So after 18 losses in 18 games this season and 28 straight losses over the last two campaigns, the Sixers have a chance to win their first game - and it's all being overshadowed by Kobe Bryant. The Philly native announced on Sunday that this would be his final season in the league, capping a 20-year career that includes five NBA titles, competing in 14 all-star games (four times winning MVP), two-time finals MVP and league MVP in 2007-08.
It will be an electrical night at the Wells Fargo Center, the likes the building hasn't seen for a professional basketball game since the 2012 playoff run. The Sixers will also be honoring the late, great Moses Malone.
Remember the days when a Lakers-Sixers matchup would have this type of buzz just because of the players taking the floor. Now, it takes a monumental announcement like Bryant's to orchestrate the excitement. With the Lakers (2-14) riding a six-game losing streak, the teams have combined to lose 24 in a row. Who would have ever thought that?
Anyway, there is a game to be played, so let's take a look at three things to keep an eye on.
1. The play of Jahlil Okafor. It isn't know yet wheter Nerlens Noel will be in the lineup as he has been battling knee tendonitis. The team will announce before the game whether he can go. The atmosphere tonight will be the first time Okafor will be in an electric setting at the Wells Fargo Center and many will be looking to him to carry the Sixers to their first win. Brett Brown has been struggling of late finding the right lineups to surround Okafor and the team has been playing better at times with him on the bench. If he gets off to a good start and appears to be dominating early, he just may carry the team to his first NBA win.
2. The play of Kobe. This is too obvious, but it will be fun to see how he plays. Will the hype and the electricity in the building give Kobe enough adrenaline to be able to tap into some of the talent that he has lost? Or will Kobe simply be the player he has become which includes a 23.7 percent shooting percentage over the past four games. Don't be surprised if the Lower Merion legend has an extra bounce in his step.
3. Can the Sixers hold a fourth quarter lead? They've had one in the past five games, but haven't been able to close any of them out. Some of it has to do with lack of execution, especially on the offensive end. When the clock hits about the five minute mark, the team seems to get allergic to the basket. Some of it has to do with talent, as opponents just seem to amp it up when it looks as though they may be the Sixers' first victim. Someone needs to take over offensively down the stretch, whether it's by playmaking or scoring.