6 observations from Sixers-Nets

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6 observations from Sixers-Nets

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Michael Carter-Williams’ return from a seven-game absence helped the Sixers snap a seven-game losing streak with a 121-120 overtime victory over the Brooklyn Nets Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay). Here are some observations from the matchup:

1. The Nets didn’t have Kevin Garnett (rest) or Joe Johnson (personal matters) for the return match against the Sixers at the Wells Fargo Center, two players that had a big impact in Monday’s rout. But it wasn’t like the Nets were at a loss for replacements. Garnett’s replacement was Brook Lopez, the Nets’ leading scorer with 20.6 points per game. Lopez sat out of Monday’s game. Johnson’s sub was Paul Pierce, the Celtics’ all-time leading scorer and a 10-time All-Star.

2. How much of a difference does Carter-Williams make for the Sixers? You know, aside from the obvious things like the team’s record (1-10 without, 7-9 with).

The Sixers are a righter unit offensively and defensively with the rookie point guard. They also move the ball up the court quicker with MCW in a few basic ways. He takes the outlet pass as deep as possible. When the Sixers secure the ball on a rebound or turnover, Carter-Williams is already breaking off and headed up the floor, but not too far that there is a risk of a bad pass.

Carter-Williams also understands the ball moves quicker on a pass than a dribble. So when the point guard gets the ball in transition, his head is up looking for a teammate moving up the floor with him.

Those things didn’t happen often when Carter-Williams was out of the lineup.

3. With four players 6-foot-10 or taller, the Nets should be a force on the boards and in the paint. Yet, through 25 games this season, the Nets rank 25th in offensive rebounding and 20th in defensive. Overall, the Nets are 23rd in the NBA in total rebounding. So how were the Sixers, with just one 7-footer and one player listed at 6-10 getting any playing time able to clean up the boards against the Nets?

Easy, positioning. When the Nets shot the ball from the outside, it wasn’t uncommon to see two Sixers alone in the paint waiting for the rebound. Plus, because the Sixers attack the paint, they often outnumbered the Nets in there.

4. Tony Wroten has no trouble getting to the basket. The Sixers’ backup point guard has a ton of moves that can get him from the three-point line to the paint in a half-second. But Wroten’s outside shooting is still a work in progress.

Wroten went 8 for 17 from the floor, including 2 for 8 from three-point range against the Nets. Take away the 5 for 8 shooting from three on Dec. 12 and Wroten is 18 for 84 (21.4 percent) from long range. If coach Brett Brown is going to play Wroten along side Carter-Williams in the Sixers’ backcourt, Wroten is going to have to improve his shooting.

5. The Sixers held the Nets to just 15 three-pointers Friday night. That’s a big improvement from the 21 the Nets hit Monday night. But the Nets weren’t without a career night or a big third quarter. Alan Anderson scored 16 of his team-high 26 points in the third quarter and hit five threes. Mirza Teletovic shot a career-best 6 of 10 from three-point range.

6. Thad Young is a pro’s pro. After Friday’s shootaround, he cordially and patiently answered questions about trade rumors and if he requested a trade from the Sixers (see story). He did it all over again before the game following his pregame warmup.

It was tiring just watching him go through it.

No worries, though. Young went out and scored 25 points on 11 for 18 shooting with two three-pointers, six rebounds, four assists, two steals and a blocked shot.

“I am here, ready to give 110 percent each and every game,” Young said after shootaround. “I am ready to just play and try to win basketball games.”

Indeed he is.

Charles Barkley: Sixers can be 'really good, really quickly'

Charles Barkley: Sixers can be 'really good, really quickly'

Charles Barkley is jumping on the Sixers bandwagon.

"I think the Sixers gonna get really good, really quickly, but it all depends on (Joel) Embiid," Barkley said. "They're not gonna win a championship the next couple years, but I think they can really become a perrenial playoff team in the next three years."

Sounds good, right? Not so fast. There are a lot of "ifs" according to Barkley. 

Most of those "ifs" ride on the health of center Joel Embiid. If the big man gets healthy, and the Sixers can resolve the "glutton of big guys," Barkley likes the Sixers chances.

"I think the most important thing they need to figure out is if Joel Embiid is going to be healthy. ... I like (Jahlil) Okafor and I like (Nerlens) Noel, but they gotta figure out if Joel Embiid is going to be healthy. 

"I like Ben Simmons, but that team's got a long way to go," Barkley said.

To hear more of Barkley's thoughts on the Sixers' future, watch the full video above. 

 

 

Team USA overpowers Argentina in 1st Olympic exhibition

Team USA overpowers Argentina in 1st Olympic exhibition

LAS VEGAS -- New team. Same old result.

Full of new star power -- and dominant on the inside -- the U.S. men's basketball team opened its bid for a third straight Olympic gold medal Friday night with a 111-74 exhibition romp over Argentina.

A game that was over almost before it began showed the U.S. has to improve its shooting and conditioning. It also showed that there is plenty of talent among a group of players that seem to want to play well for each other and their country despite the absence of Olympic stalwarts Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

"There's a willingness from these guys to work on anything we need and to work hard," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "These are very good guys."

