Sixers smothered in loss to James, Heat

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Sixers smothered in loss to James, Heat

BOX SCORE

Frankly, it could have been much worse than the 101-86 defeat for the Sixers against the Miami Heat on Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).

The Heat came into the Center riding a three-game losing streak and still had the opening-night loss to the Sixers fresh in their memory for Friday’s game. That was the game, of course, in which Michael Carter-Williams made his spectacular NBA debut, with a near-triple double.

The Heat made sure there was no repeat performance from the rookie on Friday night.

“They got physical with him,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. “They got up and in and showed a crowd and created that type of traffic around him. They were physical and it’s a great lesson for him to play a team like that.”

The Heat hounded Carter-Williams, holding him to a career-low seven points, two assists and one rebound in 24 minutes. The rookie also had five turnovers, a sure sign that the Heat’s physical play was effective.

“This time they mixed it up and I got confused a few times and I have to learn from it,” Carter-Williams said. “I have to be prepared and adjust for the next time.”

Next time can’t be much worse than how things played out on Friday night. In fact, by the time the fourth quarter rolled around, Brown decided Carter-Williams and his starters had enough. Trailing by as much as 25 points late in the third quarter, Brown went with his bench players for the final 12 minutes.

Considering the starters were a combined minus-85, scored just 42 points and had to face the Chicago Bulls the next night on the road, Brown let them knock off early for a change.

“We were done and I felt like my starters were done,” Brown said. “Coaches always go through that line about when can you feel that you’re just flogging them and having them put forth energy that’s not going to result in a win.

“Your best chance is with energy and youth and they don’t know what they don’t know.”

Still, it would be tough not to notice how poorly the Sixers were shooting the ball. They went 2 for 20 from three-point range and 23 for 37 from the foul line. If that’s not telling enough, the Sixers missed 31 shots in the paint.

The Sixers’ 36.9 percent shooting percentage was actually padded in the fourth quarter when the bench players went 9 for 19.

Brown had a hunch the Heat would amp up the defense with the losing streak weighing on them.

“They did what they do and we had a hard time scoring inside,” Brown said. “We missed a lot of shots inside and I give [the Heat] credit. Inevitably we’re all going to look at the three-point line and we were 2 for 20, but look at the free throws where we were 23 for 37 and we had 23 turnovers -- it’s just amazing that we can compete and win the second half with those numbers.”

It’s relative, of course. Up by 25 points in the third quarter, the Heat rested All-Star Dwyane Wade during the fourth quarter and used Chris Bosh (game-high 25 points) sparingly. LeBron James logged more than nine minutes in the final frame, but that could have been because he was flirting with a triple-double.

James finished the game with 21 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds. Close, but not quite.

Next, the Sixers head to Chicago to kick off a short, three-game road trip. After the game in Chicago, the team plays a holiday matinee in Washington on Monday, followed by the first trip to the newly renovated Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.

Sixers exercise team option on forward Hollis Thompson

Sixers exercise team option on forward Hollis Thompson

It looks like Hollis Thompson will be back next season. 

The Sixers exercised the forward's fourth-year team option for the 2016-17 season. The option is worth just north of $1 million, according to Basketball Reference. 

Thompson, 6-foot-8, 206 pounds, has played three NBA seasons with the Sixers after going undrafted out of Georgetown in 2012. 

In his 225 NBA games (81 starts), he has averaged 8.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game. He's also shot 39 percent from three and his 331 career three-pointers rank him eighth in Sixers history. 

Sixers free-agent fits: Small forwards — Superstars, Barnes, Parsons and more

Sixers free-agent fits: Small forwards — Superstars, Barnes, Parsons and more

Over the course of this week, we will look at the Sixers' free-agent possibilites at each position. We've already analyzed point guards and shooting guards. Today, we'll break down small forwards.

Sixers small forwards for 2016-17
Robert Covington (guaranteed — $1,015,696)

Jerami Grant (guaranteed — $980,431)

Current SF situation
When you're a 10-win team, you need help just about everywhere. Small forward is no exception for the Sixers.

