid’ s absence from Game 1 allowed the casual fan to appreciate Ben Simmons a little more. Because I want to take a moment to talk to you about Ben Simmons. If you haven’t woken up to this guy, I suggest you do it immediately because Benjamin David Simmons is borderline unfair: 17 points, 14 assists, 9 rebounds in his first playoff game. He was one rebound away from a triple double in his playoff debut. And he absolutely murdered the Heat. Ben Simmons surrounded by shooters should be illegal. 

Don’t take it from me, ask Dwyane Wade: "Ben is great, man. The way he sees the floor, the way he attacks, he's quick, he's athletic and he's patient as well…. He kind of lulls you to sleep and then he – boom! – and it's over. Ben is Ben. It's the other guys we've got to kind of worry about, focus on a little bit more than Ben. Ben is going to do Ben, just like LeBron is going to be LeBron."

We haven’t even finished his first full season and a future Hall of Famer is already mentioning him in the same breath as LeBron. One year into his career and he’s already one of the best players in the game. We’re just a couple of years away from him potentially being THE best player in the game. A 6’10 guy with that handle and that vision? If he gets a lethal jumper, and it says here that he will, then you can cancel Christmas.

I don’t know if LeBron was watching that game and thinking about moving to Philly, but I was and I am. I am all in on this group. 

Let’s take a quick pause for some numbers: They won 47 games in Brett Brown’s first three seasons as coach and won 52 this year, plus the playoff win. They’ve won 17 straight, including 9 straight without the big man. 

I’ll say it again: look the hell out. I’m not talking about this series. I’m talking about the next five years. Because if things keep going like this, well, I’ll turn it over to Wade again: "They're not going to let you stop them from doing one thing. That's what makes them a different group. From the standpoint of, that's what made Golden State special for all these years. They had other things to go to when people just was worried about the three….All those things is what makes them very good. But ultimately, they're beatable."

They are beatable right now, because they’re still learning. In fact, if you want to beat them, now’s the time. Hell, tonight is a huge game for them. If ever there was a case for a letdown, it’s tonight and they still won’t have Embiid back. 

But listen now and remember this later: I’m not saying they’re winning the title this year, but I am saying that Wade’s seen the future. And the future is Philly. And if Wade knows it and we all know it, then I’m guessing LeBron knows it too.

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