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Points for Pelicans center Anthony Davis on Sunday, setting All-Star Game record

The Eagles’ playoff hopes are nearly washed away by a shocking 27-24 loss to the Washington Redskins, who snapped a six-game losing streak. Turnovers, 13 penalties and two missed field goals contributed to the Eagles’ crushing defeat.

The Greek god of wrestling praising Goldust and Stardust, WWE’s new tag team champions. Achilles Heel also reviews the highlights from Night of Champions, rips TNA for not announcing matches for Bound for Glory, and tells you where you can see WWE during the next 10 days.

Despite concerns about Nerlens Noel’s inconsistency, he’s playing better in January. Eric Fisher also provides good news and bad news about two 20-year-olds who are supposed to be part of the Sixers’ future, tells us which teams are moving up toward playoff position and examines the Sixers’ upcoming schedule.

Archive for the ‘NBA’ Category

See you next year

Posted by Eric Fisher On February - 19 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Thursday will be a big day for the 76ers.

And I’m not talking about the trade deadline.

Yes, we could find out Thursday what paltry return the Sixers will receive for Jahlil Okafor, the third overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. That assumes that they will find any takers for Okafor.

For the future of the franchise, however, the more important aspect of Thursday will be the scan of Ben Simmons’ right foot. The Inquirer’s Keith Pompey reported last week that a scan bone scan on Jan. 23 revealed that the Jones fracture in the fifth metatarsal in Simmons’ right foot had not fully healed. In a statement released by the Sixers in response to Pompey’s story, president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said that Simmons has an appointment scheduled for Thursday at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.

Colangelo, whose reputation is still reeling from the revelation that Joel Embiid has a “minor tear” of the meniscus in his left knee, a medical fact the Sixers have known since Jan. 20 but neglected to share, has not publicly answered questions about Simmons’ status. And if he did answer questions, who would believe him?

The Sixers were loose with the truth about Embiid’s injury. Everyone this side of the most dedicated “Trust the Process” zombie has to at least consider the possibility that the Sixers were saying Embiid was day-to-day with his knee contusion – later changed to a bone bruise – in order to sell tickets.

The fact that the only game Embiid has played since injuring his knee on Jan. 20 against the Trail Blazers was a nationally televised game against the Rockets caused people to speculate that he wasn’t really injured and that the Sixers were reverting to “tank” mode. Now that we know the truth, or at least something close to the truth, the question is why the Sixers let Embiid play with a torn meniscus, regardless of the extent of the tear.

Part of the reason for the speculation and conspiracy theories was the Sixers’ silence. Head coach Brett Brown speaks with the media regularly, but Colangelo does not. After his brief flurry of interviews from Feb. 9-11, which culminated in Colangelo being far from truthful about Embiid’s injury, we probably won’t be hearing from Colangelo any time soon.

And that was before the Simmons injury situation followed the Embiid injury situation. During the week prior to the revelation that Simmons’ fracture wasn’t fully healed, both Colangelo and Brown said that Simmons, the top overall pick in last year’s NBA Draft, was expected to return this season.

Putting aside the misleading statements by the Sixers (I’m being kind by not using harsher language) regarding the results of Simmons’ January bone scan, the question now is why would they play him the rest of this season.

There are only 26 games left in the regular season. Even if Thursday’s scan reveals that the fracture has fully healed, why would the Sixers risk putting Simmons on the court this season?

If his fracture had healed quickly and there was half a season left, I would be in favor of Simmons playing this year to get some experience. Now that I know the fracture still wasn’t fully healed in January, I don’t think gaining experience is worth the risk of playing Simmons this season.

Then again, I’m not trying to get fans to buy tickets.

 

DESTINATION UNKNOWN: The Sixers are trying their best to trade Jahlil Okafor. They’ve showcased him. They’ve held him out of the lineup because a trade was allegedly close to being consummated. But nobody has been willing to play the price the Sixers want in return.

It’s not as if the Sixers are demanding anything close to the No. 3 pick they used to select Okafor, who is a good low-post scorer, but hasn’t been a good rebounder and seems indifferent on defense. But they may have to lower their asking price.

