For Justin Holiday, still a chance with Sixers

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For Justin Holiday, still a chance with Sixers

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Yes, Jrue Holiday will be wearing a New Orleans Pelicans uniform come this fall after being traded on draft night.

However, there still may be the last name Holiday on the back of a Sixers jersey next season.

Jrue’s older brother, Justin Holiday, returned to the summer league team Monday after flying overnight from California after attending his sibling's wedding on Sunday. The flight clearly took something out of the older Holiday because he shot just 2 for 9 in 23 minutes for six points in the Sixers' 96-75 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Monday. He also had three rebounds and three assists in the defeat.

"I was exhausted, but that is not an excuse,” Holiday said. “I still think I could have helped more than I did, score more than I did, helped defensively more than I did, but the game is done and tomorrow I hope I bounce back. If I don’t bounce back that’s a problem.”

A year ago, Holiday played very well for the Sixers in Orlando and led the team in scoring. He comes back a year older with experience in the D-League and nine games played in the NBA.

Holiday signed a non-guaranteed contract late last season that allowed him to attend camp this season. The 6-foot-6 forward knows what he has to do to stick around with the Sixers.

"Make sure I stay consistent when I play, be the smart player that I am, efficient,” Holiday said. “Today, even some of the things that I did defensively weren’t the smartest. I remember I came to help on the baseline when Micah (Downs) had hit a couple threes before that. It wasn’t the smartest play.

"I mean it is a good thing that I want to help but not the smartest at that time. So continue to improve, play as smart as I can and be efficient and knock down my open shots."

Holiday's ultimate goal is to make the team -- a squad that will look very different than the one he played on last spring.

The biggest change on that roster will be the absence of Holiday's All-Star brother. He said he learned the news of the blockbuster deal from his sibling.

“I thought he was joking,” Holiday said. “I was flying and [Jrue] tells me and I said, 'You're joking' and he said, 'No, for real.' He explained that this is a decision they wanted to make and that is all there really was.

"At first my personal feeling was I am not playing with my brother anymore. I was looking forward to me having the opportunity to doing that this next year. But this is the NBA and it is a business.”

Game time
Michael Carter-Williams promised he would be better taking care of the ball in his second summer league game and the Syracuse product was just that on Monday. He went from nine turnovers on Sunday to zero turnovers in 30 minutes on Monday in the Sixers' loss to Indiana.

However, Carter-Williams failed to shoot the ball well again. He was 4 for 20 with 13 points after going 8 of 23 on Sunday. Carter-Williams did have seven assists against the Pacers.

“He said yesterday that there were some things that he knew that he saw that he would be able to correct," coach Michael Curry said. "With young guys, just like in football with quarterbacks, is the speed in which guys close down open passing angles and where the help is coming from. Once he realizes that, with his size he is going to be able to make those passes. He saw some things on the pick-and-rolls to down the ball as much as he does and make plays and not have any turnovers, that was great.”

Temple product Khalif Wyatt was much improved Monday, scoring 25 points on 11-of-18 shooting. On Sunday, he was 4 for 15 with nine points.

“He scores in so many different ways,” Curry said of Wyatt. “He can catch and shoot out to the three. He is able to make plays. He is not the best athlete, but he has been scoring a long time. What we have to do with him, we probably ask him to play the most defense he has ever played.

"He is going to have to be a guy that can be solid on the defensive end, so that he gets down the court to do some things that he is really good at on the offensive end.”

When asked if Curry’s assessment of Wyatt's defense is correct, the former Owl smiled.

“Coach Curry and Coach (Aaron) McKie in practices have been pushing me very hard to play defense every possession and take no possessions off,” Wyatt said. "I am just taking the challenge and trying to be a better defender and just get better everyday."

Sixers 2016-17 player evaluation: Nik Stauskas

Sixers 2016-17 player evaluation: Nik Stauskas

Nik Stauskas

Position: Shooting Guard

Status for 2017-18: Guaranteed — $3,807,147

Stauskas in 2016-17
In his second season with the Sixers and third in the NBA, Nik Stauskas saw himself generally improve across the board, albeit by a small amount. The Sixers as a whole had a plethora of injuries that kept nearly every player off the court for extended periods, yet Stauskas remained healthy enough to play 80 games, start 27 and play 27.4 minutes a contest. Health is certainly a skill and Stauskas has it.

As for his play on the court, Stauskas got better in essentially every category. His field goal percentage rose from 38.5 to 39.6 percent, he shot a career-high 36.8 percent from three and he improved his scoring to 9.5 points per game while also sporting career highs in rebounds, assists and blocks with only a 2.6 minute increase in minutes per game.

