It’s almost that time of the year again. Thanksgiving? Nope. Christmas? Nope. New Year’s? Yes! (in my Marc Zumoff voice). But not because of the new year or resolutions or anything like that. It is because of the month of January, a historical month for the Philadelphia 76ers.
Let’s take it back to just one season ago, the 2016-2017 season of the NBA. The 76ers’ season was full of excitement, some even had hope of a playoff picture, as Joel Embiid was finally healthy to return after having two surgeries done on his right foot (one in 2014 before he was selected 3rd overall to the 76ers, and another in 2015).
Another prospect that was being brought in that brought excitement was Ben Simmons who was promised to have a game changing skill set of being a 6’10 point guard (not point forward) and drawing comparisons to all time greats such as Magic Johnson and LeBron James.
And the last prospect the 76ers were waiting for (who still might never come over) was Dario Saric after being drafted 12th overall to the Orlando Magic back in the 2014 draft, who was eventually traded, along with a future first round pick, to the 76ers for Elfrid Payton. This was also Bryan Colangelo’s first off-season as the new General Manager of the 76ers (hired on April 10, 2016 after former GM Sam Hinkie resigned) and he brought in some solid veterans in Jerryd Bayless (3 year contract), Gerald Henderson (2 year contract with a team option after the first year), and Sergio Rodriguez (1 year contract) at the point guard and shooting guard spot.
Bayless and Henderson were also brought in for their shooting at the 3-point line, which the 76ers desperately needed. The season, let alone future, seemed very bright until it took a huge kick to the shin after having yet another injury to one if its young stars, Ben Simmons. Simmons broke his fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot which, initially, ruled him out for about the first 3 months of the season, until he was later ruled out for the rest of the season.
This left Joel Embiid with all the attention and lights on him, even though he already had those things on him with all of the potential he had and comparisons to greats such as Hakeem Olajuwon. And oh man did Joel Embiid impress everybody. He came out the gates with a roaring 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks in just 22 minutes in a loss in the season/home opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Embiid continued to impress everybody worldwide with his play in limited minutes throughout the season, though, the 76ers still had not found themselves as a consistent team with some here-and-there injuries (Gerald Henderson: hip, Sergio Rodriguez, ankle) and it did not seem likely the team would go to the playoffs… Until January.
At the end of December, after the 76ers beat the Denver Nuggets on December 30, the 76ers had a record of 8-24 and were tied with the Brooklyn Nets for last place in the, weak, Eastern Conference.
After the new year, something sparked in the team. The 76ers started the new year playing another young and promising team, the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia. It was a memorable game as the 76ers had a good lead the majority of the game but, like during most of the process, the lead vanish as quick as a blink and the Timberwolves had tied the game with a Ricky Rubio 3 pointer and tied the game at 91 a piece with 1.6 seconds left. It seemed like a “oh no, not again” moment.
But it was exactly the opposite. Coach Brett Brown drew up a beautiful play as he had Dario Saric inbound the ball, Joel Embiid setting a screen for Robert Covington to roll, and Dario Saric throwing the game winning alley-oop to Robert Covington which left the Timberwolves with a useless .2 seconds left on the clock. This was an amazing win for the team and city of Philadelphia and the beginning of a fabulous month for the 76ers.
