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Diapers Off Young Sixers, The Process is Speeding Up.

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Ladies and Gentlemen, the Sixers have grown up before our eyes! It’s not just about the 17-game winning streak. It’s not about the fact that they have Miami on the ropes in round one of the playoffs. It’s so much more than all of that. This team has grown up.

Let’s go back as recently as March 5th, as the Sixers had multiple 20-point leads against Milwaukee and blew it. The “Fire Brett Brown” contingent hit social media pretty hard.

There were many leads blown this season, most early in the year. There were blowouts given away, only to hold on to win close games. Then there were the turnovers. The Sixers led the league in turnovers per game, but that number improved as the season went on. It has been a, for lack of a better term, process. It has been a wait. It has taken patience. “They need a bench” fans screamed. Enter Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova. That helped. But it was more than that. It was letting their two transcendent stars, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons grow as individuals, as teammates and making sure the rest of the pieces fell in to place.

Recognize this, Brett Brown is a damn good coach. It’s more than X’s and O’s. He’s creating a culture and a mentality. This Sixers team has grown, they have gelled, they have composure, they are physical, they are skilled and they are armed and dangerous right now. Most importantly, they don’t back down from anybody.

“I get so excited because I feel we have so much more to grow and give,” Sixers Coach Brett Brown said after Philly took a 3 games to 1 lead on Saturday. “The heart of the team, the passion of the team…they really enjoy each other’s company and they fight for each other.”

That culture that Brown has built has led us to where we are now . This team is so much different than some of the great Philly teams of the past. Sure the 2001 team, led by Allen Iverson, that lost to the Lakers in the Finals was fun to watch and exciting. It didn’t have nearly the talent that this team does. If Iverson had a bad game, the Sixers would lose. He was a star, and the strategy was to complement him with role players. It worked to an extent, but it wasn’t a long term plan.

This team is a complete team who’s starting five has had had the best offensive efficiency in the NBA since Christmas. The Sixers are also one of the top three defensive teams in the league. Saric, Redick and Covington have each had special moments. But make no mistake, the Sixers are led by two great players in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. How does Brown feel about his two star players?

“They are ours,” Brown beamed.

Simmons was the first rookie to post a triple double in the playoffs since Magic Johnson in 1980. Embiid has been playing through an orbital bone fracture, and while that and the face mask he needs to wear have limited him offensively, his defense has been game changing.

“There is greatness in both of those players,” Brown continued. “They are fantastic teammates, they co-exist well.”

Don’t underestimate the importance of that. If the two stars can’t coexist, the house of cards comes tumbling down. Remember the Mavericks of the mid 90’s? They had the three J’s, with Jason Kidd, Jimmy Jackson, and Jamal Mashburn. Ego’s got in the way there. Shaq and Kobe couldn’t keep their ego’s in check, and there have been countless others.

“The need each other,” Brown explained. “They understand that.”

This is happening earlier than it was supposed to. We were supposed to figure out if Ben Simmons could play point this year. Check. We were supposed to find out if Joel Embiid could play most of a season. Check. We were supposed to see if a shooter like J.J. Redick could open things up for the rest of the team and ignite the offense. Check. We were supposed to see if Dario Saric, who had a great rookie year, could fit with the other talented players on the team. Check. The pieces came together quicker than they were supposed to. Don’t forget that Markelle Fultz is coming back, the Sixers will have the Lakers lottery pick, and they have a ton of cap space.

The 76ers are one win away from the reaching the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Make no mistake, the Sixers are the team nobody wants to face. The process is moving at lightening speed. Buckle up!

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About Mike Small

Married for 23 years, and a father of four. Currently a Pharmaceutical Sales Leader, and contributor for TLSportsMedia, covering the Philadelphia 76ers and other relevant NBA topics. Previously worked as a television sports anchor in Eastern North Carolina, radio talk show host in Charlotte, North Carolina. Also served as the producer of "The Dean Smith Show", a weekly television show on The University of North Carolina basketball team, and "The Mack Brown Show", a weekly television show on the UNC football team-while doing all of the player features. Wrote a weekly column and articles for Carolina Blue Newspaper. Was also a contributor to, "A Season of Dreams", a book on the 1993 National Champion North Carolina Basketball Team.

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