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July 01, 2020

Eytan Shander: Sixers have the most to gain, and lose, from sports restart

Opinion Sixers
Joel-Embiid-Ben-Simmons-Sixers-76ers_021520 Brett Davis/USA Today Sports

Is Doc Rivers the right man to get the most out of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons?

“Shut it down!” 

No, that’s not the battle cry of Jon Taffer screaming at yet another poorly managed bar staff. We’ve seen this all over Twitter and other poisonous areas of social media in reaction to every single story about positive cases. Cleary there is some middle ground, right? While the country itself is far from insulated in any bubble — as it appears by the data that younger folks have been the main catalyst for major setbacks — we find ourselves trying to rationalize the return of the major team sports.

There’s one team in town who can’t blame anything other than their performance for not meeting expectations. Mainly because they’ve already failed to live up to them in the regular season, mainly on the road. The Sixers are to blame, their coach, players, training staff, and GM. If they can’t get out of the first round, that’s also on them.

I’m truly concerned about the general wellbeing of our country in response to COVID-19, but I also understand controlled environments can survive. The NBA and NHL will show you — through patience and vigilant testing — they can exist without constant fear of contracting the virus. Players have every single right to abstain. Nobody should come down on anyone who chooses not to play, for health or any other reason. We are living in the strangest and wildest of times in the last 100 years. Sports are coming back, despite cases increasing in states where they will be played.

I wonder out loud how we will be with all of our sports coming back. I love you, but you are not a patient group. Some are, but as a whole we turned our back on a tanking Sixers team far more than anyone was locked in to losing. Eagles have a bad season and it turns to anger, firings, and other ways to cope with losing 12 games. The Flyers are a little ahead of the Phillies in that they’ve breathed new life from top to bottom, and we are seeing a young star in net start to grow into his own. The Phillies have an ace, MVP candidate, and a new skipper who is anything but Gabe Kapler.

Is that all going to remain at the forefront of our minds as we watch our teams struggle navigating uncharted COVID-19 waters? I’m guessing no. There will be calls for firing Brett Brown after the team loses two in a row in Orlando. It seems like most fans calling for that have also set their sights on Elton Brand. To be fair, most of those people were calling for that before the virus paralyzed us, and that’s truly the point.

Sports will return, but not with any asterisk (outside of MLB) to take away from accomplishments. The opposite should hold up as well. The Sixers get no pass if they come in and look like they did on the road earlier this season. Rightfully so, because if Brown and the team advanced to the ECF, he would get an extension. Nobody would argue he was there by luck or circumstance; he simply can’t have enough control and influence over losses but not wins.

If COVID had no negative impact on the team and their ability to make it deep into the playoffs, we can’t absolve it if the opposite happens. Unfortunately for the Sixers this is the only game in town where big changes could be coming down.

The Eagles have a head coach who has successfully led his team to the playoffs three straight years, decimated by injuries. There would be no legit justification for removing Howie Roseman if the Eagles go 7-9 in this bizarre year. Nobody is trading the star QB, and even the defensive coordinator isn’t being asked to coach other teams.

The Flyers just made changes. We were starting to see those changes come to fruition before everything came to a sudden halt. I still have my futures ticket for the team to win the Cup. Right around the forced break, they were playing amazing hockey, riding momentum that came from scoring on top of Carter Hart in net. Alain Vigneault is still new. 

Joe Girardi is brand new too. The Phillies won’t even have a real season this year, so even if they win 18 games, it’s not fair to knee-jerk react. Much like I said last week, we shouldn’t celebrate anything they would “win” so why fire everyone if they lose.

Here’s the difference. The Sixers were nearly through a make or break season. The challenge is not easy, regrouping and now focusing again. But it’s the playoffs. Nothing has changed there except the location. Nothing has changed with the league, it’s talent driven.

The team’s poor play on the road put them in the 6th seed to battle out of in just eight games. The coaching, execution, more lax approach away from home ALL factored in to where they are now. If they earned a 2 or 3 seed, there would be a vocal majority – rightfully so – banging the drum of accomplishment. Outside of someone contracting the virus, the failures of the Sixers will be on them, and should move on accordingly once pre-season expectations come up short.

Pop Culture Pick of the Week: Let’s Eat! 

Miki Sudo is the most dominating eater in the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating contest. She’s won every women’s bout since 2014, the longest streak going. Her margins of victory may not have been as large as Joey Chestnut last year, but therein lies the value on the big board!

The fields have been whittled down from 15 to 5, making it far more competitive which might hurt Sudo’s ability to dominate. Her margin of victory last year was just five dogs. Five dogs! Let’s make some money on the competition. One small factor in Sudo’s run is how her margin of victory has dropped over time. Lesco stuck around last year, losing by five wieners. I love taking her +6.5 at +135. There’s other value in the total dogs eaten, I love the total sitting at 36, which is why I would play the under 37.5 at -115. Lay some points, but you can see consistentcy on where the female eaters tend to finish. Sudo doesn’t down dogs like Chestnut, but will clear enough to win it.

Courtesy of

I want to personally thank Joe Krause and Jakib Media for making this column a reality. Jakib Media is one of the leaders in providing top independent radio programming, and I’m so excited to bring them to such a powerful digital place at PhillyVoice. There are some tremendous opportunities to work with both myself and Jakib Media through this amazing platform. Please join me in thanking Mr. Joe Krause. Please email me for any interest in working with us.

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Follow Eytan on Twitter: @shandershow

You can listen to Eytan on SB Nation Radio (Mon.-Fri. from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.; weekends from 6-9 p.m.) and @foxphlgambler (Mon.-Weds., 6-8 p.m.). You can also catch him on FOX 29 Good Day.

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