After watching the 76ers bolster their lineup with the addition Jimmy Butler in November, then Tobias Harris at the trade deadline, fans would likely be disappointed if the Sixers made an early exit in the playoffs.
Rest assured -- Josh Harris would be pretty upset, too.
“We’d be unhappy. I’d be unhappy. The city would be unhappy," the Sixers’ co-owner told ESPN on Friday. "We’re going to work hard to make sure that doesn’t happen. We have enough talent on our roster that if we play the way we’re capable of playing, we can beat any team in the East.”
Harris was in Boston on Friday speaking at the MIT/Sloan Analytics Conference when he was asked how he would feel about being knocked out by the Celtics again.
“It would be problematic,” he said. “Very problematic. It would not be what we’re playing for.”
(You may remember what happened last May. The Sixers are 2-9 against the Celtics in the past three seasons, including the most recent defeat on Feb. 12 at the Wells Fargo Center.)
But Harris also expressed confidence in his team’s ability to contend for an NBA title this season, saying they have enough talent to win.
“I think we have enough talent to go very deep in the playoffs,” he said. ... We want to make sure at a minimum to advance deeper in the playoffs than we did last year. We’ve brought a lot of talent here. They haven’t been together that long, but we’re hopeful we can position them for a deep run. It’s exciting. I’m focused, but I’m also nervous.”
And when it comes to the talent they brought in, Harris said he’s committed to finding a way for the Sixers to re-sign Butler and Harris, who are both free agents after this season, acknowledging that they “gave up a lot” to bring them onboard.
"We get it. It's expensive."
Still, the top priority for the Sixers is Joel Embiid. Harris effusively praised “our most important player,” and said they ask him for advice about players the team might bring in, and plan around finding ways to “complement his skillset.”
“He’s clearly our future -- they’re all an important part of the future -- but Joel is exceptional," Harris said.
Embiid and the Sixers struggled to get to this point of exceptionalism, winning just 10 games only three seasons ago. Harris acknowledged “The Process,” saying that it was difficult to communicate to the city of Philadelphia -- “a competitive city” -- that they were planning for the long term.
“And the reality is, it probably went a little deeper than I expected,” Harris said. "These things aren’t perfectly predictable. It was incredibly hard. But what got me through it -- and the city was very supportive in this -- was continuing to focus on creating greatness around the Sixers.
“Now the pressure is on to deliver.”