Sixers-Suns: 5 things you need to know


Sixers-Suns: 5 things you need to know

The Sixers (8-20) return from their holiday layoff to continue their road trip against the Phoenix Suns (17-11).

Tipoff is set for 9 p.m. (CSN) at US Airways Center.

Let's take a closer look at the matchup:

1. On the road again
The Sixers pick up their six-game road swing in Phoenix. Things clearly haven't gone as planned for the Sixers away from home, as they come into the game with 12 straight road losses and a 1-12 mark on the road overall.

It doesn't get any easier against a surprising Phoenix squad. The Suns, tabbed by pundits to be among the league's worst teams prior to the season, are currently the sixth seed in the stacked Western Conference.

The Suns will be on the second night of a back-to-back set after a season-worst effort in a 115-86 loss to Golden State on Friday night. The Suns posted season lows in shooting percentage (36.0), three-point percentage (17.4) and points.

However, Jeff Hornacek’s squad should receive a boost from returning home where it is 10-4 this season.

2. Keep your guard up
In order to reverse their fortunes on the road, the Sixers must start by containing the Suns’ dynamic backcourt.

Phoenix is led by its guard tandem of Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic. With both players boasting the versatility to run the offense and score, the combo guard duo poses a serious threat.

Bledsoe and Dragic lead the Suns in scoring with 18.4 and 18.0 points per game, respectively. They also combine for 11.8 assists per game.

With neither player measuring taller than 6-foot-3, Michael Carter-Williams and Hollis Thompson must use their length to frustrate them at both ends of the floor.

3. Walk the line
The Sixers can also help themselves by attacking the basket against a Suns team that is prone to fouling.

The Suns allow 25.8 free throw attempts per game, which ranks 28th in the NBA. Opponents also connect on 20.0 of those chances, the second-highest mark in the league behind only the New York Knicks.

The Sixers shouldn’t have trouble forcing the issue. They average 50.6 points in the paint per game.

However, that doesn’t always equal trips to the charity stripe. The Sixers are 17th in the NBA in free throw attempts a game at 22.3.

4. Injuries
Nerlens Noel (knee), Arnett Moultrie (ankle) and Jason Richardson (knee) are all out.

Centers Alex Len (ankle) and Emeka Okafor (neck) are out for the Suns.

5. This and that
• The Sixers’ seven-day layoff between games is their longest of the season.

• The Sixers are 1-9 against Western Conference teams this season.

• The Suns are 2-4 in the second games of back-to-backs this season with the two victories coming in the last two opportunities.

• The Sixers are 7-10 this season when Carter-Williams plays and 1-10 when he doesn’t suit up.

• The Suns make a league-best 10.2 three-pointers per game at home.

• The Suns have plenty of Philly ties. Hornacek is a former Sixer. Meanwhile, Philadelphia natives and twin brothers Marcus and Markieff Morris are on Phoenix's roster. Dionte Christmas, another Philadelphia native and former Temple standout, is also a member of the Suns.

Point guard Joel Embiid? Sixers' big man works on leading break

Point guard Joel Embiid? Sixers' big man works on leading break

CAMDEN, N.J. — Toward the end of Sixers practice Monday, Joel Embiid participated in a fast-break drill … by himself.

Embiid brought the ball up the floor in a one-on-none situation against members of the Sixers' coaching staff. 

He's already showed off his three-point shooting skills and now he’s running the break? 

“I’ve always thought I was a point guard,” Embiid joked. “So that’s something that I want to do.”

In all seriousness, Embiid worked on his ball-handling skills during his two-year rehab from foot injuries. It’s not that he wants to become an unconventional point guard, it’s that he is striving to be an all-around threat. Embiid focused on recording his first assist, as an example, during the preseason. 

“I think I’m a complete player,” he said. “I think I can do everything on the court. Doing that shows I think it can help my team, too, in other aspects.” 

