Amid all the Ben Simmons drama, the Philadelphia 76ers will open the 2021 season in front of a full house at the Wells Fargo Center Friday night, but you won’t be able to find it on NBC Sports Philadelphia.
Instead, ESPN is airing the Sixers’ first home game of the season, the only game scheduled to be broadcast exclusively by the network this season (the Dec. 11 game against Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors will broadcast on ABC). Calling the game will be Mike Breen and former NBA head coach Jeff Van Gundy, with Cassidy Hubbarth reporting from the sidelines.
Fans shouldn’t expect to see Simmons on the court tonight. On Friday he told the team he’s not mentally ready to play and needs time before returning, the latest twist stemming from his decision to demand a trade during the offseason. Sixers president of operations Daryl Morey said Thursday he hopes to get Simmons back with the team at some point until he can be traded.
“Every day, expect him to come in and move toward being able to help us on the floor, because we know we’re a better team with Ben Simmons,” Morey said during an interview with 97.5 The Fanatic’s Mike Missanelli Thursday. “We know that’s the best plan for the team.”
Sixers forward Tobias Harris didn’t speak to reporters Friday, but wrote on Twitter that he will respect Simmons’ privacy and space. “When he’s ready, we will embrace our brother with love and handle our business on the court,” Harris wrote. “That’s it, that’s all.”
As for the Sixers other big star, Joel Embiid is listed as questionable vs. the Nets with right knee soreness.
Here’s everything you need to know to watch or stream tonight’s Sixers game:
Brooklyn Nets (0-1) and Philadelphia 76ers (1-0)
When: Friday, Oct. 22
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Time: 7:30 p.m. tipoff
TV: ESPN (Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, Cassidy Hubbarth)
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic (Tom McGinnis)
Streaming: ESPN app (requires authentication), fuboTV (free 7-day trial), YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, DirecTV Stream, Sling TV (all require a subscription)
Sixers fans will get their first look at ESPN’s new pregame show
Sixers fans will get the first look at ESPN’s new NBA Countdown pregame show, which features Get Up host Mike Greenberg alongside Mike Wilbon, Stephen A. Smith, and Jalen Rose. Hall of Famer Magic Johnson will also join the pregame show later in the season.
The revamp came after former host Maria Taylor left ESPN for NBC following a scandal involving Rachel Nichols’ disparaging comments, which were leaked in an audio recording. Nichols is still with ESPN and reportedly still has a year left on her contract, but the network has sidelined her from its NBA coverage.
The new show has some kinks to work out. At one point Wednesday, the hosts were unaware the show was live, until Smith attempted to prod Greenberg to continue.
One thing the show does have is chemistry — Greenberg is an experienced host, and Wilbon and Smith aren’t afraid to offer strong opinions. The question is if they will get more than 10 seconds at a time to make a point and have the opportunity to interact with one another, an aspect that has long been missing from the show.
Greenberg hopes so, and thinks the new cast on NBA Countdown can bring some stability and capture some of what makes TNT’s Inside the NBA the best sports show on television.
“What makes their show successful is that they’re having fun,” Greenberg told Newsday reporter Neil Best. “I think we have the ability to do that … If people on the air are having fun, the audience will have fun. I think if we’re having fun, that will be the most important element of the secret sauce of what we’re doing.”
Sixers reading list prior to tonight’s game
Sixers schedule for the next 10 games
Sunday, Oct. 24: Sixers at Oklahoma City Thunder, 7 p.m. (NBC Sports Philadelphia)
Tuesday, Oct. 26: Sixers at New York Knicks, 7:30 p.m. (TNT)
Thursday, Oct. 28: Detroit Pistons at Sixers, 7 p.m. (NBC Sports Philadelphia)
Saturday, Oct. 30: Atlanta Hawks at Sixers, 7:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Philadelphia)
Monday, Nov. 1: Portland Trail Blazers at Sixers, 7 p.m. (NBC Sports Philadelphia)
Wednesday, Nov. 3: Chicago Bulls at Sixers, 7 p.m. (NBC Sports Philadelphia)
Thursday, Nov. 4: Sixers at Pistons, 7 p.m. (NBC Sports Philadelphia+)
Saturday, Nov. 6: Sixers at Bulls, 8 p.m. (NBC Sports Philadelphia+)
Monday, Nov. 8: New York Knicks at Sixers, 7 p.m. (NBC Sports Philadelphia)
Tuesday, Nov. 9: Milwaukee Bucks at Sixers, 7:30 p.m. (TNT)