Sixers stay put in lottery, have 11th pick in draft

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Sixers stay put in lottery, have 11th pick in draft

NEW YORK -- No one from the Sixers’ camp was too excited about showing up at the Millennium Broadway Hotel in Times Square for the NBA draft lottery on Tuesday night.

After all, who wants to go to the prom designed specifically for the guys without dates?

Worse, the mood at the swanky midtown hotel was one of resignation. An invitation to the NBA draft lottery is the ultimate proof that the season was a bust. For the Sixers, who were perfectly mediocre in 2012-13, the trip to New York was doubly frustrating. Not only did the team have virtually no chance in grabbing one of the top three picks in next month’s draft, but they also were all but assured to lock into where they finished the season.

So with the ping-pong balls working against them and the odds too fat to deny, the Sixers will have the No. 11 overall pick in the June draft.

The Sixers had a 90.74 percent chance to get the 11th pick, compared to .80 percent chance to win the lottery, a .95 percent chance to get the second pick and a 1.15 percent chance for the No. 3 pick.

Maybe they would have been better off buying a Powerball ticket …

Or making the playoffs.

“We had a small probability of being super happy and a small probability of being slightly sad,” Sixers’ managing owner Josh Harris said. “We’re neither. We’re right where we were expected to be.”

Nevertheless, one item on the Sixers’ summertime to-do list has been checked off. Now that the team knows where it will be picking in the draft, it can prepare for which player it wants to take. That should be a whole lot easier than some of the seemingly more important tasks.

After hiring Sam Hinkie to be the president and general manager, the Sixers need to hire a new coach. They also need to develop a plan for free agency and decide whether or not Andrew Bynum fits into the team’s future plans.

So at the loser’s prom, the Sixers took a step.

“I don’t want to comment on Bynum specifically, but it’s all interrelated,” Harris said. “Over the next weeks and months we’re going to get more articulate about our strategy. Sam has been here for a week and he’ll be speaking about our basketball strategy. It’s all interrelated. All of this stuff has to be focused on building a winner. Every decision you make has multiple affects on every other decision.”

Still, Harris is in no hurry to hire a basketball coach. Though the draft is next month and free agency begins shortly after that, followed by summer league and then training camp, the Sixers are being very deliberate in the search for Doug Collins’ successor.

“It’s an important decision,” Harris said. “If you get the right coach really fast, that’s better. But at the end of the day, you want the right coach. We’re not putting a deadline on it. It doesn't work to your advantage because the reality is we have a lot of talented coaches on the staff right now. Some of them have been head coaches, so we’re trying to get the right coach, not to get a coach quickly.”

Hinkie is running the show when it comes to hiring the new coach. He is also putting together the plan in regard to what to do in the draft and everything else that follows.

That’s a lot of work for a team that has a lot of needs, but Harris will lean heavily on Hinkie.

“I feel great with Sam’s hand at the helm of this thing,” Harris said. “We’re very like-minded, he’s very smart and he’s always working. I get texts from him at one in the morning and six in the morning. He’s all over it, and I feel good that we’re going to make good decisions.”

Of course, those decisions should have one minor goal at the fore. And that’s to never return to the NBA Draft Lottery any time soon.

Joel Embiid not named All-Star starter, can still make it as reserve

Joel Embiid not named All-Star starter, can still make it as reserve

Joel Embiid will have to hope NBA coaches trust the process.

Embiid on Thursday was not named a starter in the 2017 NBA All-Star Game. LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jimmy Butler locked in the three Eastern Conference frontcourt spots. Kyrie Irving and DeMar DeRozan rounded out the backcourt.

James (25.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 8.1 assists) and Antetokounmpo (23.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists) were locks as starters. That left Butler, Kevin Love and Embiid as the next in contention. Butler is a two-time All-Star averaging 24.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists in 36.8 minutes for the 21-22 Bulls. Love is posting 20.7 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 31.6 minutes per game on the Eastern Conference-leading, 29-11 Cavaliers.

The Western Conference starting spots went to Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis. 

The voting was made up of fan votes (50 percent), player votes (25 percent) and media votes (25 percent). Embiid has a chance to be voted in by the NBA coaches, whose reserve selections will be announced on Jan. 26. 

Embiid would have been named a starter had the results been based on fan voting (50 percent). He finished third ahead of Love and Butler.

Embiid was in the running for a starting role during a breakout rookie season. He is averaging 19.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 25.4 minutes per game. Even though his playing time is capped at 28 minutes, he ranks seventh among all players in scoring per 48 minutes. He is eighth overall in free throw attempts per game (7.9) and 10th in those made (6.2).

