Sixers sluggish in 'terrible' loss to Timberwolves

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Sixers sluggish in 'terrible' loss to Timberwolves

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MINNEAPOLIS -- One of the worst things that can happen over the course of an NBA season is for a team to find itself out of the playoff hunt with plenty of the regular season left to play.

The Sixers are on the verge of being in that predicament.

It started with a loss in Milwaukee before the All-Star break and continued with a dismal showing in Minnesota on Wednesday night during a 94-87 loss to the Timberwolves (see Instant Replay).

The Sixers are now eight games under .500 (22-30) with 30 games to play in the regular season.

The final scoreboard displayed all the evidence of another defeat, but the lasting impression for Doug Collins was the first quarter in which the Sixers gave up 35 points and allowed Minnesota to shoot 59 percent from the floor.

“We played terribly,” Collins said. “I don't know what else to say. It was terrible. No energy, no life at all. It was terrible. I can't candy-coat it any more than that. The only thing we did in the second half was compete. We didn't play well, we just played harder.”

Despite trailing by as many as 19 points in the first half, the Sixers still had an opportunity to cut the lead to two with a minute to play. They limited Minnesota to just one made field goal in the fourth quarter. However, competing late couldn’t erase the lackadaisical start.

Andrei Kirilenko scored on an all-oop pass off the game’s opening tip. The Timberwolves proceeded to pull down twice as many rebounds as the Sixers in the first quarter, get to the foul line for 10 free throw attempts and notch 10 assists on 13 made field goals.

“The first play was a microcosm of how the night went,” Spencer Hawes said. “Kirilenko getting behind us for a lob like that. Right away they took the air out. We are not in a position to allow stuff like that to happen. Not at this point.”

“From the jump for us it was hard to get a rhythm,” Jrue Holiday said. “They started off pretty well, making nice passes and moving the ball. In the beginning, it was a little sloppy. We were turning the ball over.

“But again, that could be just coming back from the break. We had a good two days of practice, so I don’t know.”

On the Sixers’ white prior to tipoff, the coaches had listed rebounding, points in the paint and the foul line as keys to the game. Underneath the keys was one sentence that read, “Play like you practiced.”

The Sixers failed on all four points. They were outrebounded by 12 (51-39). The Sixers lost the battle in the paint by two points and made 11 less free throws that the Timberwolves.

If Holiday was accurate about the team’s two recent practices, the Sixers came up incredibly short on that goal as well.

“We just didn’t have it. We just didn’t have it from the beginning,” he said. “We fought back, got in some foul trouble and sent them to the line, but we just didn’t have it.”

That wasn’t the case for Nikola Pekovic. The Timberwolves’ big man scored a season-high 27 points and tied a season high with 18 rebounds. He was 9 of 16 from the floor and 9 for 15 at the foul line.

“He is a beast,” Hawes said. “The way they run their systems, they do a great job getting their people the ball where they want it, and if you take away one thing they know how to exploit it.

“I think we could learn a lesson from that. Take away the primary option and they go to the counter, and then they know how to make it happen going forward.”

In addition to Pekovic the Timberwolves got solid frontcourt play from Derrick Williams and Andrei Kirilenko, who combined for 32 points.

The Sixers were led in scoring by Evan Turner, who had 17 points. Damien Wilkins (13 points) and Dorell Wright (10 points) led a bench effort that outscored their Minnesota counterparts, 31-16.

That was about the only area the Sixers could claim a victory in on this night.

The Sixers will now have two days to prepare for Saturday when the defending champion Miami Heat come to the Wells Fargo Center for the first of four meetings this season between the two teams.

Reports: Sixers to be 'serious suitors' for Barnes, interested in Waiters

Reports: Sixers to be 'serious suitors' for Barnes, interested in Waiters

The Sixers didn't get a chance to speed up the process as much as they would have liked during the draft, but it appears they're going to try during free agency.

According to ESPN's Marc Stein, the Sixers plan to be "serious suitors" for Golden State Warriors restricted free agent forward Harrison Barnes.

The 6-foot-8, 225-pound Barnes averaged a career-high 11.7 points and 4.9 rebounds last season for the Warriors and shot 38.3 percent from three. The four-year veteran didn't produce as well in the playoffs, averaging 9.0 points on 34.2 percent shooting from three and 38.5 percent shooting overall. He would give the Sixers an outside threat who can finish around the rim. The question is whether he'll be able to create his own shot and flourish without the star-studded Warriors lineup around him.

