Two words will come up all season for the 76ers.
Youth and health.
If the dynamic young core can stay healthy throughout the marathon 82-game NBA season, then the Sixers have a chance to exorcise the demons of the first four years of the Brett Brown era.
Dare we say it – they could reach the playoffs.
Optimism reigns at every media day and the opening of training camp with the Sixers is no exception.
For this franchise, youth and health are woven together.
No one truly knows – not even Brown – what the Sixers identity can be since the team hasn’t been together on the court. The last four seasons have produced a total of 75 victories. Yes, 75 wins in four seasons. It doesn’t get much uglier than that.
Heading into the 2017-18 season, the Sixers look like they may challenge for a spot in the postseason.
Their unquestioned cornerstone center Joel Embiid has yet to scrimmage 5-on-5 since offseason knee surgery. That has to be a troubling sign despite the fact that he was over-the-top positive at media day.
“We have just been following the plan,” Embiid said. “We have done two or three scans since, the surgery looks perfect. We have to keep managing it and making sure.”
Ben Simmons will make his debut next month after missing an entire season with a foot injury. It seems like forever since the Sixers selected the former LSU standout No. 1 overall.
Markelle Fultz is still a teenager and will be thrust into the NBA spotlight after just one season at Washington.
These three players need to be on the court together. Embiid can’t play 31 games again. Simmons and Fultz must be out there learning to play with Embiid. That’s the only way the Sixers will march ahead and take a much-needed step out of the lottery.
Don’t forget about Jahlil Okafor, who is still around and appears to be in terrific shape. Okafor won a national championship as a freshman at Duke and shouldn’t feel any pressure with other pieces in place.
Veterans like J.J. Redick and Amir Johnson will help as will Dario Saric, who developed quite nicely last season.
Going from 10 wins to 28 isn’t difficult. Going from 28 to 41 or more is much tougher.
With a litany of questions surrounding the youth and health of this team, it’s going to be a week-to-week process. If the Sixers can stay away from medical issues and continue working together, the jump to the next level will be fun to watch.
With the injury history of Embiid, even the most positive Sixers fan has to be somewhat skeptical.
The first time the 7-foot-2 center leaps into the stands, every fan in the Delaware Valley is going to be holding their breath. The same goes for the Sixers coaching staff.
“Watching myself play last year, I used my body a lot so theres a lot of stuff I have to correct,” Embiid said. “I feel good about myself and can’t wait to be back on the court. Everything else feels amazing.”
The Sixers put three long years into waiting for Embiid.
With the other young players ready to come along, the time is now to perform.
It’s this simple: A healthy young group of Sixers will have a solid season. Another injury-riddled season will add to the frustration of the past four years.