Don’t Give Up On Your Team

Brett Brown
Philadelphia Coach Brett Brown doesn’t seem to have any answers as the Sixers have lost consecutive games twice early in the 2019-2020 season.

Do you pray for your favorite team? I need to. And I might need to pray for extra strength to continue to cheer for the home team. Because the Philadelphia 76ers are trying my patience and vexing my spirit. On paper, the Sixers are supposed to be better now than they were last season. That hardly seems to be the case.

Last season the Sixers finished strong, taking the eventual NBA Champion Toronto Raptors to a Game seven in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. It all came down to a four bounce bucket by Kawhi Leonard, the Finals MVP, in a loss at the buzzer.

This season we don’t have Butler and Reddick but we do have Al Horford and Josh Richmond. Great! AND Simmons is supposed to have a jump shot. So what’s wrong?

So now I’m writing without shame or chagrin because there’s plenty wrong with this edition. I’m trying not to give up on my team. And of late, MY team, the Philadelphia 76ers, are sometimes hard to root for and thus easy to give up on. But that’s where faith hope and love come in. And since the greatest of these is love, we’ll have to focus on how much Philadelphian’s love their Sixers.

But first, let me get this out of my system:

As of this writing, early in this the 2019-2020 season, the Sixers’ just lost two in a row, last night to the 3-7 Oklahoma City Thunder and then Wednesday night to the then 3-7 Orlando Magic. The Sixers got us all happy and giddy as they began this season 5-0, but since then they’ve lost three in a row, then another two in a row. Over the last week, they have dropped 5 and won only 2.

As for the Orlando game, yes it was the second night of back to back games; no the Sixers didn’t have Embiid (he was “resting”); yes it was on the road; and, one more yes, it is still early in the season. But the playing and the coaching are wanting, as other teams seem to have figured “it” out, even in early November.

Here’s how the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on the Orlando loss:

“The Sixers (7-4) missed a lot of easy baskets in the fourth quarter, committed costly turnovers, and had a tough time defending. All those deficiencies were on display during the Magic’s game- clinching 16-4 run that gave them a commanding 102-89 lead with 3 minutes, 12 seconds remaining.”

THEN in Oklahoma City, the Sixers had a 9 point lead late in the fourth quarter but then managed to mismanage their time and their effort. The game went to OT and the Sixers got outscored, out muscled, out played and out coached in the extra session. Sound familiar? The story of the Ben Simmons/Joel Embiid Sixers is sounding more and more like an old, broken record that no one wants to hear.

So what’s a fan to do? Can we “the people” fire Coach Brett Brown? We want to, but no. Can we the fans force Ben Simmons to shoot jump shots? Of course not. And can the Philly fan base limit Joel Embiid’s turnovers? Fat chance. All we the Philly faithful can do is root, root, root for our home team, and hope that the love we show them is reciprocated and turns into wins and a championship ring.

So that’s it. The bottom line is “Don’t give up on your team.” At the end of the day, Philly fans still love the Sixers AND the Eagles, even though they aren’t playing up to their potential.

It’s called grace. We all need it, but in order to receive it, we need to give it too.

Did Kawhi Leonard Beat the 76ers?

kawhi-leonard

Some will say that Kawhi Leonard beat the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals in Toronto. Yes, Kawhi had 41 points. Yes Kawhi hit the fadeaway, game winner from the right corner falling out of bounds with no time left on the clock. And yes Kawhi was the best player on the court, hands down. But the 76ers shot themselves in the foot time and again.

Note to file: that game winning shot wasn’t a swish; in other words, it didn’t hit all net. What had happened was quite to the contrary. Kawhi shot the ball high enough to get the it over Joel Embiid who was lunging at him, then the ball hit the right side of the rim, bounced up, bounced high off the right side of the rim again, then bounced twice off of the left side of the rim, THEN it fell through the net. It felt like it bounced around the rim for what seemed like an eternity, but the ball eventually bounced in, not out. Game, set, match – Toronto. But that miracle is not what beat the Sixers. The Sixers beat themselves.

