Sixers' veteran trio braces for trade deadline

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Sixers' veteran trio braces for trade deadline

He made it sound simple. And it is.

“The whole purpose of this year,” Brett Brown said, “has been about identifying people to move forward with.”

The Sixers made their plans plain the moment Sam Hinkie was installed as the president and general manager: Sacrifice today in favor of tomorrow. They adopted a super-subtle slogan to underscore the reality: “Together we build.” And to reinforce their intentions, they handed out faux blueprints on Tuesday evening before the Cavaliers throttled the Sixers, 114-85, at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay). (It was the Sixers' 40th loss of the season. They’re getting really good at not being good.)

Once unrolled, the blueprint mapped out how the Sixers are “building the next big thing for Philadelphia.” An “NBA draft tracker” was at the bottom of the blueprint (along with a line about “2 potential 1st round picks” written in red). In the center, there were pictures of Nerlens Noel, Michael Carter-Williams and Brett Brown.

Not pictured: Everyone else.

Noel, MCW and Brown have already been identified and will move forward with the Sixers. As for the rest, nothing is certain. The trade deadline looms. It is Thursday afternoon -- not that any of the Sixers need to be reminded.

Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young have spent much of the season answering questions about various reports and rumors. They’ve exhausted so much time on the subject that Turner recently said he’s “excited” for the trade deadline because it’s “like a riddle” (see story). (That would make Hinkie the Riddler, which makes for interesting imagery.)

If the Sixers extend a qualifying offer during the offseason, Turner will be a restricted free agent. Or they might not extend an offer, at which point he’ll be an unrestricted free agent. Or they might trade him before Thursday. Lots of possibilities -- for him and Hawes and Young.

Hawes will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Young is under contract for next season and has a player option for the season after that. You could imagine all sorts of possibilities -- scenarios in which they’re unloaded now or later or not at all.

“The situation being an expiring deal, and the situation with the team, it’s kind of a perfect storm for that kind of chatter,” Hawes said.

Has it bothered him? Like Turner, will he feel any sense of relief, one way or the other, to finally learn his fate?

“To be a successful athlete, you really have to be in a routine,” Hawes said. “Not having that certainty, I think, can disrupt that pattern. I think that’s what can kind of get on your nerves.”

Across the locker room, Young was asked essentially the same questions. He said Philadelphia has been home for the past seven years and the Sixers have been like family. He said he’d like to stay, even though he knows he might have to go.

“The trade deadline is almost upon us and whatever happens, happens,” Young said. “Like I’ve been saying, if they see fit to trade me, Spence or Evan, we have to move on like anybody else. It’s one of those deals where, hey, it’s an unfortunate situations. You just have to play it out and be a business-like professional.”

What about Hawes? When he was asked what he’d like to happen in advance of the deadline, his answer was a bit more opaque.

“Play it out and see where it goes,” Hawes said. “One way or another, part of being a professional is being ready and seeing where the road takes you. This time of year, it’s different than free agency when you have a lot of control over it. At this point, you don’t.”

Hawes said there are a lot of variables between now and free agency. And there are. There are also a lot of variables between now and Thursday afternoon. How will they spend their time between now and then? Will they read everything and watch everything and listen to every report? Or will they try to ignore the speculation and wait until something concrete occurs?

Young -- ever the business-like professional -- said he’ll do what he always does: Show up for work until someone tells him to do otherwise.

“Next game, Dallas Mavericks,” Young said. “We’ve got to be ready.”

Yes. That will be the Sixers' next game, but you wonder who will be getting ready.

Dario Saric halts slump with 'best game as a 76er'

Dario Saric halts slump with 'best game as a 76er'

Dario Saric came into the NBA knowing his rookie season would be one of ups and downs. He would have successes based on his talent and struggle because of the newness of the league and matchups.

Saturday’s performance against the Celtics was one of those highlight nights. Saric scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, both tying career-highs, for his third double-double. He was efficient in his performance, playing 27 minutes off the bench in the Sixers' 107-106 loss.

“I thought that was his best game as a 76er,” Brett Brown said.