With running the break comes attacking the basket in traffic. It could be an anxious moment for a coach to watch a player fresh off two years of foot injuries to drive in a crowd. Sixers head coach Brett Brown said he has to be past the feeling of holding his breath whenever he watches Embiid do so. 

“We are so responsible with how we use him and play him,” Brown said. “It’s like us with children. They go out for the night. You’re nervous, but they go out for the night. He plays basketball for a living, and so he plays. We’ve just got to keep putting him in responsible environments and monitoring his minutes.”

As a point guard, T.J. McConnell appreciates Embiid’s skills, especially given his size. 

“To the people that try to pick him up when he brings the ball up the floor, good luck,” McConnell said. “It’s pretty incredible to see.” 

Robert Covington watched Embiid practice his ball handling during his lengthy recovery. He has seen improvements and likes the dynamic it creates for the team on the break. 

“His handle is really tight and then he’s really strong with it as well,” Covington said. “We’re very comfortable with him pushing the ball.”

That being said, Brown isn’t about to anoint Embiid into a point-center role. He knows Embiid’s desire to be active all over the court, but just as he’s said he doesn’t intend for Embiid to become a go-to three-point shooter, he also wants Embiid to focus on his true position. 

“Joel likes to be a player,” Brown said. “He wants to be a guard. He wants to shoot a three. He wants to be a post player. He wants to play. And we all have seen enough to think he actually can. 

“There are times that he rebounds and leads a break, we want him being aware of get off it, get it to a point guard more than not. I don’t mind him coming down in trail if he’s got daylight, him shooting some. He’s got a wonderful touch and I’ve seen it for two years. 

“... All over the place, I want to grow him. I’m not just going to bucket him up. I still say, like I say to him, 'At the end of the day, you’re a seven-foot-two post player. Post player.'”

Watch Embiid running the floor here:

Sixers cut Brandon Paul, Dionte Christmas, 3 others to set 15-man roster

Sixers cut Brandon Paul, Dionte Christmas, 3 others to set 15-man roster

In a preseason full of unexpected turns, the Sixers' final cuts were as anticipated.

The Sixers on Monday waived guards Cat Barber, Dionte Christmas, Brandon Paul and forwards Shawn Long and James Webb III to trim their regular-season roster to 15. 

Long, Paul and Webb had been with the Sixers since summer league. Barber signed with the team for training camp. Philadelphia native Christmas was the newest addition. He joined the Sixers the day of the deadline (see story)

The Sixers own the D-League rights to Barber, Christmas, Long and Webb. They are expected to land with the affiliate Delaware 87ers. 

Paul’s D-League rights are owned by the Cavaliers. He has received interest from other NBA teams, according to a source, and has not discussed playing in the Development League. 

Long appeared in each of the Sixers' preseason games. He averaged 4.0 points and 2.3 rebounds. Webb posted 4.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in six games. 

Paul averaged 7.3 points (36.4 percent from three) and 2.3 rebounds in four games. Barber was sidelined during the preseason by a right hand/wrist injury. He played two games, averaging 5.5 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists. 

Christmas, 30, had planned to play this season in Greece and decided on Sunday to sign with the Sixers instead of returning overseas. 

The Sixers waived 17-year veteran Elton Brand last weekend after he announced his intention to retire. 

Here's the Sixers' complete roster:

2016-17 Sixers
Robert Covington, SF, 6-9/215
Joel Embiid, C, 7-2/250
Jerami Grant, F, 6-8/210
Gerald Henderson, G, 6-5/215
Richaun Holmes, F, 6-10/245
Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, G/F, 6-6/205
T.J. McConnell, PG, 6-2/200
Jahlil Okafor, C, 6-11/275
Sergio Rodriguez, PG, 6-3/176
Dario Saric, F, 6-10/223
Nik Stauskas, G, 6-6/205
Hollis Thompson, G/F, 6-8/206

Inactive list
Jerryd Bayless, PG, 6-3/200
Nerlens Noel, PF/C, 6-11/228
Ben Simmons, F, 6-10/240