Sixers’ 0-3 Start Sparks Emotional Response From Veteran

PJ Tucker, Sixers

Getty P.J. Tucker #17 of the Philadelphia 76ers poses at 76ers Training Complex on September 26, 2022 in Camden, New Jersey.

Despite the high expectations coming into the season, the Philadelphia 76ers have gotten off to a dreadful start to the season. The most concerning result came at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs who are firmly in a rebuilding period and have little expectations for this season. This did not matter in the matchup with the Sixers as Philadelphia fell at the hands of the Spurs by a score of 114-105.

The loss rightfully did not sit well with the players in the locker room. One guy who specifically voiced his frustrations was P.J. Tucker. As Doc Rivers put it when speaking to the media after the game, “It’s almost like we played these first two games hard, competed, and felt like ‘OK, now we can win some games’. You still gotta go out and earn the game. Tuck was yelling after the game and he was right. No one’s just gonna give you a win.”

Tucker’s Role on Sixers

This veteran leadership and willingness to speak up is a major reason for the Sixers’ desire to bring Tucker to the team. Philadelphia has lacked both mental and physical toughness throughout the last few seasons and this was pointed out by a number of players following last year’s postseason exit. Tucker is one of the most respected veterans around the NBA with a championship ring already on his finger and nearly 100 games of playoff experience already under his belt.

While it was expected this leadership would come into play in the playoffs, it appears the Sixers need it to start the season. Philadelphia had a shocking lack of urgency, especially considering San Antonio held the lead for most of the matchup. The Sixers trailed by double digits for most of the final five minutes and were never able to cut the lead below six.

Tucker’s biggest role is on the defensive end and with the intangibles he brings, but he has not yet found his full role in the Sixers’ offense either. Through three games with the Sixers, he has averaged 33.6 minutes, 4.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 0.7 assists. 

Joel Embiid Wakes Up?

Perhaps the lone bright spot in the third game of the season was Joel Embiid beginning to look more like himself. The reigning MVP runner-up finished the game with 40 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, and two blocks. Embiid shot 14-25 from the field and 12-15 from the free-throw line, which is evidence of how much more willing he was at attacking the basket.

The same cannot be said about James Harden who was unable to keep up with the stellar play he flashed through the opening two games. Following the back-to-back 30+ point performances, Harden finished with just 12 points along with 12 assists and 9 rebounds. While the near triple-double looks great, the star guard shot just 4-18 from the field and struggled on the defensive end.

Getting the two superstars on the same page will be essential to the Sixers’ success moving forward. Even with Embiid pouring in more points, the offense still looked too stagnant and isolation-based. The team also clearly is not right on the defensive side of the ball as they failed to get stops down the stretch. As Rivers alluded to in the post-game presser, the team is not ready to win yet and must figure it out before the season slips too far away.

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