Daily Local News (West Chester, PA)

Sixers showing signs they are a team of destiny

- By Jack McCaffery jmccaffery@delcotimes.com

PHILADELPH­IA » There will never be a formal declaratio­n, just the occasional sign. There will not be an official appointmen­t, just a feel. There will be nothing real, just imagined. There will not be any indisputab­le evidence, just enough reasons to generate a hunch.

It’s how it works with teams of destiny. They are not born or made or branded with a seal. They just sort of arrive and, when they do, there is nothing anyone can do to stop the madness.

For instance — hands? — did anyone forecast in the summer of 2017 that by early 2018 the Eagles would be wearing dog masks, confetti and mummers get-ups?

To the Sixers of 2022, then, and something that is beginning to look familiar.

“We have a good defensive lineup, a good defensive front, a great offensive line,” Danny Green recently told reporters. “We have some unbelievab­le scorers in the starting lineup and coming off the bench. We stay healthy. We come together. I think guys are buying in and understand­ing the bigger picture.”

Countless basketball sorts can see what a developing championsh­ip team might look like. Few have as many bona fides as Green to turn it into a reasoned theory. There would only be

John Salley, LeBron James and Green. Others have won more championsh­ips. But only those four have won rings with three different organizati­ons. And even if that is a reflection of the randomness of sports — Green has three rings, Charles Barkley none — it is not the production that is relevant, it is the fortunate timing to be an expert witness. Green — who has paraded through San Antonio in 2014, Toronto in 2019 and Los Angeles in 2020 — is one. And the 76ers have characteri­stics that spark his championsh­ip memories.

“We have a lot of guys, a lot of pieces and a lot of tools,” he said. “On the floor and talent-wise, there are a lot of similariti­es.”

So that’s what Green says but even with his expertise stipulated, he is hardly an unbiased witness. Every player on every team thinks there is the potential for a championsh­ip. As a point of fact, Green made similar noises about the Sixers last year, but apparently the Milwaukee Bucks were not easily influenced by his warnings.

But it’s not Green’s words that have begun to resonate. It’s his words as they have reflected what recently has been happening on the floor. As it shall be with all teams destined to celebrate, that would be the rare burst of every player peaking at the most important time.

And in a 116-108 victory over the Miami Heat Sunday, the Sixers had not been in as perfect sync at a more convenient moment in more than 20 years.

There was James Harden, his bothersome left hamstring better, demonstrat­ing that he still had the form he used to win three NBA scoring championsh­ips.

There was Tyrese Maxey — the difference between this year and last — showing that he not only has star power but staying power, that his skills can hold up just as well in an advanced playoff round as they could in a February game against Charlotte.

There was Tobias Harris, making big shots.

There was Green proving that he still has three-point shooting ability.

And there was Joel Embiid playing through multiple injuries and dominating at the defensive end.

If any of those were not happening in concert, the Sixers would have been eliminated already. But the unexpected resurgence of Harden and Green combined with the ongoing proof that Embiid plans to play through any distractio­n to see the project through is a blessing of determinat­ion, preparatio­n and timing.

That rarely happens and, when it does, it’s better to enjoy it while it’s happening.

“Everybody just had an impact on the game which was huge for us in the playoffs,” Harris said. “But we’ve just got to keep doing it.”

Not all championsh­ip outfits are of the team-ofdestiny variety. The 1983 Sixers featured four Hall of Famers and a sneer, started strong, grew stronger and stampeded through the playoffs to the surprise of absolutely no one, and particular­ly not to Moses Malone. The 2022 Sixers have required the touch and patience of Doc Rivers, one of the best coaches in the world. They are about to benefit from the reality that, in the East at least, there is nothing as dominating as those 1983 Sixers. Without Ben Simmons, they have enjoyed a pleasant team harmony, with no one complainin­g about minutes or shots. They are unselfish. They defend. By NBA standards, their health is not an issue.

“I still don’t think,” Embiid said, “we have played our best basketball.”

Well … maybe they have. And if the last three games they have played with Embiid — including a messagesen­der in Game 6 in Toronto — are a hint, that will be plenty. Because there is something there this time, something immeasurab­le, something different, something that suggests destiny.

Contact Jack McCaffery at jmccaffery@21st-centurymed­ia.com

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