Sixers-Celtics: 5 things you need to know

sixers-celtics-matchup.jpg

Sixers-Celtics: 5 things you need to know

Nearly 50 games into the season and the Sixers finally get a chance to face the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night at the TD Garden (7:30 p.m./CSN).

Though the Sixers and Celtics dwell in the cellar of the division, the storied rivalry is as heated as ever. Both clubs are in full rebuilding mode and appear to be in a race to acquire the most ping-pong balls for next June’s draft.

At 14-31, the Sixers hold a slight advantage, but the Celtics, at 15-32, have lost 14 of their last 16 games.

Here are a few things to know about Wednesday’s game:

1. MCW vs. Rondo
Michael Carter-Williams’ latest point-guard test is against Rajon Rondo, the wily veteran who collects triple-doubles the way kids used to collect baseball cards. The thing about this matchup is Carter-Williams will face Rondo in the just the seventh game this season for the Celtics point guard and Rondo's first in a back-to-back.

Fresh off rehab to repair a torn ACL, Rondo is still finding his way back, averaging just 6.6 points and 5.8 assists per game. He also hasn’t played more than 30 minutes in a game, and he's scored more than eight points just once.

Carter-Williams, on the other hand, is on his way to the Rookie of the Year Award. Though he has been slightly inconsistent over the past few weeks, Carter-Williams still averaged 20 points, 5.2 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game over his last five.

2. Back to Boston
Carter-Williams, from nearby Hamilton, Mass., isn’t the only member of the Sixers headed for a home game of sorts. Coach Brett Brown is from South Portland, Maine and played college ball at Boston University where he played games at the old Boston Garden.

Brown grew up following the Sixers-Celtics rivalry and has vivid memories of Andrew Toney, "The Boston Strangler," wrecking the Celtics during the 1981 and 1982 Eastern Conference Finals.

“I can still hear the NBA music and introduction to the NBA Game of the Week. To travel down to the Garden and be able to see [George] McGinnis and Julius Erving and Bobby Jones and [Andrew] Toney, [Maurice] Cheeks and Doug [Collins] play,” Brown said after Tuesday’s practice at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. “I just couldn’t believe how Andrew Toney would just kick the Celtics’ tail. To me, he was unguardable. He was just such a one-on-one, triple threat. Rock-a-step, rock-a-step threat. He was a big part of my upbringing and my memory of the NBA, more so than the Celtics-Lakers battles.”

Additionally, injured center Nerlens Noel is from Malden, Mass. and grew up playing ball with Carter-Williams.

Needless to say, it will be a big homecoming for a few in the Sixers’ traveling party.

3. Turner getting warm
The Feb. 20 trade deadline is slowly creeping up and, coincidentally, Evan Turner’s production has taken a slight uptick lately, too.

In his last 10 games, Turner is shooting 44.7 percent from the floor, 40 percent from three-point range and 85.1 percent from the line. In his last four games, Turner has found his scoring stroke, pouring in 34 against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden and 21 against the Suns on Monday night. Over the last four games, Turner is 29 for 62 from the floor (4 for 9 from three-point range) and 21 for 23 from the foul line.

Could better numbers get Turner traded before the deadline? Maybe not. Then again, it doesn’t hurt.

4. Fast and slow
The Sixers lead the NBA in pace with 99.6 possessions per 48 minutes. No other team is within two possessions of the Sixers, who also lead the NBA with 88.5 shots per game.

The Celtics also get a lot of shots per game -- 82.8 per game for the seventh-most in the league.

The difference is in the way the teams get their shots. The Sixers run up and down the court and launch themselves at the rim. The thought is that more possessions and more shots will produce more points. With 101.3 points per game, there is something to that.

Of course, the Sixers open themselves up to turnovers and having their shots blocked, two more categories in which they lead the NBA.

The Celtics are much more deliberate. They get just 93.2 possessions per game, well below the league average, and just 94.7 points per game, 27th in the league. Though they get plenty of shots, the Celtics shoot just 43.7 percent, better than only four teams in the league.

In other words, expect a lot of rebounds on Wednesday night ... for both teams.

5. Injuries
Arnett Moultrie’s ankle is, “100 percent,” according to Brown, but the second-year forward still needs to get into shape before returning to game action.

Brandon Davies (finger), Jason Richardson (knee) and Noel (knee) are out.

For the Celtics, Jerryd Bayless (toe) and guard Avery Bradley (ankle) are likely out. Keith Bogans (personal reasons) has been away from the team since Jan. 14 and will not return for the foreseeable future.

Dario Saric reportedly says he's coming to Sixers, but Colangelo still cautious

Dario Saric reportedly says he's coming to Sixers, but Colangelo still cautious

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. 

