Sports Tonight: Sixers excitement has gone national

The 76ers' Ben Simmons goes in for a dunk past the Celtics' Abdel Nader during a preseason game Oct. 9.

The only thing that could make tonight better would be if the game was at the Wells Fargo Center.

Instead, fans who managed to get a ticket the NBA opener for the Sixers at the Washington Wizards will have to travel about 90 miles south to the nation’s capital. The rest can watch at 7 on ESPN.

Of course, that means the game will be delivered by national broadcasters. In this case, it is the ESPN NBA A-Team of play-by-play man Mike Breen, analyst Jeff Van Gundy and reporter Doris Burke.

For the local flavor, turn the television volume down, tune into 97.5 the Fanatic, and listen as Tom McGinnis begins his 23rd season as the radio voice of the Sixers – “Are you kidding me?!”

How to follow the game

Here at Philly.com, we’ve got you covered with staff writer Sarah Todd doing a live in-game chat with Sixers fans. You can find that on our Sixers page a little before tip-off.

NBCSP might not be televising the game, but it jumps into coverage with “Sixers Pregame Live” at 6:30 and wraps up opening night with an hour-long edition of “Sixers Postgame Live” scheduled for around 9:30.

Sixers in the spotlight

In Philadelphia, it’s easy to understand why this is the most anticipated opener since Hall of Fame guard Allen Iverson led the Sixers into the 2000-2001 campaign.

It is unlikely that this season will result in the Sixers’ making the NBA Finals or having the NBA Most Valuable Player (Iverson), Sixth Man of the Year (Aaron McKie), Defensive Player of the Year (Dikembe Mutombo) and Coach of the Year (Larry Brown).

Still, the intrigue and potential of the Sixers with center Joel Embiid plus the pair of rookie No.1 overall picks — Ben Simmons (2016) and Markelle Fultz (2017) — has caught the attention of those beyond the Delaware Valley region.

The fact that the Sixers, who are coming off a 28-win season, are the first game on ESPN’s regular-season schedule accentuates the high level of interest in them on the national stage. Last season, the Sixers had three national television appearances. In the 2015-16, they had none.

This season, the Sixers will be on national television 14 times, the 11th most in the league. The Sixers will also play the New York Knicks in the first game of the NBA’s five-game Christmas Day schedule that will be broadcast nationally on ESPN, ABC and TNT.

To be on national television for their opener and on Christmas Day puts the Sixers in the same company with the Wizards, Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves. The Sixers and Wolves are the only teams among that group that did not make the playoffs last season.

Heavyweight contenders such as the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Toronto Raptors did not get the opener/Christmas national television double.

If the Sixers live up to their advanced billing, they will add to their national television appearances starting in April when the playoffs begin.

 

Camera icon Carlos Gonzalez / Minneapolis Star Tribune
The Wizards’ John Wall (2) attempts a shot against the Minnesota Timberwolves during a game last season.

What I’m reading

Not too long ago, the Washington Wizards were where the Sixers are today: a young team beginning the move forward. Washington Post columnist Jerry Brewer writes that with three max players, the time has arrived for the Wizards.

Just hours before tip-off, Sixers coach Brett Brown tells staff writer Keith Pompey that he is non-committal on how many minutes center Joel Embiid will play.

Athletes can go home again, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be welcomed with loving arms. Staff writer Keith Pompey writes that Sixers No.1 overall pick Markelle Fultz is excited to return to the Washington area, where he starred in high school. Fultz will be cheered until the Sixers tip off against the Wizards.

The NBA debut of Ben Simmons is as big of a sporting occasion in Australia as it is in Philadelphia. Will Swanton of The Australian writes that Simmons’ journey to equal LeBron James starts now.

Like everyone else, the Wizards took notice of all of the big moves during the off-season. Todd Dybas of the Washington Times writes that the Wizards don’t think any of them affect their objectives.

Foxsports.com compares and contrasts the Wizards’ goals for the 2017-18 season with those of the Sixers.

Camera icon Charles Rex Arbogast / AP
Dodgers relief pitcher Kenley Jansen (74) celebrates with teammates after Game 3 of the National League Championship Series against the Cubs on Tuesday.

The riff

Obviously, the Los Angeles Dodgers would like to wrap up the National League Championship Series when they play at the Chicago Cubs in Game 4 starting at 9:01 on TBS.

Of the 36 teams that have led by 3-0 in a Major League Baseball playoff series, only the 2004 New York Yankees in the ALCS ended up losing. Clearly, Los Angeles does not want to make dubious history as the second team, and a team never wants to wait until tomorrow when it has a chance to close things out tonight.

The Dodgers’ playoff dominance does not guarantee they’ll win the World Series for the first time since 1988.

Los Angeles is the sixth team to start the postseason 6-0, but just the 1970 Baltimore Orioles and 1976 Cincinnati Reds went on to win the World Series.

Tonight’s schedule

TV/Radio

Baseball Playoffs
Astros at Yankees, 5 p.m. (FS1)
Dodgers at Cubs, 9 p.m. (TBS)

NHL
Blackhawks at Blues, 8 p.m. (NBCSN)
Canadiens at Kings, 10:30 p.m. (NBCSN)

NBA
76ers at Wizards, 7 p.m. (ESPN; WPEN-FM 97.5)
Timberwolves at Spurs, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Golf on Golf Channel
PGA: CJ Cup, 10 p.m.
European PGA: Valderrama Masters, 6 a.m. Thursday

Changes in listings: Comcast SportsNet has changed its name to NBC Sports Philadelphia (NBCSP). The Comcast Network is now NBC Sports Philadelphia+ (NBCSP+).