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Scoreless minutes for Trail Blazers at start of Wednesday’s loss to Sixers

Carson Wentz throws four touchdown passes while leading the Eagles to a 34-24 triumph over the visiting Redskins. The Eagles, with the best record (6-1) in the NFL, take a firm grip on first place in the NFC East.

Is linebacker Casey Matthews among those in danger of being cut? With Tuesday (4 p.m.) being the first deadline for mandatory cuts, Gordon Glantz examines the Eagles’ roster and predicts who will be cut Tuesday — or in the next round of cuts.

Eric Fisher’s weekly column on a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on the chances that Oregon QB Marcus Mariota will come to the Eagles, the Broncos’ shakeup and Kimmo Timonen’s much-deserved award,

Archive for the ‘76ers’ Category

Sixers Notebook: Built to last

Posted by Eric Fisher On November - 5 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

The 76ers have a better record than the Cavaliers. Who thought we’d be able to make that statement nine games into the season.

Although the surprising struggles of the Cavaliers (4-5) are one-half of that equation, the more significant half is that the Sixers (5-4), who have won four straight games, are above .500 for the first time since November of 2013. That was when the city was caught up in the euphoria surrounding the electric start of rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams.

Success can be fleeting, as is evident by MCW’s career, which has taken him to the Bucks, Bulls and now Hornets, for whom he hasn’t played yet due to a knee injury. But the Sixers seem built to last.

The core of the team is younger than 25. The young talent is supplemented by valuable veterans, such as J.J. Redick and Amir Johnson, but the foundation of the team is young.

Joel Embiid and Dario Saric are 23 years old. Ben Simmons is 21. Markelle Fultz is 19. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot is 22. Robert Covington, who will turn 27 in December, is the only member of the group expected to carry the Sixers for the next 3-5 years who is older than 25.

The significance of the age is that the Sixers are not built for short-term success. This is a long-term process, if you’ll pardon the expression, and it appears that the Sixers are built for the long haul.

There are still a lot of variables which could determine the extent of the Sixers’ success. Embiid’s health will have a major impact on the Sixers’ fortunes. But it appears that the Sixers are headed for, at the very least, mild success this season.

Even if the Sixers fall back below .500 later this month, we shouldn’t have to wait four years for them to rise above .500 once again.

*****

SIMMONS EXCELS: The career trajectory of Michael Carter-Williams could serve as a cautionary tale for the early excitement over the start of Ben Simmons’ career – except your eyes tell you that Simmons isn’t the second coming of MCW.

Simmons is nearly averaging a triple double during the first nine games of his NBA career. He’s averaging 18 points, 9.8 rebounds and 8.2 assists. But it’s the way he’s achieving those numbers, being a physical force and a dominant influence on the outcome of games, that indicates Simmons won’t be a flash in the pan. He’s so good that the thought of Simmons following the path of MCW probably hasn’t crossed many fans’ minds.

*****

COVINGTON FINDS RANGE: A prime beneficiary of Ben Simmons’ presence is Robert Covington. With Simmons drawing attention by driving to the basket, Covington has been able to find more open space on the perimeter. Consequently, he is making 49.2 percent of his shots from 3-point range, which is actually a higher percentage than his overall field goal percentage (47.6).

*****

THE OKAFOR DILEMMA: What should the Sixers do with Jahlil Okafor. The third overall pick in the NBA Draft has played in just one game this season. Head coach Brett Brown said that Okafor isn’t part of the rotation, and this past Tuesday the Sixers decided not to pick up an option for next year on Okafor’s contract. The day after Okafor’s contract option wasn’t picked up, Okafor spoke publicly about wanted to leave the Sixers so he could have the opportunity to play.

Okafor’s desire to play is completely understandable. He’ll be looking for a new team next season, and there’s no way for him to prove his worth if he’s not playing. Keep in mind that Okafor wasn’t in the rotation even though forward/center Richaun Holmes was sidelined with a wrist injury. Now that Holmes is back, Okafor is buried even further.

Okafor asked Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo for a trade or for a buyout of his contract. He said that Colangelo doesn’t want to lose Okafor for “free.” A concern for the Sixers is that a team, perhaps even the Celtics, could sign Okafor without the Sixers getting anything in return if they buy out his contract. On the other hand, the Sixers haven’t been able to find a team willing to give up what they feel they should receive in return for Okafor.

