The first time the Sixers played the Heat this year was the season opener. The Sixers won, as the Sixers and their fans remembered. The Heat remembered, too (see story). Sixers head coach Brett Brown thought that might be a motivating factor for the visitors -- that and the fact that the Heat came to Philly on a surprising three-game losing streak.
“You’re getting a very talented, angry team that’s going to go up many, many levels defensively,” Brown said before tipoff. “That is going to be a real test for our young team, because we lead the league in turnovers already, and we’re going to be faced with an angry team that prides itself on defense, that is extremely well coached, that rolls out a bunch of thoroughbreds that are going to make us pay if we’re not smart. I think that’s the nature of, in my opinion, the team we’re going to play. And that’s what makes them special.”
As Brown anticipated, the Heat looked special in their 101-86 win over the Sixers at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay). You know who didn’t look special? If you guessed the Sixers, you are smart and observant -- or maybe you just watched the game.
The Sixers adopted a slogan this season: “Together we build.” Friday was a good night for that, because the Sixers had all the bricks they’d ever need. The Sixers shot 36.9 from the floor (only 2.6 percent better than their lowest single-game effort this season). They hit just 2 of 20 attempts from three-point range. The math nerds among you know that works out to 10 percent -- which was the worst single-game mark this year.
Part of it -- a large part -- was the Heat defense. Miami was great defending the perimeter. But part of it was the Sixer's long-range shooting, which was broken all evening.
“More than not, I think [the Heat] do a good job chasing and contesting,” Brown said. “Only a handful of threes, I think, were poor shots where we perhaps could have driven it or early in clock. I thought we had some good looks.”
“Two for 20,” Brown continued, “is 2 for 20.”
That it is.
Making matters worse (which was hard to do, but they did it), the Sixers did not take care of the ball. If you’ve watched any Sixers hoops this year, you know that’s nothing new. The Sixers' capacity to create turnovers is staggering and unmatched.
The Sixers entered the game averaging 17.2 turnovers. If you think that’s a lot, it is. It’s the most in the NBA. On Wednesday, the Sixers committed 24 turnovers in a win over the Bobcats, which is the kind of oversized number that ought to come with its own cartoon character that shoots eyeballs attached to springs out of its face when it sees something unbelievable.
That unsightly season-long trend continued against the Heat. The Sixers turned the ball over 23 times against the Heat, which led to 25 points for Miami.
“We actually spread our turnovers around quite well,” Brown said, getting a laugh from the media assembly. “You can’t just blame it all on pace … it doesn’t give you the freedom to be reckless or irresponsible. Sometimes we’re wishing things. We’re hoping things. We’re trying to will our way into making something happen. The game tells you everything -- it’s not there.”
It wasn’t there Friday. Not the shot from distance, not the attempt to limit turnovers, not even uncontested attempts from the free throw line. The Sixers took 37 free throws and made 22. That’s 59.5 percent. Like a lot of the other stats from Friday evening, it wasn’t good.
“How about the free throw number -- 22 for 37?” Brown asked rhetorically. “Those are enormous numbers. You’d think we’d look down and say ‘we lost to the Miami Heat by 50.’”
They didn’t. It just felt that way.
The Sixers set their roster for the upcoming summer leagues in Utah and Las Vegas. The squad is compiled of incoming rookies, returning roster players and free agents.
First overall pick Ben Simmons will headline the roster. Twenty-fourth pick Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot will also play for the Sixers. Twenty-sixth pick Furkan Korkmaz is not going to participate.
T.J. McConnell, Richaun Holmes and Christian Wood, who played for the Sixers last season, will play. The only other player with NBA experience is James Nunnally. He played for the Sixers and Hawks during the 2013-14 season.
The roster is rounded out by Bryon Allen, Javon McCrea, Alex Caruso, Maodo Lo, James Webb III, Kwame Vaughn, Levi Randolph, Shawn Long and Tomasz Gielo. Caruso, Gielo, Lo, Long, and Webb III worked out for the Sixers before the draft.
The Sixers will begin summer league action on July 4 in Utah against the Celtics.
Assistant coaches Billy Lange will coach the Utah squad and Lloyd Pierce will coach in Las Vegas.
A complete list:
Bryon Allen, Guard
Alex Caruso, Guard
Tomasz Gielo, Forward
Richaun Holmes, Forward
Maodo Lo, Guard
Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Guard
Javon McCrea, Forward
T.J. McConnell, Guard
James Nunnally, Forward
Shawn Long, Forward
Levi Randolph, Guard
Ben Simmons, Forward
Kwame Vaughn, Guard
James Webb III, Forward
Christian Wood, Forward
The Sixers have been in need of a veteran point guard, and it looks like they have found one on the first day of free agency.
A league source confirmed the Sixers have reached a deal to sign guard Jerryd Bayless. According to the Associated Press, the deal is worth $27 million over three years.
Bayless, 27, is entering his ninth NBA season. Last season, he played for the Milwaukee Bucks, averaging 10.4 points, 3.1 assists and 2.7 rebounds in 28.9 minutes per game. Bayless shot 42.3 percent from the field and a career-high 43.7 percent from three. He ranked fifth in the NBA in three-point shooting percentage last season.
The point guard role is unique for the Sixers. First overall pick Ben Simmons can play point-forward. While the Sixers will start him out at the four spot, eventually he will assume some point guard responsibilities as he develops in the NBA. Bayless is a good fit for this situation because he doesn't need to dominate the ball. He also gives the Sixers versatility in the backcourt with his ability to shoot.
The Sixers have struggled to find consistency at this position. Last season, they went through a pool of point guards before trading for Ish Smith in December. That acquisition wasn’t meant as a long-term solution, and Smith reportedly agreed to a three-year deal with the Pistons on Friday (see story).
The Sixers will be Bayless' seventh team. He previously played for the Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Raptors, Grizzlies, Celtics and Bucks. Bayless was the 11th overall pick in the 2008 draft.
When Bayless played in Toronto in 2010-11 and 2011-12, Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo was the Raptors' president and general manager. This is Colangelo's first free-agent signing with the Sixers.
The Sixers are going to hire former head coach Jim O'Brien as an assistant coach on Brett Brown's staff, a league source confirmed to CSNPhilly.com's Jessica Camerato.
FOX29's Howard Eskin was the first to report the hire.
O'Brien, 64, was the Sixers' head coach back in 2004-05, when he led the team to a 43-39 record. He was the Celtics' head coach from 2000-2004 and the Pacers' head coach from 2007-2011. In his nine years as an NBA head coach, he has a 303-327 record.
O'Brien, who is from Philadelphia and went to Roman Catholic, last coached in the NBA as an assistant with the Dallas Mavericks in 2012-13.