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Week (at least) that Joel Embiid is expected to miss due to left knee soreness

Eric Fisher’s weekly column on a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on the Dallas Cowboys’ fast start, the legendary career of the late Bill Campbell and how NASCAR’s new Chase format may have elevated anger levels.

Nick Foles threw two interceptions and the first-team offense sputtered during a 34-28 loss to the Bears in the Eagles’ preseason opener. But backup QB Mark Sanchez looked good and rookie Josh Huff returned a kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown.

The Greek God of Wrestling chronicles Braun Strowman’s meteoric rise to main event status. Achilles Heel also bemoans JBL leaving Smackdown, rips Sexy Star and for her conduct during and after a recent incident with Rosemary, and provides a link for Ric Flair’s first video after his nearly fatal medical issues.

Archive for the ‘NBA’ Category

Sixers Notebook

Posted by Eric Fisher On February - 15 - 2019 ADD COMMENTS

The 76ers are better after general manager Elton Brand gave the team a partial makeover at the trade deadline. The question is whether the Sixers are good enough to contend for an NBA championship.

The addition of Tobias Harris, acquired from the Clippers in a multi-player deal at the trade deadline, improves the starting lineup. Harris was averaging 20.7 points and 7.9 rebounds while shooting 43 percent from 3-point range. He also plays well on the defensive end. Harris is unquestionably an upgrade over Wilson Chandler or whoever the Sixers used in the starting lineup when Chandler was sidelined by injuries.

Harris’ ability to shoot from long range should prevent teams from sagging into the lane to cover Joel Embiid or clog Ben Simmons’ lanes to the basket. His presence should also create more open 3-point shots for JJ Redick.

With the addition of Harris, a case can certainly be made that the Sixers have the best starting lineup in the Eastern Conference. All five starters, with Jimmy Butler acquired in a trade earlier this season, are legitimate threats to score at least 20 points.

The question mark remains the bench. The Sixers sent Chandler, rookie guard Landry Shamet and forward Mike Muscala to the Clippers, along with first-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021 and a pair of second-round selections, to the Clippers in exchange for Harris, center Boban Marjanovic and forward Mike Scott. Brand then supplemented the bench by adding wing Jonathon Simmons as part of the trade that sent Markelle Fultz to the Magic, and then picking up veteran wingman James Ennis from the Rockets. These players have to be mixed into a rotation that includes holdovers such as T.J. McConnell, Jonah Bolden and Furkan Korkmaz.

Head coach Brett Brown is left with the task of putting all of these pieces together in the best way in order to maximize their talents. He has 24 games left to figure it out before the playoffs begin.

Which players work better with the starters? Which combination of bench players is most effective? Would Brown consider bringing Butler, Harris or Redick off the bench to balance out the scoring?

Brown has already started tinkering with the bench. What the Sixers can’t afford to have happen is a repeat of Tuesday’s Celtics game, when Gordon Hayward outscored the Sixers bench all by himself.

The Sixers definitely improved at the trade deadline. The question is whether their bench is good enough for the Sixers to succeed against the better teams in the Eastern Conference and contend for an NBA title.

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THE FUTURE IS NOW: The moves at the trade deadline indicate that general manager Elton Brand is clearly pushing for a championship run this season. Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic and Mike Scott all could become unrestricted free agents after this season. Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick also could become unrestricted free agents after this season.

The Sixers are unlikely to be able to re-sign all of these players – if they want to do so. It even seems unlikely that they will be able to bring back Harris, Butler and Redick. Will Butler even want to return if his role is reduced due to the acquisition of Harris?

Giving up two first-round draft picks, including the Heat’s unprotected pick in 2021, is another sign that Brand’s focus is on contending for a championship right now rather than a few years down the road.

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THE FUTURE IS GONE: Remember how excited Sixers fans were when the team traded up to the top of the first round in 2017. The Sixers selected guard Markelle Fultz with the first overall pick, sparking a flurry of ticket sales and an outpouring of enthusiasm.

Less than two years later, the Fultz era is over. Fultz played just 33 games in a Sixers uniform. He was traded to the Magic just before last week’s trade deadline in exchange for wing Jonathon Simmons, a lottery-protected first-round pick that originally belonged to the Thudner and a second-round pick in 2019.

Given all of the anticipation and excitement when Fultz was drafted, it’s clear that he was a bust. In fact, he may have been the worst draft pick in Sixers history.

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STAR TURNS: Ben Simmons will be extremely busy during All-Star week. Simmons is participating in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday (9 p.m.) as part of the World team, then will participate in Sunday’s All-Star Game (8 p.m.) as part of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s team. Simmons was part of LeBron James’ team, where he would have teamed with Joel Embiid, but was traded to Team Giannis.

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COMPLAINT DEPARTMENT: Joel Embiid was fined $25,000 for saying “The referees (bleeping) suck” following the Sixers’ 112-109 loss to the Celtics on Tuesday. Embiid was particularly upset that Celtics center Al Horford wasn’t called for a foul on an Embiid shot with 33.6 seconds remaining in regulation and the Sixers trailing by two points. The NBA later even admitted that a foul should have been called on Horford.

