Not My Usual Day in Manchester

537696_3665377225975_587995416_nBLEEP! My alarm goes off, game day is finally here!

At age 21, I have been a fan of the NBA for the last six years of my life. Never did I imagine the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Philadelphia 76ers would be playing a game in my home city, Manchester.

The only way this day could have got any better was if my beloved Charlotte Bobcats were making the trip across the pond, but you can’t have everything!

I was excited to meet other basketball fans and have intelligent arguments with them over who’s going to be the front-runner for 6th man of the year and how OKC will compensate with Russell Westbrook being injured. However, I spent most of the day meeting confused fans such as the guy sitting next to me wearing a Kevin Garnett Celtics jersey and Kobe Bryant Lakers hat. Dude seriously? I also spotted a woman in attendance in heels and a skirt which was way too short for the occasion, did she know she was attending a basketball game!?

This is the story of my experience from the 76ers vs. Thunder game in Manchester, all I can say is I am embarrassed to be British…

Before the game I visited the NBA Fanzone which was set up in the Manchester city centre. They had shooting competitions and had “NBA legends” in attendance such as John “I recently came out” Amaechi and Peja “apparently now I’m a legend” Stojakovic. They also had some of the 76ers players come down. The NBA Fanzone presenter gave each player a big introduction and  heralded the “NBA stars” Tim Ohlbrecht and Vander Blue.

As each was introduced there were various loud whispers of “who are they?” from the surrounding fans. I looked around and everyone’s face was blank, so I proceeded to inform a crowd of thirty or so people who they were and where they had played. It didn’t really matter to the fans, they still wanted autographs and pictures just because they had been told these guys were famous. However, the autograph session was cut short when a fan decided to dunk his missed FT attempt and shattered the backboard.

Broken backboardBut, onto the game itself. I arrived at the terribly named Phones 4u Arena and sat in my terribly cheap seats.  The game must have only sold about 80-percent of its tickets as I could see huge amounts of empty seats in the lower tier. In fact, there were so many empties, I was able to successfully sneak just fifteen rows from the court in seats worth over $280 apiece.

To put that price into perspective, I could go to 35 Bobcats games for that price and based on this story from the Sixers last season, possibly the entire set of home games. Affordability is one area that the Global Games must focus on in the future if they want to sell out and be successful.

Upon arrival I handed out a little NBA quiz which covered the 76ers and Thunder as I wanted to gauge the interest and knowledge of the British fans. I use the term British fans lightly, as I met people from Poland, Germany, Spain, Brazil, France and Denmark and that was just the people sitting next to me, I guess it is called the “Global Games” for a reason.

My "upgraded seats" to Tuesday's game.
My “upgraded seats” to Tuesday’s game.

There was a group of Irish guys behind me who shouted “You couldn’t score in a brothel” on more than one occasion and were debating if the 76ers Cheerleaders were lining up in a 4-4-2 soccer formation. This is the British basketball fan. In fact, I’m willing to bet that I heard more people talking about Manchester United’s struggles and David Moyes getting fired than I heard basketball discussion.

But back to the quiz, when asking people, “do you have a good amount of NBA knowledge?” about 75-percent of people nodded and said “yes of course”. Below is the quiz I handed out, and the most entertaining answers I received.

1)      Which player led the 76ers in scoring last season? Tyreke Evans/Allen Iverson
2)      Where did the Thunder franchise play before Oklahoma? Memphis
3)      Who did the 76ers select in the 2013 NBA draft? Tim Freidrich
4)      What country is Serge Ibaka from? Latvia
5)      How many players on the 76ers roster were taken with the very 1st pick of the draft? Five
6)      Where is OKC Thunder rookie Steven Adams from? New York
7)      Who is the tallest player on the OKC Thunder? Nick Collison
8)      Which player projects to be the OKC Thunder’s 6th man now Westbrook is injured? Stephen Jackson
9)      On what team did Kendrick Perkins win his NBA Championship? Denver Nuggets
10)   Where did Kevin Durant rank in scoring in the 2012/13 season? Free Throw Line (What does that even mean?)

How did you do? The average score from the not-so-English, British fans was a dismal 4/10. Keep in mind that I saw people cheating by using their phones while taking the quiz and they STILL did this bad. This just goes to show me that the people in England did not attend this game to support their team, but were simply there for the spectacle. Enough rambling about my experience however, I will now get into some notes from the game.

Philadelphia 76ers Game Observations:

  • Nerlens Noel was out warming up before the game started, he looked like he had filled out since the draft process, however his legs looked as thin as ever. Noel was practicing post moves, he actually looked surprisingly fluid and comfortable out there. I wouldn’t be surprised by the time he is back on the court with the Sixers if he has made some progress on his old mechanical looking offense.
  • Spencer Hawes was making a concerted effort to stay in the post and not drift out and shoot threes. I could tell from the way Brett Brown was speaking to him, he wanted his big man down low so he could try and grab the offensive rebounds from the surplus of missed jump shots. Hawes looked pretty effective, apart from facing Serge Ibaka who simply outplayed him in every way.
  • Evan Turner played a really nice mixed game. He hit some pull ups, had some nice drives and was frequently able to get to the FT line. His high basketball IQ was evident as every time he got a mismatch he would post-up, wait for the double and kick the ball out to an open man. This is Turner’s last chance for most 76ers fans, but I think the offense running through him could be exactly what he needs for a successful year.
  • Michael Carter-Williams shot the ball extremely well, something I really didn’t expect to see. He was 3-5 from three point range, this included his first shot of the night which was a pull-up three very early in the shot clock. He displayed supreme confidence in his shot and also seemed to have a knack for passing to the right guy at the right time. They weren’t fancy passes but were subtly effective.
  • After several early shots getting blocked in the paint, the 76ers reverted to driving and kicking to the open man. This worked surprisingly well as they shot 12-30 from beyond the arc.
  • Tony Wroten looks a frustrating player to coach, he does some great things and then some really stupid things. If Brett Brown can get raise his basketball IQ he could be a great addition to the Sixers. I did come away impressed with his competitiveness and his three-point shot, which also unexpectedly looked good. Despite his strong shooting game, he will have to become more consistent before tossing up eight three-pointers in a game.
  • As to be expected the Thunder looked better at executing their offense. Their ball movement was more fluid and there was less 1-on-1 match-up’s being taken. I fear this will be a running theme for the Sixers. When you don’t have a scorer who demands a double-team it will be harder to create space and move the ball.
  • One other area the Thunder may struggle is having a lock-down wing defender, it was evident that Durant was costing through the game. In the 3rd quarter it was the first time he really tried to turn it on and he did so with ease scoring 14 of his 21 points before being rested for the 4th quarter. The Sixers are going to run into an All-Star caliber wing every other night so it is important they find a way of containing them.
  • My last observation is that Hollis Thompson looked out of his depth. Picking up five personal fouls in 15 minutes is unacceptable. He never looked comfortable on the court.
  • Side note: I loved seeing Khalif Wyatt. I know he is already a fan favorite with many 76ers fans and I have to admit his game in the NCAA tourney against Indiana was my favorite performances from any player last year. I wish him luck in the future.

    James Plowright is a scribe for Philadunkia.  You can follow him on Twitter @jamespl0wright.

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