WASHINGTON, D.C. — Ricky Council IV had a feeling that he could make a big difference in the Philadelphia 76ers' game against the Washington Wizards. On the second night of a back-to-back with loads of injuries ruling out key players, the Sixers needed whatever they could get from the undrafted rookie as he was thrust into the rotation. He called his shot, putting on a spectacular performance in Philly's victory.
Tyrese Maxey said that he approached Council earlier in the day to ask him about getting more real minutes. With Philly's roster thinned to the point of having 10 available players, the 22-year-old rookie has had to step into a legitimate rotation spot. He notched just six minutes in the 76ers' prior game but made an appearance in the first quarter, going up against bonafide NBA guys in a not-insignificant part of the game.
“Yeah, I think I did okay,” Council told Maxey. “But I just feel like today if I get some more minutes, I'm gonna go out there and show you what I could do.”
Council shined in the 76ers' win over the Washington Wizards, scoring a career-best 19 points and hauling in 10 rebounds (including five on the offensive end). His nonstop energy was critical as Philly snapped a four-game losing streak. He didn’t know how much he was going to play against the Wizards. But he stayed ready and made the very most of his opportunity.
“He went out there and he balled,” Maxey said. “Defensively, offensively, energy-wise. He got some big buckets down the stretch. I'm proud of him. I'm happy for him, as well.”
Council said it felt “unreal” after his first time playing extended minutes. The 76ers' rookie didn’t stress anything about his approach to the game. “Just play hard and be yourself,” he said of his mindset. That internal composure evoked incessant, firey intensity that he displayed all game long in both the plays he made and his reactions to them.
“I mean, I just feel like I’m a dog,” he said. “A lot of people say it but not a lot of people are about it. When I'm out there…I don't know. I can't really explain it. I don't see nothing but the goal and my teammates. It don't matter who's out there — LeBron, whoever, the best players in the world. Like, much respect to them but I'm just out there trying to help my team win when I'm out there.”
NEW CAREER-HIGH 19 POINTS FOR @Rickythe4th!
AND HIS FIRST CAREER DOUBLE-DOUBLE. pic.twitter.com/N0vnsi5UIM
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) February 11, 2024
Ricky Council IV certainly hounded the Wizards in the 29 minutes he played at Capital One Arena. He finished off many of his plays with a scream, a flex of his arms and a mean mug. It was only fitting for a highlight reel full of emphatic dunks, offensive rebounds and tough floaters.
Additionally, Council drew numerous shooting fouls as a result of his aggression. He made only five of his eight free throws but those five points still proved to be helpful. He also scored on a nasty Euro step on a fast break. On defense, he generated several stops. Nick Nurse doesn’t have a reputation for liberally playing his younger players yet he still went to Council in the fourth quarter in what was his first time playing a full game in the rotation.
“He just kept making plays,” Nurse said. “He stayed with it. He fought. He got offensive rebounds — that big, huge offensive rebound and bucket down the stretch. We were just rolling with what was working.”
The 76ers are only going to the basics of their playbook as they try to get new players Buddy Hield and Cam Payne up to speed. It was also helpful for Council, who has spent a big chunk of this season in the G League with the Delaware Blue Coats.
Getting in extra work is tougher for Council (and the 76ers' other two-way guys) when he's down in Delaware as opposed to with the 76ers, who have their own training facility. He's taking advantage of the time he spends with the big-league club and making a great impression. As he spoke to the media, De'Anthony Melton and other teammates cheered and shouted his name. Council joked that they were “just trolling” but did express appreciation for how the older 76ers have helped him come along.
It's easy for the 76ers to support the youngster. He works his tail off and stays active on the bench, cheering on the team on scores and other big plays on top of staying prepared to play.
“I mean, you see how he plays and I think you would say, ‘Well, what's one characteristic you see automatically? Plays really hard.’ But he does everything that way: walkthrough, shootarounds, practice. He's one of those guys that's got that kind of motor that is always switched on,” Nurse said. “He does everything with good focus and intensity. So, it's hard not to like that.”
The 76ers roster is bound to start regenerating soon. On top of the buyout-market addition of Kyle Lowry, the returns of Melton and Nico Batum are potentially right around the corner. Ricky Council IV is likely to go back to playing only here and there and mostly in garbage time. But if this was his lone chance this season to get real minutes, it was a heck of a way to showcase himself for the future.