A U.S. team that hasn't lost a game in 10 years had little trouble with Argentina, which some consider a medal contender in Rio. Paul George scored 14 first-half points, Kevin Durant added 12, and the U.S. blew open the game early before an appreciative crowd on the Las Vegas Strip.

Even with Bryant retired and James taking this Olympics off, there was no real talent drop off on a team heavily favored to win gold once again. The depth of the U.S. showed as coach Mike Krzyzewski rotated players in and out, searching for the right combinations on a team with 10 new players from 2012.

"Nothing is for sure," Durant said. "We want to get this gold and right now we have a job to do. We have to prepare the right way."

Count the Argentines among those who were impressed at the first real game for the Olympic team.

"Obviously, they have the best talent and the best size in the world," Argentina's Luis Scola said. "That's a big difference in their favor."

The game was the first of five exhibitions the U.S. will play before traveling to Rio to defend the gold medal. The U.S. team has spent the last week practicing in Las Vegas in preparation for the tour and the games.

There weren't any opening night jitters, though the U.S. shot only 45 percent and missed all but 14 of 41 3-pointers. With DeMarcus Cousins pulling down 15 rebounds in just 16 minutes, the U.S. dominated inside, outrebounding Argentina 53-30.

"The big thing is getting in shape and they are not there where they will be," Krzyzewski said. "But we really have an inside presence on the boards."

For Durant the game was a chance to play with a pair of his new Golden State teammates, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. It was also a chance for Durant and Carmelo Anthony -- the only two players from the 2012 team -- to demonstrate that this will be their team in Rio.

Both players cheered from the bench as the minutes were spread around, jumping up to clap for teammates. Every U.S. player got quality time, with Green's 12 minutes the least played by any American.

"We're going to have fun and we're going to enjoy ourselves," Anthony said. "If it's not fun it's not worth it. We're going to enjoy ourselves but at the same time we're going to be focused in trying to get that gold medal."

Durant finished as the game's high scorer with 23 points, while George had 18 and Carmelo Anthony 17. Andres Nocioni had 15 for Argentina, while Manu Ginobili added 11 for Argentina, which lost to the U.S. in the semifinals of the 2012 Olympics.

Though at times little defense was played, there was plenty of offense to keep the crowd at the new T-Mobile Arena happy. The teams combined to put up 70 3-point attempts, 41 of them from the U.S.

Oddsmakers had made the U.S. a prohibitive 29.5-point favorite in what at times looked a lot like an NBA All-Star game. But while the U.S. team is loaded with 12 NBA players, the Argentines had only three on their roster and the talent difference showed.

While the team is full of new players, the gold medal run will be the last for Krzyzewski, the national coach for the last decade. His teams have lost only one game during his reign, which will end after the Olympics with San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich taking over.

Manu Ginobili intrigued by coach Brett Brown, Sixers before re-signing with Spurs

Manu Ginobili intrigued by coach Brett Brown, Sixers before re-signing with Spurs

The Spurs have been one of the most consistent NBA teams for nearly 20 years. They have made 19 consecutive postseason trips and won five championships during that span. 

The Sixers, on the other hand, are entering a phase of building a new foundation with a group of young players. They are working to improve upon a 10-win season, let alone making the playoffs.

Yet four-time NBA champion Manu Ginobili saw more than records when weighing his options in free agency. The veteran point guard looked to the Sixers sidelines and was intrigued.

Head coach Brett Brown previously worked in the Spurs basketball operations department and on the coaching staff under Gregg Popovich. He was part of four championship teams in San Antonio. When the Sixers approached Ginobili this offseason, he gave them consideration before returning to the Spurs, where he has spent his entire 14-year career.

“The fact that Philadelphia had a great coach and a person I appreciate so much as Brett Brown, made it more appealing in the case the Spurs didn’t happen,” Ginobili told The Vertical on Thursday. “But the Spurs happened and they always had the priority.”

The Sixers reportedly offered Ginobili, 38, a two-year, partially-guaranteed deal worth around $30 million. The Spurs first offered him a one-year, $3 million contract. Ginobili ended up re-signing with the Spurs for one-year, $14 million. 

“It was not my main option. I never wanted to leave San Antonio,” Ginobili said. “But I had to listen to all the options that are there.”

Ginobili averaged 9.6 points, 3.1 assists and 2.5 rebounds in 19.6 minutes coming off the bench last season. The Sixers are adding veteran leadership, and Ginobili is one of the most experienced in the game. In addition to his reliability at the position, he could have been a mentor to the entire team and worked with Ben Simmons to help hone his point guard skills as the rookie big man plays point-forward. His years of international competition would have gelled with incoming players such as Dario Saric, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Sergio Rodriguez. 

The Sixers signed point guards Jerryd Bayless (three years, $27 million) and Rodriguez (one year, $8 million) this summer. T.J. McConnell and Kendall Marshall still are under contract. Last season's starting point guard Ish Smith signed with the Pistons at the start of free agency.