Clowntime Is Over: Sixers Begin Toughest Stretch of Year Against Plummeting Magic

Clowntime Is Over: Sixers Begin Toughest Stretch of Year Against Plummeting Magic

It's been lurking around the corner all year, like some weird mixture of
Finals Week, tax season and your 40th birthday, and now here we finally
are: The Sixers' deadly stretch of seven games against teams with
winning records, including the top two teams in the East (Miami and
Chicago), both L.A. teams, the always-tough San Antonio and the
occasionally-tough Atlanta. It's the toughest stretch, at least on
paper, that the Sixers should have all season, and it's why it's been a
good thing that the team has built up as many W's as they have against
the league's crappy competition—wins might be a little harder to come by
these next few weeks.

That said, it won't be impossible, and
tonight's matchup against the Magic might be one the Sixers can get the
better of. Orlando is a team in freefall at the moment, having lost each
of their last three games and four of their last five, including two
humiliating losses to the Boston Celtics (in one of which they only
scored eight points in the fourth quarter, in the other of which they
only scored 56 points total) and an even-worse 26-point blowout at the
hands of the lowly New Orleans Hornets. After the latter, team leader
and All-World center Dwight Howard called out his teammates for not
trying: "I look at guys and they don't look like they want to play...I
told them at halftime, `If you don't want to play, just stay in the
locker room, because it don't make sense for a team who we should beat
to just demolish us.'"

Seems like a pretty good time to catch the Magic, for sure. But don't be
thinking this game is gonna be a cinch—Howard always gives the Sixers
fits, and though our starting center Spencer Hawes is supposed to play
tonight for the first time in nine games (UPDATE: Hawes is out, Vuc will dress but playing time tbd, if any), his minutes will be limited,
and it'll be hard to stay out of foul trouble against Dwight anyway. I
probably don't need to remind you how thin the Sixers' interior is after
Spence, either—Nik Vucevic is still out, and good as Lavoy Allen has
been on offense lately, hands up if you think he has a chance of
shutting down Superman II in the post. Yeah.

The good news is that beyond Dwight, the Magic are most reliant on their
three-point shooting—they both attempt and make the second-most 3's in
the league—and shutting that down happens to be something of a specialty
for the Sixers, who rank second themselves in opponents' three-point
field goal percentage, at 28.7%. What's more, the Magic will be without
starting point guard and Philly hometown favorite Jameer Nelson—though
given his unbelievably crummy play this year (scoring in double-digits
in just 5 of 18 games, assisting in double-digits in 0 of 18), that
might not be such a bad thing for Orlando.

7:00 tip from the WFC. "We know we've got some great teams coming in,"
said Coach Collins of the team's upcoming stretch, six of seven of which
are to be played at home. "We've just got to be ready to play." 
They'll need more than readiness to beat some of these teams, but get
through this set of games with three or four wins, and we should be
sitting pretty in the Atlantic from here out. Time to get happy.

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.

Chip Kelly still jobless after swinging and missing with Jaguars

Chip Kelly still jobless after swinging and missing with Jaguars

Chip Kelly's job search continues.

The beloved (sarcasm) former Eagles head coach reportedly interviewed for the Jaguars' offensive coordinator opening. However, on Wednesday night, Jacksonville announced it was retaining Nathaniel Hackett as its OC.

“We are excited to announce Nathaniel Hackett as our offensive coordinator and he will immediately be tasked with installing and implementing our offense this offseason,” Jaguars new head coach Doug Marrone said in a statement from the team. “I have had the pleasure of working with Nathaniel for seven consecutive seasons and know firsthand how knowledgeable and passionate he is about winning.”

So, Kelly swung and miss twice on the Jaguars, as he reportedly interviewed for Jacksonville's head coaching job, as well.

"I’m not going to close the door on any opportunity, but I have to be very smart in what I do next,” Kelly said, via CSNBayArea.com, two days after his firing as 49ers head coach. “I don’t have to take anything, but I wouldn’t rule anything out. I need to make sure that I’m in the right situation.

“I don’t know what the future holds. I’ll do my due diligence. I’m not going to coach just to coach.”

Kelly's decline is staggering, even if you saw it coming.

Look at this NFL coaching history ...

With Eagles in 2013: 10-6, wild-card playoff berth
With Eagles in 2014: 10-6, missed playoffs
With Eagles in 2015: 6-9, fired before final regular-season game
With 49ers in 2016: 2-14, fired after regular season

Who knows what's next for the Chipper?