Chip Kelly, Doug Collins visit before Sixers game

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Chip Kelly, Doug Collins visit before Sixers game

When the Sixers locker room opened on Monday, all the usual people milled about -- reporters and players, coaches and team staffers. Then a new face appeared.

About an hour or so before tipoff against the Brooklyn Nets at the Wells Fargo Center, Eagles head coach Chip Kelly walked in and headed to the back to meet Doug Collins. The two talked for about five or 10 minutes before Collins addressed the media.

“I’m excited to see the team he puts on the field,” Collins said about the confab. “I know he’s very excited. It was good just to say hello.”

Collins said the brief visit went well. That prompted one reporter to ask, jokingly, whether Collins had any “words of warning” for Kelly.

“I told him just the opposite, what an incredible city this is and how much they love their Eagles, the fan base here and stuff,” Collins said. “It was just the opposite. I said, he couldn’t find a better place to be a coach.”

Thrust into bigger role, Sixers' Holmes stars in win over Wizards

Thrust into bigger role, Sixers' Holmes stars in win over Wizards

BOX SCORE

For as much as the Sixers’ bigs are talked about, Richaun Holmes often is left out of the conversation. 

He’s not the centerpiece of the team like Joel Embiid nor was he heavily involved in trade talks like Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. He is the backup center who bides his time on the bench and quietly stays ready when he gets the nod.

And on Friday, he was the standout player in the Sixers’ 120-112 win over the Wizards (see Instant Replay)

“He’s been sort of the person that people forget about because of the logjam of five men,” Brett Brown said. “We all sort of think, ‘Well, he should just accept it because he’s behind Joel and Nerlens and Jahlil. Good ol’ Richaun. Go to the D-League and it’s OK.’ And that doesn’t work. He’s a pro, he’s competitive. He’s handled it. He’s really been a wonderful teammate.”

Holmes was bumped up in the rotation following the trade of Noel to the Mavs. He moved into the second-unit role while Okafor started in place of the injured Embiid. 

Holmes recorded his first double-double with 12 points (6 for 9 from the field) and 10 rebounds (three offensive). He also blocked a career-high five shots, tying Embiid for the most by a Sixer this season. The second-year big man put together this impressive performance in 26 minutes off the bench. 

“Just play hard,” Holmes said of his approach. “Just go out there, show what you’ve been working on, play hard every second you’re out there. That’s the motto I’ve got.”

Holmes is averaging 16.1 minutes and has appeared in just 32 of the Sixers’ 57 games. This season he also spent time with the Delaware 87ers of the Development League to get playing time. Holmes embraced an opportunity similar to Friday’s a month ago when he scored 18 points in as many minutes against the Clippers. 

“I try to approach every game this season the same way, whether everybody was playing or people were hurt,” Holmes said. “Prepare like I’m going to play 30 minutes a game. I think having that mindset helped me to stay ready at all times and be aggressive when I had a chance.”

Brown did not rule out the possibility that Holmes could start at some point if he continues this production. The Sixers are limiting Okafor to 20 to 24 minutes per game, according to Brown. That, combined with Embiid’s injury, could lend itself to an increased role for Holmes. 

“I think in that environment, it wouldn’t seem out of the ordinary for Richaun to get a start from time to time,” Brown said. 

Even if he remains on the second unit, Holmes proved he can provide a spark off the bench. Dario Saric noted how Holmes’ impact on both ends of the floor bolsters the frontcourt in addition to a more offensively-minded Okafor (11 points, two rebounds). 

“I think he played unbelievably good in both ways,” Saric said. “Everybody knows he’s an elite guy finishing around the rim, and he stepped in Nerlens’ place, he replaced him unbelievably good. I hope he will get the same minutes for the next game because we have Jahlil, who is more like a post-up player, who likes more to score from the low-post block, and we for sure need some guy like Richaun who will play in both ways." 

Perhaps the person least surprised by Holmes' game was Holmes himself. It was the result he puts in long hours to produce.

“It’s all about the grind,” he said. “All about keep working, keep trying to move up, keep trying to get better every second and it’ll pay off.” 

Instant Replay: Sixers 120, Wizards 112

Instant Replay: Sixers 120, Wizards 112

BOX SCORE

No Joel Embiid. No Nerlens Noel. No Ersan Ilyasova.

In the Sixers’ first game after the trade deadline and announcing Embiid will be out until March, the remaining players pulled together for a grind-it-out win over the Wizards. 

The production in Friday's 120-112 victory went down the roster from the starters to the last man off the bench (in this case, they went nine deep). 

Dario Saric and Robert Covington set the tone in the first half. The rest of the team quickly followed suit in the second, including a standout performance by Richaun Holmes with the first double-double of his career. 

The Sixers’ collective effort fended off 40 points from Bradley Beal along the way.

The Sixers have given up leads to the Wizards before and they were tested again in the final minute. The Sixers were up by seven with 45 seconds remaining. After Covington was whistled for a technical foul and T.J. McConnell fouled John Wall, the lead shrunk to just four points with 22.9 seconds to go. The Sixers sealed the game with three final free throws. 

The Wizards had been 9-1 over their last 10 games. The Sixers snapped the Wizards' four-game winning streak.

Inside the box score
• Holmes maximized his playing time after the Noel trade to post 12 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks off the bench.

• Saric recorded a 20-point, 11-rebound double-double with four assists in 33 minutes.

• Covington drained five treys in his 25-point, 11-rebound double-double over 39 minutes.

• Gerald Henderson added 20 points in the starting lineup. 

• Beal’s monster scoring included shooting 15 for 25 from the field, 2 for 8 from three and 8 for 10 from the line.

• Wall scored 29 points with 14 assists, eight rebounds and six turnovers.

• Marcin Gortat recorded his seventh straight double-double against the Sixers going back to February of last season.

Anderson, Splitter on the bench
Newly-acquired Justin Anderson and Tiago Splitter watched their first game as Sixers from the bench. Splitter has not played yet this season because of injuries. Anderson was available but did not play. Anderson stepped into the recently-waived Chasson Randle’s role of standing up in applause after the Sixers scored. 

No Noel is new for Brown
Brett Brown coached a game without Noel on the roster for the first time in his career as Sixers head coach. Noel had been the final player left from Brown’s inaugural season before he was traded to the Mavericks on Thursday. 

"I'm happy for him in my heart of hearts," Brown said (see story).

Lights out
The lights inside the Wells Fargo Center briefly went out during the second half. Many jokes followed on social media, including this one: 

Up next
The Sixers will travel to New York to play the Kristaps Porzingis-less Knicks in a back-to-back series Saturday night. On Monday, the Sixers will host the Warriors.