Julius Erving played three seasons for the New York Nets of the old ABA, the ancestor of today’s Brooklyn Nets, and now, even at age 71, remains a staunch supporter of all things ABA—the Nets, the Pacers, the Nuggets, the Spurs.
But he played 11 seasons with the Sixers so, please, don’t ask where his loyalties lie as Brooklyn and Philly engage in a nip-and-tuck race to the finish atop the Eastern Conference.
“Oh, there is no doubt, straight up,” he said on Sixers guard Danny Green’s podcast, Inside the Green Room. “I played my whole NBA career with the Sixers.”
In fact, Dr. J said, he would pick the Sixers straight up to knock off the Nets in a series. One of the key factors, he said, is new coach Doc Rivers, who has won a championship (with Boston in 2008) and lost in the Finals another time (2010).
“Now you got a guy who has been over the top, who has been there as a champion, been to the Finals multiple times,” Erving said. “So I’m betting my money on Philly.”
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Dr. J on Nets: It’s ‘Called Buying a Championship’
Erving was asked again about the Nets and was more than a little critical about the way they’ve assembled their team. Two summers ago, Brooklyn landed stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in free agency, then added James Harden in a blockbuster trade with Houston in January.
The Nets added former All-Stars LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin on the buyout market. Erving did not much appreciate that, telling Green and co-host Harrison Sanford:
It’s reminiscent of how the Yankees used to do it all the time. Load up, man, they called it buying a championship. Lakers are known for doing that too, just trying to buy a championship. Get all these pieces. They don’t know at the end of the season what it is going to look like, or what it’s going to feel like but they’re going to be formidable to anyone. You got a team with six former All-Stars and several All-Pro guys who have been there and succeeded in the playoffs, then that is quite a challenge.
Erving Ready for The Process to ‘Bear Fruit’
Erving averaged 24.2 points per game over 16 seasons and was an All-Star in every year of his career. He won two championships with the Nets and was the ABA MVP all three of his seasons (1973-76) in New York, going on to win another MVP as a member of the NBA in Philadelphia in 1980-81. He was also a star on the 1982-83 Sixers, who brought home only the second championship in the franchise’s Philly history.
He named Rivers, again, as one reason the Sixers could top the Nets, but added others.
“I think, first of all we have an advantage coaching-wise based on experience with Doc,” Erving said, “and in terms of the championship experience you (Green) have and Dwight has, and then the ambition, I think, of Ben (Simmons) and Joel (Embiid), these guys are hungry now, man. They’ve been projected, they’ve been part of what they call The Process for several years, it’s time for The Process to bear some fruit.”
Erving said he was impressed, too, with how the Sixers managed to hang in while Joel Embiid was out with a knee injury. Embiid missed 11 of 12 games from mid-March to early April, but the Sixers went 9-3. Erving expects that experience will pay off.
“Ws breed confidence,” Erving said. “It’s not cool to be overconfident, but it’s very cool to be confident. You need to maintain the confidence then get out there and perform.”