The 76ers finished with 10 wins and just 5 losses in the month of January. Here are the games played and scores of those games:
January 3rd, 2017 Vs. Minnesota Timberwolves: 93-91 W (Robert Covington game winner)
January 6th @ Boston Celtics: 106-110 L
January 8th @ Brooklyn Nets: 105-95 W
January 11th Vs. New York Knicks: 98-97 W (T.J. McConnell’s famous game winner)
January 13th Vs. Charlotte Hornets: 102-93 W (first 3 game win streak since 2014)
January 14th @ Washington Wizards: 93-109 L
January 16th @ Milwaukee Bucks: 113-104 W
January 18th Vs. Toronto Raptors: 94-89 W
January 20th Vs. Portland Trail Blazers: 93-92 W (Robert Covington game winner, Embiid
January 21st@ Atlanta Hawks: 93-110 L
January 24th Vs. Los Angeles Clippers: 121-110 W
January 25th @ Milwaukee Bucks: 114-109 W
January 27th Vs. Houston Rockets: 118-123 L (Joel Embiid’s last game of the season)
January 29th @ Chicago Bulls: 108-121 L
January 30th Vs. Sacramento Kings: 122-119 W
Some notes about the month of January for the 76ers in 2017:
-Embiid played his 31st and final game of the season against the Portland Trail Blazers
-There were 3 game winners: 2 by Covington Vs. Timberwolves and Trail Blazers and 1
by T.J. McConnell against the Knicks
The 76ers pulled into as close as 3.5 games of the 8th seed at one point.
It was an exciting time for Philadelphia fans as this month of January has been referred to time and time again after it happened (one being an instagram post by Joel Embiid: https://www.instagram.com/p/BSzy4ojlIqB/?hl=en&taken-by=joelembiid). But, it was kind of typical for this to be the 76ers best month of the season as it has been a trend for the team for a long time to have its best month in January.
List of past January’s for the 76ers:
2015-2016: during the gruesome 10-72 season, the 76ers had won 4 games in January of
2016 marking the team’s best month in the win column.
2014-2015: finished with a record of 18-84, the 76ers had a team best of 6 wins in the
2013-2014: the first year of the process, the 76ers finished with a record of 19-63 had a
team high 6 wins in January.
2011-2012: during the lockout year, the 76ers finished with a record of 35-31 and had a
team high of 13 wins in the month of January.
It is just not as of recent the month of January has been their best month of the season, here are couple of throwback years that back this up:
1982-1983: the last time the 76ers won a championship, the team had a team best 14 wins in January.
1976-1977: Julius Erving’s first year with the team, the 76ers had a team high 11 wins in January and March.
Now onto the 2017-2018 season, the 76ers had a great off-season. The team dropped Gerald Henderson and did not offer another contract to Sergio Rodriguez. Instead, the 76ers brought in the lethal shooter of J.J. Redick for a one year 23 million dollar contract and signed veteran big man Amir Johnson, two players with heavy playoff experience that can help this young 76ers team out.
Another huge reason that the 2018 January for the team could be successful is because of the return of the 6’4 #1 pick of the 2017 draft out of Washington, Markelle Fultz. Unfortunately, Fultz suffered a shoulder injury sometime between the months of August and September. The injury is defined as a “scapular muscle imbalance” on his right shoulder. Before the injury though, the #1 pick averaged 20 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3 assists in 2 games during the Utah summer league.
Although it seems like coach Brett Brown will bring Fultz off the bench when he is fully healthy, it wont be surprising if Fultz is inserted into the starting lineup quickly if we see any flashes of his play during his college days.
To bring it back to present day, the 76ers are now 7-6 with a (knock on wood) somewhat healthy roster and are looking better than ever. Here is the schedule for the 76ers in the month of January for the 76ers this season:
Vs. San Antonio Spurs
Vs. Detroit Pistons
Vs. Boston Celtics
Vs. Toronto Raptors
@ Boston Celtics
Vs. Milwaukee Bucks
@ Memphis Grizzlies
Vs. Chicago Bulls
@ San Antonio Spurs
@ Oklahoma City
@ Milwaukee Bucks
@ Brooklyn Nets
It will be a little tougher this year for the 76ers to have the most wins in the month of January for the season being because there are only 12 games in the month. But nonetheless, this is a very confident and good looking team so after plenty of games of figuring out the chemistry, the 76ers should be fine. I predict the 76ers will go 7-5 during this month.
The month of January has been pleasant for the 76ers in most years since the franchise has been established. Tis the season, not only for Christmas or New Year’s, but for the month of January. Trust The Process and Trust The January.