Come On and Take a Free Ride: Sixers Vs. Bobcats in Charlotte

Come On and Take a Free Ride: Sixers Vs. Bobcats in Charlotte

You should never get too cocky in this league, and it's not like the
Sixers have been lighting the NBA on fire the last week or so—in their
last three games, they've lost to the Spurs and Clippers, and went into
cruise control in what probably should have been a blowout win against
an undermanned Cleveland team. Still, it's hard not to feel about as
confident as possible in a win going into tonight's game against the
Charlotte Bobcats. Them dudes is 3-24 for the season, with zero wins in
their last 14 games—miserably short on professional-caliber basketball
players and seemingly destined for one of the highest of lottery picks.

There's no real point in talking matchups here—if the Sixers can't take
care of business, it'll be due to some sort of team-wide malaise that
causes them to do bad all the things they normally do good—but let's
look at a couple things with the Sixers themselves that might be worth
focusing in on:

1. Can Evan Turner reclaim his minutes? What started out a dynamite
second year for the Extraterrestrial has gone a little south, with Coach
Collins cutting his PT (no games over 25 minutes since Feb. 1st) and no
clear reason why. Granted, Turner does one or two things a game that
cause Coach Collins to shake his head (dumb fouls, missed assignments,
getting fancy with the ball and turning it over), but he's still a
fairly consistent producer, and a key to the team's future. We've been
warned about Collins' tendency to grate on younger players, and if he
keeps giving ET the stick, it's not hard to see their relationship
souring in the not-too-distant future.

2. Can Jrue continue to get to the line? It was heartening to see our
young point guard actually rack up the FTAs in Saturday's game against
the Cavs—a season-high eight shots at the line, after six the game
before against the Clippers, both well above The Damaja's 2.7/game
average. We need someone besides Sweet Lou to draw fouls on this team,
and Jrue's shown the craftiness around the basket to convert as well, so
it's a trend we'd like to see stay up.

3. Who's playing center? If Hawes is still out—and we're starting to get
legitimately worried about our center's ability to stay healthy this
season—can Nik Vucevic hold down the position in his absence, without
getting out-muscled under the basket and failing to properly guard the
pick and roll? At the very least, we'd like to see him regain the
outside touch he showed earlier in the season—Nik is just 10-24 in his
last four games.

7:00 tip from Time Warner Cable Arena. If we lose this one, there will be no recap, trust.

Union emotional after Maurice Edu's season-ending injury

USA Today Images

Union emotional after Maurice Edu's season-ending injury

CHESTER, Pa. — On the eve of his comeback after missing nearly 13 months with a left tibia stress fracture and other related injuries, Union midfielder Maurice Edu fractured his left fibula on Saturday, keeping him out for the 2016 playoffs and beyond.

“I was trying to take the shot on goal and my foot got stuck in the turf,” Edu said Sunday, in his blue Union-issued suit and supported by crutches. “My ankle rolled and twisted and it kind of snapped a little bit. I heard it crack, and a lot of pain from there. I got a scan afterward, and there was a break.”

There's no timetable his return.

Edu, 30, has spent over a calendar year fighting various injuries that have kept him out of game action. His trouble began on Sept. 30, 2015, when he played through the U.S. Open Cup final with a partially torn groin and sports hernia. It was during Edu’s recovery from those injuries that he developed a stress fracture.

"A little bit frustration. A lot of frustration, to be honest," he said. "But all I can do now is get back to work, focus on the positives and make sure that my situation isn’t a distraction from the team."

Edu’s teammates were equally devastated by the news. Edu, the Union captain when healthy, is popular and well-respected in the locker room.

"I feel so bad for him," said Alejandro Bedoya, who wore a dedication to Edu under his jersey on Sunday. "He’s one of my good friends, so I was looking forward to playing alongside him. I know how hard he’s worked to get back, and to see him go out like that, it’s heartbreaking. I’m sad for his loss and I hope he stays strong."

Edu, who has been with the Union since 2014, returned to training in July and played three conditioning appearances with the Union’s USL team, Bethlehem Steel FC. He was on the bench for the Union’s last three games and was set to make his first appearance in over a year against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, a game the Union eventually lost, 2-0 (see game story).

"We’re gutted for Mo," Union manager Jim Curtin said. "He was slated to start today. It’s real upsetting because he’s worked so hard to get back on the field. It’s been a tough 2016 for him, but I know he’ll come back stronger."

While he was visibly shaken by recent injury, Edu is driven to return.

"What happened, happened," Edu said. "I have no control over that. The only thing I do have control over is my next steps from here, how I prepare myself mentally and emotionally and how I continue to support this group."

Sixers 'all over the place' different without Ben Simmons

Sixers 'all over the place' different without Ben Simmons

CAMDEN, N.J. — It has been over three weeks since Ben Simmons suffered an acute Jones fracture in his right foot during the final scrimmage of training camp. The Sixers had constructed schemes around the rookie point-forward and watched unconventional lineups play out at Stockton University.

Those “can’t-wait-to-see” situations have been delayed to “wait-and-see” as Simmons recovers.

“Where do you begin?” Brett Brown said after practice Sunday. “I could talk for three days on what’s different without Ben Simmons. It’s all-over-the-place different. The core values of how you want to do different things there remain the same, but the whole landscape changed.”

This week was supposed to be the debut of a new-look system featuring a player who could influence the game with his versatility and athleticism. Brown even had experimented with pairing Simmons and Dario Saric at the two and three positions. Instead, the Sixers once again will start a regular season shorthanded by injuries.

Simmons was projected to start at power forward and also handle point responsibilities. His multitasking lessened the need for the Sixers to find a standout point guard this summer. They signed veteran Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez, who is returning to the NBA for his second stint.

Bayless was expected to start, with the intention of Simmons running the floor at times. Now, neither can play. Bayless has been sidelined by a ligament injury in his left wrist. The Sixers announced on Friday that Bayless will have a non-surgical rehab and will be reevaluated in two weeks.

Brown on Sunday was undecided on whether Rodriguez or second-year point guard T.J. McConnell would start at the one on opening night.

“He was going to be one of the primary ballhandlers,” Brown said of Simmons. “And with that, floor spots and spacing and how you actually set this thing up changes dramatically.”

The players also have noticed a change without Simmons in the backcourt. Joel Embiid, playing his first season after missing the past two with foot injuries, found himself struggling with his shot selection early on in the preseason. He got glimpses in camp of how Simmons could improve that.

“He’s such a big presence and he’s really important to us,” Embiid said. “He just makes plays. I’ve been rushing shots and that’s where it comes in play. Someone like him can help me get better shots because he can get me easy baskets.”

Simmons’ absence also fast-forwarded Saric’s transition in his first NBA season. The injuries to Simmons and Jahlil Okafor (right knee) have pushed Saric into the starting power forward role during the preseason. The rookie has been learning on the go in a new league.

“He has been thrown into the fire,” Brown said of Saric last week (see story).

Simmons recently went through a two-week, post-operative exam and had sutures removed. He is working on day-to-day rehab with the Sixers' staff while also spending time talking with Brown. The team is implementing a multi-faceted recovery program of education, health and shot improvement.

This includes meeting with Brown to break down his game — where it is now and where it can develop in the future. Brown wants to make sure Simmons knows the ins and outs of the system so he is best prepared to begin his rookie season once cleared to play.

“I think that part of my excitement is I get with Ben every day while we’re here and go into my office for half-an-hour and it’s like basketball-NBA 101,” Brown said.

That’s one aspect of Simmons’ injury for which Brown can prepare.