The 2015-16 version of the 76ers will officially begin Wednesday night at Boston. The home opener will be Friday night.
There will be 80 other games after those two and likely not many wins in sight.
But the season must be played.
There will be storylines, surprises and players to watch. Barring a miracle, there won’t be any playoff action.
Here are five key things to look for:
1. How will coach Brett Brown handle another losing season?
The former highly respected assistant with the San Antonio Spurs has won just 37 games in two seasons with the Sixers. Another rough season is sure to be ahead. Brown’s contract has one more season beyond this one. Will he want to stick around? Will the Sixers sign him to a long-term deal? If the team doesn’t markedly improve in the next offseason, Brown could very easily become frustrated. He’s a terrific coach, but hasn’t had anything to work with since he arrived in Philadelphia. This is worth keeping a close eye on.
2. Can Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor co-exist?
Noel is the longest-tenured player on this extremely young roster. Okafor played only one season at Duke, though it ended with a national championship. These are two crucial building blocks for the future of this franchise. They almost have to learn to play together. And quickly. Without much veteran leadership, they’re going to be learning as they go. Okafor has yet to experience the trials and tribulations of a marathon NBA season. There has to be progress with this duo between now and the end of the season. The future of the franchise is depending on it.
3. Will the 76ers find a quality point guard?
They need one desperately. While they have a number of players battling at that position, no one really stands out. It’s a weakness that was never addressed in the offseason. It’s a weakness which is going to hurt the Sixers, especially since the big men will often feed off it. Maybe Tony Wroten, who’s recovering from a knee injury, is the answer. He’s not ready to start the season. This isn’t good news heading into the season opener.
4. Can the team stay (relatively) healthy?
Robert Covington is the latest player to go down with an injury. While it doesn’t seem to be as serious as originally believed, it’s another blow to an already depleted roster. Shooting is a major challenge as it is with Covington in the lineup. Without him and Nik Stauskas, who will knock down shots on a consistent basis? Good question. The Sixers will have to go inside more often than they’d probably like in the early part of the season.
5. This may sound bizarre, but how will Joel Embiid respond this season?
The highly-touted big man will be sitting out a second straight season with an injury. Questions have loomed about his work ethic and desire and determination to be the cornerstone of this franchise. Embiid needs to show his teammates – and the organization – that he’s willing to do anything to get on the court and become the superstar they believe he can be. So far, Embiid hasn’t shown that willingness to succeed at the highest level.