SportsPulse: Jeff Zillgitt and Trysta Krick put their prediction hats on for some bold takes as the NBA season gets set to begin.
PHILADELPHIA – Brett Brown was not mincing words when he outlined the 76ers’ season goal.
“We want to play in the NBA Finals,” he declared.
The bar has been set high.
The Sixers are coming off a 52-win regular season in which they jumped to third in the Eastern Conference. They beat the Heat 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs before they were eliminated by the Celtics in Game 5 of the conference semifinals.
Finishing above .500 and making the playoffs for the first time since 2012 was an accomplishment for a team that had gone through a tumultuous rebuilding stage and won just 10 games in 2015-16 This season, the 76ers believe they are capable of more — so much more.
“We believe we could have played in the NBA Finals,” Brown said. “I understand the magnitude of that statement, but I stand by it and I own it. It is our goal to go play in an NBA Final and it is a respect of championship habits, it’s a respect of each other.”
Gone are the days of vying for the No. 1 pick in the draft lottery. The Sixers are a contender in an Eastern Conference that will have a much different playoff landscape following LeBron James’ departure from the Cavaliers. The East had gone through James for the past eight seasons. Now, the window of opportunity is open for teams on the rise to emerge. Teams such as the Sixers.
In order to move forward, the Sixers are remembering the past. Their 4-1 series elimination to the Celtics didn’t sit well with them this summer. The Sixers were defeated by 16 points in Game 1 but were outscored by just 10 points combined in the other three losses. They had a decisive Game 5 within reach and fell short by two points at TD Garden. Their disappointment lingered into the offseason.
“I watched every game from this past season and the playoffs included probably twice,” Joel Embiid said. “Especially that last game, I watched it a lot. … I watched it all, and it was painful.”
The Sixers had maintained the salary-cap flexibility to be a