Chemistry in the context of team sport isn’t anything you can gauge directly by number or measure.
When it’s there, though, you can certainly see it, sometimes even feel lit.
This past weekend’s Blue x White Scrimmage represented the first formal public step of sorts in what the 76ers hope will be a lengthy, successful journey into the middle of June.
And while the club recognizes there’s still fine tuning that needs to be done between now and the time the tip-offs begin to count in two weeks, Brett Brown and Co. left 76ers Fieldhouse Saturday encouraged, particularly in respect to the projected starting group.
That’s because for a unit that will likely feature two new members, and a third assuming a different position than the one he played for the Sixers a season ago, there were signs of early cohesion, that a foundation is forming.
In other words, chemistry.
The topic was on the tip of just about everyone’s tongue following Saturday’s event.
“The chemistry is definitely growing quicker than I expected,” said Ben Simmons. “We had a lot of fun. This is a huge step in the right direction for our team.”
Josh Richardson, acquired from the Miami Heat this past summer in a sign-and-trade, was standing right next to Simmons when the Aussie made those post-game remarks, and agreed that the starting five’s chemistry is trending in the right direction – and quickly.
“The starting five came out good,” Richardson said. “I knew it would take time for us to learn, but starting out, I think it’s a good baseline.”
From Saturday’s opening possession, it was apparent there was some semblance of familiarity among the starters, even though they had practiced together just four times.
On defense especially, the contingent seemed confident switching one through five, while figuring out how to use its length and size to generate deflections and grab rebounds.
Offensively, the Sixers’ projected starters had some solid moments, too, most notably at the outset of the scrimmage. In the first quarter, we saw Al Horford, another offseason pickup, run a nice dribble-handoff play with fellow newcomer Richardson, who throughout the day showed his ability to score at three levels.
Horford also did his part to create and find space, and relied on his passing prowess to keep the ball moving – imperative to the Sixers’ desire to play with pace in the halfcourt.
“I was pleased with the organization,” Brown said Saturday. “We looked like we could play a game and have some level of purpose and intent.”
And for this initial order and structure the Sixers managed to display in less than a week’s time, Simmons specifically is in large part to thank. The 23-year old has spoken openly about wanting to become a more effective leader.
Well, according to a guy who’s been in the league a decade longer, Simmons is well on his way.
“I really feel like Ben being…the guy who’s leading us out there, he’s really trying to make an effort that everybody feels good, and we’re all on the same page. That’s good to see,” said Horford. “The chemistry stuff is going to take time, [but] I felt like we had a lot of good moments today, but that’s something that we continually work on every day. The more we can do that, the better.”
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) October 5, 2019
A respectable intrasquad scrimmage performance a championship run does not make.
But if that’s the destination, the road’s gotta start somewhere, and for the Sixers’ probable starting five, there are positive blocks to build upon as the preseason picks up this week.
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