Meanwhile, the AP's Michael Scotto reports the Sixers (and Kings) are interested in Thunder restricted free agent Dion Waiters. Waiters, 6-4, 225, has averaged 12.8 points and 2.5 assists per game in his four-year NBA career. He is a Philadelphia native and played high school ball at Life Center Academy in Burlington, N.J.

Barnes, 24, made just under $3.9 million last season, while Waiters, 24, made just over $5.1 million. Because both are restricted free agents, the Warriors and Thunder can match any offer the respective players receive. Barnes turned down a four-year, $64 million last year and is likely to receive a max offer, which should be around $23 million.

Either would give the Sixers an upgrade, and given their meager payroll, they can certainly afford to overpay if needed. They should have about $60 million in cap space, as the new cap is projected to be $94 million. 

Golden State selected Barnes out of North Carolina with the seventh overall pick of the 2012 draft. Waiters was originally taken fourth overall by the Cavaliers in 2012. 

Sixers free-agent fits: Shooting guards — Waiters, DeRozan, Crabbe, more

Sixers free-agent fits: Shooting guards — Waiters, DeRozan, Crabbe, more

Over the course of this week, we will look at the Sixers' free-agent possibilites at each position. First up Monday was point guard. Today we look at shooting guards.

Sixers shooting guards for 2016-17
Nik Stauskas (guaranteed — $2,993,040)

Hollis Thompson (club option — $1,015,696)

Isaiah Canaan (restricted, qualifying — $1,215,696)

Current SG situation
As much as point guard is a huge need, the off-guard is also a concern for the Sixers.

Stauskas, the former lottery pick of the Sacramento Kings, was a major disappointment last season. Sauce Castillo was given plenty of opportunity to show that his rookie season was a fluke and just a result of the Kings' mercurial roster and coaching situation. Known as a shooter from his stellar career at Michigan, Stauskas shot 33 percent from three on 325 attempts last season. That's simply not good enough.

Thompson is a one-dimensional player. He's a shooter. A hot and cold one at that. Thompson doesn't bring enough to the table as a ball handler or a defender to be a long-term solution, but the Sixers may pick up his club option. Thompson is a career 39 percent shooter from three, but his overall field-goal percentage has gone down in each of the last three seasons.

We're calling Canaan a shooting guard simply because he is not a good enough ball handler to play point guard, the position his six-foot frame suits. Canaan is a streaky shooter that really brings nothing else to the table. I'm mostly complimentary of Sam Hinkie's tenure in Philly, but his continued love for Canaan was something I never understood.

This situation may change if the Sixers are able to sign 18-year-old draft pick Furkan Korkmaz. The Turkish sharpshooter was taken 26th overall and will need to be bought out from his club, Anadolu Efes. Korkmaz will certainly be a project but if he can shoot the basketball consistently, he might play.

Reach free agent

DeMar DeRozan (unrestricted)
DeRozan didn't disappoint in a contract year, averaging a career-high 23.5 points per game and helping lead the Toronto Raptors to the No. 2 seed in the East and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. There's still a great chance he could return to the Raptors (they can offer a year more than any team trying to sign him away from Toronto), but teams like the Lakers, Clippers, Warriors, Heat, Knicks and Magic are rumored to be interested in DeRozan. Even if DeRozan were to consider the Sixers, I don't think he makes sense here. He's 26, which means the Sixers would be wasting his prime years. Plus, he's not a great shooter. This team is being built around Ben Simmons, and a shooting guard that is just a career 28 percent shooter from three doesn't seem like a fit.

Possible fits

Dion Waiters (restricted)
It seemed possible that the former No. 4 overall pick would return to the Thunder, but a draft-night trade that netted OKC athletic guard Victor Oladipo makes Waiters' future there murky. There's been speculation that the Philly native would be open to a homecoming. He's certainly had his issues, but Waiters has shown the ability to score at the NBA level. He shot a career-high 36 percent from three last season (38 percent in the playoffs). He's also only 24.

