Sixers' 2014-15 schedule and predictions

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Sixers' 2014-15 schedule and predictions

The NBA schedule was released Wednesday evening. Like the NFL, the NBA made a big deal of it and did a one-hour show on the league’s television network.

The season opens Oct. 28 with the defending-champion Spurs against the Mavericks in a Lone Star state showdown. The Cavaliers and Bulls will play each other for the first time on Halloween night. Christmas Day -- the league’s annual showcase -- will feature all the expected storylines: LeBron James and the Cavs take on the Heat; Thunder vs. Spurs; Warriors vs. Clippers.

Not listed for any of that: The Sixers. You are no doubt shocked.

This feels like a missed opportunity for the NBA. What, no Timberwolves-Sixers clash on Christmas? Sure, Thad Young said he didn’t know anything about a trade to the Timberwolves for Anthony Bennett, but come on. That would make him the only guy who doesn’t think something might happen. (It’s a good idea for the Sixers, by the way.) Imagine the inflated ratings for a Young-Bennett meeting. The NBA is totally missing out on tens of extra people.

Or what about a Bucks-Sixers game? Think of the advanced billing. The two worst teams in the NBA a year ago meet on Christmas Day in … [dramatic pause] Bricks for Picks. They could have Bill Murray reprise his role and give it the Frank Cross/Scrooged promo treatment. It sells itself.

For added entertainment, there could be a halftime trivia contest consisting of questions about the CBA, the salary cap and arcane league rules. On one side, Sam Hinkie. On the other, all the general managers who pushed for the ridiculous lottery reform proposal. Winner gets to decide what happens to the lottery, and when. Tell me you wouldn’t watch that. Even Alex Trebek and Sean Connery would tune in.

Ah well. Some Sixers’ dates of interest:

• The Sixers open the season Oct. 29 on the road against Indiana. Then they head to Milwaukee before returning to Philly. Without Paul George and Lance Stephenson, maybe the Sixers squeak out a win against the Pacers. But maybe not. Call it 0-2 to start.

• Like last season, the Sixers will play their first home game against the Miami Heat. Unlike last season, James will not be present. And unlike last season, when the Sixers somehow beat the Heat and started the year 3-0, they’ll probably lose. Because they are not good. That's analysis. You're welcome. Call it 0-3 to start -- or 0-4, actually, with the Rockets coming to town in the next game.

• The Sixers play the Magic in the fifth game. If they don’t win that one, they’re probably looking at mid-November, when they host the Celtics, before they have a shot to get a victory. Added bonus: Evan Turner returns to Philly, only he’ll be bricking three-pointers in Boston green instead of Sixers red. Everyone wins that night.

• James and the Cavs come to Philly on Jan. 5. That gives all the faux Heat fans in the area some time to convert to Cleveland gear.

• If everything goes to plan and Young is flipped to Minnesota for Bennett, then Young will return as a member of the T-wolves on Jan. 30. Maybe he’ll get a video montage. If Andre Iguodala got one, Thad gets one.

• The Clippers play the Sixers at the Wells Fargo Center on March 27. If you like stars, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin should be in attendance. If not, hey, look at that, it’s Spencer Hawes.

• Oh, and the Sixers have a seven-game road trip that will keep them out of town for Christmas and New Year’s. Lucky them.

So that brings us to the prediction portion of the program. The Sixers have the worst odds to win the NBA championship this season. They’re listed at 300/1 with the Bucks. Poor Milwaukee. (Has that city discovered the wheel? Or fire?) The Sixers won 19 games a year ago. That’s about the right ballpark this season. After going through the schedule and doing the win-loss thing -- I lead a full life -- I have the Sixers going 21-61. Two more wins. That’s called progress.

Don’t worry. The Sixers should be the worst team in the NBA this year. The Bucks, despite being lumped with the Sixers in terms of title odds, have appreciably more talent on the roster -- in that they have talent beyond three players (or two and a half in the Sixers' case, depending on how you feel about Bennett). There’s not another team in the NBA that should come anywhere close to being as bad as the one Philly has right here. Rejoice. Own it. The future will be upon you soon enough.

In a predictable development, certain prognosticators have the Sixers finishing last in the reconfigured and suddenly interesting Eastern Conference. After (seconds of) consideration, I concur. My far-too-early predictions for the East:

1. LeBron James (58-24): LeBron James, Kevin Love, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao and LeBron James. Cleveland is the best team in the conference.

2. Chicago Bulls (56-26): Even after trading Loul Deng, and even after Derrick Rose went down again, they were still good last year. Now Rose is (ostensibly) healthy. They went out and got Pau Gasol and Doug McDermott. And they still have one of the best defensive and passing centers in the league in Joakim Noah. Love the Bulls.

3. Toronto Raptors (49-33): They didn’t do much in the offseason -- except re-sign Kyle Lowry. Which is all they really needed to do.

4. Atlanta Hawks (47-35): Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, DeMarre Carroll, Paul Millsap and (a healthy) Al Horford as the starters. Thabo Sefolosha, Adreian Payne (love me some Adreian Payne), Pero Antic, Kent Bazemore and some combination of Shelvin Mack/Dennis Schroder off the bench. That’s a good team in the East. They make the jump this year.

5. Washington Wizards (46-36): Do not mess with The Polish Hammer.

6. Charlotte Hornets (45-37): The Hornets are starting to shape up. Like the Lance Stephenson addition. Really like the contract.

7. Miami Heat (43-39): Still a team that plays basketball.

8. Brooklyn Nets (41-41): Positive: Brook Lopez will be back. Negative: Paul Pierce won’t. Positive: Hey, Deron Williams looks healthy(ish). Negative: They have no draft picks until the rapture.

