Sixers fans, the NBA Season has arrived! Philadelphia opens their season on the road in Milwaukee, followed by Toronto. Here are 7 things you need to know as you get ready to follow the team in the early going of the 2023-2024 NBA season.
7 things to know ahead of the Sixers season opener
1. James Harden is not with the team
James Harden has been both present and absent for certain spurts of the pre-season. Harden arrived a day late to Sixers training camp earlier this month, but was a participant upon his arrival. He did manage to attend a few practices at the team facilities shortly following camp, but missed practice in the two weeks leading up to the season opener. Reports came out on Wednesday that Harden returned to Philadelphia on Tuesday night with his bags packed to join the team on the 2-game road trip, but the Sixers elected to not have him travel with the team.
2. Expect De’Anthony Melton to start in place of the absent James Harden
A starter in 58 of the 77 games that he played for the Sixers last season, De’Anthony Melton will find himself in a familiar starting role come Thursday night. Melton is entering into his second season with the team and looks to improve upon a productive 2022-2023 season in which he averaged 10 points per game on 39% shooting from beyond the arc. In the preseason finale against the Atlanta Hawks, the Sixers rolled out a starting lineup of Maxey, Melton, Harris, Tucker, and Embiid. Melton led all scorers in the game as he finished with 29 points on 11-16 shooting, including 6 of 10 from three-point territory. Melton will look to continue the hot shooting for the Sixers as they are in need of finding some production in the absence of James Harden.
3. Expect this team to buy-in defensively under Nick Nurse
Certainly one of the biggest headlines heading into the start of the season is the debut of new Sixers Head Coach, Nick Nurse. Nurse joins the Sixers after his tenure as the Raptors Head Coach from 2018 to 2023. Nurse led the Raptors to their first NBA Title in 2019.
The Carroll, Iowa native is looking to bring his aggressive defensive style to the city of brotherly love. During his tenure with the Toronto Raptors, Nurse’s teams earned a reputation for playing solid, hard-nosed defense. Pairing Nurse with some players on the roster who have earned a reputation for being talented individual defenders, the Sixers will ideally have a new identify on the defensive side of the ball this year. Look for the veteran leadership of P.J. Tucker, Danny Green, and Patrick Beverley to help the rest of this Sixers squad buy-in to the aggressive defensive style implemented by Nick Nurse.