The problem with isolating one play, however, is that it’s not necessarily reflective of the entire game. In the first quarter, Horford picked up a technical foul after being called for a foul on what appeared to be a clean block of an Embiid shot. Embiid frequently dips his shoulder and uses his considerable size and strength to establish position by moving defenders out of his space. He dipped his shoulder earlier in the fourth quarter to drive Horford backward, but was fortunate that Horford was called for reaching in instead of Embiid being called for a charge.

Embiid’s postgame comments were accurate in reference to one specific non-call. But they weren’t an accurate assessment of his battle with Horford throughout the entire game. Furthermore, a player who relies on a physical style as much as Embiid should avoid antagonizing referees.

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PLAY SMARTER, NOT HARDER: Joel Embiid’s leap into the stands Wednesday to save a ball during the fourth quarter of a 126-111 victory over the Knicks wasn’t a smart play. I love players who hustle, but this was an unnecessary risk for a franchise player. The Sixers weren’t going to lose to the Knicks, who were losing their 18th straight game. Embiid didn’t need to make that play. The risk wasn’t remotely close to being worth the reward.

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KEEPING PACE: The conventional wisdom was that the Pacers would drop in the standings after star Victor Oladipo suffered a season-ending injury (ruptured quadriceps tendon) to his right leg. Instead, the Pacers (38-20) remain ahead of both the Sixers and Celtics (both 37-21) in the battle for seeding in the Eastern Conference.

The Pacers’ loss to the Eastern Conference-leading Bucks on Wednesday snapped a six-game winning streak. The Pacers also signed swingman Wes Matthews, who was bought out by the Knicks. Matthews would certainly have looked nice coming off the Sixers’ bench.

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CONFERENCE RACES: The Eastern Conference playoff races have broken into three tiers. At the top are the Bucks (43-14) and Raptors (43-16), who are battling for the top seed and homecourt throughoug the playoffs.

The next grouping includes the Pacers (38-20), the Sixers (37-21) and Celtics (37-21). Barring a big jump up or drop down by one of these teams, the second third teams in this grouping will have to face each other in the first round of the playoffs, with the third team not having homecourt advantage. That could be a huge difference for a team like the Sixers, who have a much better home record (23-7) than road record (14-14).

The next group is led by the Nets (30-29). Following the Nets are the Hornets (27-30), Pistons (26-30), Heat (26-30) and Magic (27-32). Three of those teams, including the Nets, will earn playoff berths.

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MILTON INJURED: Guard Shake Milton broke his finger – technically, a fracture of the fourth metacarpal on his right hand) – last week while playing for the Delaware Blue Coats, the Sixers’ affiliate in the G-League. He is expected to miss several weeks.

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BREAKING AWAY: After the All-Star break, the Sixers will return to action Thursday (7 p.m.) against the Heat at Wells Fargo Center. They will host the Trail Blazers two days later (1 p.m.) before hitting the road for games against the Pelicans (Mon., Feb. 25) and Thunder (Thurs., Feb. 28).

Sixers Notebook: What assets do Sixers have?

Posted by Eric Fisher On February - 5 - 2019 ADD COMMENTS

How much value does former No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz (pictured) have to other teams? The Sixers may find out before Thursday’s trade deadline. The Sixers’ best hope of acquiring bench much-needed help would be to trade rookies and draft picks.

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The 76ers would like to acquire some help for their bench before Thursday’s trade deadline. They need a perimeter defender, preferably one who can shoot, a backup center and a backup point guard who isn’t a liability on defense.

The need for bench help was evident Saturday during the Sixers’ 115-108 loss to the Kings. Joel Embiid and Jimmy Butler scores 29 points apiece and Ben Simmons added 22. With JJ Redick getting a day off for rest, however, no other Sixer cracked double digits.

Identifying what the Sixers need in order to solidify their status as legitimate championship contenders isn’t difficult. What’s hard is figuring out what the Sixers have that other teams may want in exchange.

Wilson Chandler, along with his expiring contract, might be attractive to some teams. But remember that the Sixers’ trading partner is likely to be a non-playoff team. Why would a non-playoff team want a veteran except to acquire his expiring contract? Another issue with trading Chandler is that he is valuable to the Sixers. His scoring is inconsistent and he has been sidelined by injuries – he’s currently expected to miss 2-3 weeks due to a quadriceps injury – but he’s helpful on the defensive end and has occasional bursts of offense.

Another option is to trade rookies. A young team outside of the playoff picture might be interested in rookies Landry Shamet, Jonah Bolden and Zhaire Smith (who hasn’t played yet this season due to a foot injury and an allergic reaction). The Sixers haven’t demonstrated a willingness to trade those rookies, but they might have to in the right deal.

The most intriguing player the Sixers have in terms of the trade market is Markelle Fultz. Unfortunately for the Sixers, Fultz’s value, which has already plummeted, drops with each game he doesn’t play. Fultz could be considered damaged good right now. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft wouldn’t bring back more than a late first-round pick in exchange, and even that seems unlikely. The last thing the Sixers would want to see is Fultz, who is only 20 years old, develop into a star after being traded away in a middle-of-the-road deal.

