Ben Simmons was named Eastern Conference rookie of the month by the NBA on Thursday.
The honor is the latest in closing out the month of January that saw Joel Embiid named an All-Star Game starter, in addition to being on the Rising Stars team with Dario Saric and Simmons.
It’s also another reason that proves the Sixers time for excuses has expired.
The Sixers have talent, they have proven they have the ability to beat playoff contenders, and as coach Brett Brown loves to point out, they have the NBA’s fifth-best defensive rating (103.5).
Despite all the honors, there are nights when the Sixers don’t look like a team that would be in the playoffs if they started tomorrow.
They closed out a four-game road trip with three consecutive losses, the last coming on a 116-108 decision Wednesday in Brooklyn.
“We were exposed,” Brown said after the game. “Individually, in one-on-one defense, we were exposed.”
They could have pointed to it being the last game of a long trip, they could say that injuries have caused fatigue for the reserve unit, or, as Embiid said, they may have been a little too cocky going into a game against Brooklyn, which currently sits at 12th in the Eastern standings. But the Sixers are past the point of excuses.
There are only 32 games left for the Sixers to get things on track and losing to bottom-dwelling teams won’t get them where they want.
“That’s the type of game that we’ve got to get if we want to be a playoff team,” Embiid said.
Reserve point guard T.J. McConnell echoed his coach and teammates saying that the team can’t rely on offense to win games and that there’s no excuse for playing poorly.
“That’s bullcrap if we say this was the last game of a long road trip and that’s why we lost,” McConnell said. “We just didn’t defend anyone today.”
The Sixers next test comes Friday night at home against the 29-22 Miami Heat who are in the middle of the playoff pack in the East.
This will be the first time that Embiid meets Hassan Whiteside in a regular-season matchup after the two exchanged insults on social media after a preseason game.
Embiid will need to take a bit of his own advice and not let emotions get the best of him heading into the game.
Equally as important is that the Sixers play up to their own potential. A balance needs to be struck between playing confident but not cocky, respecting individual matchups and reacting to team principles, and playing fast while taking care of the ball.
We’ve seen the Sixers do it. Now they have no excuse not to.