For months, the hype surrounding the 76ers has made words like ‘playoffs’ and ‘expectations’ a normal part of conversation. The players as well as head coach Brett Brown have fueled the fire, echoing the hopes of making it into the postseason.
Success at that level is a lofty goal for a team that won just 28 games last season, and apprehension has started to show.
“Sometimes, development doesn’t equal winning, and it needs to,” Brown said Friday. “If I’ve learned anything over my time in the NBA, it’s you can’t rush preseason. You can’t rush the start of seasons. You can’t think, ‘Oh, here it is. We’ve got to be great on opening night.’ ”
Brown knows that the development of Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons are paramount to the team’s success, but molding young players into NBA stars takes time, and the regular season is right around the corner.
On top of developing the young guns, there are individual agendas at play during the preseason. Veterans such as Amir Johnson and J.J. Redick want to establish themselves. Bench players are competing to prove they belong and earn minutes. On top of it all, personalities and egos have to be managed.
From the time that he arrived in Philadelphia, Johnson has been nervous about expecting too much from such a newly-formed team. Time and again he says that it’s hard to win in the NBA and that coming together as a team takes time.
Brown has said it could take the first third of the season to really come together as a team, but Johnson’s stints in Toronto and Boston have shown that it can take even longer to reach a successful level.
“It takes constant repetition and practicing everyd ay like we do. Sometimes we may just get it, and sometimes it may take years,” Johnson said before making his preseason debut with the Sixers.
Johnson added that the individual goals of the players must take a back burner if the team wants to succeed because the biggest goal is to win a championship. His sentiments were shared by Nik Stauskas, who is one of the players competing for minutes.
“Definitely easier said that done,” Stauskas said. “It’s the nature of any professional sport. You’re on the team, but you’re also competing against each other in one way or another. Obviously as a group our main focus is to win, but I think the most important thing to buy into is that when we’re winning as a team and we’re success full as a team, everyone’s stock gets raised.”
Stauskas’ point is one that, as he said, is simple in theory but in practice is a whole different matter. This is a team with large personalities and abundance of chips on shoulders.
Robert Covington, who has grown from a D-Leaguer to an NBA starter and aggressive presence for the Sixers, says he agrees that if the egos of individuals start to grow too large, the team won’t win.
“There’s only an ‘I’ in win, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” he said. “Everything that we talk about and all the hype, none of it really matters if we don’t collaborate on the court.”