9. Detroit Pistons (40-42): Sleeper team for the eighth seed. Stan Van Gundy knows what he’s doing. He gets a pass for giving Jodie Meeks a three-year deal worth $19 million. Chalking it up to just-took-the-job jitters. SVG will settle down.

10. New York Knicks (38-44): Carmelo Anthony can dry his tears with $1,000 bills. (Do they make $1,000 bills? I could consult Google but … nah.)

11. Indiana Pacers (36-46): All the Roy Hibbert they can handle. What a grim situation.

12. Milwaukee Bucks (30-52): Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to be a star pretty soon. Jabari Parker will add much-needed scoring. Larry Sanders has issues, but he and John Henson give the Bucks some serious rim protection. Brandon Knight was OK last year (that’s a compliment). Ersan Ilyasova … still has potential. Could be worse.

13. Boston Celtics (28-54): Without Rajon Rondo, this team would completely crater. Did you know they gave Avery Bradley a four-year deal worth $32 million? Avery Bradley couldn’t believe it either.

14. Orlando Magic (27-55): That’s four more wins than they had a year ago. They might throw a parade.

15. Philadelphia 76ers (21-61): Asset acquisition continues. Smile.

Adjusting to new home, Ben Simmons plays role model at Sixers Camp

Adjusting to new home, Ben Simmons plays role model at Sixers Camp

WAYNE, Pa. — Three steps. 

That’s all it takes before Ben Simmons is recognized walking through the streets of Philadelphia. 

This year’s No. 1 pick has been in the spotlight long before the Sixers drafted him in June, and now he's experiencing what it's like to be known as an NBA player in his new city. 

“I’ve been enjoying walking around South Street, getting some Ishkabibble's,” Simmons said Tuesday after a special appearance at the Sixers' Camp at Valley Forge Military Academy. 

At 6-foot-10, Simmons towers above most on the court, let alone on the sidewalk. Fans have been eager to welcome him to Philadelphia for a new chapter of the organization after three years of struggle. 

“Positive things,” Simmons said of the comments he receives. “I think a lot of people are excited, so I’ve been looking forward to it.”

Simmons understands the impact a professional athlete can have on young fans, and was excited to be at camp Tuesday.

Growing up in Australia, he never had the opportunity to hear from NBA players when he attended basketball camps. Now that he's in that position, the 20-year-old was glad to provide that memory to the 240 campers. 

“That would mean a lot if I was able to experience that,” Simmons said. 

Simmons demonstrated skill drills, such as passing fundamentals, interacted in a Q&A session and signed autographs for each camper. He also took individual photos for those who traveled internationally, including from Nigeria, Italy and Greece. 

“I’m just like them, but older,” Simmons said. “I’m just trying to be a good role model to them.”

Simmons plans to spend most of the offseason in Philadelphia as he gets settled into the city. He still has to move into his new home, but at least he knows where to get a cheesesteak in the meantime. 

NBA Notes: Dion Waiters signs 1-year deal with Heat

NBA Notes: Dion Waiters signs 1-year deal with Heat

Two people with knowledge of the situation tell The Associated Press that the Miami Heat have agreed to terms on a one-year deal with free agent guard Dion Waiters.

The two sides came to agreement on Monday. Waiters will make $2.9 million. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not announced the deal.

Waiters averaged 9.8 points for the Oklahoma City Thunder last year, but had several big games in the playoffs. He played particularly well against Dallas and San Antonio in the playoffs before his role was reduced in the seven-game loss to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals.

Waiters will give the Heat another scorer off the bench (see full story).

Blazers: C.J. McCullom inked to four-year extension
PORTLAND, Ore. -- A person familiar with the deal confirms that guard CJ McCollum has agreed to a four-year, $106 million contract extension with the Portland Trail Blazers.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on Monday because the deal hadn't been formally announced by the team. It was first reported by Yahoo Sports.

McCollum, who was named the NBA's Most Improved Player, averaged 20.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists for the Blazers during the regular season. He raised his scoring average by more than 14 points over the previous season.

As the 10th overall pick for the Blazers in the 2013 draft, McCollum bided his time on the bench for his first two seasons. He became a starter in the backcourt with Damian Lillard last season after four of the team's starters departed in the offseason (see full story).

Michael Jordan donates $2 million to ease racial tensions
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Michael Jordan is trying to help ease tension between African-Americans and law enforcement.

The NBA great and Charlotte Hornets owner said Monday he's giving $1 million to the Institute for Community-Police Relations and $1 million to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The aim is to help build trust following several shootings around the country.

Jordan says in a statement to The Associated Press on Monday that "as a proud American, a father who lost his own dad in a senseless act of violence, and a black man, I have been deeply troubled by the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement and angered by the cowardly and hateful targeting and killing of police officers," (see full story).

Sixers officially sign guard Brandon Paul

Sixers officially sign guard Brandon Paul

The Sixers continued to add to their roster Monday, announcing the signing of guard Brandon Paul. 

Paul participated on the Sixers' summer league squad in Las Vegas, where he averaged 10.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 0.7 assists in 19.5 minutes. He also played for the Hornets in Utah. 

The 25-year-old went undrafted out Illinois in 2013 and has been playing overseas and in the D-League since then. Last season, he led FIATC Joventut (Spain) in scoring with 13.2 points per game. Paul also has been a member of the Canton Charge (D-League) and Nizhny Novgorod (Russia). 

Next season he could play for the Sixers' Development League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers. 

Paul is one of several offseason additions for the Sixers. The team has signed Ben Simmons, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless, Gerald Henderson, Sergio Rodriguez, James Webb III and Shawn Long. The Sixers also have reportedly agreed to a deal with Cat Barber.