Philadelphia 76ers

Sixers-Bucks: What you need to know

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Sixers-Bucks: What you need to know

Sixers vs. Bucks -- 8 p.m., CSN
BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee

Last meeting
The Bucks have taken the first two meetings with the Sixers and if they win a third, they take the season series. If the Sixers and Bucks are tied at the end of the season, head-to-head matchups are the first tiebreaker.

On Jan. 22, Ersan Ilyasova scored 27 points and grabbed 16 rebounds to lead the Bucks to a 110-102 victory. The Sixers battled back from an early 10-point deficit thanks to 23 points from Evan Turner, 21 from Spencer Hawes and 20 from Nick Young.

The Sixers go into the game trailing the Bucks by three games for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

“It’s really a two-game swing either way,” Hawes said. “We have to realize that and can’t be looking forward to the [All-Star] break.”

Records
Sixers: 22-28 (fourth place in Atlantic Division; ninth place in the Eastern Conference)

Bucks: 25-25 (third place in Central Division; eighth place in the Eastern Conference)

Previous games
The Sixers wrapped up a 5-3 homestand by getting drubbed by the Los Angeles Clippers, 107-90, Monday night. The Sixers trailed by as many as 32 points in the fourth quarter and were victims to a bevy of highlight-reel dunks from Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.

“It was the most impressive performance against us I’ve seen all year,” Sixers head coach Doug Collins said.

The Bucks missed a chance to gain ground in the standings by losing to Washington, 102-90, on Monday night. Monta Ellis scored 24 points with eight assists and seven rebounds, but his backcourt mate Brandon Jennings shot just 3 for 17.

Who's hot
Nick Young scored 29 points on 10-for-18 shooting with four three-pointers in the loss to the Clippers. Over his last 10 games, Young is averaging 16.1 points and 1.6 steals per game. Interestingly, Young’s 10-game averages and 29-point game came on the heels of a pair of games in which the guard shot 6 for 21, including 0 for 7 from three-point range.

Headed into his third game of his first 10-day contract, newcomer Jeremy Pargo has proved a spark off the bench while dropping in 22 points on 8-for-22 shooting. Pargo also got to the foul line seven times in the last two games, which is more than starters Lavoy Allen, Turner, Jrue Holiday and Hawes … combined.

In his last four games, ex-Sixer Sam Dalembert has three double-doubles with 42 rebounds and 65 points. Thirty-five of those points came in the Feb. 5 loss to Denver.

The more you know …
A game after pulling down a career-high 22 rebounds on Saturday night, Allen did not get his first rebound until the waning moments of the third quarter of Monday’s loss to the Clippers. Allen finished the game with two rebounds and narrowly missed becoming the first player in NBA history to get 20-plus rebounds in one game and zero in the next. … Turner is one of six players in the NBA averaging 13 points, six rebounds and four assists per game. The others? LeBron James, Joakim Noah, Kevin Durant, Paul Pierce and Nicolas Batum. … Turner has not made a three-pointer in his last seven games. He’s 0 for 7 over that stretch. … In the last four games, Holiday is shooting just 36.5 percent. … Young has 43 turnovers in 45 games this season. … Holiday and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook are the only players in the NBA averaging 18-plus points and 8-plus assists per game. The only Sixer to finish a season averaging 18-plus points and 8-plus assists is Wilt Chamberlain (1967-68).

Probable starters
Sixers (last 10 games)
Jrue Holiday (18.1 ppg, 8.3 apg )
Nick Young (16.1 ppg, 1.2 spg)
Spencer Hawes (12 ppg, 8.2 rpg)
Lavoy Allen (6.7 ppg, 7 rpg)
Evan Turner (13.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg)

Bucks (last 10 games)
Monta Ellis (16.1 ppg, 5.4 apg)
Brandon Jennings (17.5 ppg, 7.2 apg)
Sam Dalembert (11.2 ppg, 8.4 rpg)
Ersan Ilyasova (16.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg)
Mike Dunleavy (10.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg)

Injuries
Andrew Bynum (bone bruises) is out indefinitely.

Jason Richardson (knee) is out for the season.

Thad Young (hamstring) is out for two more weeks.

For the Bucks, Larry Sanders (hip/back) missed Monday’s game and is doubtful for Wednesday.

Luc Mbah a Moute (leg) left Monday’s game after 14 minutes of action.

