Sixers-Knicks 5 things: Winnable game vs. skidding Knicks

Sixers-Knicks 5 things: Winnable game vs. skidding Knicks

The Sixers (10-25) face the Atlantic Division rival New York Knicks (17-21) on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m./CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports app).

Let’s take a closer look at the matchup:

1. Playoffs!?
The recent stretch of games has been kind to the Sixers, but good enough to start thinking playoffs?

If you’re Joel Embiid, the answer is yes. 

After putting up 20 points, five rebounds and four assists in the Sixers' 105-95 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday, Embiid explained his belief that the Sixers can reach the postseason.

“I think we have a chance,” Embiid said. “We’ve been hot lately. ... We’re really figuring things out, we’re starting to learn how to win games.”

True. The Sixers have won three of their last four games and now sit 7½ games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

However, it may be a bit difficult to keep up this current run. Following Wednesday’s matchup with the Knicks, who have lost eight of their last nine, eight of the Sixers’ next nine games will be against teams with records above .500.

2. Reaching Rose
While the Sixers are thinking about the postseason, the slumping Knicks have been reduced to just figuring out where their players are at tip-off.

Point guard Derrick Rose missed the Knicks’ 110-96 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans at Madison Square Garden with the team unsure of his whereabouts. 

Rose rejoined the squad for practice on Tuesday and said he returned to his hometown of Chicago for family reasons. He spoke with Knicks officials and apologized to his teammates for going AWOL upon his return.

"It had nothing to do with the team or basketball," said Rose, who was fined by the Knicks. "That's the first time I ever felt like that emotionally and I had to be with my family."

Rose is expected to play on Wednesday night, but things haven’t exactly been going well for the veteran on the floor either. He’s averaging 14.8 points on 42.4 percent shooting from the field and 16.7 percent from three-point range over the last five games. Those numbers have caused him to be glued to the bench by head coach Jeff Hornacek for some recent fourth quarters.

We’ll see if Rose can block out the distractions and get back to business against the Sixers.

3. Chasson chasing his dreams
Speaking of point guards expected to see action Wednesday, Chasson Randle will likely make his NBA debut for the Sixers.

Randle signed a 10-day contract with the Sixers. The Stanford product previously averaged 20.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 19 games for the D-League’s Westchester Knicks this season. 

“I just want to bring a lot of energy on both ends of the floor, be aggressive, and try to make plays out there and be a great teammate because we’ve got a lot of great guys here,” Randle said after his first practice. “I’ve only been here 24 hours, but I can just tell these guys are amazing.”

4. Injuries
Ben Simmons (foot) and Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are out for the Sixers.

Mindaugas Kuzminskas (illness) is a game-time decision for the Knicks.

5. This and that
• The Sixers have lost nine of their last 10 meetings with the Knicks.

• Kristaps Porzingis had 10 blocks in three games against the Sixers last season.

• Carmelo Anthony has averaged 23.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 30 career games against the Sixers.

Shawn Long the latest of Sixers to seize opportunity

Shawn Long the latest of Sixers to seize opportunity

CHICAGO -- Injuries have been creating opportunities for different players on the Sixers all season.

Just last week, we took a look at the emergence of Richaun Holmes and how he has moved up the depth chart and proven himself to be a reliable first backup center next season (see story).

Shawn Long has been capitalizing on the same opportunities since earning a call-up from the Delaware 87ers. The Sixers signed Long to a multi-year deal on March 16 following the end of his 10-day contract. His contract is guaranteed for the remainder of this season but partially guaranteed after that, making every game an audition for the future.

The Sixers are down to three centers since the season-ending injury of Joel Embiid (see story), and just two when Jahlil Okafor is out. Long has slid into the backup (and sometimes backup-to-the-backup) role Holmes previously held.

"I think that Shawn Long has really grabbed his brief opportunities and been more than serviceable," Brett Brown said this week. "He's shown reasons why he should be considered a genuine NBA player."

Long's numbers, standing alone, aren't jaw-dropping. Taking a closer look, though, they are efficient. In seven games this month, Long is averaging 5.8 points (shooting 59.3 percent from the field) and 3.5 rebounds in 9.0 minutes.

In Wednesday's loss to the Thunder, Long led the Sixers with six rebounds (in a game they were held to a season-low 25 boards) and 13 points in 15 minutes off the bench. Seven of those minutes came in the first half, so this wasn't just a case of getting a run in a fourth-quarter blowout situation.

On Monday, Long spread his contributions across the stat sheet in the Sixers' overtime loss to the Magic: four points, two rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks in 11 minutes.

Going back to Sunday's 105-99 win over the Celtics, he played a key role in the Sixers' third-quarter push that cut a double-digit deficit to only three points heading into the fourth. He posted eight points and three rebounds in 5:52 during the third.

Long has to watch his foul trouble as he gets adjusted to defending NBA opponents. He is averaging 4.7 personal fouls in 11.0 minutes over the last three games.

Long also continues to focus on his three-point shooting to stretch the floor. He is just 2 for 3 from three as a Sixer. On Wednesday, he worked on long-range drills with Holmes after shootaround.

With the skills he has and those he is honing, Long could be the latest member of the Sixers to make a name for himself by maximizing playing time when he receives it.

"Isn't it fantastic -- as we've seen over the years, opportunity uncovers different qualities in people," Brown said.

Now with Thunder, Jerami Grant still considers Sixers family

Now with Thunder, Jerami Grant still considers Sixers family

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Jerami Grant was the first familiar face to be traded in a season that has seen Nerlens Noel and Hollis Thompson exit town as well.

The Sixers dealt Grant to the Thunder on Nov. 1 in exchange for Ersan Ilyasova and a protected draft pick. The Thunder had already played the Sixers on opening night in Philadelphia, and nearly five months passed before Grant faced his former (and only other) team.

"It's still family, everybody in the organization," Grant said. "They're doing well, they're playing a lot better, so I'm happy for them."

Grant's life was thrown into a tailspin when he was traded. In a flash, he had to leave the city he had called home since 2014. So quickly, in fact, his family had to move out of his home in Philadelphia for him.

"I had to pack my bags and things in two hours," Grant recalled. "I had to get a physical so I could play the next day in L.A. At first it was a little shock, but once you settle down, it's OK."

Grant quickly found a role with his athleticism. He averaged 6.1 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 21.2 minutes before the All-Star break. The reunion with childhood best friend Victor Oladipo was an added bonus to the adjustment period.

"I settled in well," Grant said. "I think everybody did a great job of just bringing me in. I think the fans have done a great job of embracing me. Whenever I get on the court, they give me a standing ovation, so that's great. My teammates are great, too."

Grant's playing time waned when the Thunder acquired Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott from the Bulls. Grant is averaging 3.4 points, 1.5 rebounds and 0.2 blocks in 12.3 minutes since the break. He continues to stay focused on improving his three-point shot every day in practice, which was a focal point with the Sixers.

Grant played 11 minutes against the Sixers and scored three points (a trey, nonetheless), along with three rebounds and two assists (see game recap). Brett Brown has seen Grant play enough games to believe in spite of his lessened role on the Thunder, he will have a place in the league for years to come.

"He lives right, he's prideful, he wants to be good," Brown said. "He's athletic enough to feel like there's potential there. He's a wonderful person and a great teammate. There's a cleanliness, there's a wholesomeness to Jerami Grant along with pedigree, his family tree ... that makes him for sure to me an NBA longtime player."