Sixers exercise team option on G/F Hollis Thompson

Sixers exercise team option on G/F Hollis Thompson

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. 

Sixers free-agent fits: Small forwards — Superstars, Barnes, Parsons and more

Sixers free-agent fits: Small forwards — Superstars, Barnes, Parsons and more

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

Sixers small forwards for 2016-17
Robert Covington (guaranteed — $1,015,696)

Jerami Grant (guaranteed — $980,431)

Current SF situation
When you're a 10-win team, you need help just about everywhere. Small forward is no exception for the Sixers.

Covington worked hard all last offseason to become a more well-rounded player and it paid off in some aspects. He grabbed a career-high 6.3 rebounds and was a much better on-ball defender than the previous season. However, with more freedom the three-point specialist's offensive production actually dropped a bit. Covington's points (13.5 to 12.8), field goal percentage (39.6 to 38.5) and three-point percentage (37.4 to 35.3) all took a dip in 2015-16.

Grant took the next step in his progression last season, but there is still a long way to go. The 22-year-old increased his scoring to 9.7 points per game and rebounding to 4.7 a night while also bumping his field goal percentage from 35.2 percent to 41.9. He also proved to be one of the game's emerging defenders with 1.6 blocks a game (12th in the entire NBA). But with the Sixers already having so many players operating in the paint, they would prefer Grant to step outside to develop his jump shot. That didn't go well at all, as he managed to sink just 35 of his 146 three-point attempts (24.0) a season ago.

The Sixers could get a boost on the wing if international prospects Dario Saric or Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot join the club. Luwawu-Cabarrot is more likely to strike a deal, but either way it will be tough to ask a rookie who is also new to the United States to come in and contribute at the game's highest level right away.

Reach free agent(s)

LeBron James and Kevin Durant
Nope. Not going to happen. Moving right along.

Possible fits

Harrison Barnes (restricted)
Yes, we saw the memes with Barnes' face Photoshopped onto milk cartons and trash cans after the Finals. They were both hilarious and semi-accurate after a postseason performance in which he averaged 9.0 points per game on 38.5 percent shooting. However, we're not ready to write Barnes off after a rough two-month stretch and reportedly neither are the Sixers. Barnes, 24, proved to be a key cog of the Warriors' record 73-win team. He put up a career-high 11.7 points on 46.6 percent shooting from the field and 38.3 percent from three-point range. That level of consistent floor spacing with the ability to grab rebounds (4.9 per game) and still slash to the rim is exactly what the Sixers need. The big question is will they get that same package or was that just the benefit of Barnes playing with a star-studded Golden State team that won a record 73 games during the regular season?

Nicolas Batum (unrestricted)
Perhaps the most versatile of all the free-agent small forwards, Batum had a strong first season in Charlotte. The Frenchman averaged a career-high 14.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.8 assists in 35.0 minutes a game for the up-and-coming Hornets. Batum would be a huge upgrade for the Sixers as he doesn't need the ball to be effective, uses his length to play lockdown defense and drains enough three-pointers to keep defenses honest (career 36.0 percent shooter from long range). At 27 years old along with a wealth of NBA and international experience, Batum would instantly be a leader for this young Sixers group. But without ever winning on the top levels of competition, Batum might opt for a more championship-ready team than the rebuilding 76ers.

Chandler Parsons (unrestricted)
A source close to Parsons told ESPN last week that the small forward would be "all ears" during free agency after declining his player option with the Dallas Mavericks. Parsons doubled down on that notion with an Instagram post. He will likely only start listening once the max offers cross his agent's desk. Parsons, a 2011 second-rond pick, has worked his way into being one of the more well-rounded players at his position. He posted 13.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game for the Mavs while shooting 49.2 percent from the field and 41.4. Parsons is the classic 3-and-D player the Sixers have been coveting for years ... if he's healthy. He has been shut down in each of the past two seasons with knee injuries, which both led to surgeries. The Sixers would need to be absolutely certain Parsons is back to full health before throwing that kind of money at him to sign in Philly.

Kent Bazemore (unrestricted)
The name may not be the sexiest out there, but he can ball. After going undrafted and biding his time with the Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers and Atlanta Hawks for several seasons, Bazemore broke out in his first consistent stint as a starter in 2015-16. In 27.8 minutes a night, he put up 11.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 steals. The 26-year-old Bazemore's athleticism fits right into Brett Brown's desire to get out and run while his defensive intensity would help boost a team that needs all the help it can get on that end of the floor. A bonus is the fact he can sink shots from beyond the arc when left open (35.7 percent from three-point range). Doubtful that he will ever turn into a guy you can count on for 20-plus points a night, but would still be a pretty solid fit in a Sixers uniform if they miss out on their other top targets.