Road-weary Sixers blasted by Timberwolves

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Road-weary Sixers blasted by Timberwolves

BOX SCORE

In a sense, the Sixers really haven’t come off their long, six-game road trip that covered 16 days. For as long as the team was in Philadelphia for Monday night’s game against the Timberwolves, it could have been in Minnesota or any other spot on the map.

That’s because the Sixers didn’t get back to Philadelphia until 5 a.m. on Sunday after flying all night following Saturday’s game in Portland. The cross-country flight didn’t even allow the Sixers a chance to unpack their bags because they have another flight on Monday night in order to get to Cleveland for Tuesday’s game.

So it wasn’t like the Sixers were even home at all. Given the 126-95 loss to the Timberwolves at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay), it looked as if the Sixers weren’t all there, too.

“That’s the goal of not getting complacent,” head coach Brett Brown said after the Sixers’ four-game winning streak came to a screeching halt. “That’s where we have to get better and get greedy. We had a successful road trip and we won some games and, yeah, we played a lot of games in a few days and had to fly from one end of the country to the other, but that’s the NBA. Everybody does it. You have to come on your home court and show the people that we’re getting better and we’re better than what we showed.

“That’s not us. That’s not who we are and a reflection of the improvement we have made.”

It was a rough one for the Sixers from the jump. Sure, they shot the ball well during the first half, connecting on 57.5 percent of their shots, including 59 percent of them in the first quarter. And Thad Young continued his white-hot play that got him Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with 13 points in the first quarter.

But 12 first-half turnovers -- eight of them in the second quarter -- led to 18 points for the Timberwolves. The Sixers were within six points with 3:27 to go in the first half, but six missed shots, a turnover, and a thin bench with Tony Wroten out with flu-like symptoms, opened the door for Minnesota to go on a 14-4 run to close the half.

From there, the Sixers got no closer than 18 points.

“It was a back-breaker for us. They were a step quicker,” said Young, who scored a team-high 20 points. “They were pushing it more. They were good defensively, but we didn’t make some plays we should have been making.”

The Sixers aren’t using tiredness, a short stop at home or a long cross-country flight as an excuse, though. After all, turnovers are typically caused by poor judgment or bad decisions. That’s the mental side of the game. The physical side may have left the Sixers a bit overwhelmed, too, but not enough to shoot nearly 60 percent during the first half.

The part that left Brown seething after the game was the mental aspect. The Sixers got down and then they checked out.

“It’s fair to point a finger at it from a physical side to a point, but that’s the hardness. That’s the evolution and the grooming of a program that has the ability to come back and move forward,” Brown explained. “I think there is a physical side of what you saw tonight, but the mental side of it upsets me far more. I feel that and see that far more than I see a fatigue side.”

Brown will get no argument from his players.

“After a while basketball is all mental,” said Evan Turner, who scored 13 points on nine shots in 25 minutes. “People get tired, but you really have to bounce back and stick together, especially with the squad we have.”

Brown and his 25-year-old veteran, Young, understand that the mental part of the game is where the true grind of the NBA season lies. Sure, the Sixers had to fly across the country after nearly three weeks on the road, only to leave a day later, but so what. Every team in the NBA has to make tough road trips.

No, the Sixers aren’t going to find a sympathetic ear from any of their brethren in the league.

“We didn’t get it done and that’s on me,” Brown said. “We have to find ways to keep moving forward and you can’t get too full of yourself. Complacency can’t creep in. It’s human nature to have a weakness and we had a weakness, and I feel like we didn’t show the qualities we have shown recently.”

The good part is the Sixers won’t have to wait long to get back out on the court. Only 90 minutes after the final horn sounded, the Sixers were on a flight to Cleveland for Tuesday’s game.

There’s no rest for the weary. That goes for mind and body.

NBA Notes: Serge Ibaka happy after surprise trade to Magic

NBA Notes: Serge Ibaka happy after surprise trade to Magic

ORLANDO, Fla. -- A week ago after waking up in Paris to flurry of congratulatory text messages, Serge Ibaka wasn't quite sure how to feel about the NBA draft night trade that landed him in Orlando.

But one text message in particular helped him feel better about his transition from the Oklahoma City Thunder -- a team contending for an NBA championship -- to a young team trying to figure out how to make the postseason.

"One of things that made me feel good at that moment was dad texted me," Ibaka said Thursday a news conference. "Before I could get excited and happy, my dad was happy. He congratulated me and said he was real happy for me. That's what changed everything at the moment.

"This is a business, and things happen for a reason. So I'm happy to be here and for my family and for my daughter" (see full story).

Mavericks: Center Mejri has knee surgery
DALLAS -- Mavericks center Salah Mejri has undergone arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, a procedure that isn't expected to sideline the 7-foot-2 Tunisian during the season.

Mejri, who had surgery Thursday, emerged as an energetic shot-blocker and rebounder in the second half of his rookie season in Dallas. He turned 30 in June.

While the Mavericks plan to pursue a starting center in free agency, they like the youth and promise in Mejri and the 6-11 Dwight Powell, who turns 25 in July. Powell is all Dallas has left to show for the ill-fated Rajon Rondo trade with Boston in December 2014.

Mejri averaged 3.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 34 games with six starts last season.

Clippers: Frank promoted to front office
LOS ANGELES -- The Clippers have promoted Lawrence Frank to executive vice president of basketball operations under Doc Rivers.

Frank has spent the last two seasons as an assistant under Rivers, who coaches the team and serves as president of basketball operations.

In his new job, Frank will oversee the basketball operations department and report to Rivers.

Frank coached the New Jersey Nets from 2003-10 and the Detroit Pistons from 2011-13. He was an assistant in Vancouver, New Jersey, Boston and Brooklyn before joining the Clippers.

Bucks: GM Hammond gets contract extension
A person with knowledge of the situation tells The Associated Press that the Milwaukee Bucks have extended the contract of general manager John Hammond through the 2017-18 season.

It's an extra year on Hammond's contract and the plan is for him to continue to serve as a consultant after that while assistant GM Justin Zanik takes over the main front office duties. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the Bucks have not announced the move.

Zanik was hired away from the Utah Jazz in June to be groomed as Hammond's successor.

Hammond has been the Bucks GM since 2008 and was the NBA's Executive of the Year in 2009-10. He has helped bring in promising youngsters including Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jabari Parker.

Yahoo Sports first reported the extension.

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. So don't make a big deal out of it. 

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) who in January 2014 erupted for 51 points in a loss to the Clippers and hit 10 of 17 from three. He hasn't scored 30 in a game since.

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.