Heat haven't forgotten early-season loss to Sixers

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Heat haven't forgotten early-season loss to Sixers

Which of Sixers' 13 victories has been the most impressive this season?

It's a question we frequently debate on Sixers Pregame Live and there are two games that repeatedly come up: The season opener at home over Miami and the one on the road over Portland.

The Portland win capped off a five-game West Coast swing. The Sixers were 3-1 on the road trip heading into that matchup, and the Trail Blazers had the best record in the NBA at that time.

The Sixers came up with a defensive stop on the Blazers' final possession to secure the 101-99 victory on Jan. 4 and a season-high four-game win streak.

The win over Miami happened back on Oct. 30. The Sixers jumped out to a 19-0 lead and the Heat needed nearly five minutes to score their first basket. Despite a 45-point third quarter by the the Heat, the Sixers were able to pull off the 114-110 upset.

Knocking off the two-time defending world champions trumps holding the highest-scoring team in the league 10 points below its season average. After all, we are talking LeBron James and the Heat.

Miami returns to Wells Fargo Center on Friday night for the second of three meetings against the Sixers this season. And if you think James and company have forgotten about that letdown against the Sixers at the beginning of the season, think again.

“They blitzed us to start the game, I remember that,” James said after the Heat practiced at Temple's Liacouras Center on Thursday. “It was like 20-2 or 20-1, something like that. They came with a lot of energy and for the most part they controlled the game. Obviously we got back into it in the third quarter, but they played pretty well.”

The Heat have dropped three straight games, with their most recent loss coming on Wednesday to the Washington Wizards. Like the Sixers, the Wizards were able to jump on the Heat early. They held a 43-18 lead after the first quarter.

“It was very similar to last night just in terms of a lack of real collective energy and focus and commitment to do all the things necessary in a game,” Heat head coach Eric Spoelstra said. “Particularly against a young team like that, that plays with great youth, speed and athleticism up and down the court. They won’t let you play at a pace or half speed. We tried to get away with that the first game and it cost us.”

Report: Raptors contact Sixers regarding Nerlens Noel

Report: Raptors contact Sixers regarding Nerlens Noel

General managers talk to other general managers about players all the time. 

Sometimes, news of these discussions leak.

Sounds like this is one of those cases.

According to ESPN's Zach Lowe, the Toronto Raptors have contacted the Sixers regarding Nerlens Noel. Lowe cites sources who state that the Raptors have offered a "rotation player — perhaps Terrence Ross, and other goodies — in exchange for Nerlens Noel" but also noted that "the talks haven't gained much traction yet."

Probably because the trade depends on the value of the so-called goodies.

A 6-foot-7, 195-pound swingman, Ross has been inconsistent over his four-year career. After starting 123 games the previous two seasons, Ross, 25, primarily came off the bench last season, starting seven of 73 games. He averaged 9.9 points and shot 38.6 percent from three, right around his career averages (9.3 and 37.8).

He's a three-point shooter and finisher (a little like Harrison Barnes). In his second year in the league, he erupted for 51 points in a loss to the Clippers and hit 10 of 17 from three.

Ross was drafted by the Raptors in 2012 out of Washington with the eighth overall pick. He signed a three-year extension late last year that will pay him $10.5 million per season.

Toronto is interested in Noel because big man Bismack Biyombo may leave during free agency, which begins Friday.

Sixers free-agent fits: Frontcourt — Horford, Anderson, Ezeli, more

Sixers free-agent fits: Frontcourt — Horford, Anderson, Ezeli, more

Over the course of this week, we will look at the Sixers' free-agent possibilites at each position. We've already analyzed point guardsshooting guards and small forwards. Today, we'll break down frontcourt players.

Sixers frontcourt players for 2016-17
Joel Embiid (guaranteed, $4,826,160)

Richaun Holmes (guaranteed, $1,025,831)

Carl Landry (guaranteed, $6,500,000)

Nerlens Noel (guaranteed, $4,384,490)

Jahlil Okafor (guaranteed, $4,788,840)

Dario Saric (yet to sign)

Ben Simmons (yet to sign rookie deal)

Current frontcourt situation
In case you haven't heard, the Sixers have a few big men. By my list, that's five under contract, one that will sign his rookie contract shortly, and another that claims he'll be under contract soon enough.

Of course, there have been rumors of Okafor and/or Noel being shipped off for backcourt pieces, but as of now, they are Sixers. If the team were to move one or both of them, they'd be moving their most proven NBA frontcourt pieces, even if the experiment of playing them together was a disaster.

Simmons has infinite potential, but has yet to play an NBA minute. Same goes for Embiid and Saric. Landry and Holmes are solid bench big men. They'll be valuable depth if Bryan Colangelo pulls off a move or two. Stay tuned.

Reach free agent

Al Horford, unrestricted
Horford, a four-time All-Star, has been a focal point for the Hawks' offense for almost a decade. More of a finesse big man than a banger down low, Horford has an excellent midrange game and possesses great touch around the basket. He's also a decent passer from the post, averaging 2.7 assists per game for his career. He's averaged 14.3 points per game on a robust 54 percent from the field. With all that said, Horford is not the guy for this team. Even if Noel and Okafor are traded, Horford is 30. Also, Simmons would be better playing with a center that offers better rim protection.

Possible fits

It's hard to look into any of these guys seriously with the Sixers' current logjam. We'll dissect them as if a shakeup in the frontcourt has occurred and the team needs to fill a gap or two.

Ryan Anderson, unrestricted
If you were to Google the term "stretch four" a picture of Anderson would appear (not even kidding, it actually does). Anderson has shot 38 percent for his career from downtown. Back in 2011-12, he led the NBA in threes made and attempted while playing for the Magic. Last season he averaged 17 points per game, the second-highest number of his career. Assuming Simmons expands his game beyond the power forward position, a guy like Anderson would make a ton of sense playing alongside him.

Marvin Williams, unrestricted
Williams is an interesting case. He's never lived up to the billing of being the No. 2 overall pick back in 2005, but he's had a solid NBA career as a role player. The element he's added to his game that should intrigue the Sixers is his three-point shooting. Williams hit a career-high 40 percent from distance on 378 attempts, also a career mark. Williams also offers defensive versatility with his ability to play on the wing at times.

Festus Ezeli, restricted
Ezeli has made himself into a solid rotational big in Golden State. With the Warriors' success, guys like Ezeli are bound to be poached from their roster. Ezeli is nothing special but would come in handy if the Sixers find a suitor for Noel. They'd need someone like Ezeli (2.5 blocks per 36 minutes last season) to help fill the void Noel would leave as a strong rim protector.

Report: Isaiah Canaan becomes free agent as Sixers don't extend qualifying offer

Report: Isaiah Canaan becomes free agent as Sixers don't extend qualifying offer

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.