Keeping Okafor around another season isn’t good for the Sixers or Okafor. The only reason to keep him around is if the Sixers are worried about Embiid’s health or about re-signing Nerlens Noel. Otherwise, trading Okafor for the best offer available at Thursday’s trade deadline is the proper way to go.

*****

SARIC REMAINS ON ROLL: In last week’s Sixers Notebook, I mentioned that Dario Saric had stepped up his game, averaging 21 points during the previous three games. Saric continued his recent success with 18 points during a victory over the Hornets last Monday and 20 points during a loss to the Celtics on Wednesday. Saric had 11 rebounds against both the Hornets and Celtics.

Saric scored 17 points Saturday to help the World team beat the United States team, 150-141, in the Rising Stars Challenge as part of All-Star weekend. Jahlil Okafor scored 10 points for the U.S.

*****

McCONNELL LENDS HELPING HAND: T.J. McConnell, a key element in the Sixers’ success while Joel Embiid has been sidelined, led the Sixers in assists in the four games prior to the All-Star break. He averaged 8.25 assists during that four-game span.

*****

THOMAS STREAKING: One night after lighting up the Sixers for 33 points during a 116-108 Celtics win, Isaiah Thomas scored 29 points Thursday during a 104-103 loss to the Bulls. Thomas has scored at least 20 points in 41 consecutive games, breaking a franchise record set by John Havlicek during the 1971-72 season.

*****

EMBIID SITS: Joel Embiid went to All-Star weekend, had a good time and didn’t play. That’s the perfect experience for a young player with a knee injury that has caused him to miss 11 straight games and 14 of the last 15 games.

*****

CHEEKS OVER WEBBER: Chris Webber, who had a lackluster brief tenure with the Sixers, was selected as a finalist for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He is likely to be selected for induction this year. Meanwhile, former Sixers point guard Maurice Cheeks didn’t make the list of 14 finalists. Webber clearly has better Hall of Fame numbers, but I would take Cheeks on my team over Webber every day of the week.

*****

BREAK IS OVER: The Sixers won’t have an easy first week when they return from the All-Star break. They return Friday (7 p.m.) at Wells Fargo Center against the red-hot Wizards, who are 9-1 in their past 10 games and have climbed to the top of the Southeast Division. After a brief reprieve against the Knicks on Saturday (7:30 p.m.) in Madison Square Garden, the Sixers return to Wells Fargo Center on Mon., Feb. 27 to host the Warriors, who have the best record (47-9) in the NBA. Two nights later the Sixers travel to Miami, where the Heat will certainly be seeking revenge for the Sixers ending their 13-game winning streak on Feb. 11.

Sixers Notebook: Grades reflect growth

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

The 76ers surged past the midpoint of their season. Prior to Friday’s loss to the Rockets, the Sixers had won 10 times in their previous 13 games, which matches their win total for the entire 2015-16 season.

Even more impressively, they won consecutive games against the Clippers and Bucks earlier this week without Joel Embiid in the lineup. Embiid is the key component, but the Sixers are serving notice that they aren’t a one-man team.

With the franchise bursting with renewed energy and spirit, there is optimism surrounding the Sixers for the first time in years.

In the midst of that optimistic atmosphere, here are my mid-term grades for the Flyers:

Joel Embiid: A+ He is averaging 20.2 points and 7.8 rebounds and has lifted the Sixers and their fans with an infusion of enthusiasm and hope. What more could you ask for from a rookie?

Ersan Ilyasova: A- Second to Embiid in scoring (14.4 points) and rebounding (6.0), the veteran forward has provided stability and an ability to stretch the floor. The Sixers must strongly consider keeping Ilyasova off the free agent market in the summer.

Dario Saric: B In his first NBA season, Saric is averaging 9.8 points and 5.8 rebounds. He seems to have found a comfort zone coming off the bench. The versatile Saric hustles, but there are still some questions at the defensive end.

Robert Covington: B Covington’s shooting has been awful at times this season, but he has not let that affect his all-around game. His defense has been a crucial element in the Sixers’ resurgence.

T.J. McConnell: B If the grade were based upon expectations, McConnell would have an A+. He has moved into the starting point guard role and leads the Sixers in assists (5.9).

