The Sixers simply can't catch a break

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The Sixers simply can't catch a break

The Sixers got more bad news. Is there any other kind for them?

Thaddeus Young has had his best season as a professional. He leads the Sixers in rebounds per game (7.6) and he’s fifth in the NBA in points in the paint. He’s played good defense, too. Doug Collins called him the Sixers' “most important player.” When Young went down with a hamstring injury on Monday, it was obviously unfortunate for a team that hasn’t had many positive headlines this year.

That trend continued on Wednesday. The Sixers faced the Indiana Pacers, a good team but a team that was playing its third game in three nights. It didn’t go well for the Sixers. They got thumped 88-69 at the Wells Fargo Center. It was a season-low point total for the Sixers.

“[The Pacers] can get you in the mud,” Collins said. “And that’s what they did tonight. They got us where we just stood around. They can throw that ball in the post and pound you … I don’t even know. We looked like a team that played 10 games in 10 nights. That’s the kind of energy we played with [Wednesday].”

During the ugly outing -- which snapped a three-game winning streak for the Sixers -- it was reported that Jason Richardson will have surgery on his knee next week and is done for the year. According to a Sixers spokesman, Richardson recently saw his third specialist, Dr. Jonathan Glashow from Mount Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan. Richardson is expected to see a fourth specialist “as early as [Thursday],” the spokesman said. The team also added that no decision on surgery has been made yet.

Either way, it was not a cheery update on the 32-year-old shooting guard. (To review, the Sixers apparently got one good knee out of four in the Andrew Bynum/Richardson deal.) Add all that -- the injuries to Young and Richardson, along with the regular and lasting on-court struggles -- to the seemingly never-ending Bynum saga and you have a pretty sad season for the franchise so far.

“It’s part of basketball,” Spencer Hawes said. “Guys go down and everybody has dealt with it. We’ve been lucky up until this point to not really have anything major. You know, [Jason Richardson], outside of him, guys haven’t really been out for any long period of time. With Thad out, it’s an opportunity for a lot of guys.”

An opportunity? Perhaps that’s true for individual players. Maybe Arnett Moultrie will get more minutes now. He had his best game as a pro against the Pacers. That’s not such a grand statement considering he’s played in just 15 games this season and spent time in the D-League. Still, Moultrie had 12 points and was on the floor for over 20 minutes against Indiana, his best numbers on both fronts this year. Sixers CEO Adam Aron was so excited at one point that he tweeted this:

“Not sure who is hotter right now Sxers Dream Team in black or Arnett Moultrie, in his best game so far.”

So there’s that. An opportunity for Moultrie. He’s probably excited. That’s about as good as it gets at the moment. The Sixers had big hopes for this year, but those aspirations are fading quickly. They are 21-27, which puts them four games behind the Boston Celtics for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They are also just four games ahead of the sad-sap Detroit Pistons in the postseason race. Right now, the Sixers are adrift.

The fans know it. It’s become a national laugh line, actually. One Philly resident tweeted about buying 18 tickets to the Pacers game for less than $1 -- not $1 each, $1 total. It was quickly picked up by Deadspin and lampooned.

It’s OK, though. The Sixers appear to be in on the gag. Consider this exchange between one reporter and Collins after the Indiana defeat:

Reporter: “It looked like you went to a lot of zone to try to combat their size.”

Collins: “We didn’t play any zone tonight.”

Reporter: “Really?”

Collins: “None.”

Pause.

“Maybe we were just standing,” Collins quipped. “It looked like we were playing zone.”

At least they still have a sense of humor.

Cold can't keep Joel Embiid away from first Sixers practice

Cold can't keep Joel Embiid away from first Sixers practice

STOCKTON, N.J. — Joel Embiid awoke Tuesday morning and was still feeling ill from a cold and virus he has been battling since last Friday. He had been coughing, experiencing a bloody nose and even vomiting, but all those symptoms could not stop him from a day he has been eyeing for over two years: his first NBA practice.

Embiid had stayed back in Philadelphia on Monday night while the Sixers traveled to training camp at Stockton University in South Jersey. On Tuesday, he decided to leave the city and join the team on campus.

“I woke up this morning and I was like, ‘I waited too long for this time, so I’ve got to go and try to do some work in there,’” Embiid said.

Embiid had been sidelined by foot injuries since the Sixers drafted him third overall in 2014. Tuesday marked his first NBA practice, and he is eyeing his first preseason game next Tuesday against the Celtics.

Embiid was not expected to be part of training camp Tuesday because of his illness. He surprised the team when he arrived while practice was underway. The Sixers' medical staff cleared him before he took the court.

