6 observations from Sixers-Raptors

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6 observations from Sixers-Raptors

BOX SCORE

Believe it or not, the Toronto Raptors wrested first place in the Atlantic Division away from the Sixers on Wednesday night with the 108-98 victory (see Instant Replay).

At 5-8 and riding a four-game losing streak, the Sixers are a half-game off the pace in the division.

Here are a few things that caught our eye in the epic, first-place showdown:

1. Michael Carter-Williams returns
After missing four straight games, rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams returned to the lineup for the Sixers. Before the game, coach Brett Brown said Carter-Williams would have no restrictions and he wasn’t kidding. The rookie logged 34 minutes.

2. Banging in the post
Toronto big men Jonas Valanciunas and Tyler Hansbrough were a bundle of energy (and elbows) in the low post. Though neither player made much of a dent into the stat sheet, they mixed it up with Sixers big men Daniel Orton, Lavoy Allen and Spencer Hawes. Fortunately the battle in the post didn’t go beyond clean, hard basketball. A few times the players got all tangled up and fell into a heap on the floor. But that was it … just some big guys pushing each other around.

3. Defend the house
Certainly the mission of any team in the NBA is to force the opposing offense to take shots from the yard, which is the area outside of the paint and inside of the three-point line. If a team is going to beat you, the reasoning goes, let them do it with long two-pointers.

The Sixers did a good job of forcing the Raptors into taking shots from the yard in the first quarter. But after chucking up eight of them in the first, the Raptors took just nine more from the yard for the rest of the game.

That hardly compares to the efficiency of the Houston Rockets, though. In last week’s overtime victory, the Rockets took just five shots from the yard in the entire game. Somehow they figured out how to lose.

4. No Thad
The Sixers played without veteran Thad Young, who was not with the team on Wednesday night because of “personal reasons.” Young would have been valuable for the Sixers in pick-and-roll defense and in running the fast break. Instead, Hawes started the game at power forward with Orton at center.

5. Hawes’ career night
On Jan. 1, 2010, Spencer Hawes shot 12 for 20 with four three-pointers in a one-point loss to the Lakers for a career-high 30 points.

Since then the 30-point game had not been threatened by Hawes.

That is until Wednesday night.

Hawes shot 10 for 13 with three three-pointers and 10 rebounds for 28 points, just missing the career high. Meanwhile, Hawes notched his eighth double-double of the season, second-most in the NBA.

6. Homecomings, of sorts
Cardinal Dougherty and Villanova product, Kyle Lowry, had 13 points and 10 assists in his former sometime home court. Lowry entered the game averaging 12 points and six assists per game. His steady hand at point guard helped keep the Raptors’ turnover tally to a paltry nine.

Additionally, Raptors assistant coach Tom Sterner was close to his hometown of York and his old stomping grounds of Lancaster, where he attended Millersville U. and coached at Lancaster Catholic and Franklin & Marshall College. Sterner was a scout for the Sixers two years ago.

Best quotes from Sixers 2016 media day

Best quotes from Sixers 2016 media day

CAMDEN, N.J. — Sixers president Bryan Colangelo and all 20 players on the team's training camp roster spoke at the organization's new state-of-the-art training complex during media day.

Here are some of the best quotes from Monday's session:

Colangelo on rebuilding process being like building new training complex
"This is the start of a new season, a new moment for the franchise. We've talked a lot about the growth and building process. We're looking forward, not back. A lot of this reminds me of, it's not dissimilar to a construction site on a skyscraper or a real estate project. There's been a lot of work being done to the infrastructure here for several months and in this case several years. We're on the verge of establishing things above grade, things that hopefully move this organization forward. We're looking ahead with a lot of excitement and a lot of anticipation on where it might go."

Elton Brand on competition among the big men
"I expect a bloodbath. I expect a battle. These guys are big, they're talented and they all have different skill sets. They are good. They can really play. Joel [Embiid] being healthy,[Jahlil Okafor], of course Nerlens [Noel] and Dario [Saric]. That's the fives. Then the fours, the number one pick, he's going to play. Jerami Grant took a leap. It's a lot of talent, so it's going to be fun to watch and be a part of."

Embiid on watching so much live and taped basketball while injured
"I've learned a lot. I'm really someone who loves watching basketball, who loves learning. To this day I still watch my college stuff because I love watching myself. I'll watch myself probably every day. Then I watch some of the other guys. I watch everybody's game. I just love being around basketball and watching games. NBA games or college games. Obviously NBA games are different than college. I can't really watch college basketball anymore because it just drives me crazy."