First, the Sixers came out jittery, fidgety and frazzled and played that way most of the game. But at times the Sixers had the lead, and at one point they went on a 17-0 run and took what looked like a commanding seven point lead. AND Jimmy “Buckets” tied the game at 90 with 4.2 second left! (Note to file: keep Jimmy Butler and ban Brett Brown from anything that has to do with the 76ers organization from now, henceforth, and even forevermore). In other words, all of Philly is not down with Coach Brown. He’s got ta’ go.

While the Sixers had their chances, their play and their coach failed them down the stretch. Embiid and Simmons, their best players, coughed up the ball time and again, committing turnover after turnover in the final minutes. They even committed TWO – count ‘em — TWO shot clock violations with the game on the line. Oh well.

The moral of the story is this: don’t beat yourself. Unforced errors, careless mistakes and the lack of effort all combine to confound and contradict all of the positives you may have going your way, no matter how hard you try.

Let’s all learn the lesson. Don’t beat yourself.

The 76’ers Are Now The New “Beast in the East” — a.k.a., Who Wants To Bet That The Sixer’s Win The East?

Butler Game Winning Three Pointer
Jimmy Butler hits the game winner on the road in OT against the Charlotte Hornets, November 17, 2018

Here’s a note for Philadelphia 76er’s fans everywhere:  “Have no fear, Jimmy Butler is here!”  Not the question is this: with Butler, will the Sixers win the East? After what I saw last night, there’s no reason not to believe they can.  But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves;  let’s just start with Jimmy Butler and last night.

Did you see last night’s game? No? Don’t worry, I didn’t either. But I saw the highlights, and Jimmy “Bucket” Butler is as good as advertised.  Last night, in just his third game with his new team, Butler and the Philadelphia 76er’s defeated the Charlotte Hornets 122-119, in OT. hopefully, it is a healthy harbinger of what is to come with Butler and Embiid and Simmons playing together, who now make up the new “Beast in the East.”

Butler didn’t sink the potentially game winning basket at the end of regulation, but he did block Kemba Walker’s shot near the end of overtime. He also saved the ball from landing out-of-bounds, and THEN managed to sink the game winner from beyond the arc for a thrilling, last second, game winning three-point basket to the chagrin of everyone at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, but to the glee of every 76er’s fan anywhere.   

Despite a ridiculous game from Kemba Walker, Butler and the Sixers managed to pull another rabbit out of the hat.  Walker scorched the Sixers for a season high 60 points in one game, but he couldn’t seal the deal when it mattered most. Butler, on the other hand, had a mediocre game – he finished with 15 points — but he had the heroics when it mattered most and hammered the nail down on the coffin so that the Sixers put the Charlotte Hornets to bed for the third time this year. 

Once again, we see that a team can be impacted by just one player, for good or for ill.  Indeed, when it matters most, one man, or one woman, can make a difference.  And that’s the message:  you can make a difference. So stop saying that you’re only one person and that what you do doesn’t matter and that you’re small part doesn’t amount to much. Just stop it!  You can make a difference.

And what a difference Jimmy Butler is making. He’s glad to be in Philly, he genuinely enjoys playing with Embiid, Simmons, JJ and the gang, and he’s excited about what the future holds.  You just can’t put a dollar value on effort and hustle and guts. You just can’t.  And Butler brings all of that to the table, and some.

And so there you have it: after just three games, Jimmy Butler has proven that he’s worth his weight in gold as he has seamlessly sewn himself into the Philly fabric. Butler has made himself useful in more ways than one. Amen to that. 

And here’s to more to come.

Note To Jimmy Butler: “Come To Philly!”

jimmy_butler-76ers

Almost everyone says that the Sixers will be better with Butler. Right? . . . Right!

But that’s what we all hope and pray. The question is, ARE we really better with Butler? The answer:  We better be! Butler is a gritty, in no ways pretty, in your face, non-commonplace kind of player. Butler is gutsy and garish, impudent and intolerant, and he’s not coming to Philly to play.  Butler is coming to ball. Butler in a word, is a bad butt (we don’t use French here!). Butler is all about getting the “W” so he doesn’t like to lose. I love it.