The Sixers don’t have many players who might be attractive to trade partners, but they do have draft picks which could be enticing. The Sixers have an extra first-round pick in 2021, courtesy of the Heat. The Sixers could trade that pick, or their own first-rounder that year, but that might be a tad expensive for a complementary part.

On the other hand, there’s no guarantee that the Sixers will be able to re-sign Jimmy Butler after the season, so giving up a future first-round pick might be worth taking a shot right now while they have Butler, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons together. It also should be noted that JJ Redick isn’t going to get any younger.

Expect the Sixers to make a move to improve their bench before the trade deadline. Standing pat sends the wrong message.

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SOMETHING BREWING? Reports that the Sixers won’t sign Corey Brewer for the rest of the season may be an indication that they expect to make a trade. By not re-signing Brewer – who can’t be signed to a third 10-day contract – the Sixers create an open roster spot.

The Sixers are risking having Brewer sign with another team, but the payoff of a trade is worth that risk. If Brewer isn’t picked up by another team, they can always bring him back later.

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EYE ON MATTHEWS: A player to keep an eye on is guard Wes Matthews. He was traded from the Mavericks to the Knicks last week in the Kristaps Porzingis deal. The Knicks, who are trying to tank, will likely trade Matthews or buy out his contract. The Sixers would love to pick up Matthews after he’s bought out, the way they got Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli last season, but a trade would eliminate the competition they might face if they tried to sign Matthews after his contract is bought out.

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RISING STAR: Ben Simmons could be extremely busy during All-Star week. Simmons was selected as a reserve for the All-Star Game, which takes place on Feb. 17 in Charlotte. Simmons was also selected for the World squad for the Rising Stars Challenge, which takes place two days earlier in Charlotte.

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HONORING MALONE: The Sixers will retire the uniform number (2) of center Moses Malone on Friday during a halftime ceremony. Malone, who died three years ago, was a three-time NBA MVP and made 12 NBA All-Star teams. He was a relentless rebounder and a terrific scorer. During the 1983 playoffs, Malone averaged 26 points and 15.8 rebounds as he powered the Sixers to the NBA title.

Despite only playing four seasons with the Sixers, Malone richly deserves to have his number retired. The only question is “What took them so long?”

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EXCUSES, EXCUSES: The Sixers went 2-2 on their recent road trip, which proved nothing. The Sixers opened the trip with a loss to Denver, which they could blame on injuries to  Jimmy Butler and Wilson Chandler and a “rest” day for Joel Embiid. The Sixers bounced back with a win over the Lakers, who were missing LeBron James due to injury. The Sixers then upended the Warriors, which is always a big deal, but a little bit of edge was taken off the victory due to the absence of Klay Thompson. The Sixers, with JJ Redick resting, then lost the next game to the Kings. In other words, the loser of every game during the road trip could use the excuse that they were shorthanded.

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GOOD BREAK (FOR SIXERS): The Sixers’ quest for homecourt advantage during the playoffs wasn’t helped much by their 2-2 road trip, but it was helped by a season-ending injury to the Pacers’ victory Oladipo. A ruptured quadriceps tendon in his right leg required season-ending surgery, which will make it difficult for the Pacers to remain among the top four teams in the Eastern Conference.

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BARKLEY SPEAKS OUT (SURPRISE!): During a recent TNT broadcast, Charles Barkley criticized against Rich Paul for trying to build a “super team” with the Lakers. Paul is part of Klutch Sports, which represents LeBron James and Anthony Davis. With Davis telling the Pelicans he wants to be traded, and the Lakers immediately jumping in to try to acquire Davis, Barkley was critical of Paul for trying to orchestrate a trade that would bring Davis and James together.

Barkley’s criticism was on the money, but the target of his wrath should have been James. Paul isn’t trying to make this happen without King James, who is trying to build the roster around him.

Not surprisingly, there is tension on the Lakers. There are reports that players aren’t happy about having their names in trade rumors. This could cause problems because of the widespread perception that James is calling the shots. As always seems to be the case with James’ teams, the head coach is apparently on thin ice. Stay tuned for more drama, which is sort of appropriate in Los Angeles.

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TLC TRADED: For the Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot fans out there, the player the Sixers selected with the 24th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft was traded from the Thunder to the Bulls, along with cash, in exchange for a protected 2020 draft pick.

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ROUGH HOMECOMING: After completing their four-game western swing, the Sixers don’t have a soft landing when they return to Wells Fargo Center for a four-game homestand. They host the Atlantic Division-leading Raptors on Tuesday (8 p.m.) and the Northwest Division-leading Nuggets on Friday (7 p.m.). The Lakers, presumably with a healthy LeBron James, visit the Sixers on Sunday (3:30 p.m.). The Celtics, who have moved into a tie with the Sixers (34-19), come to town next Tuesday (8 p.m.) before Sixers visit the lowly Knicks at Madison Square Garden in their final game before the All-Star break.

Side angle of Cody Parkey's missed field goal