Embiid had obstacles, though, when it came to the voting: rookie status, 28-minute restriction, limited games played (29) because of his allocated workload, and the Sixers’ record.

Even though the All-Star Game highlights individual achievements, team record is often taken into consideration. The Sixers have won seven of their last nine games (see story), but still stand well below .500 at 14-26.

When it came to the players’ vote, it is hard for a rookie who hasn’t even competed against every team in the league to make a strong enough impression for another player to influence their perception of the top talent. Embiid finished outside of the top five in the players' vote, behind James, Antetokounmpo, Butler, Paul George and Kristaps Porzingis. Meanwhile, the Sixers' big man finished fifth in the media vote.

Embiid and the Sixers were very active in pushing for the fan votes. Embiid received the social media support of celebrities including Triple H, Kevin Hart and MLB MVP Mike Trout, among others. The Sixers promoted Embiid through a Shirley Temple campaign based on his favorite drink.

Embiid picked up major steam in the last week of voting. He had trailed Love by 16,028 fan votes in the second returns on Jan. 12.

He took to Twitter to express his gratitude.

Dario Saric hitting his stride, altering games on Sixers' second unit

Dario Saric hitting his stride, altering games on Sixers' second unit

There was skepticism as to whether or not Dario Saric would ever play for the Sixers. He spent two years overseas after the team acquired him on draft night 2014, and as each month passed, more and more uncertainty grew around his future in the NBA.

Saric told the Sixers all along that he would come to Philadelphia. He urged them, I will play for your team.

The 22-year-old rookie (and that term should be used loosely given his lengthy professional career) is proving the wait was worth it.

“They said he was never coming back,” Joel Embiid said. “But Dario’s here and he’s making big plays for us.”

Saric is averaging 9.7 points and 5.9 rebounds in 24.1 minutes this season. That includes a transitional period wherein Saric was moved in and out of the starting lineup and shifted from power forward and small forward as the Sixers experimented with different rotations. Saric looked out of sorts and frustrated with himself at times. The newness of the league, team and system took its toll on the player who is his own toughest critic. 

Saric's numbers are up since Brett Brown locked him in to the second unit. He is averaging 11.0 points and 6.7 boards during the Sixers' 7-2 stretch. 

“If Joel Embiid weren’t in the league, you’d have to talk about him in consideration for Rookie of the Year,” Brown said. “There is an appeal that he has developed, I feel, from our fans. They respect him. How can you not? He is so blue collar. I think the plays he makes, the effort-based plays, the physical plays just count for everything. ... I hope that he recognizes we appreciate his passion and we appreciate how he plays.”

Saric put on a show in the fourth quarter of the Sixers' statement win over the Raptors Wednesday. He had a pair of blocks in under a minute, including one against Jared Sullinger which sent Embiid into a frenzy on the bench (video here)

“Dario never blocks shots and he had two in a row,” Embiid said. “Especially at the rim like that, blocking Sullinger, that’s the type of play we need. The crowd obviously got into it. I’m just glad he’s here with us like he promised he was going to be after two years.”

Saric followed up the blocks with an offensive rebound and layup that pushed the Sixers' lead back up to six points. He topped off his fourth-quarter spurt with a three-pointer from T.J. McConnell to put his team up seven. 

“Every guy has their own job,” Saric said. “Sometimes you can do it better but always you need effort. You've to give 100 percent, try to fight, try to win. Give everything that you have in that moment. Your whole body, just move it. ... I had a good game. Sometimes the game gives you open shots. Sometimes it gives you a situation where you cannot do nothing. I tried to come and bring some energy. I tried to change the game in that way.”

Saric finished with eight points, nine rebounds and two blocks in 24 minutes off the bench. He hadn’t recorded two blocks since Nov. 9 against the Pacers. 

“I think Dario is the key to helping us secure that win, big-time,” Nerlens Noel said. “I think he really took that game more toward our favor.”

There were bound to be growing pains for Saric with all the massive challenges involved in playing in the new league. His basketball world has been flipped upside down in less than a year, not to mention his adjusting to life outside of Europe. It took some time but Saric is hitting his stride, and it is led by his disciplined mindset.

“Sometimes when you're doing bad and you don't have an opportunity to do something, (you have to) give the team its energy," Saric said. "I tried to bring some kind of energy and I did that good. I don't know. Maybe it's because I want to win the game. That's the easy answer."