Eight Ways For the Sixers to Bring Their Home Court Advantage to Orlando
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Well, when our treasured young prospects start slipping on banana peels and getting themselves ruled out until Christmas, it must mean that a Sixers season really is imminent. I'm still not entirely 100% convinced that Bubble Ball is going to happen, but I can buy that the league is entirely 100% convinced that it’s going to happen, which means that it's probably going to take an act of God to intervene for anyone to consider pulling the plug. And we very well might get one! It's been that kind of year. But until then, sure, yes, let's talk about these 76ers of Philadelphia.
Mostly, let's talk about the only thing that actually matters for these eight "seeding games" they're about to play (aren't all games seeding games?) and maybe the playoffs to follow: home court advantage. The Sixers, for all their frustrating quirks and stupefying inadequacies this season (it's still the same season, right?) were at core a very simple team: At home, they were good (29-2), on the road, they were bad (10-247,000). Many have understandably wondered whether the Sixers, playing at the increasingly toxic but supposedly neutral terrain of Disney World in Orlando, will be more likely to play like a home team or a road team.
The answer? A home team -- provided they follow these eight steps, to ensure their game atmospheres are as much like the not-WFC as possible. Aside from the health of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons and the deprogramming of permanent Celtics hostage Al Horford, it's the most important factor in the Sixers' playoff chances this... August? September? What month is this shit supposed to be happening in, again?
1. Bring the bell, ring the bell.
Simple enough that the team might actually consider doing it, but the pre-game bell ringing has become the most important ritual of the Sixers' home court, and is not to be messed with at this point. Most importantly, the Sixers better not dare try to procure some facsimile in the original's stead just so they don't have to pay extra to bring it as a carry-on when flying into Orlando International or whatever. We'll know if it's not the same bell, Josh. We'll know.
2. Wawa breakfast sandwiches shipped in fresh every morning.
As someone who's lived in New York for the past 16 years, let me tell you -- you don't realize how much you miss Wawa until you're gone. I'm sure the Disney bubble has lovely breakfast amenities, but nothing tastes like home quite like a pork roll, egg and cheese every morning. (Which apparently Wawa doesn't even sell anymore? Must be the pandemic's fault. Whatever, I'm sure we can put in a word.) A breakfast sandwich, a nice 16 oz of too-hot flavored coffee, maybe a soft pretzel for later, and you're ready to double Giannis in the post (and still scramble back in time to contest that Middleton three).
3. Entire squad participates in "SUCKS!" chant during opposing team introductions.
It's not a Sixers game unless every player in the opposing lineup is greeted with an unignorable reminder before tipoff that they, in fact, suck. Usually the Sixers have 15-20k worth of fans to fill in the punchline to Matt Cord's setup for them; they'll have no such luxury this second season, so they'll need to take care of sucky business themselves -- and they better all be joining in for full effect and solidarity. Some may consider it unsportsmanlike for our guys to go against basketball's unwritten rule of Don't Do the "SUCKS" Thing For an Opposing Team Yourself. Maybe, but this isn't the NBA, this is Orlando, and the Sixers won't go very far without embracing their inherent heeldom early and often.
4. Everyone who isn't playing on a given night is in the Flight Squad.
Well Ryan Broekhoff, you probably won't actually play much or at all for these 76ers, but that doesn't mean you'll be entropying on that bench. Broekhoff and others in Brett Brown's doghouse (helllooooo Raul Neto) can still earn their paycheck -- the players are getting paid for this, right? -- by providing timeout and between-quarter entertainment as our running, jumping, dunking makeshift Flight Squad. Confused about what your role is going to be on the team during the second season, Glenn Robinson III? Good news! You're now just one trampoline leap away from total occupational clarity. The rest of the guys are gonna be too busy ignoring Brett Brown's play-diagramming to notice your efforts, but they'll still be comforted by knowing you're there stunting it up in the background.
Brett Brown says that nobody worked out more during quarantine than Joel Embiid. Is this good? Ben Simmons is healthy, and Brown thinks Howard Eskin looks like Forrest Gump. Zhaire Smith goes down with another injury, and we welcome Mike's writing parter Patrick Kang to talk about their TV show script about Ben Simmons and his family, Brotherly Love.
5. Designated assistant coach booer.
Nobody actually knows who the Sixers' assistant coaches are currently, we only know that there's probably a lot of them. Well, one of them is gonna have to take sole responsibility for replicating the sound of many thousands of impatient, irate and generally irrepressible Sixers fans by booing whenever... well, whenever anything, really. Other team just went on a 9-0 run to cut the Sixers' lead from 28 to 19? Boooooooooo. Tobias Harris just scored on the fast break but softly laid the ball in instead of dunking it? Booooooooooooo. Joel Embiid just sank a hook shot from half court but had a mildly disinterested facial expression while doing so? BOOOOOOOOOOOO. They gotta hear you, but more importantly, they've gotta fear you. As Sixers fans have preached all year, bullying works.
6. Designated assistant coach Old Man Knees.
I don't know if everyone's favorite Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Famer is gonna be able to claim a plus one to attend Bubble Ball, but the Sixers would be remiss not to try to replicate Alan Horwitz's incalculable sideline impact in some capacity. So take one of the non-booing leftover assistants, give him a huge white beard and a 76 jersey, and have him enthusiastically patrol the sidelines -- ready to scrap to defend his guys if need be. Maybe Brett can even take a turn doing it himself, he'll probably be most of the way there with the hair already by that point anyway.
7. Designated Ben Simmons bench "SHOOOOOT" yeller
Might be starting to run out of assistant coaches at this point, and Ben probably doesn't want to hear from them anyway, so let's have one guy on the bench at all times yelling at him to shoot whenever he gets within five feet of the three-point line. Maybe the entire bench can get into it? Enough dudes at once, perhaps we can recreate the buzz of anticipation at the not-WFC that gets louder the closer he gets to the arc, and then gives way to a loud AWWWWWW when he decides to dribble in or pass out. Simmons will hate it -- and his teammates for it -- but like Sidney Deane, he plays better when he's angry anyway.
8. Get Meek Mill and Ron Brooks in the bubble
They can take turns singing the National Anthem!