His consistency was pretty notable. He played at least 23 minutes in every game after Jan. 20 and was a constant in an ever-changing Sixers rotation. He had eight straight games with double figures to end February. While he began the year as the backup two-guard, Stauskas started at shooting guard by the end of the year with Gerald Henderson nursing an injury. Coach Brett Brown even had Stauskas play point guard down the stretch with injuries to Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez creating an opening. In that way, Stauskas diversified his skill set

Signature game
Stauskas' season-high 21 points came against Phoenix in mid-November, a win against a team even worse than the Sixers. Stauskas had 20 points on back-to-back games in Orlando and Oklahoma City in late March, hitting eight threes over the two games.

But what is a signature game for Stauskas without a little measure of revenge? On Jan. 30, Stauskas made four threes and scored 16 points against the Kings, providing some key baskets in a 122-119 win over his former mates.

Looking ahead to 2017-18
Next season for Stauskas will be a critical one. It'll be the final season of his four-year rookie contract. While he's improved year to year, he's not quite the product one may expect out of the former eighth overall pick. At this point, a few years removed from that 2014 draft, it is unfair to continually compare him to that draft and instead focus on what he is.

Well, what is Stauskas? He's a shooting guard who can play a little bit of the point in a pinch and can hit a decent, albeit not elite, clip of threes. There's value there for sure. However, with a bevy of potential draft picks coming the Sixers' way, the guard known as Sauce Castillo could see his role downsized in 2017-18 with a rookie taking his minutes.

Even players getting healthy could take minutes away from Stauskas. He's already competing with veteran Gerald Henderson, also a free agent after 2017-18, for minutes and Bayless may be squeezed into more of a two-guard role with Ben Simmons at the point. Simmons, Bayless and T.J. McConnell likely take away the few opportunities Stauskas would have to play point guard, but he only took that on because of injury anyway.

Still, even in a roster squeeze, Stauskas brings a fair amount to the table. Brown's system needs shooters and despite a few slumps, Stauskas can drain jumpers. He's developed chemistry in the locker room and has earned enough trust and stayed healthy enough to play 27 minutes a game in the NBA. 

On Stauskas
"We're seeing a skill package that everybody talked about when he came out of college. You're seeing a lottery pick play. I'm personally happy for him because he cares sometimes too much and he's so self-conscious at times and extremely prideful and he's being rewarded for the work he has put in."

- Sixers coach Brett Brown

NBA Playoffs: John Wall scores 42 as Wizards eliminate Hawks

NBA Playoffs: John Wall scores 42 as Wizards eliminate Hawks

ATLANTA -- John Wall had that look in his eye at morning shootaround.

Bradley Beal knew it was going to be a big night for Washington's star point guard.

Wall scored 42 points -- a career playoff high, with 19 coming in the fourth quarter to single-handedly hold off a furious Atlanta comeback -- and the Wizards eliminated the Hawks with a 115-99 victory Friday, capturing the opening-round playoff series 4-2.

"You could just tell he was locked in," Beal said. "He was ready to go. We just feed off that."

Beal wasn't too shabby either, scoring 31 points (see full recap).

Celtics complete series comeback, eliminate Bulls
CHICAGO -- The Boston Celtics kept reminding each other not to let up as they closed in on a lopsided victory and a trip to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

No need to worry about that.

Avery Bradley scored 23 points, and the hot-shooting Celtics pounded the Chicago Bulls 105-83 to win their first-round series 4-2 on Friday night.

The top-seeded Celtics simply torched Chicago to finish off a tougher-than-anticipated series and advance in the playoffs for the first time since 2012. Boston regrouped after dropping the first two games at home and will meet Washington in the Eastern semifinals. Game 1 is Sunday (see full recap).

Clippers beat Jazz on road to force Game 7
SALT LAKE CITY -- Chris Paul scored 29 points and the Los Angeles Clippers forced a Game 7 in their first-round series with a 98-93 victory over the Utah Jazz on Friday night.

The Clippers will host the only do-or-die game of the first round Sunday, with the winner advancing to face the Golden State Warriors.

Los Angeles began to edge away in the third quarter and appeared to be in control when Austin Rivers capped a 9-2 run with a step-back 3-pointer that pushed the lead to 91-77 with 3:58 remaining.

He hit another with 1:29 left to make it 96-86, but Gordon Hayward scored seven straight to bring the Jazz within three before Joe Johnson missed a 3-pointer in the waning seconds (see full recap).