Are we better with Butler? Of course we’re better with Butler.  Butler has attitude, has an attitude, and will confront and contest when necessary. And I love it. In other words, Butler is, in fact, EXACTLY the kind of player the Sixers need and he’s just what the Dr. ordered (did someone say Dr. J?).

Butler will beat the drum and rally the troops. He’s a savvy, sassy veteran who knows how to win and he wants to win now. He has no problem calling out his teammates for lackadaisical and lackluster effort. He’ll put and point his finger in your face and call you out, if need be. And I love it.  The Sixers have a bad habit of turning the ball over and giving big leads away. And I hate it. The Sixers need to get in the habit of taking care of the ball and holding on to the lead. And that’s where Butler will fit right in.

And that’s how Christians should be. We should be fearless and dauntless and determined and downright dogged when it comes to living soberly, righteously and Godly in this present world.  We should stop making excuses for bad behavior, We should hold each other accountable and be willing to fight tooth and nail for what is right.  We should live uprightly and speak forthrightly, and we of course must practice what we preach. Amen.

 Here’s what USA Today had to say:

 “Philadelphia gave up quality players but got a much-needed All-Star in return. Butler is the type of two-way player – All-NBA, All-Defense – who can elevate a team like the Sixers, who reached the conference semifinals last season, have an All-Star in Joel Embiid and a future All-Star in Ben Simmons.

Butler should help Embiid and Simmons, and vice versa. Philadelphia’s offense (ranked 20th) and defense (ranked 10th) are expected to improve with Butler, who averaged 21.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.4 steals and shot 47.1 percent from the field and 37.8 percent on 3-pointers in 10 games with Minnesota this season.” https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nba/columnist/jeff-zillgitt/2018/11/10/jimmy-butler-trade-76-ers-shifts-power-eastern-conference/1958821002/

 And here’s what ESPN had to say:

 “The odds have always been against Butler. His path to the NBA is as unlikely as anyone who plays in the league given that his backstory (of being homeless at 13 before moving in with a friend’s family) reads like the basketball version of “The Blind Side.” No matter how many ups and downs Butler endured in his journey to the precipice of NBA stardom, the 25-year-old never stopped believing in himself. The same drive that helped get him out of Tomball, Texas, and into Marquette University is the same fuel that’s pushed him to average over 20 points a game early this season.

No matter how high Butler’s stardom grows it doesn’t appear that he will ever lose the gigantic chip that resides on his shoulder. Like many great athletes, Butler is driven, in large part, by the opportunity to prove people wrong. He likes when the odds are high because that’s the way it’s been for him all his life. He doesn’t know any differently.” http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/11931211/jimmy-butler-unusual-path-becoming-star

So welcome to Philly Jimmy!  Thanks for bringing your brotherly love to Cheesesteak City. The Philly faithful are dancing and jumping and hoping that this blockbuster trade works out. 

 

Philly Fans To LeBron: “Don’t Come To Philly”

lebron-james-lakers-jersey-new
Philly fans would rather see LeBron James wear a LA Lakers uniform in the Fall of 2018

What makes anybody think that LeBron James should come to Philly? I mean, why does everybody think that the Sixers need, much less want LeBron James? I mean, do they think we’re desperate or something? Sheesh! Philly doesn’t want LeBron because we don’t NEED LeBron. We don’t. Period. And here’s why:

Number one: LeBron is all about LeBron. Don’t get me wrong; he’s the best player on the planet right now. But if LeBron comes to Philly, the team will be all about him, and to me, that would create a chemical imbalance on the team, and winning is all about creating just the right chemistry.  

Number Two: The Sixers can do just fine without King Janes. We have a few promising princes of our own in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons that are doing just fine. Embiid and Simmons are stars in their own galaxy; introducing the wrong supernova into their orbit might not be such a good idea.

Number Three: The Sixers may have to give up too much to get him, and then how long is going to stay? Championships are NOT, repeat NOT, guaranteed to All Stars who switch teams or to teams with the highest payrolls. Just ask LeBron himself. While he’s won three NBA titles, he’s also lost six, and he’s learned how to lose in the NBA Finals the hard way (Note to LeBron: you still want to defend JR Smith?).