Okafor on whether his eyes light up when a guard switches onto him
"My eyes always light up no matter who's guarding me. I feel like I can do whatever I want. No matter if the person is smaller or bigger, it doesn't matter to me."

Ben Simmons on being considered a leader even though he's a rookie
"Definitely. I believe I'm a leader no matter what it is. Whether I'm playing Scrabble, Monopoly, Pictionary, whatever the game is. I try to lead whenever the occasion arises."

Brand on being in shape to play
"The offseason, I don't go on the basketball court as much as I did when I knew I'd be on a roster or trying to be on a roster. I just try to stay in cool dad shape. Riding my bike. I want my clothes to fit. I don't want to be like some NBA players that retire and play a long time and don't look as good. I was just working on riding my bike, jogging, swimming and then I'll hit the court."

Sergio Rodriguez on coming back to the NBA after a six-year absence
"It's been 10 years [since my NBA debut]. I've changed many things in my basketball skills. Also personal, the way that I act now, the way that I treat my body now. The way that I think is way different than it was when I first came into the league. For me it's a big challenge to come here at 30 years old and try to get an opportunity with the Sixers."

T.J. McConnell on letting Gerald Henderson have his No. 12 jersey
"I got a text from Scott Rego our equipment guy saying that Gerald's dad wore 12 when he played here and he would like to do the same and would I be willing to give up the number. So I just gave it up and I think one was the only other point-guard-looking number so I just took it. Nothing was added to the McConnell fund. All I got was a firm handshake, that's about it."

Elton Brand on national anthem protests: Sixers working with NBA, having 'discussions internally'

Elton Brand on national anthem protests: Sixers working with NBA, having 'discussions internally'

CAMDEN, N.J. — Pockets of NBA players have increasingly started to speak up about what they believe to be racial and social injustices taking place in the United States.

With San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's decision to kneel during the national anthem sparking protests from other players around the NFL and various sports, now the NBA as a whole is preparing for potential protests prior to games.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver and National Basketball Players Association union executive director Michele Roberts came together last week to formulate a joint letter to players to express how the two sides plan to take "meaningful action."

Whatever that action is, Sixers veteran Elton Brand is all for it and the overall discussion of issues going on around the country.

"There are e-mails and direct texts from the NBPA. We’re working with the NBA. They’re going to talk to us soon,” Brand said. “My thing is if you want to stand up for something, that’s a good thing. Especially in America, the tensions and the injustices that are going on right now. 

“Even in our locker room we’re discussing who feels like this, who feels like what and ways that we can display how we feel about things. I’m all for it. I stand behind it and stand with other athletes and people that want to stand for a cause. Whatever their cause is, they want to stand for a cause. Our cause may be different.”

The NBA is significantly more diverse than the NFL, and Brand even admitted it’s been an eye-opening experience having talks about issues affecting African Americans inside a locker room with players from around the globe.

“We have a lot of international players,” he said. “I’m looking around the room and there are seven people that aren’t from this country. So you talk about the flag, talk about the constitution and to them it’s like, ‘I represent America because I’m working here, but I’m pro-Spain and I have problems there, too.’ We’re all sorting it out. We’ve had discussions internally also. I’m looking forward to what the NBPA and the NBA have to offer."

What the league and players association come up with will likely serve as something other than protesting during the actual anthem. Unlike the NFL, the NBA has a rule in place that explicitly states players, coaches and trainers must stand on the foul line or sidelines in a dignified posture during the playing of national anthems.

If Sixers players do ultimately decide on some sort of protest before games, they will have the support of the organization to express their rights.

"We haven't been together collectively long enough to have a real robust discussion about it," Sixers president Bryan Colangelo said. "I think we just addressed it briefly this morning with the players in an opportunity to say the following. Basically, we as an organization are going to be supportive of the views of our players. As the league and the players association formulate perhaps an approach, they've already circulated some information to teams. Things are probably still at the discussion phase. I hope to think that's where things are with our players, that they're still at the discussion phase. 

"Once again, I'm assuming that there will be a desire to express an opinion or viewpoint. I've always been supportive of people in society having freedom to express a viewpoint. Again, going back to the league and the players association, in a positive way I think they've always been out in front of some of these social issues and if they can affect social change in a positive way they probably will. You can just anticipate that there's still some unknowns to this, but you can estimate that we will be supportive as an organization as to how our players want to express their views."