Sixers-Heat: 5 things you need to know


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.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich blasts President Trump

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich blasts President Trump

CLEVELAND — Gregg Popovich would bench President Donald Trump.

San Antonio's longtime coach, who has been highly critical of Trump in the past, went on a lengthy rant about the new president on Saturday night, calling him a bully and saying he hopes he can change while in office.

While meeting with reporters before the Spurs played the NBA champion Cavaliers, Popovich didn't hold back in offering his disdain for Trump and members of his administration.

Popovich initially was asked about his views on the women's marches in Washington and around the world before he unloaded on Trump.

"Their message is obvious," the five-time champion coach said of the protesters. "Our president comes in with the lowest (approval) rating of anybody whoever came into the office. And there's a majority of people out there, since Hillary (Clinton) won the popular vote, that don't buy his act. And I just wish that he was more -- had the ability to be more -- mature enough to do something that really is inclusive rather than just talking and saying, `I'm going to include everybody.'

"He could talk to the groups that he disrespected and maligned during the primary and really make somebody believe it. But so far, we've got (to) a point where you really can't believe anything that comes out of his mouth. You really can't."

As he said following Trump's election in November, Popovich wants Trump to succeed but believes he will do so only if he changes.

Popovich pointed out that Trump visited CIA headquarters on his first official day in office, but used the occasion to talk about himself.

"Instead of honoring the 117 people behind him where he was speaking, he talked about the size of the crowd," Popovich said. "That's worrisome. I'd just feel better if somebody was in that position that showed the maturity and psychological and emotional level of somebody that was his age. It's dangerous and it doesn't do us any good. I hope he does a great job, but there's a difference between respecting the office of the presidency and who occupies it.

"And that respect has to be earned."

Popovich was also critical of those who don't hold Trump accountable for his words.

"It's hard to be respectful of someone when we all have kids and we're watching him be misogynistic and xenophobic and racist and make fun of handicapped people. And what really bothers me are the people around him: the Sean Spicers, the Kellyanne Conways, the Reince Priebuses that know who he is and actually have the cynical approach and disingenuous attitude to really defend him and try to make it look like he didn't say what he said.

"And so when he's mad at the media for them reporting what he said, that just boggles my mind."

Popovich said others would have been punished for some of the things Trump has said in the past, including when he mocked a reporter with a disability.

"If our children would've said it, we would have grounded him for six months," he said. "Without a doubt. But we ignore all that because, because why? That says something about all of us and that's what's dangerous, or that's what scares the hell out of me to this day. It makes me uneasy."

Popovich concluded his rant about Trump by decrying his inability to handle media criticism.

"It does boggle the mind how somebody can be so thin skinned," he said. "It's all obvious, it's about him. If anything affects him, if it's `Saturday Night Live' or `Hamilton,' or she got 3 more million votes than you. `They're illegal.' It doesn't matter what it is, there's a pattern there. And that's dangerous. I'd like to have someone with gravitas, but he got there through the electoral college, which is part of our system, and I hope he does some good things.

"There was a young lady on today who said, `I just wished he had gone up there and said something like, and I know I said certain things, or you know I would really like to bring the people who don't feel, or I know some of you are scared.' But he can't do that because bullies don't do that. That's why."

Sixers' Chasson Randle trying to make a difference for troubled youth

Sixers' Chasson Randle trying to make a difference for troubled youth

Chasson Randle can’t help but think what more he could have done to help. He was barely a teenager at the time, but years later he still racks his mind for something — anything — that would have redirected them to the right path.

There was the friend who could dunk by the time he was in seventh grade, the real hyped talent always head and shoulders above the rest. He got caught up in the wrong crowd, left town and people have since lost track of him.

Then there was the other friend who was undersized but had the speed that gave him a chance to be special on the court. He, too, fell in with the wrong people. He was shot and killed.

“Things like that happen that I wish I could take back. What could I say to my friends back then that could have kept us all in the circle?” Randle said. “We’re talking sixth, seventh, eighth grade. These guys, I hate to say it, got involved in the wrong stuff early. I’m the type of guy who tries to lead by example when I can. We had them around our families, gave them rides to tournaments. We would try to talk about the right things, but it’s the things when you’re not around. What are those people saying to you? What are you doing in those moments you aren’t with each other?”

Randle has transformed those nagging questions into a cause. The Sixers' point guard speaks with inmates at the Scott County Juvenile Detention Center in Davenport, Iowa, whenever he returns home to Rock Island, Illinois.

Randle got involved with the center through his eighth grade basketball coach Harlee Miller, who now works there. Miller instilled lessons of respect that stuck with Randle and are apparent through his interactions. Randle greets reporters with a firm handshake and makes it a point to stand up at his locker for interviews. When Randle had an opportunity to echo those values imparted by Miller to others, he embraced it.

“It’s about trying to reach out to the kids and give them some kind of inspiration and positive motivation to do better,” he said.

Randle wasn’t a troublemaker. His neighborhood wasn't one where he had to escape problems but if someone wanted to find some, as in most settings, they could. Randle emerged as a standout high school basketball player and went on to become Stanford’s all-time leading scorer. He also completed his undergraduate degree ahead of his senior year and began working toward his master’s in psychology, all while pursuing an NBA career.

With those gleaming accomplishments, how could he relate to those at the detention center? When Randle’s friends went astray, he saw firsthand the negative effects of their misguided decisions, from stealing cars to drugs to gangs.

“It’s easy for me (to relate) because I grew up with those type of kids. I played basketball with them," Randle said. "Some of my close friends didn’t make it, they got caught up in it. I had examples in front of me of seeing how things went for people when they went the other way. I didn’t want to be that guy. I’ve seen people go this way before, let me go that way.”

Randle estimates he has made 10 visits to the center. A basketball court on the property provided the perfect setting to make a connection that had a long-lasting impact.

“There was one kid who was in there for getting in trouble in school, he was involved with gang stuff,” Randle said. “He was into basketball so we got to shoot hoops together. The last time I came back (home), I went to the mall and I saw him out. That was pretty cool. He was telling me he appreciated me spending time with him. For me, that’s gratifying.”

Randle's off-the-court demeanor was not lost on the Sixers when they brought him on board for a 10-day contract and re-signed him to a second contract Friday. In addition to stepping in without hesitation and scoring 10 points (including two threes) in his NBA debut, Brett Brown noted the weight Randle's reputation carries.

"He's a four-year Stanford graduate that comes with a very distinct pedigree and intellect and maturity that adds to 'team,'" Brown said. "Albeit new, he really adds to what we're trying to build in relation to the guys that we invite in our program. He's a high character guy."

Randle is achieving his goals. For all his childhood friends who didn’t, he hopes those he meets now can. 

“I wish I could have had more of an impact on my friends,” Randle said. “I feel like it’s my responsibility to try to reach and touch somebody. If I can touch one, then I feel like I’ve done something.”