Covington worked hard all last offseason to become a more well-rounded player and it paid off in some aspects. He grabbed a career-high 6.3 rebounds and was a much better on-ball defender than the previous season. However, with more freedom the three-point specialist's offensive production actually dropped a bit. Covington's points (13.5 to 12.8), field goal percentage (39.6 to 38.5) and three-point percentage (37.4 to 35.3) all took a dip in 2015-16.

Grant took the next step in his progression last season, but there is still a long way to go. The 22-year-old increased his scoring to 9.7 points per game and rebounding to 4.7 a night while also bumping his field goal percentage from 35.2 percent to 41.9. He also proved to be one of the game's emerging defenders with 1.6 blocks a game (12th in the entire NBA). But with the Sixers already having so many players operating in the paint, they would prefer Grant to step outside to develop his jump shot. That didn't go well at all, as he managed to sink just 35 of his 146 three-point attempts (24.0) a season ago.

The Sixers could get a boost on the wing if international prospects Dario Saric or Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot joins the club. Luwawu-Cabarrot is more likely to strike a deal, but either way it will be tough to ask a rookie who is also new to the United States to come in and contribute at the game's highest level right away.

Reach free agent(s)

LeBron James and Kevin Durant
Nope. Not going to happen. Moving right along.

Possible fits

Harrison Barnes (restricted)
Yes, we saw the memes with Barnes' face Photoshopped onto milk cartons and trash cans after the Finals. They were both hilarious and semi-accurate after a postseason performance in which he averaged 9.0 points per game on 38.5 percent shooting. However, we're not ready to write Barnes off after a rough two-month stretch and reportedly neither are the Sixers. Barnes, 24, proved to be a key cog of the Warriors' record 73-win team. He put up a career-high 11.7 points on 46.6 percent shooting from the field and 38.3 percent from three-point range. That level of consistent floor spacing with the ability to grab rebounds (4.9 per game) and still slash to the rim is exactly what the Sixers need. The big question is will they get that same package or was that just the benefit of Barnes playing with a star-studded Golden State team that won a record 73 games during the regular season?

Nicolas Batum (unrestricted)
Perhaps the most versatile of all the free-agent small forwards, Batum had a strong first season in Charlotte. The Frenchman averaged a career-high 14.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.8 assists in 35.0 minutes a game for the up-and-coming Hornets. Batum would be a huge upgrade for the Sixers as he doesn't need the ball to be effective, uses his length to play lockdown defense and drains enough three-pointers to keep defenses honest (career 36.0 percent shooter from long range). At 27 years old along with a wealth of NBA and international experience, Batum would instantly be a leader for this young Sixers group. But without ever winning on the top levels of competition, Batum might opt for a more championship-ready team than the rebuilding 76ers.

Chandler Parsons (unrestricted)
A source close to Parsons told ESPN last week that the small forward would be "all ears" during free agency after declining his player option with the Dallas Mavericks. Parsons doubled down on that notion with an Instagram post. He will likely only start listening once the max offers cross his agent's desk. Parsons, a 2011 second-rond pick, has worked his way into being one of the more well-rounded players at his position. He posted 13.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game for the Mavs while shooting 49.2 percent from the field and 41.4. Parsons is the classic 3-and-D player the Sixers have been coveting for years ... if he's healthy. He has been shut down in each of the past two seasons with knee injuries, which both led to surgeries. The Sixers would need to be absolutely certain Parsons is back to full health before throwing that kind of money at him to sign in Philly.

Kent Bazemore (unrestricted)
The name may not be the sexiest out there, but he can ball. After going undrafted and biding his time with the Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers and Atlanta Hawks for several seasons, Bazemore broke out in his first consistent stint as a starter in 2015-16. In 27.8 minutes a night, he put up 11.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 steals. The 26-year-old Bazemore's athleticism fits right into Brett Brown's desire to get out and run while his defensive intensity would help boost a team that needs all the help it can get on that end of the floor. A bonus is the fact he can sink shots from beyond the arc when left open (35.7 percent from three-point range). Doubtful that he will ever turn into a guy you can count on for 20-plus points a night, but would still be a pretty solid fit in a Sixers uniform if they miss out on their other top targets. 

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.