Sixers-Hawks: 5 things you need to know


Sixers-Hawks: 5 things you need to know

Fresh off the dramatic victory over the Celtics on Evan Turner’s floater at the buzzer, the Sixers host the hot-shooting and well-rested Atlanta Hawks on Friday night.

Here are a few things to look for in the Sixers-Hawks matchup:

1. Rest for the weary
After playing three games in four days with trips to Milwaukee and Oklahoma City, the Hawks got an unexpected night off on Wednesday when a couple inches of snow and ice shut down Atlanta and postponed a game with the Pistons.

As a result, the Hawks haven’t played since Monday, which is a nice respite for a team that features four players 30 or older and has a few injuries.

Meanwhile, the Sixers are 5-9 in games following a victory this season and have won two in a row just twice this season. The Sixers haven’t won back-to-back games since Jan. 4 when they followed up a victory over Sacramento with one in Portland.

2. First-timers club
The Hawks come to town a day after power forward Paul Millsap was named to his first All-Star team. In his eighth season and first in Atlanta after spending the previous seven years in Utah, Millsap leads the Hawks in scoring (18.6 per game) and rebounding (8.4).

For those into the advanced statistics, Millsap has a 20.3 PER (a measure of a player's per-minute production), which is the 10th best among active players in the Eastern Conference.

At 6-foot-8, Millsap is a bruiser in the frontcourt and has 16 double-doubles this season.

3. Hey, remember us?
There are several ex-Sixers on the Hawks' roster. Among them, sharpshooter Kyle Korver has been the most notable this season by setting the still-growing record for most consecutive games with a three-pointer.

Korver has hit a three-pointer in every game he has appeared in since opening night of the 2012-13 season, a streak of 113 games. Korver is shooting an incredible 45.8 percent (296 for 646) from beyond the arc during the streak.

Lou Williams returned from an ACL injury ahead of schedule and has appeared in 31 games for the Hawks this season, averaging 9.6 points in 23.5 minute per game. Williams will be making his second appearance in Philadelphia with the Hawks after seven seasons with the Sixers.

Elton Brand is playing with his second team since the Sixers used the amnesty clause on him after the 2011-12 season. Following a season in Dallas, Brand, 34, is happily playing a reduced role off the bench for the Hawks.

Though he plays a little under 15 minutes a night, Brand is still a defensive presence. In limited playing time, Brand has 10 games in which he has blocked at least two shots and six games in which he swatted away three shots.

The Hawks also have guard Shelvin Mack, who appeared in four games with the Sixers while on a 10-day contract last season. For the Hawks, Mack averages 7.7 points and nearly 20 minutes per game.

4. Tricks of the trade
Sixers first-year coach Brett Brown will go against old friend, Mike Budenholzer, of the Hawks. Brown and Budenholzer were members of Gregg Popovich’s coaching staff in San Antonio for the past two decades and are breaking in as head coaches in the same season.

In other words, everything Brown knows about coaching, Budenholzer knows, too. And vice versa.

5. Injuries and miscellany
Arnett Moultrie (ankle) is still working himself into game shape. Last week, Brown said Moultrie’s ankle is fully recovered, but he’s not quite game ready.

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

For the Hawks, Pero Antic (ankle), Al Horford (pectoral surgery) and John Jenkins (leg) are out. Flashy guard Jeff Teague is a game-time decision after spraining his ankle in San Antonio last week.

• Thad Young is averaging 3.2 steals per game over the last 10.

• Atlanta’s second-year forward Mike Scott is shooting 53.3 percent and averaging more than 13 points over his last 10 games.

• Korver has missed just three foul shots this season. He has hit his last 23 and hasn’t missed from the free-throw line since Dec. 10.

• Sixers starting shooting guard James Anderson is shooting 53.3 percent from the field in his last 10 games, but just 23.1 percent from three-point range.