The Sixers should make a concerted effort to trade Okafor. And they should lower their expectations for what they would receive in return. If they can’t trade Okafor, they should consider buying out his contract. He’s been a good soldier throughout this difficult situation, but it’s not good for the team to keep an unhappy player around if he’s not part of its plans.

*****

SHARPSHOOTER: J.J. Redick showed why the Sixers signed him by pouring in 31 points Friday during a 121-110 victory over the Pacers. Redick made eight 3-pointers, including three straight during a crucial span of 1:19 during the fourth quarter. Yes, Redick’s veteran leadership is important for this young team, but so is his talent.

*****

FULTZ MESS: Markelle Fultz’s shoulder soreness – the Sixers maintain there isn’t any structural damage to the shoulder – has resulted in the Sixers updating his status to being sidelined indefinitely. After the hornet’s nest was stirred up by Fultz’s agent, the Sixers initially said Fultz would be sidelined for at least three games. It will be very interesting to see how the Sixers handle this delicate situation involving the top overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft.

*****

QUIET SUCCESS: Perhaps it’s time to stop being surprised by T.J. McConnell. Every time he’s been called up to do something for the Sixers, he’s answered the bell. With Markelle Fultz sidelined, McConnell has received additional playing time. He’s responded with a series of solid performances, pushing his season averages up to 6.7 points and 4.9 assissts.

*****

TRIPPING: The Sixers put their four-game winning streak on the line Tuesday (9 p.m.) as they open a five-game road trip against the Jazz. The trip continues Thursday (10 p.m.) against the one-win Kings before the Sixers face the defending-champion Warriors on Saturday (8:30 p.m.). The Sixers will then go to Los Angeles for games against the Clippers (Mon, Nov. 13) and Lakers (Wed., Nov. 15). When the Sixers return home to Wells Fargo Center, they will continue to battle Western Conference teams. Their first three games of a six-game homestand will be against the Warriors, Jazz and Trail Blazers.

Sixers Notebook: Shouldering the blame

Posted by Eric Fisher On October - 28 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

On the list of statements people should never have made, Markelle Fultz’s statement that he feels sorry for players who have to defend against him and Ben Simmons, the last two No. 1 picks in the NBA Draft, should rank near the top.

To say that Fultz’s NBA career hasn’t had the greatest start would rank high on any list of major understatements.

Fultz didn’t set the world on fire during his first four NBA games. He averaged six points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists. He made just 33.3 percent of his shots from the field and 50 percent of his free throws.

An explanation for Fultz’ poor start initially came from his agent, not the Sixers. Raymond Brothers, Fultz’s agent, told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that Fultz can’t raise his arms properly to shoot and had fluid drained from his right shoulder (the information was later corrected to Fultz having a cortisone shot). The next day the Sixers announced that Fultz would be sidelined for at least four games due to right shoulder soreness.

It is significant how the information became public. Why did the agent reveal that Fultz has a serious shoulder issue? Why didn’t the Sixers reveal that information? Why was Fultz playing?

By going public, the agent clearly was trying to force the Sixers’ hand. The question is whether he went public because he was concerned for Fultz’s health or because his client was embarrassing himself. Fultz’s awkward free throws were being mocked on the Internet.

The Sixers responded by shutting Fultz down the next day, but, at the same time, Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said there was nothing structurally wrong with Fultz’s shoulder.

“There was no medical reason not to play him,” Colangelo said. “He was cleared to play and he wanted to play. That’s why he was playing. His reluctance to shoot, obviously his shot mechanics have been affected by whatever’s going on, or vice versa.”

Let’s dissect that quote from Colangelo. First, he protects the team from accusations that Fultz was playing when he should have been sidelined. This is a sensitive issue for the Sixers, who apparently let Joel Embiid play last January with a torn meniscus and were less than forthcoming about the nature of Embiid’s injury.

The second thing Colangelo does in that quote is counter any implication that Fultz felt he couldn’t play due to his sore shoulder but was being pressured into playing by the Sixers. Those defenses were necessary due to the statements by Fultz’s agent. But the last portion of Colangelo’s quote was not necessary.

In the final portion of the quote, Colangelo suggest that Fultz’s attempt to change his shooting mechanics may have resulted in the injury. This theory was also floated by Sixers head coach Brett Brown.

