Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Gaining national attention, Sixers are getting love on the road, too

The Sixers ranked second in the NBA in average home attendance at 20,679 per game heading into Saturday's league matchups.

Sixers guard Ben Simmons reacts to a foul call on Nov. 7 in Utah.
Sixers guard Ben Simmons reacts to a foul call on Nov. 7 in Utah.Read moreRICK BOWMER / AP

Things have definitely changed for the 76ers.

The former NBA laughingstocks have sold out in each of their eight home games this season, including Saturday night's game against the Orlando Magic at the Wells Fargo Center. The atmosphere during the most recent home victory, over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, was reminiscent of a playoff-type environment.

It was a big difference from when a fan gained national attention for falling asleep in his floor-level seat on the visitor's baseline in a snooze of a blowout loss.

Back then, no one would have envisioned that Sixers would be ranked second in the NBA in home attendance with an average of 20,679 heading into Saturday's schedule.

Nor would they have imagined the positive attention they're receiving nationally from fans. That was evident from Nov. 7-15 during their five-game road trip against the Utah Jazz, Sacramento Kings, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers.

On Nov. 13, the crowd inside the Staples Center in L.A. was about 60-40 in favor of the Clippers. That morning, a Santa Monica High School employee greeted coach Brett Brown with a "Trust The Process" after Brown stepped off the team bus for a shootaround there. And students at St. Ignatius Preparatory School in San Francisco chanted "Trust the Process" outside the gymnasium where the Sixers practiced on Nov. 10.

Hearing "Trust the Process" in places like New York and Washington has come to be expected. However, hearing it in California says a lot about the team's popularity.

"It doesn't surprise me," center Joel Embiid said. "Sixers Nation is really big. I have a lot of fans all over the place. So everywhere we go, I expect to see a lot of them. … The support that we are getting, it just shows you we are getting better and we are on the right path."

Yes and no.

The positive support the Sixers are receiving at this stage of their rebuilding process is surprising. Not too long ago covering them on the road was the equivalent of seeing the Christians being fed to the lions while the Romans rejoiced. The Sixers were basically nothing more than entertainment for bloodthirsty crowds wanting to see their squad pummel "The Process" and everything it stood for.

The fans used to mock and laugh at the Sixers while the team — more often than not — was being dominated on the court.

But the fan support — especially on the road — does show they're on the right path, as Embiid suggests.

"I was shocked when we were in Los Angeles," Brown said. "There was a mini-cult following. You know, really curious about Ben [Simmons] and Joel and 'The Process' and all that."

With a lot to be curious about, the Sixers have been a must-see team.

Simmons missed Saturday's matchup against the Magic due to swelling in his left elbow. However, the overwhelming rookie-of-the-year favorite is the only player in franchise history to score in double figures in each of his first 17 career games.

Simmons and Embiid join Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, New Orleans Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins and Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol as the only NBA players to average at least 18 points, nine rebounds and three assists this season.

Free-agent acquisitions JJ Redick and Amir Johnson, along with Dario Saric, Robert Covington are four other players who have played a big part in the team's turnaround and the change in public perception. The interest level is expected to increase once rookie Markelle Fultz, the top pick in the draft, returns from a right shoulder injury.

"My rookie year when we won 10 games, a lot of people were clowning us a lot [on the road]," said third-year veteran T.J. McConnell, who started at point guard Saturday. "But you have to go through the tough times to get to the good ones."

It's obvious they're experiencing "good ones" when it comes to fan support both at home and on the road.