ATLANTA -- The men’s NCAA tournament has invaded Atlanta with this year’s Final Four taking place at the Georgia Dome.
While four teams have dreams of leaving this city a champion, the Sixers would just like to put together a better showing than Wednesday night’s loss to the Bobcats when they face the Hawks on Friday.
That game was not one of their finer showings. All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday shot 2 of 24 from the floor. The team made just 35 percent of its shots and had only 16 assists.
Despite those challenges and the season winding down, there will be no packing it in under Doug Collins. He insists it wasn’t an option for him as a player and won’t be one as a head coach.
“I came into the league with a team that was 9-73,” Collins said. “I remember Gene Shue talking to me as a young player about how every minute you play is important. Learning to play against these great players every night, that as good as they are everybody has a go-to move that they want to go to under pressure, so learn what that is. You are constantly learning. You learn end-of-game situations, execution, doing things right.”
That is why the end of Wednesday’s game against the Bobcats was so disheartening for Collins. He was forced to watch a team that came together seven months ago during training camp still succumb to youthful mistakes in the clutch of a matchup late in the regular season.
However, Collins is still pleased with his team’s desire to compete. He isn’t ready to put a bow on the season and neither are his players.
“It is hard as a coach to get all these new pieces and try and put them together,” Collins said. “But the satisfaction of watching our guys compete and want to win and how some of our guys have really grown -- Damien Wilkins, Dorell Wright, Spencer Hawes -- watching how they approach their job on a nightly basis has been really fun for me.
“I have never been in this position as a coach where the numbers start getting against you as you are finishing out the season. You don’t know how guys are going to want to finish it, but our guys want to finish it well. I have always felt as a professional you have a responsibility every night for getting yourself individually ready to play and collectively ready to play with your team.”
It appears the Sixers are letting guard Isaiah Canaan walk.
Canaan, who was set to be a restricted free agent this offseason, is now unrestricted as the Sixers did not extend him a qualifying offer, according to a report Wednesday night by Chris Haynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
The qualifying offer would have been worth $1,215,696. Canaan made $947,276 last season.
Canaan, 25, has played parts of two seasons with the Sixers after coming over from the Rockets in 2014-15 as part of the K.J. McDaniels trade.
The 6-foot, 201-pound guard averaged 11 points per game in 77 contests (39 starts) last season, while shooting 36.3 percent from three-point range.
Canaan has not fit with the Sixers as a shoot-first point guard, averaging just 1.8 assists per game in 2015-16, a season in which he essentially turned into an undersized, volume-shooting two-guard.
The backcourt — specifically point guard — remains the biggest priority for the Sixers this offseason.
On Wednesday, the Sixers decided to retain Hollis Thompson for next season by exercising his team option.
When dealing with a foreign player like Dario Saric, you can't help but wonder if something is being lost in translation. Keeping in mind that language barrier, a Croatian website is reporting that Saric is set on heading to Philadelphia.
The quote from Saric, as translated by Twitter user @CroSports_ reads as follows: "Everything is leading in that direction. I'm waiting for this tournament (Olympic qualifying) to end so that I can sit down and work out a deal, then head over to the USA to sign.
"I have one more year with Efes (Turkish basketball team Anadolu Efes) and [head coach Velimir] Perasovic wants me to stay, but I gave [the Sixers] my word. My word means more than a paper.”
The speculation over Saric has been an ongoing saga for the Sixers. While president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo is cautiously optimistic about bringing over the No. 12 overall pick, he knows that Saric putting pen to paper does actually matter.
"It’s a very solid statement on his part and indicates his commitment, but nothing is official until the buyout agreement is finalized and he gets cleared by FIBA. Then he can sign,” Colangelo said to CSNPhilly's Dei Lynam.
Remember, earlier this month Colangelo and head coach Brett Brown met with Saric in Istanbul, and Colangelo didn't have a strong feeling either way regarding Saric's chances of coming to the Sixers.
“I wasn’t pessimistic, I wasn’t optimistic," Colangelo said at the time. "I was somewhat neutral as to whether or not I felt he would be coming over and I still feel that way."
Saric has until July 17 to notify his current team, Anadolu Efes, of his decision.
Hollis Thompson will be back next season.
The Sixers exercised the swingman's fourth-year team option for the 2016-17 season. The option is worth just north of $1 million, according to Basketball Reference.
Thompson, 6-foot-8, 206 pounds, has played three NBA seasons with the Sixers after going undrafted out of Georgetown in 2012.
In his 225 NBA games (81 starts), he has averaged 8.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game. He's also shot 39 percent from three and his 331 career three-pointers rank him eighth in Sixers history.