Sixers-Heat: 5 things you need to know

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Sixers-Heat: 5 things you need to know

The Sixers’ season opener is here and the rebuilding team will get an early look at the NBA’s elite when it hosts the defending champion Miami Heat (1-0) on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. (CSN) and here are five things you need to know for the matchup:

1. Let’s start the show
The Sixers didn’t get any favors from the schedule makers, as they will open up the regular season against the Heat for the second time in the past four years.

The Heat are coming to town off a 107-95 win over the Chicago Bulls on opening night. They led by as many as 25 points before holding on late in the fourth quarter. The Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh accounted for 46 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists in the victory.

The Sixers will be trying to reverse some lopsided recent history against the Heat. They have lost nine straight to Miami and 19 of the last 20 matchups, including the postseason.

2. Hey, rookies
After spending over a decade in the Spurs' organization, Brett Brown gets his first taste of NBA life as a head coach when things get underway on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Michael Carter-Williams will find out how things really work in the league against the Heat when the 11th overall pick in June’s draft plays in his first regular-season game.

MCW showed poise running Brown’s offense during the preseason, racking up 31 assists to 10 turnovers in seven games. However, his suspect shooting was very clear. Carter-Williams shot just 32.8 percent from the field and 29.6 from three-point range.

3. Trying to fill it up
Speaking of points, who exactly can the Sixers rely on to score this season?

For a team that finished tied for last in the league in points per game a season ago (93.2), things don’t figure to get any easier with a roster full of young and inexperienced players.

Evan Turner averaged 17.3 points per game during the preseason to lead the Sixers. If ever there were a time for him to have a breakout season scoring-wise, this would be it (see story).

4. How many wins?
With the season opener officially here, the Sixers are truly staring one big question right in the face: How many wins will they record this season?

Clearly, president/general manager Sam Hinkie has made moves with the future in mind, such as trading away Jrue Holiday and the likely decision to sit rookie acquisition Nerlens Noel for the entire season. The roster is filled with complementary pieces and developmental players that could figure into the team's future with a few big-name lottery picks or what the Sixers hope turn out to be viable trade options.

Still, don’t expect them to openly embrace the thought of “tanking” or to challenge the 1972-73 Sixers’ NBA-worst mark of nine wins.

“No matter how you put it, losers sit there and say ... we’re going to lose,” Turner said. “I’m not a loser.”

The Vegas over/under for Sixers wins this season is 16½.

5. This and that
• The Sixers have a 4-6 mark in their last 10 season openers.

• The Sixers had a 23-18 record last season at the Wells Fargo Center.

• While it may be easy to think that James has dominated the Sixers recently -- and he has -- Wade was just as good a season ago. In three games against the Sixers last season, Wade averaged 25.3 points and shot a ridiculous 62.5 percent from the field.

• The Heat had seven players score in double figures during their season-opening win over the Bulls.

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Nerlens Noel’s recent comments on the logjam of big men on the Sixers' roster did not come as news to head coach Brett Brown. While Noel had not been this publicly outspoken on the issue, he and Brown have been having open discussions about it. 

“I have been talking to Nerlens a lot and I have a fondness for him,” Brown said Tuesday on the first day of training camp. “I don’t begrudge Nerlens Noel at all for what he said. I don’t have any problems with it.”

The Sixers' crowded frontcourt this season is a continuation of last season’s conundrum in which Brown was tasked with playing Noel and Jahlil Okafor, two natural centers, together. The depth has increased with the return of Joel Embiid and additions of Dario Saric and Ben Simmons. 

So when Noel doubled down on Monday by saying, "I don't see a way it can work,” Brown recognized where the center's opinions were coming from as he enters his fourth season in the NBA. 

“I feel if we do anything well, we communicate with our players freely,” Brown said. “It is one hundred percent transparent — hard conversations ahead, easy conversations ahead. I have spoken with Nerlens about this a lot. 

“My messaging and my mood and attitude and things that come out of my mouth haven’t changed once. I feel very confident that I’m giving him the advice that he should hear from me and it still allows me to do my job. 

“We have talked about it freely, like I have talked about it with Jahlil and Joel. Those situations are part of pro sports. They’re ever-present with me and us right now.”

Noel has been a rare mainstay among a revolving door of players over the past three years. He is in a unique situation with Brown in that the two have experienced a long list of the team’s ups and downs together. Noel feels comfortable talking honestly with Brown about his viewpoints. 

“I’ve known Brett probably longer than most guys here and we’ve built a different type of relationship,” Noel said. “It’s been very front and forward and we talk and we keep it real. That’s what he’s been doing with me and that’s why I’m able to continue to talk to him about myself and him just telling me what position I’ll be in — he’ll try to put me in — to succeed.”

With Brown having an understanding of Noel, his focus is on what Noel can bring to the team this season. He believes Noel has an edge over Embiid and Okafor for minutes early on because Noel is the only one among the trio starting camp without restrictions from previous injuries. 

There is a tough competition for playing time among the bigs, and camp is about proving oneself through basketball, not through personal opinions. Brown was impressed on the first day of camp by the manner in which Noel approached the morning practice amid the comments.

“He has handled it with me and in the training session today like a pro,” Brown said. “He came to mean it. He didn’t back down at all. There was no moping or sulking or him being stubborn. He played. That’s what he has to do. I think that’s a real reflection of anybody of how you handle adversity. Today he handled it like a true pro and a true competitor.”

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

The Sixers finished in the basement of the NBA standings last season with a league-low 10 wins. But with the influx of young talent and addition of a couple veterans to the roster, the Las Vegas oddsmakers are betting on the Sixers to make some strides upward in the 2016-17 standings.  

Last week, the WestGate Superbook in Las Vegas set the Sixers' over/under for wins this season at an optimistic 27½, which was the fourth-lowest projection in the league.

Similarly, while Bovada is projecting another season of basketball filled with mostly losses in Philadelphia, the sportsbook doesn't view the Sixers as a shoo-in to finish as the league's worst team for the second consecutive year.

Per Bovada, the Sixers have the fourth-longest odds (125/1) to capture the Atlantic Divison title for the first time since 2001-02, beating out the Nets (250/1) by a considerable margin.

The favorite to win the division is the Celtics at 20/21, trailed closely by the defending division champion Raptors (21/20). The Knicks are between the Raptors and Sixers at 10/1.

The Sixers (150/1) also edged out the Nets (200/1) in odds to win the Eastern Conference championship. The two teams in the conference directly ahead of the Sixers in that futures bet are the Hornets (100/1) and Magic (50/1).

The Cavaliers are the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference at 5/11, followed by the Celtics (5/1) and Raptors (14/1).

Least surprising of all futures odds, Bovada has the Sixers tied with four other teams for the longest odds to win the NBA title. The Nuggets, Kings, Nets and Suns were tied with the Sixers at 500/1 odds to win the Larry O'Brien trophy.

The early favorites to win it all are the same two teams that met in the 2016 NBA Finals. The Warriors are alone at top with the shortest odds at 4/5 trailed by the Cavaliers at 3/1.