The Loop

The 76ers are the coolest team in the NBA Playoffs, and you should root for them

April 16, 2018
Miami Heat v Philadelphia 76ers - Game One

Mitchell Leff

If I could have one wish, as a Duke fan, it would be to invent a time machine, go back to the J.J. Redick era (2002-2006), and then use that time machine to bring all of Redick's most adamant haters to the year 2018, where I would force them to observe the Philadelphia 76ers for a month before transporting them safely back. It's a complicated fantasy, and probably illegal. But it would serve a great purpose, because I'm convinced that roughly 60% of those professional haters would no longer harbor the same animosity for Redick—who, you may have forgotten, was probably the second most-hated Blue Devil in Duke history, after Christian Laettner. (Pre-Grayson Allen era, of course.)

Here's Redick in 2018: Thirteen years deep in a very efficient, very successful NBA career, and getting better all the time. He's not a superstar, he's never been an All-Star, and he's never won an NBA championship, but he averages 17.1 points per game this season (his best ever), he's shot 41.5 percent from three-point range over a career (15th best in NBA history), and he's been a starter and/or key component on a ton of playoff teams. Even his defense is pretty OK! Also, he's tatted up beyond recognition, he's political in a very non-Duke way, his teammates love him, and he hosts what is, shockingly, one of the best sports podcasts around. And somehow, after being an object of complete hatred and a sneering avatar for white privilege at Duke (unfairly, I might add), he's done it all while flying way below the radar. Where Christian Laettner had the uneven, primadonna-ish NBA career Duke haters expected and relished, Redick has just been extremely solid, and he's worked like a madman for everything he's earned.

Point being: Redick is cool as hell now, and if I could bring those haters on the time machine to the present day, I bet they'd feel somewhat ashamed of their hostility. And I would devour their shame, and shame them some more, and then we'd all cry, hug, and get Redick tattoos on our foreheads.

But I swear this isn't just about a Duke fan writing a love letter to JJ Redick. It's also about the 76ers, who are an unbelievably fun basketball team, and who have an extremely good chance to make and perhaps even win the NBA championship this year. Beyond JJ, you've got the Lebron-anointed Ben Simmons, a player who is an outrageously good scorer and passer even though he can't shoot. You've got Joel Embiid, who is finally healthy-ish and as dominant underneath as everyone hoped he'd be. You've got two 6'10" European sharpshooters in Dario Saric and Ersan Ilyasova, fun enforcer Robert Covington (who was around for the ugly days), the inimitable Marco Belinelli, and a coach in Brett Brown who got his professional start while on a backpacking trip in Australia and later became one of Greg Popovich's best friends in San Antonio.

And beyond the individuals, the overall style just meshes perfectly. Sam Hinkie, former disgraced GM, Sixers exile, and author of the once-mocked, now-worshipped "Trust the Process" strategy, wins the sports image rehabilitation award for the century—the plan he put in place worked, even after he left, and the results are glorious. I got back into the NBA three years ago because of Steph Curry (it took forever for me to fall out of love with college hoops despite being spurned over and over), but this Sixers team has knocked me squarely off the Warriors bandwagon. For this rootless NBA fan, 2018 is all about Philly.

Baseball Hater of the Week: The Weather

I know this isn't factually true, but it feels like 85% of MLB games have been postponed due to rain, sleet, or snow so far this year. What is factually true is that six games were postponed on Sunday—the most single day postponements in ten years. If this is the future of baseball because of climate change, every single team is going to be playing in a crappy dome within ten years. There is nothing worse than astroturf.

On the other hand...SNOWMER!

Dumbest Propaganda Video of the Week: This Anti-Messi Gem

I warned you that this is stupid, and now I'm double-warning you: This is really stupid. Watch:

God. This is what it would look like if Skip Bayless were from Spain, and spent all his time and energy on bad Twitter videos. With a couple of images and some sad music, it somehow became the ultimate hot take. I don't even follow soccer, and this video infuriates me. I'm going to root against Ronaldo out of spite. (Note: Was already rooting against Ronaldo out of spite. Too good-looking and rich.)

Your Tennis Outrage of the Week: A Shot Clock at the U.S. Open

Has anybody ever complained to you that tennis matches take too long? And in the off chance that your answer is "yes," was the complaint ever about the time wasted between points, rather than the fact that a five-set epic can last forever? I hope to God the answer is no, but if it's not, get better friends.

And make sure your new friends don't work for the USTA, because as it turns out—in a move straight from the solution-in-search-of-a-problem department—the U.S. Open will implement a 25-second serving shot clock at this year's tournament. I'm not going to go all metaphysical on you, like Jonathan Liew did at The Independent, but I will say that there's really no upside here. The total time saved per match may be ten minutes, at most, but it's going to take a toll on quality of play and general spectator satisfaction. I can't wait for the first obnoxious fan at Flushing Meadows to start counting down from ten with Rafa serving, and then Rafa gets annoyed and has to stop, and then he gets dinged for a time violation. And that's just one of the disastrous scenarios in play.

The current 25-second rule, enforceable by the chair, is plenty good enough. Just enforce the thing! There's no need to make a spectacle of every service game with a shot clock.—it's terrible for the sport, and I hope with time it will be looked at as a worse novelty than the glowing hockey puck. At least that one only ruined things for people watching on TV.

The Underrated Basketball Play of the Week: The Giannis Chasedown

Let's end on a fun note:

Please join me in rooting for Mr. Antetokounmpo to single-handedly defeat the Celtics, and then fall gracefully to the 76ers.