Sixers 'all over the place' different without Ben Simmons

Sixers 'all over the place' different without Ben Simmons

CAMDEN, N.J. — It has been over three weeks since Ben Simmons suffered an acute Jones fracture in his right foot during the final scrimmage of training camp. The Sixers had constructed schemes around the rookie point-forward and watched unconventional lineups play out at Stockton University.

Those “can’t-wait-to-see” situations have been delayed to “wait-and-see” as Simmons recovers.

“Where do you begin?” Brett Brown said after practice Sunday. “I could talk for three days on what’s different without Ben Simmons. It’s all-over-the-place different. The core values of how you want to do different things there remain the same, but the whole landscape changed.”

This week was supposed to be the debut of a new-look system featuring a player who could influence the game with his versatility and athleticism. Brown even had experimented with pairing Simmons and Dario Saric at the two and three positions. Instead, the Sixers once again will start a regular season shorthanded by injuries.

Simmons was projected to start at power forward and also handle point responsibilities. His multitasking lessened the need for the Sixers to find a standout point guard this summer. They signed veteran Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez, who is returning to the NBA for his second stint.

Bayless was expected to start, with the intention of Simmons running the floor at times. Now, neither can play. Bayless has been sidelined by a ligament injury in his left wrist. The Sixers announced on Friday that Bayless will have a non-surgical rehab and will be reevaluated in two weeks.

Brown on Sunday was undecided on whether Rodriguez or second-year point guard T.J. McConnell would start at the one on opening night.

“He was going to be one of the primary ballhandlers,” Brown said of Simmons. “And with that, floor spots and spacing and how you actually set this thing up changes dramatically.”

The players also have noticed a change without Simmons in the backcourt. Joel Embiid, playing his first season after missing the past two with foot injuries, found himself struggling with his shot selection early on in the preseason. He got glimpses in camp of how Simmons could improve that.

“He’s such a big presence and he’s really important to us,” Embiid said. “He just makes plays. I’ve been rushing shots and that’s where it comes in play. Someone like him can help me get better shots because he can get me easy baskets.”

Simmons’ absence also fast-forwarded Saric’s transition in his first NBA season. The injuries to Simmons and Jahlil Okafor (right knee) have pushed Saric into the starting power forward role during the preseason. The rookie has been learning on the go in a new league.

“He has been thrown into the fire,” Brown said of Saric last week (see story).

Simmons recently went through a two-week, post-operative exam and had sutures removed. He is working on day-to-day rehab with the Sixers' staff while also spending time talking with Brown. The team is implementing a multi-faceted recovery program of education, health and shot improvement.

This includes meeting with Brown to break down his game — where it is now and where it can develop in the future. Brown wants to make sure Simmons knows the ins and outs of the system so he is best prepared to begin his rookie season once cleared to play.

“I think that part of my excitement is I get with Ben every day while we’re here and go into my office for half-an-hour and it’s like basketball-NBA 101,” Brown said.

That’s one aspect of Simmons’ injury for which Brown can prepare.

Sixers sign former Temple great Dionte Christmas

Sixers sign former Temple great Dionte Christmas

Hours before Monday's 5 p.m. NBA deadline to finalize rosters for opening night, the Sixers signed former Temple guard Dionte Christmas.

Christmas, now 30, hasn't played in an NBA regular-season game since 2013-14, when he appeared in the only 31 contests of his career with the Suns.

He was a standout at Temple, where he averaged 15.7 points and 4.4 rebounds in 130 games, leading the Atlantic 10 in scoring in three consecutive seasons.

Christmas played in the NBA Summer League six years in a row after going undrafted in 2009. He was originally signed by the Sixers in September 2009 after playing with them that summer in Orlando.

Christmas has also spent seven seasons overseas, most recently with Torku Konyaspor Basket in Turkey.

The Sixers now have 20 players on their roster. They have five cuts to make by 5 p.m and likely roster casualties include Brandon Paul, James Webb III, Cat Barber and Shawn Long.