Sixers get blown out by Minnesota, sky unfalls

Sixers get blown out by Minnesota, sky unfalls

In the words of a man whose name is an anagram for "oral sex," all we need is just a little patience. Philadelphia 76er fans were losing their collective minds a couple days ago after the team's unexpected road upset in Portalnd, and not totally unreasonably so, considering the win was their fourth straight on the road and the team was starting to look like a squad that might actually have playoff contention--a veritable worst-case scenario for the team's long-term prospects--on the brain.

But as I said back then, the winning streak wasn't as dramatic as it seemed. Three of the teams they beat were lousy squads the Sixers caught at pretty much the exact right squad, and the Portland win was about as fluky and unrepeatable as any Philly was likely to have this season, maybe even including the Miami game. The hotness was not meant to last, and I figured it would cool its boots sooner rather than later--though I'll admit I was a little terrified about the potential consequences if it didn't.

Well, no matter anymore. The Sixers can't undo four wins' worth of damage in one night, but it seems like whatever mojo they were summoning over their recent West Coast swing has now officially dried up with the team's 126-95 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves last night. Combined with a Nets win in Brooklyn last night, they're now back to a comfortable 4th in the Atlantic Division, possibly to fall to last tonight with a loss to Cleveland on the road and a Knicks win against Detroit tonight.

It was the same old story for the Sixers--poor three-point defense, lackluster rebounding, and far too many mental errors and terrible decisions with the basketball. They let up 16 threes and turned the ball over 22 times. They got destroyed by Kevin Martin and Kevin Love outside and Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Love (again) inside. It was enough to make you nostalgic for the unapologetically crappy 76ers teams of a couple weeks ago.

But really, it wasn't as bad as it looked, just like the Blazers win wasn't as good as it looked. The Sixers didn't do a great job defending beyond the arc, but watching the game, it felt more like the Wolves making a lot of shots than the Sixers really blowing rotations or losing their men on the perimeter. They let up a ton of offensive rebounds, but that'll happen on occasion playing a frontline of Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic with your own big man combo of Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes. That's the NBA: Sometimes shit happens, and sometimes it doesn't. Last night it did.

The turnovers were a bit much, though. Maybe it was inspired by playing the Timberwolves, one of the league's best-passing squads, but the Sixers--particularly Spencer Hawes, who seemed intent on proving he could out-outlet Kevin Love--went for way too many home-run-type passes that weren't really available to them, and absolutely killed their own momentum on about a half-dozen separate occasions throughout the game. It's always good to see the team playing on the aggressive side, but the Sixers were just downright careless a lot of the time, and that's not really acceptable.

But yeah, point is, every game's a new chance for this Sixers squad to get back to their losing ways, and they did in a big way last night. It'll be interesting to see if it drags into their game tonight against the woeful Cleveland Cavaliers, who may or may not have their banged-up franchise player Kyrie Irving in the lineup, and also may or may not be debuting their recent blockbuster trade acquisition Luol Deng (for the price of Andrew Bynum, who may show up soon enough on the Heat or Clippers or may just be done with this whole basketball thing). Seeing whether the team can recover from the dispiriting loss tonight may have a bearing on their next week or so of games, most of which are at home and winnable in theory.

Regardless of what happens tonight, the good news about the Deng-Bynum swap is that it means trade season is officially in full effect, and will no doubt be impacting the Sixers sooner rather than later. As always, we place our faith in our EGOT winner of a GM, and trust that winning or losing, tanking or contending, he can steward this Philly squad into a brighter tomorrow. In the meantime, stay frosty, Thaddeus Young.

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?