The only positive development from the unnecessary suggestion that Fultz caused his own injuries is that Colangelo and Brown are on the same page. The rest is all negative. The suggestion that Fultz even changed his shooting mechanics during the summer was met by disbelief by Fultz’s trainer during an interview with Chris Carlin and Ike Reese on WIP.

Although the Sixers would certainly deny it, there appears to be a developing rift between the organization and the player it selected first overall in this year’ draft. Remember, the Sixers traded up to get the first pick. The dispute over whether Fultz should have been playing is not a good start to this relationship. The suggestion that Fultz caused his own injury exacerbates the situation.

Why would the Sixers have pushed Fultz to play – his sore shoulder caused him to miss preseason games – after they allowed Simmons to sit out his entire first season and Embiid to sit out his first two seasons? Perhaps it’s because those two players sat out entire seasons at the start of their careers, as did Nerlens Noel, that the Sixers put Fultz in the lineup.

The Sixers aren’t supposed to be in rebuilding mode any longer. Perhaps they were concerned that having their top draft choice sidelined due to injury would send a signal that they are still rebuilding, which all but would likely attract criticism from all except the most devoted Trust the Process diehards.

Meanwhile, the question no longer is who can defend against Fultz and Simmons. The question is when Fultz will get back on the court.

*****

DEFINITION ISSUES: My favorite quote from Bryan Colangelo was when he defended the Sixers’ decision not to reveal that Markelle Fultz had a cortisone shot, and then added, “I think we’ve been pretty transparent.”

This list of instances in which the Sixers have hid the truth, or simply lied, is a long one. Embiid’s knee injury last season would yield at least three or four examples. If the Sixers want to keep Fultz’s cortisone shot secret, that’s their prerogative. But they can’t fail to report the cortisone shot and claim they’ve been “pretty transparent.”

I’m beginning to think that Colangelo might have a different definition of “transparent” than the rest of the world.

*****

MAJOR IMPACT: In contrast to Markelle Fultz, Ben Simmons is off to a terrific start to his NBA career (if we ignore the year in which he didn’t play). Through five games, Simmons is averaging 16.4 points, 10 rebounds and 7.4 assists. His shooting away from the basket is still suspect and he is making just 57.1 percent of his free throws, which could be a problem late in games for a player who has the ball in his hands a lot of the time, but those are minor complaints about a rookie who is nearly averaging a triple double.

*****

FORGOTTEN MAN: Through the first five games of the season, forward/center Jahlil Okafor has only played in one game, and that was when Joel Embiid did not play because it was the second night of back-to-back games. When asked about Okafor’s inactivity, head coach Brett Brown said that the former third overall draft pick is “not in the rotation” right now, with veteran Amir Johnson (3.6 points per game) playing instead of Okafor.

Okafor appears relegated to playing in blowouts and the second half of back-to-back games. How will that build up his trade value?

*****

CROWDED PICTURE: The center/forward position could become more crowded relatively soon. Richaun Holmes got the brace off his fractured wrist and could be re-evaluated soon. Holmes’ return would likely mean fewer minutes for Amir Johnson and less of an opportunity for Jahlil Okafor.

*****

CENTER OF ATTENTION: When the Sixers visit the Mavericks on Saturday (8:30 p.m.), it will create a matchup between Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel, formerly a member of the three-headed center with Embiid and Okafor.

*****

ADJUSTMENT PERIOD: Dario Saric seems to be having difficulty adjusting to his new role in the Sixers’ rotation. A finalist for NBA rookie of the year last season, Saric is averaging just 5.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists. He is making 33.3 percent of his shots from the field. The versatile Saric should figure out a way to contribute more.

*****

NO NEED FOR PANIC: Fans shouldn’t panic over the Sixers’ 1-4 record. Although the last-second loss to the Rockets hurt, the Sixers won the one game they probably should have been favored to win. They will have better opportunities to win games through the first 10 days of November, but the Sixers have a very difficult schedule for the first two months of the season.

*****

LOOKAHEAD: The Saturday’s game at Dallas, the Sixers will complete their Texas two-step Monday (8 p.m.) against the Rockets. They will then return home for games Wednesday (7 p.m.) against the Hawks and Friday (7 p.m.) against the Pacers before embarking on a five-game West Coast trip.


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