Blue Coats one win away from bringing a G League championship back for Sixers, Delaware
The Delaware Blue Coats, like the rest of the NBA's G League, spent the past seven weeks in a "bubble" in Orlando, Florida, going through daily COVID-19 testing, along with meals, video sessions and team meetings in their hotel.
The players and coaches could leave the hotel only to travel to and from practice and games at the adjoining Disney World complex.
But there's a payoff for either the Blue Coats or their opponent, the Lakeland (Florida) Magic, on Thursday – a G League championship.
The title game for the NBA's developmental league starts at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, and will be televised on ESPN2. Radio listeners can tune into Rowan Radio, 89.7 WGLS-FM.
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For the Blue Coats, it would be their first championship in the seven seasons of their existence, and it would come far from their usual home arena at the Chase Fieldhouse in Wilmington.
"The time actually went by pretty quickly," Blue Coats coach Connor Johnson said about bubble life Wednesday in a phone interview. "There have been so many practices and games since we got here. And as players and coaches, we're all appreciative of this opportunity because we had to go 11 months without basketball (due to the pandemic).
"So having a chance at the championship is the icing on the cake."
The Blue Coats and the 17 other G League teams reported to Orlando in late January for a 15-game regular season that concluded Saturday. For the league, it was the first time playing since last March, when the league shut down.
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But since the regular-season ended last weekend, the 18 teams staying in the same complex have dwindled to two. The Blue Coats beat the Austin Spurs 124-103 in the quarterfinals on Monday and the Raptors 905 127-100 on Tuesday night.
"It feels kind of deserted at the Disney resort," Johnson said with a laugh.
For the Blue Coats, the game Thursday will be the culmination of an up-and-down, abbreviated season. They started out winning their first seven games before losing four straight. They then won three in a row before losing the regular-season finale.
"We're definitely trying to make the best of it," Blue Coats forward Paul Reed said Wednesday. "It's like a blessing and a curse. There aren't too many distractions, so you got a lot of time to focus on yourself and basketball, and becoming the best basketball player you can be."
The parent club has been watching Reed and guard Isaiah Joe, especially. Both were drafted in the second round last October – Joe went 49th overall and Reed 58th. Joe had spent the entire NBA season with the Sixers until he was assigned to the Blue Coats last week, which coincided with the NBA's All-Star break.
Joe has been in and out of the rotation with the Sixers this season, and Sixers coach Doc Rivers wanted him playing regular minutes while the rest of the team was on its break.
Joe has averaged 26 points in the two playoff wins for the Blue Coats, playing 34 and 37 minutes in the two games. He had averaged 12.0 minutes in 20 games with the Sixers.
"We just felt like we gotta get these guys some minutes," Rivers told reporters last week. "We got to get them playing on the floor, and I think it can only benefit them. They’re too young to have an All-Star break is the bottom line."
Reed, a 6-foot-8 forward, was with the Sixers before the G League season began. He will have played in every game for the Blue Coats this season.
Reed led the Blue Coats in both scoring (22.3 points per game) and rebounding (11.8) during the regular season. Reed had 26 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocked shots and 2 steals in the semifinal win over the Raptors 905.
"Paul has been one of the best players in the entire bubble, and there's a lot of talent here, with guys who will be regular players in the NBA," Johnson said. "He stood out because of his versatility. He can score, shoot 3s, drive to the basket, post up, and he has grown in understanding how to make others play better.
"Those were areas of priority for the Sixers for him to work on."
Joe, whom Reed referred to as "a sniper" because of his shooting ability, added 24 points against the Raptors 905.
"He has brought fresh legs and added a little more spark and life to the team," Johnson said. "Most of the guys have been here since January, so to bring in a fresh guy like Isaiah has really helped a lot.
"One of the things these guys love is that they know with us they're going to get a to play and show what they can do."
Joe, Reed and Rayjon Tucker will rejoin the Sixers after the game Thursday. And under a new rule, players like Reed and Tucker on 2-way contracts with the parent NBA team and G League team, will be eligible to play in the NBA playoffs.
Joe is under contract with the Sixers.
So it's possible that Joe, Reed and Tucker can win two championships this season. The Sixers currently have the best record in the Eastern Conference with the playoffs starting in May.
Reed is just thinking about the first one.
"It's always a dream come true to win a championship," he said. "But we still gotta go out there and do it."
Contact Martin Frank at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.