Sixers CEO O'Neil urges patience during rebuild

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Sixers CEO O'Neil urges patience during rebuild

The Sixers are sick of mediocrity, and new CEO Scott O'Neil wants fans to know it.

While next season's prospects look uncertain at the moment, ownership has made moves with an eye toward the long haul.

Appearing on "Philly Sports Talk" on Thursday, O'Neil discussed the franchise's goals and future plans.

"Sam (Hinkie) has set us up with cap flexibility to make some moves that will set us up for long-term, sustainable greatness," O'Neil said. "We don't want to flex between 38 and 42 [wins]. We can do that. We've done it. We've done it for a decade. We're not happy with that, the fans aren't happy with that and we're going to have to make some changes to make sure we're going in the right direction."

Historically, the NBA has been dominated by large markets. And while Philadelphia is the nation's fourth-largest media market, the Sixers aren't a team that has been able to lure free agents.

With that in mind, it's crucial that the Sixers build through the draft, much the way the Oklahoma City Thunder built their budding young franchise.

"We love getting two lottery picks this year," O'Neil said. "We love the fact that we have two No. 1's (first-round picks), in the deepest draft -- the pundits are saying the deepest draft -- since '04. You know that draft, right? LeBron, Wade, Bosh, 'Melo."

For clarity's sake, the draft that O'Neil's referencing is the 2003 NBA draft, one that has produced eight All-Stars -- four selected in the top five -- to date.

The 2014 draft has the potential to be the best in more than a decade, with prospects like Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Jabari Parker, Aaron Gordon, Dante Exum and Marcus Smart all able to declare next spring.

Despite a future filled with promise, the organization is working on rehabilitating its image after mortgaging present success and future building blocks on Andrew Bynum.

Responding to a question regarding fans' bitterness and complaints about the Bynum situation, O'Neil focused on what's to come, not what transpired a year ago.

"We certainly hear it. Where our focus is when we hear it is pretty clearly to talk about what the plan is, and we like this plan," he said. 

However, the most pressing issue facing the Sixers is their current need for a head coach. According to a report last week, the team has narrowed its list down to Michael Curry or San Antonio Spurs' assistant Brett Brown. Still, the organization has been tight-lipped regarding the search.

Speaking on the lengthy process, O'Neil preached patience.

"I understand some of the questions, and I guess I would pose it to the fans to really ask themselves would they rather have this soon or right?" he asked. "We're always going to choose right."

Best of NBA: Rockets overcome Russell Westbrook's 7th straight triple-double

Best of NBA: Rockets overcome Russell Westbrook's 7th straight triple-double

OKLAHOMA CITY -- James Harden scored 21 points, and the Houston Rockets overcame Russell Westbrook's seventh consecutive triple-double to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 102-99 on Friday night.

Harden also had 12 assists and nine rebounds to help the Rockets win their fifth straight. Houston withstood Harden's 6-for-23 shooting effort.

Westbrook finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. He has the longest triple-double streak since Michael Jordan had seven straight in 1989. The most in a row is nine by Philadelphia's Wilt Chamberlain in March 1968.

It was Westbrook's 12th triple-double this season and the 49th of his career. He is the NBA's active leader in the category and ranks sixth all-time.

The Thunder had won the previous six games during Westbrook's triple-double binge (see full story).

James moves into 9th on scoring list as Cavs top Heat
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 27 points to move into ninth place on the NBA scoring list, and the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Miami Heat 114-84 on Friday night.

James passed Elvin Hayes on a driving layup with 6:58 remaining and has 27,315 career points. The four-time MVP was removed about a minute later and received a loud ovation from the Cleveland crowd.

Kevin Love, a game-time decision because of back spasms, scored a team-high 28 points and had 15 rebounds for the Cavaliers. He missed the morning shootaround but was in the lineup after warming up on the court about an hour before tip-off.

Kyrie Irving added 23 points for the Cavs, who have won three straight after losing three in a row.

Derrick Williams scored 17 points to lead the short-handed Heat, who have lost four straight (see full story). 

Schroder has career-high 33, Hawks rally past Bucks
MILWAUKEE -- Dennis Schroder scored a career-high 33 points and the Atlanta Hawks rallied from 20 down in the second half to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 114-110 on Friday night.

Paul Millsap had 23 points and 14 rebounds for Atlanta. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 18.

The Hawks, who ended a seven-game losing streak Wednesday with a win over Miami, trailed by 20 at halftime. A 40-point third quarter put them back in the game.

Jabari Parker scored 27 for Milwaukee. Giannis Antetokounmpo, in foul trouble throughout the game, had 14.

Atlanta pulled ahead 105-103 on Kyle Korver's jumper with 3:15 remaining, giving the Hawks their first lead since early in the game (see full story). 

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

NEW ORLEANS -- Of all the players Joel Embiid could be compared to, a similarity between a 7-foot-2, 270-something-pound center and a 6-foot-3, 190-pound point guard wouldn’t seem like a match.

That’s exactly what Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry sees, however, when looking at Embiid and reigning MVP Steph Curry.

“He’s different than anybody that’s been in this league in a long, long time,” Gentry said Thursday before the Sixers win over the Pelicans. “He’s a tremendous talent, he really is. I’ve never seen a guy that size, and with that kind of strength, that’s got such a soft touch. He shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry. It’s so soft when it leaves his hand.”

Curry is shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 40.1 percent from three. Embiid is 45.8 percent from the floor is 44.2 percent from long range.

Embiid flashed a big smile and paused to react when hearing of Gentry’s praise. He had been feeling hard on himself after going 0 for 5 beyond the arc against the Pelicans (see story).

“Steph is probably one of the best shooters in the league right now," Embiid said. "So that compliment means a lot."