The Last Straw? A DNP-CD for Arnett Moultrie, A WTF for Coach Collins

The Last Straw? A DNP-CD for Arnett Moultrie, A WTF for Coach Collins

There were a lot of reasons to be depressed by the Sixers' performance
last night in Minnesota—the super-soft defense that let up 56 first half
points, the 1-7 shooting night for Nick Young (and 4-9 at the line,
including three misses in a row after a foul on a trey), the miserable
combined jump-shooting efforts from Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen, the
not-much-better combined jump-shooting efforts from Evan Turner and Jrue
Holiday...the list goes on. But we knew, or could pretty well guess,
that all that was going to be the case last night. It's not like we were
unaware this team was crappy shorthanded and not all that great to
begin with. No big surprise there.


What we didn't know, what we still can't figure out, is Doug Collins slapping rookie Arnett Moultrie with a DNP-CD. Now in my Five Goals for the Second Half of the Season
piece I published here a couple days ago, which I'm sure you all pored
over like the religious text it was, #2 on the list was to continue to
develop Moultrie, to give him consistent minutes, and maybe some more
time playing with Jrue Holiday and the first unit. No doubt Dougie also
read my article with diligence, considered all of my points made, and
decided...nah, I think I'd rather just play Damien Wilkins for 26
minutes. (No, you're not missing a decimal point there—Wilkins actually
played for over half the game.) Not like we couldn't have used him, or
any other big body, either—the Sixers got absolutely brutalized inside
last night, and were forced into a lot of long jumpers on offense
because their big men were super-unhelpful moving off picks.


But that's almost besides the point. Maybe Doug didn't like
something about the matchup, maybe Moultrie had a bad practice recently,
maybe he had a bad horoscope reading this morning, I dunno. But I also
don't really care. You may or may not have noticed that nowhere in my
"Five Goals" article does it say anything about winning games. And
that's because right now, coming up with actual Ws is an incidental
concern, especially as long as the Funny-Looking Kid With the Big Hair
is out. This team isn't going anywhere in the playoffs. Chances are very
good (and always looking better) that they aren't even going to
the playoffs. And in fact, the only real impact of the team making the
playoffs this year would be losing our first-round pick to Miami in the
summer. Winning is not the priority at the moment.


Rather, the priority should be building for next season, where
hopefully we'll have a re-signed and healthy-ish Bynum (and perhaps also
JJ Redick picked up in free agency, and perhaps Wilt Chamberlain
resurrected as a unicorn coming off the bench), as well as a decent
lottery pick to go along with our current core and really try to go
somewhere in the Eastern Conference. As a young, low-cost, high-upside
player, Arnett Moultrie could potentially play a part in that. Damien
Wilkins, for a variety of reasons, can not. So I don't really care if he
had a bad practice or something—unless he was making racist remarks
while farting uncontrollably, I wanna see him out there for 20 minutes a
night, learning the pro game, developing chemistry with Jrue and Evan,
showing us what he's got. I repeat: Winning is NOT the priority at the
moment.


Try telling that to Coach Collins, though—like, ever. As I think one of the Liberty Ballers
guys said, Doug is a great coach for an overachieving team, and an
absolutely terrible one for a rebuilding team. His win-now, win-forever
approach can squeeze 45 wins out of 35 wins' worth of talent, but if the
responsibility is tending over a 25-win team already looking at the
long approach, Collins is still gonna focus on how he can somehow get to
win #26. It's hard to fault the guy a ton for trying to win as many
games as possible—in theory, that's usually what you want your coach to
do, and it paid off decently his first two years in Philly. It's also
hard to envision him being a part of this team's future at this point,
though.


I'm not saying they should fire Doug Collins this season. The deck
was stacked against him from the beginning with the Bynum deal and
injuries, and the team is so bad right now that he probably couldn't
sabotage our tanking efforts even if he was consciously trying to. But
the Moultrie thing is indicative of how, if things stay sour for this
team, Doug's probably not the guy to stay the course and stay patient
with the team as they attempt to build towards the future. And really,
if he was still the Sixers' head coach at this point next year, I'd be
pretty surprised.

Despite blowout loss, Sixers see potential in Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor playing together

Despite blowout loss, Sixers see potential in Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor playing together

BOX SCORE

Brett Brown was ready to do it Wednesday night. The matchup against the Kings presented an opportunity to experiment with playing Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor together. That pairing had to wait two days, though, after the Kings game was postponed

On Friday, Embiid and Okafor shared the court for just under 13 minutes in the Sixers' 105-88 loss to the Magic (see Instant Replay), who also rolled out a duo of bigs in Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic. 

“I thought we had our moments,” Embiid said. “We shared the ball, we made shots. Obviously we need to play more together and learn how to play with each other.”

Embiid and Okafor first played together for 5:29 in the second quarter. They scored all of the Sixers' 12 points during that time, including a pair of threes by Embiid. They also combined for five boards. The Sixers outscored the Magic, 12-9, with the bigs in together.

The benefits of the floor spacing was apparent. Oftentimes in the game, Okafor could be seen open at the basket with a hand up for the ball while Embiid was also getting looks from long range. 

“I liked our spacing, I liked the high-low stuff we were doing,” Brown said. “I think when you post Joel, that Jahlil is going to play sort of hide-and-seek on the other side of the floor, and work that low zone, and become — I hope — a potent offensive rebounder. When you post Jahlil, Joel has the ability to space to three.”

