Sixers Lose But Jrue Holiday Really Good at Basketball, Nick Young Still Swag to Spare

Sixers Lose But Jrue Holiday Really Good at Basketball, Nick Young Still Swag to Spare

It's tough to take consolation in the ol' "Got beat by a better team"
explanation tonight when facing a team like the 11-26 Hornets, but it's
true. After all, the Hornets are a whole lot better than their 11-26
record, something analysts always say when their squad is getting beat
by opposing teams with crappy win-losses, but in this case it's
basically inarguable—the Hornets finally have franchise lynchpins Eric
Gordon and Anthony Davis healthy together for the first time all season,
and have now won five of their last six, including Ws over the Spurs,
Rockets and Timberwolves, all of whom are also a lot better than the
Sixers. Depressing but true.

The Sixers lost tonight because
they couldn't play competent defense. Again, not as inexcusable as you
might think, considering that the Hornets have several legit scorers and
playmakers in their suddenly formidable starting roster (+ Ryan
Anderson off the bench), but it's stuff that's dogged the Liberty
Ballers all season—getting hung up on picks, not rotating to shooters,
allowing dribble penetration and failing to rebound the basketball.
You'd like to blame it one guy, and if Spencer Hawes was playing the
whole game maybe we could, but really it was a team-wide malaise
tonight, where the Hornets were given quality looks and rarely missed.
Credit to them, debit to us, if that makes any sense which it probably
doesn't.

There were two bright spots tonight, which made this
game a lot more fun to watch than all the other shitty losses the Sixers
have gone through as of late. Jrue Holiday...if a point guard can play
any better on offense then he did in the first half tonight—where he
scored 12 points and handed out nine assists, making seemingly every
correct move and decision and basically keeping the Hornets from running
away with it all by his lonesome—I haven't seen it too often, and
certainly not for the Philadelphia 76ers. Even as The Damaja appeared to
be slowed down in the second half (and the thing really slowing him
down was Doug Collins benching him for half of the fourth quarter,
before deciding garbage time was over), he still scored another 17 and
ended with 29 points on 10-17 shooting (4-5 from deep), 11 assists, five
rebounds and four steals. Give that man his All-Star bid.

But
of course, if Sixers fans remember the game tonight, chance are it will
be for that previously mentioned fourth quarter stretch where Jrue sat,
and His Swagness took over. With the Sixers down 20, Nick Young did what
we brought him to Philadelphia to do, and in his first action in a
couple games, scored 15 points in a five-minute stretch that brought the
Sixers back to nine down, and had the Wells Fargo Center buzzing like
it hasn't been since...I dunno, Lou Williams' Heat-beater? AI's return
game? A long time. The run wasn't enough, and Young dried up shortly
thereafter, but Sixers fans will no doubt be tickled to know that the
Swag lives on, PT be damned.

In the end, another game where you
see your guys getting outboarded and outmuscled—Spence and Lavoy Allen
combined for ONE REBOUND in the first half—and you look at that
funny-looking kid with the big hair at the end of the bench and wonder
if he might have made the difference. Sixers won't find out for at least
another month, but with games like the one Jrue had tonight—with game,
if not quite sufficient, support from Thaddeus Young and Evan
Turner—it's reasonable enough to hope for.

Toronto on Friday in a vengeance game. Go Sixers.

Roman Lyubimov getting comfortable, impressing with hard, heavy style

Roman Lyubimov getting comfortable, impressing with hard, heavy style

Ron Hextall said when Flyers training camp began there were spots to be won and spots to be taken from others.

Even though it’s still early in camp, it seems fairly clear Russian forward Roman Lyubimov is going to steal someone’s job among the bottom-six forwards.

He’s been the right wing on Boyd Gordon’s line in camp with Chris VandeVelde on the left side. 

That fourth line worked again Tuesday night as the Flyers opened their home preseason schedule with a 4-0 win over the Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center.

The 6-2, 207-pound Lyubimov plays a heavy game. He is tenacious in one-on-one battles and, perhaps more importantly, jumps on loose pucks after faceoffs as demonstrated during the 2-0 loss in New Jersey on Monday.

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol took notice.

“It’s a nice trait for a player to have automatically and it’s an important trait,” Hakstol said.

“His competitiveness and his battle level on 50-50 pucks, things like that, hasn’t changed from Day 1.”

After spending six years in the KHL, it appears Lyubimov has found a home here. He’s already making a nice adjustment to the smaller rink, too.

“Last couple of years, playing for the Red Army team, there were some pretty physical games,” he said, via translator Slava Kouznetsov. “I think it was pretty close to NHL games. I just have to adapt to the smaller ice.”

