By Nimai Shukla || Sports Editor
It seems like every 76ers fan has been juiced with pure adrenaline, and has been waiting for their call-up to the league to play with Philadelphia’s newest star. Some even proclaimed the day of his first minutes on the court as ‘Harden Day’, marking the start of what many believe to be a new era in Sixers history.
After finally putting an end to the mind-numbing Ben Simmons situation, the minute James Harden stepped on the court, the trade was already a success. With the team’s success in the past two games, especially from their new acquisition, the team looks poised for success after adding the exact presence the team has needed the past couple of seasons.
Gaining a three-level perimeter scorer, especially one the caliber of Harden, has made Embiid’s nightly 30+ points seem somehow easier. Add on the emergence of Tyrese Maxey, who’s capable of putting in an efficient 25 of his own, the Sixers are a brand new team, showcasing impressive chemistry and rhythm with just a few days of practice.
With defenders having to respect Harden on the perimeter, Embiid has gotten more open looks and single teams than ever, while any double teams leave one of our shooters open.
Although it’ll take some time for players like Korkmaz and Harris to find their new roles, with the quality of the looks Harden is dishing to his teammates, it’s only a matter of time until they start hitting their shots. Still, the team as a whole was able to hit about 50% of their shot attempts in both of their first two games.
The biggest headline, however, has been the number of free throws the team has shot. Between Embiid and Harden, they’ve shot 37 versus the Knicks, and 22 versus the Timberwolves.
In the Knicks game, not only did the game set a record for free throw attempts within regulation with 79, Embiid shot 27, the most by a player in one game since Sixers legend Ben Simmons shot 29, hitting 15 (Embiid made 23).
But as anyone watching a Sixers game can tell you, for most of their fouls, you’d be hard-pressed to argue the call.
Similar to Hack-a-Shaq and its more successful counterpart Hack-a-Simmons, defenders can’t do much else to prevent Embiid and Harden from getting to their shot.
Both are also more than adept at selling contact, but the fact remains that fouls are a huge part of NBA strategy today. Knowing how to take advantage of your defenders’ mistakes is something every star learns to do.
I suggest teams that don’t like this simply play better defense and score more points on offense.
For the first time in a long time, I don’t watch each Sixers game with a twinge of sadness, wondering why $35 million had to miss every game.
But the ordeal is finally behind the team. If the first two games of the new-look 76ers are any indication, this could be a special time in Philadelphia.
With a playoff matchup with Brooklyn possibly in the future, it’ll be interesting to see the emotions on the court as the teams duke it out. As players have made abundantly clear, the games will be more than personal.
Sophomore Nimai Shukla is the Sports Editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org