Allen Crabbe (restricted)
Crabbe, also 24 and also a former first-round pick of the Cavaliers, had his best season at the right time. The Cal product played in 81 games last season, averaging 10.3 points in 26 minutes a game for the Blazers. In my humble opinion, Crabbe would be the Sixers' best option. Again, if you're looking to build a team around Simmons, Crabbe's offensive game fits perfectly. Crabbe can shoot (39 percent from three, 87 percent from the line), he moves well without the basketball and can pull up off the dribble/on the break. He's a California native, so he may not want to leave the West Coast, but the Sixers can offer him a starter's minutes and money.

Dark-horse candidates

Bradley Beal (restricted)
Bryan Colangelo has said that he's looking for the right pieces this offseason and was more willing to give more money for fewer years while he evaluates his younger players. Beal could be an exception. The No. 3 overall pick by the Washington Wizards in 2012, Beal just turned 23 on Tuesday. He's averaged 16 points per game and shot 40 percent from three for his career. He does have an injury history, which may scare off teams from giving him a long-term deal. Beal has missed a total of 81 games in four seasons, so basically a full year's worth of time. Beal is intriguing, but I'm not sure the Sixers should give him a max deal.

Eric Gordon (unrestricted)
Going off of Colangelo's desire to sign high-money, low-term contracts, Gordon would make some sense. Gordon, 27, has also struggled with injuries throughout his career. He could be looking for a prove-it deal. The Sixers could offer him a great opportunity to make big money, play a lot of minutes and help a young team that has struggled to put the ball in the hole. Gordon has scored 16.6 points per game in his career. He shot 38 percent from three for the Pelicans last season, down from the 45 percent he shot from distance in 2014-15.

Sixers free-agent fits: Point guards

Sixers free-agent fits: Point guards

Over the course of this week, we will look at the Sixers' free-agent possibilites at each position. First up is point guard.

Sixers point guards for 2016-17
T.J. McConnell (non-guaranteed, $874,636)

Kendall Marshall (non-guaranteed, $2,048,257)

Current PG situation
The Sixers' biggest hole is at the point guard spot. Brett Brown has deemed this position the most important on the court, yet it has been the most changing. 

Last season, the Sixers did not establish a consistent starting point guard until they re-acquired Ish Smith in December. Smith wasn't brought in as the long-term point guard of the future, though. He is an unrestricted free agent again this summer and should receive interest from other teams after a solid season stepping into the starting role. 

There are several young point guards on the market, but the Sixers would benefit the most from bringing in someone with veteran experience to be a leader on the court. While incoming rookie Ben Simmons can play point-forward, the team plans to start him off at the four spot and let him learn the NBA first before assigning him ball-handling duties. With that in mind, a good free-agent fit would be able to play off the ball when Simmons does run the floor. 

Of the current players, McConnell has developed into a backup option after emerging as the sleeper of last season's team. The Sixers would be getting a bargain with his contract value (see below). The sparingly-utilized Marshall has a non-guaranteed deal at just over $2 million for next season and the team could get more return spending that money elsewhere. 

Reach free agent
Mike Conley (unrestricted)

Even in spite of his injuries, Conley is the best point guard available in free agency. He averaged 15.3 points, 6.1 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.5 turnovers for the Grizzlies last season. Conley has a high basketball IQ and is playoff-tested. He will garner big money on the market, and the Sixers are not necessarily looking to break the bank this summer to fill the role. Conley could stay with the Grizzlies, who put together a Justin Timberlake-led video to express their interest in keeping him. He will turn 29 in October. 

Possible fits
Matthew Dellavedova (restricted, $1,434,095 qualifying offer)
Could there be another Australian on the Sixers next season? Brown, who coached there, is a fan of Dellavedova's game. Dellavedova, 25, averaged 7.5 points, 4.4 assists and 2.1 rebounds for the championship-winning Cavaliers. Dellavedova could have double value to the Sixers: he could run the floor and give Simmons a sense of familiarity being from Australia. 

Jeremy Lin (unrestricted)
Lin was a backup for the Hornets last season and could earn a paycheck this summer as a starter. He would like to find a long-term team, which may not fit into the Sixers' plans for the future. Lin, though, does have six years of experience and averaged 11.7 points, 3.0 assists and 3.2 rebounds mostly off the bench for the Hornets. 

Greivis Vasquez (unrestricted)
Vasquez's sixth season was cut short after only 23 games because of foot surgery last December. Coming off of injury, could he be available at a discount? When healthy, he is a high-energy ball handler. Vasquez averaged 5.7 points, 4.0 assists and 2.0 rebounds per game last season.