Number Four:  LeBron wants to land in the right “situation.” Well then, go to LA. LeBron should just go on to the Southland where there are plenty of opportunities to diversify his professional portfolio. I’m not knocking my hometown, but Philly is NOT LA. Not hardly.

And Number Five:  I don’t want it to be said that the Sixers “needed” LeBron to win another NBA Championship. We can win it on our own merits and with our own mettle and using our own muster. We can. So let LeBron go to another club where he can take the credit for winning and help them out as they try to win a title.  

Spiritually speaking, sometimes we want to help God out. He can jiggle us out of jams and pick us out pickles with little or no effort. Just ask Moses and the Children of Israel about that whole Red Sea thing. We just need to trust Him and stop trying to help Him. Becasue when God promised Abraham a child in his old age, he consented with Sarah to “help God out” by throwing Hagar into the mix. Bad idea.  Bad, bad, bad idea.

Miriam and Moses and Esther and Elijah give us examples and teach us to have patience and to have faith in the process. And that’s what the Sixers should do. Trust the Process! And LeBron is not a part of Philly’s process.

In other words, Philly fans want to say to LeBron “We got this!”

One Point

Ben Simmons After Loss
Ben Simmons Scores One Point in Loss to Boston in 2018 Playoffs

Ben Simmons, the Philadelphia 76ers rookie sensation point guard, the same point guard who is the consensus Rookie of the year in the NBA this year, scored one point in Game 2 of their much anticipated series with their hated and heated rivals, the Boston Celtics. One whole point.

But it was a good loss, and I’ll tell you why.

 The Sixers lost by five.  It was a close game down the stretch, and the team from South Philly was even up by five late in the fourth quarter. But they lost every lead they managed to build. Little leads. Big leads.  All kinds of leads. They lost the leads and the game.  By just five points. 

So they (and we) need to learn how to play (and live) when losing and when leading. And that’s a life lesson.

Big Ben only scorned one.  One point. So just think, a few made baskets, even just two, and a few more made free throws would have made a difference. But nooooooooooooo. Ben picked a bad time to have an unbelievably bad game. And it hurt his team. Not that the rest of the team is not culpable.   The Sixers blew a 21 point lead in the second quarter, and that is where the game was lost.

So what’s next for the Sixers?  They play the next two games at home. But if they  lose this series, and they may well may get blown right out of the gym the next two games, it will be a short time loss but, hopefully a long-term gain.  Teams general, and these Sixers in specific, need to learn how to play with a lead. And the Sixers haven’t figured that part out yet. Oh well. It was a great season. It’s not over yet, but it sure feels like it’s over.

One point. One lousy point. It will count if they learn from this, and this will be a good loss, if, that is IF, they learn. Maybe this series, and maybe not. But certainly this lesson must be learned down the road.

Sixers vs. Celtics: Just Like Old Times

Here we go! The Sixers and the Celtics are getting ready to go at it in the playoffs one more time. And it will be just like old times, right? For those that can remember, Dr. J. played against Larry Bird all season long and almost every year in the playoffs. They went toe to toe, duking it out, sometimes literally, each leading their team, each vying for Eastern Conference supremacy. It was great theater and better basketball.

And here we go again. Now we have Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid versus a new band of Bostonians including Al Horford, Terry Rozier and rookie sensational Jason Tatum. It should be an instant classic series. All of Philly and all of Boston are sitting on the edge of their seats already in gleeful anticipation — and the opening tip off hasn’t even come yet.

And that’s the anticipation that Christians have living in these toxic and turbulent times. We don’t fear what’s going to happen next. We anticipate the lively hope we actually already have, and now enjoy the promise of the soon coming of Christ. The gloom and doom of yesterday and today will fade in God’s tomorrow as Christ will usher in a truly golden age of bountiful blessings for all who trust and believe in Him.

We have the promise now, and will inherit a retirement package second to none. The theologians call it “the already and not yet.”

And that’s the lesson that this new, highly anticipated Philly/Boston NBA Basketball Playoff series teaches us. Anticipation and expectation are spiritual things. And they belong in church and in sports too.