With game on the line, Turner wanted the shot

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With game on the line, Turner wanted the shot

The shot went up and the buzzer went off, and the ball bounced around for a while. Everyone watched and waited. It bounced three times. It felt like forever.

“It felt like 150 times it bounced, man,” Evan Turner said.

He was the one who put the shot up. The Sixers were down one in overtime when he drove to the basket and let the ball go as timed expired.

“It was up there,” Turner said, “and I was just thinking about my reaction if it didn’t go in -- who I was going to punch, you know? That’s all I was really doing. Thank the Lord it went in and I’m glad we won.”

They did win. Turner didn’t have to punch anyone. Thank the Lord for that, too.

Sixers 121, Nets 120 (see Instant Replay).

The Sixers lost seven games in a row before beating the Nets at the Wells Fargo Center Friday evening. That unfortunate and often-ugly streak included an abject beating by the same Nets team in Brooklyn on Monday. The Nets won that game by 36 points. The Sixers won this one by one point. They’ll take it. They needed it.

“It’s easy to get deflated when you lose and lose the way we did the last two games,” head coach Brett Brown said. “It’s such an up-and-down world we live in with the Philadelphia 76ers.”

It has been less up and more down for them this season -- except in overtime games. They’ve played five of those and won four -- half their win total this season.

“It’s up and down, it’s up and down,” Brown continued. “I feel like my job, and I try to coach myself, is to try to stay even and always remember what we’re doing. We needed to get that win, I felt like for the sanity of the group, keeping our group together, holding hope. For those reasons, as the ball is hanging on the rim, and it decides to fall in for us, given where we are, that is an important win for us.”

It was. And it almost didn’t happen. Late in overtime, Paul Pierce hit a three-pointer to put the Nets up by one. It was one of four three-pointers that Pierce hit, and one of 15 threes that Brooklyn made as a team. The Sixers are not good at defending the three-pointer. You may have heard. Something called Mirza Teletovic hit six threes all by himself for the Nets.

“The young guys continue to not realize that this is the NBA and the players are pretty good shooters,” Brown said with a laugh after the game. “Teletovic, we lose him like he’s one of my assistants. You look. We just got done playing him. He’s a really good shooter. He’s like a mini-Dirk [Nowitzki]. There should be fear and anxiety of ‘Where is he?’ And then, even Michael [Carter-Williams] realizing, ‘Hey, it’s Paul Pierce.’ You know?”

We know.

Brown said it all with a smile because why wouldn’t he? The coaching and the criticism could be saved for another time. The Sixers were busy enjoying a feeling they haven’t experienced too often of late.

Carter-Williams returned. He had 15 points and 10 assists. Thaddeus Young had 25 points and six rebounds. And then there was Turner. He saved them. And here’s the other thing: He asked to do it. He wanted the ball and the last shot.

During the timeout before the final out-of-bounds play, Turner asked Brown to call a play for him. Brown obliged.

“I got a lucky couple of rolls,” Turner said about the game-winner. “I must have done the right thing in practice or something and the basketball gods looked out for me.”

Turner had a game-high 29 points to go with 10 rebounds and five assists. It was his night --but, more than that, it was their night.

“It’s a great team win,” Turner said. “We’re just glad to finally win.”

Glad to finally win. Yes. That’s a good place to end the story. That’s how Turner ended theirs.

Jahlil Okafor relieved deadline has passed; Bryan Colangelo explains why no trade

Jahlil Okafor relieved deadline has passed; Bryan Colangelo explains why no trade

Jahlil Okafor is still a Sixer.

He's not a New Orleans Pelican or a Portland Trail Blazer or a Dallas Maverick. He's not going back home to Chicago or to Indiana to play with Paul George. He's in Philly for at least the next 26 games and he's ready to get to work.

"I was happy that the trade deadline was over with and I knew where I'd be finishing the rest of the season," Okafor said. "After the past couple weeks I couldn't wait until 3 o'clock yesterday would pass, which means I wouldn't have to worry about where I would be and have to deal with all the trade rumors.

"It's a sigh of relief. I'm glad it's over with. I'm still a Sixer so I'm excited about playing tonight."

Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo on Friday spoke at length about the team's future. He's said he's planning to build around the team's "transformational players" in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.

He also addressed the deal that sent Nerlens Noel to Dallas for a protected first-round pick, Justin Anderson and Andrew Bogut. With all of the rumors swirling around Okafor, there wasn't much chatter around Noel.

The biggest reason for Noel's departure is his contract. Noel is set to become a restricted free agent this summer. He's a desirable player in today's NBA as a big that can run the floor and offer elite rim protection. Okafor can't become a restricted free agent until 2019.

Colangelo said there was a market for Okafor, but he just couldn't find the right deal.