Nerlens Noel: B- After being benched, Noel seems to have found a role as a reserve. He is averaging 8 points and 4.8 rebounds. His impending free agency still makes him a candidate to be traded, but he has increased his value with his recent play.

Sergio Rodriguez: C+ He is averaging 8.5 points and 5.7 assists, but Rodriguez lost his role as the starting point guard to T.J. McConnell.

Richaun Holmes: C+ He had an eye-popping 18 points in nearly 19 minutes during Tuesday’s win over the Clippers. Holmes’ grade is more of an indication of his lack of playing time rather his performance.

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot: C+ TLC has been up-and-down with the Delaware 87ers of the NBA D-League. As is the case with Holmes, his grade is a more accurate reflection of his lack of playing time than his performance during those opportunities.

Gerald Henderson: C+ Injuries may be a big factor, but Henderson has led the Sixers in scoring and been nearly invisible on other nights.

Nik Stauskas: C He is averaging 8.5 points per game and his defense has improved from nearly non-existent to regular old not good.

Jahlil Okafor: C- And I’m being kind. Okafor is averaging 11.2 points per game, yet he wasn’t able to co-exist with Embiid on the court. Furthermore, he didn’t perform as well in a backup role as Noel. Okafor’s defense is so bad that, as we saw Tuesday against the Clippers, the Sixers seem to be a better team without him on the court. That’s a deep fall for a former No. 3 selection.

Chasson Randle: Incomplete Randle has looked good coming off the bench, but three games is too few in which to make an informed judgment.

Jerryd Bayless: Incomplete Limited to three games before having season-ending wrist surgery, this free agent-signee is the Sixers’ version of Danny Tartabull.

COACH

Brett Brown: A- He has gone through the fires of hell and, apparently, come out the other side none the worse for wear. Brown deserves tons of credit for not allowing a losing atmosphere to develop while the losses accumulated at a near-record pace. He also has made the difficult decision to bench Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor and navigated Joel Embiid’s minute restrictions.

GENERAL MANAGER

Bryan Colangelo: B+ The acquisition of Ersan Ilyasova for Jerami Grant made the Sixers much better. The challenge going forward will be to keep Ilyasova from becoming a free agent. Ben Simmons, the top overall draft pick, has not played due to a foot injury, so we can’t offer a judgment on that selection. A big challenge for Colangelo will be getting a decent return in exchange for Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel – or both.

*****

MISSING STAR: I have made my disdain for all-star games well known, so I’m not going to get overly worked up about Joel Embiid not making the All-Star team. Only playing 31 games hurt his changes, but if the All-Star Game is about entertaining the fans in addition to rewarding performance, Embiid definitely should have been selected.

*****

SIXERS’ RISING STARS: Joel Embiid will be part of All-Star weekend. He and Dario Saric will play for the World team in the Rising Stars Challenge. Jahlil Okafor will play for the United States team. It could get interesting if Embiid and Okafor are matched against each other.

*****

QUIETLY EFFECTIVE: Few players have had a better season without receiving more fanfare than Ersan Ilyasova. He can lead the Sixers in scoring, yet be the third or fourth Sixer mentioned in the game story.

*****

CENTRAL DISCONTENT: Trouble is brewing in the Central Division. When the Cavaliers lost three straight games, giving them six losses in their previous eight games, LeBron James publicly questions whether the organization was committed to winning a second championship.

Meanwhile, Chicago, which has dropped below .500 for the season, was being torn apart by public criticism between players. First, veteran Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler questioned the desire of the team’s younger players. This inspired guard Rajon Rondo to criticize Butler and Wade via instagram.

The Bulls fined all three players and benched Wade and Butler for the start of the next game. By the way, the Sixers play the Bulls next Saturday (7 p.m.).

*****

BUSY SCHEDULE: The Sixers will play five games during the upcoming week. After facing the Bulls in Chicago on Sunday, the Sixers will return home to face the Kings on Monday (6 p.m.), a makeup game after a postponement was caused by a slippery floor. The Sixers then head to Texas for a doubleheader against the Mavericks (Wednesday) and Spurs (Thursday).  The Sixers will complete their week Saturday (7:30 p.m.) at Miami.

Classic George Steele (RIP) match, interview