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David Murphy: Sixers back on short list of NBA commodities as schedule bets big on Joel Embiid, James Harden

David Murphy, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Basketball

PHILADELPHIA — The NBA is betting big on James Harden, Joel Embiid, and the 76ers.

That’s the story of Schedule Day.

There aren’t a whole lot of uncontrived insights that one can glean from the slate of games that the NBA released on Wednesday afternoon. We already knew the identity of the Sixers’ 82 opponents. The only question was the order in which the games would be played. But, hey, if logistics are your thing, go on and have a day.

Otherwise, let’s try to zero in on the small handful of notable takeaways from the Sixers’ 2022-23 schedule. Together, they add up to one significant observation: After a two-year hiatus, the Sixers are back on the short list of NBA commodities.

1) The Sixers are back in Boston for a marquee game

The Celtics were a major character throughout Act I of the Sixers’ emergence on the national stage. They swept the Sixers in the second round of the playoffs to end Year 1 of the Joel Embiid-Ben Simmons era. The following year, they hosted the Sixers on Christmas Day at TD Bank Arena. The NBA clearly saw the Sixers and Celtics as a rivalry that could help propel the Eastern Conference into a new and more viewer-friendly era.

 

And then the Sixers traded Jimmy Butler for Josh Richardson and spent $100 million on Al Horford.

Coincidentally, Richardson and Horford would both go on to become Celtics and play a major role in Boston’s run to the 2022 NBA Finals — Richardson as a trade chip for Derrick White, Horford as an actual player.

The Sixers? They took a bit of a break. But they are clearly back now, as evidenced by the NBA’s decision to make them one of the first two teams they will introduce to a national television audience this season. The Sixers open the season on Oct. 18 in Boston against the Celtics on TNT, opening tip at 7:30 p.m. There are only two questions. Will Kevin Durant be on the court? Which jersey will he be wearing?

2) If the Sixers lose at MSG on Christmas Day, they should be disbarred (or the NBA equivalent)

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