Brown turned to Embiid and Okafor again in the fourth. At that point, the Magic had a 23-point lead. Their next 7:25 together was a chance to give them a long run in live game action. They combined for another 12 points and four rebounds. All of their buckets were layups, dunks or free throws. Both teams scored 19 points with Embiid and Okafor in that segment.

Both Embiid and Okafor finished the game with double-doubles: 25 points, 10 rebounds and four assists for Embiid; 16 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks for Okafor. 

“I thought they played well together,” Vucevic said. “I thought it was tough to guard them because they’re both really good offensively.”

Okafor credited his friendship with Embiid, which dates back to high school, as a key to coexisting well on the court. Both emphasized their off-the-court relationship would help them in a game situation. 

“I think the communication piece went really well,” Okafor said. “He was talking to me, I was talking to him.”

Scoring and communication always seemed to be the easier parts of the pairing to tackle. Defense, though, was the challenge given that one of the centers would have to guard the four spot. Okafor noted their transition D as an area that needs improvement.

“We’re both used to going right to the rim,” Okafor said. “I think I had a couple easy buckets. That’s something we’ll be able to fix.” 

Brown had based his decision of when to play Embiid and Okafor together on the matchups. While the two could boast their own edge on the offensive end, Brown didn’t want to play them in a scenario in which they’d be at a huge defensive disadvantage. 

“It’s not offense to me, it’s defense. That’s the thing that is most challenging,” Brown said. “We want to play fast. We want to put points on the board. You don’t want to play in the 80s. You don’t want to do that, that’s not our sport anymore. So you want to make sure that you're capable of guarding the opposition.”

Vucevic noticed the challenge from an opposing perspective. He understands the necessary changes since playing alongside Biyombo.  

“It takes time for them to get adjusted, especially for the guy that will be playing the four defensively,” Vucevic said. “They’re not used to that because they always back down to the paint guarding the fives. It’s a different look. They have to work on it, communicate, and I think they’ll be fine.” 

On a night with few highlights in a 17-point blowout loss, Brown was able to take away a positive from this anticipated duo.

"I thought Jahlil and Joel did a really good job," he said. 

Sixers Notes: Joel Embiid unhappy with effort; Robert Covington hurt

Sixers Notes: Joel Embiid unhappy with effort; Robert Covington hurt

Joel Embiid didn’t see four quarters of basketball from the Sixers in their 105-88 loss to the Magic Friday night (see Instant Replay). Their efforts were inconsistent as they fell flat in long stretches and allowed the Magic to build up double-digit leads as high as 29 points.

The Sixers gave up a 16-0 run in the first and shot just 6 for 26 (23.1 percent) in the quarter. The Magic, who had lost a one-point game to the Grizzlies in Memphis the night before, rallied together to seize this opportunity.

“They just made a lot of shots that we didn’t,” Embiid said. “That’s the game, but we didn’t play hard all 48 minutes and we need to do a better job next time.”

The Sixers didn’t break 30 points until 4:33 to go in the second and attempted just two free throws in the first half. By the end of the third, the Magic had a 21-point lead which they held on to with in ease in the fourth. 

The Magic outshot the Sixers on all areas of the floor: 47.4 percent to 37.9 from the field and 50.0 to 28.1 from three. While the teams had nearly equal percentages from the line, the Magic shot 18 for 26 compared to only 7 for 10 from the Sixers. 

“They missed a lot of shots,” Magic forward Jeff Green said. “We got stops, were aggressive, guys just played hard and created for one another and played as a team.”

Covington injured
The Sixers are waiting to learn more news on the extent of Robert Covington’s injury. In the fourth quarter, Covington exited and did not return after suffering a left knee sprain when he collided with T.J. McConnell chasing a loose ball in front of the Sixers’ bench. If the starting small forward has to miss time, Sixers head coach Brett Brown is thinking ahead to possible lineup changes. 

“We'll try to figure out what his next week represents,” Brown said. “If we aren't with him, maybe there's a chance we can look at Dario [Saric] a little bit at the three.”

Covington is averaging 8.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.9 steals in 27.5 minutes per game. Saric has been coming off the bench at power forward behind Ersan Ilyasova. He started 10 games earlier this season at the four spot. 

Embiid honored
The Sixers honored Embiid during a timeout for being named NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month (October and November). Embiid was appreciative of the award and has his sights set on the bigger picture this season.

“All the hard work I’ve put in, it feels great,” Embiid said earlier in the day at shootaround. “Obviously, maybe the bigger picture is Rookie of the Year, that’s what matters. … I don’t have my mind set on that. But if I can get it, that would be nice.”

Brown sees this recent showing as just a glimpse into what Embiid will be able to do over his career. Embiid leads the Sixers with 18.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks. 

“This in infant stages, early days for him,” Brown said. “His body of work, given his lack of playing basketball, really is jaw-dropping for what I think he can be. To jump in and get rookie of the month I think is a real, sort of, quick snapshot view of him now. I think what he’s going to be is going to be extremely special.”

Embiid also is shooting 51.4 percent from three, including 3 for 5 against the Magic. When asked if he would like to participate in the three-point contest All-Star weekend, he said "it would be nice" and noted he would have to work on the speed of his release.