Saric had struggled the night before against the Magic. He barely made a dent in 16 minutes, posting just two points (1 for 5 from the field) without a single rebound. The poor showing was on his mind Saturday, as he got ready for the second game of the back-to-back. He went in early to get up extra shots, met with coaches, studied film and thought about the matchup throughout the day.

“I prepared a little bit more for this game,” Saric said. “After I have some bad rhythm of five or six, maybe, games. Now I concentrate more. I try to give my best, try to play my best, try to think before everything happens.”

Saric showed his aggressiveness in crunch time in the fourth quarter, when he scored seven points and five rebounds in eight minutes. He nailed a three to cut the Celtics' lead to 92-91 with 4:28 to play. Then with 1:09 remaining, Saric’s free throws cut the Celtics' lead to two points. On the other end of the court, he snagged the rebound off an Isaiah Thomas miss and scored a game-tying layup from Jahlil Okafor.  

“He played great,” Okafor said. “He’s working hard every day, getting used to the NBA process. It was good to see hard work paying off for him.”

Saric has been adjusting to new roles throughout the season. He was thrown into the starting power forward spot when Ben Simmons was injured, and then moved to the bench when the team acquired Ersan Ilyasova. On Saturday, Brown also played Saric at small forward in Robert Covington’s (knee) absence, a shift the Sixers may try again.

“He’s a good teammate,” Brown said. “He’s biding his time. He understands he’s a rookie. Incrementally, he’ll be given these opportunities. Tonight he did and he responded and you’re seeing continued growth.”

Saric still is early in his NBA career, and Saturday's showing was a game he can look back on and study for the rest of the season. 

“I feel like tonight … you’d walk away and say, ‘Shoot, that’s a hell of a player for playing 20 games in the NBA and he did what he just did against a hell of a team,’” Brown said. “I’m proud of what we saw all over the place from Dario.”

Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

As part of their “Salute Saturday” series, the Sixers honored the 1966-67 championship team at halftime of their 107-106 loss the Celtics on Saturday.

Fifty years after winning the title, the success of the squad (which went 68-13 in the regular season) still resonates with those representing the Sixers today. After all, they are the group Wilt Chamberlain described as “the best team ever.” 

“It’s just part of the history of this city and the organization,” said Brett Brown, who has established a relationship with Billy Cunningham through practice visits and emails. “There was a toughness with that team that he personified and the city sort of reflects. It’s stuff you hear me talk about all the time how you want our team to reflect the spirit of the city. That team did it.”

Prior to their tribute ceremony, members of the team reflected on their run in which they beat the San Francisco Warriors for the title. 

On Wilt Chamberlain
“Wilt was such a dominant figure, not only as a basketball player, but he’s almost bigger than the game,” Matt Goukas said. “He played so well, he was such a good team player – he started really passing the ball right around that time --and that enabled great scorers like Hal (Greer) and Billy and Chet Walker to do their thing, and Wilt was very happy to give them that leeway.”.

On fond memories
“It was a team that we played well together and we lived as a family and that’s what made it so good for us," Greer said. "A lot of fun, a lot of fun. We missed the next year, but 68-13 is not bad at all.”

“It’s hard to forget a situation like that where we had such a terrific team and the season went so quickly, we won so many games and then of course winning a championship,” Goukas said. “As a first year player I said, ‘This is the way it’s supposed to be, I guess.’ But of course I never won another championship as a player, but we had such a terrific group of guys and true professionals that for me as a rookie, Billy Melchionni as a rookie, we really benefited from guys like Hal Greer, Wally Jones and Harry Costello, they really showed us the way.”

On team chemistry
“It was very difficult times when you look at the sixties from a social aspect,” Cunningham said. “Martin Luther King was killed the following year we won the championship. Race relationships weren’t the best. And this time, which was just about half black-half white, I’m not even sure, it was never an issue. That’s the beauty I think of being on a team you know getting to know people, you judge them as an individual and nothing more than that.”

“I think it was our coach Alex Hannum, for one (that kept the team together),” Greer said. “And of course the big guy. He held us together most of the time, he could rebound, play defense, do it all.”