He logged 3:55 ice time on the penalty kill against the Devils — second only to rookie defensive prospect Ivan Provorov — and Hakstol has his sights set on using him in that capacity if he makes the final cut.

While playing for the Russian Army, Lyubimov was used in a shutdown role and on the PK with little power-play time.

“I was more defense-oriented,” he said. “If you don’t let the [opponent] score on you, it’s easier to win games. Here, I’ll see what the coaches want me to do. I watched a lot of NHL games. One of my criteria was to be good at the penalty kill.”

The only hard question Hakstol has to answer is Lyubimov’s adjustment to the smaller rink.

“I think he is still working through that but he is game for it,” Hakstol said. “He doesn’t look for open ice in terms of shying away from traffic areas. He is battling in those high traffic areas.”

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare made the adjustment quickly, coming over from France. Michael Raffl played a couple games with the Phantoms after coming over from Austria.

It’s possible the Flyers could start Lyubimov with the Phantoms and then call him up.

“He plays a small-ice type of game,” Hextall said of Lyubimov. “He goes hard to the net, he’s good on the wall, does all those little things. Space I don’t think will affect him as much as other guys.”

He had a prime scoring chance in Tuesday’s game against the Islanders, chasing down a puck behind the net and getting a wraparound that was blocked at the post by defenseman Kyle Burroughs.

Lyubimov finished with 12:07 of ice time and two shots.

His best shot to make the cut is to take away VandeVelde's spot on the fourth line (see story). Once Bellemare returns from the World Cup of Hockey, someone has to go. Another factor here is whether the club carries 23 players instead of 22.

Lyubimov said what impressed him about the Flyers was how players are treated here, on and especially off the ice.

That was always something former Flyers loved about their late owner Ed Snider. He treated them as family, not employees.

“There is a difference,” Lyubimov said. “Everything here is comfortable and done for the players. Here I live five minutes from the rink. In Moscow, it’s 45 minutes. Everything works for me here.”

So much so, Lyubimov is bringing his wife, Katrina, and their 1-year-old daughter Alexa, over this fall to live here even though he has just a one-year deal worth $925,000.

“I want to stay here more than a year,” he said. “I will do whatever I have to do. This is the place I wanted to come.”

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- Nerlens Noel’s recent comments on the logjam of big men on the Sixers' roster did not come as news to head coach Brett Brown. While Noel had not been this publicly outspoken on the issue, he and Brown have been having open discussions about it. 

“I have been talking to Nerlens a lot and I have a fondness for him,” Brown said Tuesday on the first day of training camp. “I don’t begrudge Nerlens Noel at all for what he said. I don’t have any problems with it.”

The Sixers' crowded frontcourt this season is a continuation of last season’s conundrum in which Brown was tasked with playing Noel and Jahlil Okafor, two natural centers, together. The depth has increased with the return of Joel Embiid and additions of Dario Saric and Ben Simmons. 

So when Noel doubled down on Monday by saying, "I don't see a way it can work,” Brown recognized where the center's opinions were coming from as he enters his fourth season in the NBA. 

“I feel if we do anything well, we communicate with our players freely,” Brown said. “It is one hundred percent transparent – hard conversations ahead, easy conversations ahead. I have spoken with Nerlens about this a lot. 

“My messaging and my mood and attitude and things that come out of my mouth haven’t changed once. I feel very confident that I’m giving him the advice that he should hear from me and it still allows me to do my job. 

“We have talked about it freely, like I have talked about it with Jahlil and Joel. Those situations are part of pro sports. They’re ever-present with me and us right now.”

Noel has been a rare mainstay among a revolving door of players over the past three years. He is in a unique situation with Brown in that the two have experienced a long list of the team’s ups and downs together. Noel feels comfortable talking honestly with Brown about his viewpoints. 

“I’ve known Brett probably longer than most guys here and we’ve built a different type of relationship,” Noel said. “It’s been very front and forward and we talk and we keep it real. That’s what he’s been doing with me and that’s why I’m able to continue to talk to him about myself and him just telling me what position I’ll be in – he’ll try to put me in – to succeed.”

With Brown having an understanding of Noel, his focus is on what Noel can bring to the team this season. He believes Noel has an edge over Embiid and Okafor for minutes early on because Noel the only one of the trio starting camp without restrictions from previous injuries. 

There is a tough competition for playing time among the bigs, and camp is about proving oneself through basketball, not through personal opinions. Brown was impressed on the first day of camp by the manner in which Noel approached the morning practice amid the comments.

“He has handled it with me and in the training session today like a pro,” Brown said. “He came to mean it. He didn’t back down at all. There was no moping or sulking or him being stubborn. He played. That’s what he has to do. I think that’s a real reflection of anybody of how you handle adversity. Today he handled it like a true pro and a true competitor.”