Raul Neto is feeling pretty confident, and his body feels great.
The three-month NBA shutdown enabled the 76ers’ reserve point guard to take care of his body and feel healthy.
The question is, how much will the Sixers utilize his rejuvenated body?
Before the shutdown, the best way to describe his role was hit or miss.
Neto made three starts and has played in 49 of the Sixers’ 65 games. He played a maximum of nine minutes in 22 of those contests. The Brazilian played between 10 and 19 minutes on 18 occasions. Neto saw action between 20-29 minutes seven times, and 30-39 minutes twice.
One has to assume it will be tough for him to get meaningful minutes moving forward, especially in the playoffs.
Two-time All-Star point guard Ben Simmons will return from a pinched nerve in his lower back. Plus, the Sixers will be reducing their rotation come playoff time.
“I’m just excited to be back in the season,” Neto said Sunday, “and looking forward to see what can I achieve on this team, you know, where can I be on this teamif it’s playing five minutes, if it’s not playing, ... if it’s playing 20 minutes in case something happens and Coach needs me out there.”
Neto averaged 4.3 points, 1.6 assists, and 11.5 minutes in his appearances while mostly providing a spark when called upon.
A prime example was the Sixers’ 115-104 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Jan. 28 at the Wells Fargo Center on a night both teams honored the late Kobe Bryant. Coach Brett Brown stayed with Neto in the first half, and he delivered.
He scored all of his season-high 19 points in the first half on 7-for-8 shooting in 15 minutes, 26 seconds. He didn’t play in the third quarter and missed two shots in 5:18 of action in the fourth.
Neto finished at a game-best plus-15, meaning the Sixers outscored the Warriors by 15 points with him on the floor.
The 28-year-old also had solid performances in three straight road games, from March 3-7, vs. the Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento Kings, and Golden State Warriors. He averaged 11.3 points and 3.0 assists while shooting 64.7% (11-of-17) from the field, including 66.6% (4 of 6) on three-pointers.
Those performances came after Brown chose not to play Neto in the previous three games. The coach also opted to sit him on March 11 against the Detroit Pistons, the final game before NBA shut down.
“They know what I can do when they put me out there,” Neto said of the coaches being comfortable with him, which wasn’t the case when the team signed him to a one-year deal last summer.