Because the Philadelphia 76ers’ charter bus wiggled around The Citadel campus and down the Avenue of Remembrance, the players and coaches couldn’t help but notice an anomaly amid the military features.
The sign outside the college’s Starbucks on Sept. 27 advertised Open Mic Night.
Not one of the 76ers took part.
They were too busy auditioning for a wide-open NBA 12 months with every week of preseason workouts at McAlister Field House. The crazy run to June has more South Carolina ties than ever.
Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies, Zion Williamson and the Recent Orleans Pelicans, Khris Middleton and the Milwaukee Bucks and the up-and-coming Cleveland Cavaliers with former Clemson star Greg Buckner as associate head coach all figure into NBA championship and 2022-2023 MVP odds.
And Charleston’s own history-loving 76ers, an intriguing player in an Eastern Conference that’s up for grabs.
What are the chances of the Palmetto State being so involved in these NBA odds?
Luka Doncic ±450
Giannis Antetokounmpo ±700
Joel Embiid ±700
Nikola Jokic ±1000
Kevin Durant ±1000
Ja Morant ±1300
Jayson Tatum ±1300
Stephen Curry ±1500
LeBron James ±2700
Kawhi Leonard ±2700
Zion Williamson ±3000
Oh, the worth in former AAU teammates that went 1-2 within the 2019 NBA draft.
Morant, the dazzling Dalzell native who played at Crestwood High School in Sumter, is a still ascending Memphis Grizzlies star. He has one in all the best ceilings in pro sports.
If Morant’s leadership skills keep coinciding with the highlight plays, why not an MVP?
Why not now?
Williamson, the No. 1 pick in 2019 after one 12 months at Duke, was a little bit of a riddle wrapped in an injury mystery inside an enigma as he missed all of last season. But Spartanburg Day School’s YouTube sensation seems greater than ready for a fresh start on a Recent Orleans team that also has Brandon Ingram and just signed guard C.J. McCollum to a two-year extension.
“Z looked amazing,” head coach Willie Green told reporters after the Pelicans’ Sept. 28 practice. “His strength. His speed. He dominated the scrimmage just about.”
Eastern Conference champion
Odds to succeed in NBA Finals per VegasInsider.com consensus:
Boston Celtics ±555
Brooklyn Nets ±740
Philadelphia 76ers ±1460
So that you’re sayin’ Philly has greater than a probability.
Especially with the Celtics coming to grips with head coach Ime Udoka’s season-long (not less than) suspension.
And do you trust any Nets thing involving Kyrie Irving to go easily?
The hot button is 76ers head coach Doc Rivers getting superstars James Harden and Joel Embiid to purchase in to something resembling defense. Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley, at McAlister Field House on Thursday to ascertain out her hometown 76ers, might need some advice.
“Joel knows from 100 conversations this summer that he needs to be higher defensively, that we’ve got to be higher defensively, if we’re going to win,” Rivers said at The Citadel on Sept. 28. “Everyone has to. James, everyone. And it starts more with team defense than with individual defense.”
Los Angeles Clippers ±550
Golden State Warriors ±600
Boston Celtics ±600
Brooklyn Nets ±700
Milwaukee Bucks ±800
Those Bucks, all the time underrated. It’s a mixture of the small market and an absence of appreciation for fresh custard.
But when Porter-Gaud School graduate Khris Middleton hadn’t bowed out of the primary round of the playoffs with a knee sprain last season, Milwaukee might need repeated as champs or not less than made the NBA Finals.
Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton carries the NBA’s Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy through students at his former school, Porter-Gaud, after a ceremony Friday Sept. 24, 2021, in Charleston. Middleton was being honored for winning the 2021 NBA Finals and an Olympic Gold Medal in 2021. Gavin McIntyre/Staff
“Khash Money” also had wrist surgery in July but needs to be back within the lineup early within the season to rejoin Giannis Antetokounmpo as a part of the elite 1-2 punch that led the Bucks to the 2021 title.
Milwaukee Bucks −450
Chicago Bulls ±450
Cleveland Cavaliers ±700
Detroit Pistons ±20000
Indiana Pacers ±30000
Consider the Cavaliers. Perhaps to not win the Eastern Conference or Central Division, but to enhance from a 44-38 record barely ok to make the playoffs in 2021-22.
This can be a franchise on the upswing with young stars Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen. Acquiring Donovan Mitchell from Utah was the most important coup of the NBA off-season.
Buckner, 46, was a fan favorite at Clemson from 1994-98 (a game-winning dunk gave the Tigers an ACC Tournament win over North Carolina). He played within the NBA for 10 seasons and appears like an NBA head coach waiting to occur with more Cleveland success.
Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers talks with the media after a preseason practice at The Citadel’s McAlister Field House on Sept. 27, 2022. Staff/Gene Sapakoff
Coach of the 12 months
Chris Finch ±900
Taylor Jenkins ±1000
Steve Kerr ±1000
Tyronn Lue ±1000
Monty Williams ±1200
Jason Kidd ±1200
Michael Malone ±1400
Erik Spoelstra ±1400
Darvin Ham ±1400
Nick Nurse ±1400
Joe Mazzulla ±1400
Mike Budenholzer ±1600
Willie Green ±1600
JB Bickerstaff ±1600
Steve Nash ±1600
Steve Clifford ±2000
Nate McMillan ±2200
Doc Rivers ±2500
OK, sure. A Coach of the 12 months often overachieves greater than anyone and there is a limit to how much Rivers can do this.
But have you ever seen James Harden play defense?
If Rivers can show the motivational skills essential, the 76ers will vault from Charleston to a a lot better season than the betting public anticipates.
Which implies the Coach of the 12 months award might be headed to Boston wrapped in Citadel blue.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff
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