“He forced himself into practice today,” head coach Brett Brown said. “He said, ‘I feel good, I want to go.’ With the time that he has put in the last few years, he meant it. You respected that instruction.”

Embiid is following a minutes restriction during training camp, which currently is 25 minutes for the morning session and 20 minutes for the evening session. His previous physical restrictions have been lifted and the team is monitoring him for workload and time on the court.

“I step back and figure out how do I want to spend my money?” Brown said. “If we’ve got X amount of time, where do I feel like he can make the most improvement? Where do I feel like he’s going to have the best chance to get on the court and play minutes, as we expect against the Celtics?”

Tuesday morning’s session focused on the defensive end. While Embiid had trouble breathing at points and tired quickly, he made an effort to give 100 percent on the court. The only lags in Embiid’s game Brown noticed were attributed to his illness, not because of his foot.

“I don’t think he’s missed a beat from a great month of September,” Brown said.

The Sixers sensed the enthusiasm from Embiid. Regardless of his restrictions, his energy was felt among the team.

“When he did get in, he played well,” Ben Simmons said. “He’s a big inside presence. He got a lot of boards and crashed the offensive glass.”

Added Jahlil Okafor: "He’s excited to be here. Obviously, he’s had a couple tough years with his injuries that he couldn’t control. But he’s finally here and he’s taking advantage of that."

The Sixers will hold training camp through Friday at Stockton University. Embiid is looking to push past any symptoms to be on the court as much as he can.

Nerlens Noel's complaints only damage Sixers' trade leverage

Nerlens Noel's complaints only damage Sixers' trade leverage

Silence is golden.

It's a phrase uttered often by parents and teachers. It can also be an effective phrase when dealing with negotiations.

I'm not revealing a big secret by saying the Sixers have a logjam in their frontcourt. At some point, something has to give.

Nerlens Noel, a key component of the aforementioned logjam, doubled down on his quotes from over the weekend about the Sixers' "silly" frontcourt situation.

"I don't see a way it can work," Noel said on Monday. "It's just a logjam. You have three young, talented centers that can play 30-plus minutes a night."

Uh-oh.

Bryan Colangelo acknowledged that teams have been trying to "poach" a big man off him. He's been adamant in saying that he's not shopping any of his bigs. For leverage purposes, that's wise.

Any leverage Colangelo may have accrued through his media tour this summer took a hit. With the health of Joel Embiid still a question mark, it's important that the Sixers take a wait-and-see approach to their situation. Noel may have just put a damper on that plan.

I'm not advocating for the trade of Noel and keeping Jahlil Okafor. In fact, I've said that if Embiid proves he's healthy, I'd move both Noel and Okafor if the value was appropriate.

There can be arguments made for keeping Noel over the other two centers. His athleticism and rim protection skills fit Brett Brown's system and the way the NBA is trending. And it's important to note that Noel isn't wrong. It won't benefit him to take a cut in minutes. It won't help Okafor either. It's not the most pleasant situation to be sure. He has every right to be unhappy, but getting the media involved doesn't benefit Noel or the Sixers.

Anyone in any job should have the right to speak out if they feel they're being slighted, but sometimes you have to "play the game." If Noel were a poker player, he just revealed his hand. He should've shown up, said the right things and allowed Colangelo to negotiate a deal.

The best parallel is what the Eagles and Sam Bradford went through this offseason. Bradford was unhappy the Eagles traded valuable draft picks to acquire Carson Wentz. Understandable, but when he threw his rattle down and sat out part of camp, it helped nobody. The Broncos tried to lowball Howie Roseman, figuring Roseman had no leverage with Bradford's intent to get traded out of town. Roseman stood his ground and the Eagles were able to hold the Vikings hostage when Teddy Bridgewater suffered a season-ending knee injury.

It's not something you hope for by any means, but these things happen. Players get hurt and teams are left scrambling to find a replacement. Take a look at the Chris Bosh situation with the Miami Heat. Bosh, who's had a tremendous career, will likely never play again because of issues with blood clots. The Heat are likely not a match for the Sixers given defensive-minded center Hassan Whiteside's new contract, but the point is that you never know what will happen between now and opening night.

For Bradford, it was resolved just a week before the season started. If Noel follows suit with Bradford, perhaps there will be a similar solution.

"Things need to get situated," Noel said. "I think things obviously need to be moved around, someone needs to be moved around. It's just a tough situation. I can't really say too much because I have no say in the matter, so obviously that's for who can handle the situation in the right manner."

Well, Nerlens, you said too much already.