"The market dictates what’s there and interestingly given our situation with the multiple talented bigs I think it's safe to say people view us as a place to come if they are looking for a big," Colangelo said. "Several bigs were out there and available on the market. A trade went down early. (Jusuf) Nurkic going to Portland. There was some conversation with Jahlil early, some advanced discussions to the point we pulled him out of a game situation just because there was so much at stake given the terms of a proposed transaction."

It seems like Okafor has been on the trade block since the day he was drafted third overall in 2015. With Embiid's emerging as a star and Noel's being the team's longest-tenured big, it had been difficult to see Okafor's long-term fit with the Sixers.

To Okafor's credit, he's taken it all in stride. As Colangelo alluded to, he had "advanced" talks on a deal that would send Okafor to Portland. The talks got serious enough to where Okafor was held out of a win over the Heat and began the handshaking ritual of a player on the move. He was also held out of the next game in Charlotte.

Through all of it, Okafor wasn't bitter. He just quietly kept working.

"I never looked at me being shopped as a negative thing," Okafor said. "It's just part of the business... I am here so there are no hard feelings or anything like that. No, not at all.

"I never felt disconnected from the team. When I wasn't traveling with the team I was still here in the facility with [Embiid and Simmons]. I was never just at home alone or anything like that. I was still with the team. Some of the coaches would stay back so I always felt connected with the Sixers."

Okafor will get his first action of the second half of the season tonight against the Wizards. He's been dealing with knee soreness, a result of a surgery to repair a torn meniscus last March. He said Friday afternoon that he's feeling healthy after the All-Star Break and the Rising Stars Challenge.

After all the speculation and rumors, Okafor just wants to play basketball.

"I think it's something a lot of players in the NBA have to deal with," he said. "We're all basketball players. We want to play well for ourselves and for our team.

"Whatever happens in a few months, we'll see what happens then. Right now I'm just worried about playing these last 26 games and playing well for the city and playing well for the team. "

Colangelo admits mistake when classifying Joel Embiid's injury

Colangelo admits mistake when classifying Joel Embiid's injury

CAMDEN, N.J. -- In retrospect, the Sixers would have done things differently.

For more than a month, the team did not announce a timeframe for Joel Embiid's return from a left knee contusion. After he missed 14 of the last 15 games, the Sixers said on Wednesday Embiid would be out the next four games and are targeting a March 3 return.

The next day, president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo addressed the lack of timetable provided. 

"We should have just said 'out indefinitely,' even though the treatment was still day to day," Colangelo said. "But the fact that there was uncertainty, I'll own that."

Embiid's injury goes back to Jan. 22 when he suffered the contusion against the Trail Blazers. After the Sixers held him out three games, he played on Jan. 27 against the Rockets and has been sidelined since.

Embiid was very candid on Thursday in expressing his displeasure of how his injury news had been shared. While he had been optimistic he would return earlier than March, citing a recovery period of less than a month, it didn't line up with the day-to-day status.

"I wasn't too happy with the way it was kind of handled before," Embiid said.

"I saw the day-to-day part. I was told that I was going to miss at least two or three weeks. So I wasn't happy with the way it was handled.

"I thought keeping my name out there was going to just like literally have people think about me all the time instead of just saying when I was going to be back. So I'm happy that they did that today and they said that I'm out for the next four games."

Colangelo addressed that timetable.

"The two-to-three week comment, I think I know where that came from," Colangelo said. "There was a lot of discussion, and despite the fact that we were saying it's day-to-day treatment and evaluation, two to three weeks may have been mentioned as a possibility of what it may be. But a possibility.

"To say that publicly may not have been the best thing at the time because I was also told sometimes it's four to six weeks for a bone bruise to resolve itself."

The lack of clarity on Embiid's return had upset Sixers fans who wanted more transparency. They had been through years of lengthy injuries, including the past two with Embiid, and were frustrated by this recent absence.

"There's never, ever been any effort to deceive fans, to mislead fans, to mislead [media]," Colangelo said. "We give the information as we're given the information. We've got very good medical care, very good medical oversight. Everything is explainable, but injuries are unpredictable is the best way I can describe it."

Embiid isn't the only player whose status was made public this week. On Friday, Colangelo also announced Ben Simmons will miss the remainder of this season. The first overall pick has been sidelined since training camp after suffering a Jones fracture in his right foot.

"There's no deceit, there's no movement toward doing anything to be dishonest here at all. It's quite simple," Colangelo said. "Injuries are a hard thing to manage. Injuries are a harder thing to manage with daily interface with the media, the public, games being played, the schedule, no practice, practice -- it's a sensitive issue. 

"And you're not talking about simple things. You're talking about complex injuries, you're talking about high-level performers and I'm calling them our stars. They're the ones everyone wants to see. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. And they're both out. Nobody is more frustrated than them."

After not committing to injury timetables, the Sixers are committing to taking a different approach. 

"It was our mistake to put out 'day-to-day' opposed to 'out indefinitely,' Colangelo said. "But that mistake will not be made again."