Sixers notes, quotes and tidbits: Simmons' defensive assignment; Saric's role

Sixers notes, quotes and tidbits: Simmons' defensive assignment; Saric's role

Sixers coach Brett Brown reiterated Wednesday that he plans to use Ben Simmons as his point guard this season, while adding that Markelle Fultz will not be excluded from “decision-making and point guard-type of responsibilities” on occasion.

Brown also didn’t rule out using the 6-10 Simmons as a small-ball center.

Simmons and Fultz have been the top picks in each of the last two drafts, but Simmons missed last season while his broken right foot healed.

Simmons, who played a single season at LSU, is “an elite passer,” in Brown’s estimation, as well as a guy who has “jaw-dropping” speed.

Brown has also found that the 6-4 Fultz, selected after the Sixers engineered a trade with Boston for the most recent No. 1 choice, is very coachable. And his skill set is as advertised.

There will be times, as a result, when each runs the point.

“Once the ball is missed and you have sort of jailbreak, Markelle’s going to be in (the) open court with the ball,” Brown said. “He will be at that point one of the primary ballcarriers. When it’s a static situation and you’ve got to run a play at the start of the year, Ben Simmons will have the ball. … At the start of the game and it’s a dead ball, we’re going to give Ben the ball.”

Defensively, Brown envisions Fultz playing opposing point guards and Simmons guarding power forwards. The matchups with the other projected starters are also conventional. Joel Embiid will play centers, Robert Covington will guard the other team’s best wing and JJ Redick will check the other wing.

Brown also said Simmons “has a chance to be an elite defender,” though his reputation in college was otherwise. Fultz also played a lot of zone in his lone year at Washington.

The Simmons-at-center discussion was an interesting one. Brown said it is “possible” he will use Simmons – or possibly 6-10 Dario Saric – in that capacity at times, noting that the Warriors closed games with no one bigger than 6-7 Draymond Green (and more recently, 6-10 Kevin Durant) on the court.

“When you get down to the last six minutes, inevitably it ends up a smaller game,” Brown said.

As for Simmons’ health, president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said that hasn’t been a concern for a while.

“He’s playing five-on-five,” Colangelo said, “and dominating the gym.”

Fluid rotation
Much is still to be determined about the rotation, given the presence of veterans like Amir Johnson, Jerryd Bayless, Richaun Holmes, Nik Stauskas and (possibly) a slimmed-down Jahlil Okafor.

And what of Saric? He averaged 12.8 points and 6.3 rebounds as a rookie last season, while appearing in all but one game. There is speculation that he might wind up the sixth man, but Brown is not yet certain about that.

“His gift of basketball intellect is high, and so when you say where does he fit in, I’m saying anywhere we want,” he said. “Where does he fit in to start games, end games, I don’t know. I just know that in my opinion, that’s probably the Rookie of the Year (last season), and his skill package and his toughness and his intellect will be fit in where it’s needed most -- in a timely fashion, we believe.”

Milwaukee guard Malcolm Brogdon was chosen Rookie of the Year, while Saric and Embiid made the All-Rookie team. Now Saric is one of many players for whom Brown must find time.

“The gym’s going to tell us a lot,” he said.

And, he added, “I feel the first third of the season is going to be a lot of learning for all of us.”

Playoffs?
Playoff talk has been rampant for a while, and when asked by Ian Thomsen of NBA.com about that, Colangelo said, “Forecasting that would definitely, I believe, be unrealistic. But hoping for that? It’s on everybody’s mind.”

Colangelo revisited that on Wednesday.

“I don’t think it’s unrealistic to want to be in the playoffs, or have a goal to be in the playoffs,” he said. “That is our goal, but (there are) things you have to look at with respect to the situation we find ourselves in.”

He pointed out the difficulty of making the postseason with two rookie guards. According to the Sixers’ research, it hasn’t happened since Houston did so in 1998-99, with a backcourt of Cuttino Mobley and Michael Dickerson.

Then there is the matter of incorporating the other new pieces, like Redick and Johnson.

“I think it’s premature to throw anything out with respect to a number (of victories) or any goal,” Colangelo said, “but I would say our objective is to make the playoffs.”

Brown, 75-253 in his first four years on the job (including last year’s 28-54), knows the team is “in a different phase,” as he put it, and understands how difficult it can be to take the next step. At the same time, he too is caught up in the excitement of the playoff talk, which has in part emanated from the players.

“I really don’t say anything to them about tempering expectations,” he said. “I like them saying stuff. Then you’ve got to own it. … Words are one thing, actions are another.”

But certainly he likes how hard they have worked in the offseason, and sees the potential.

“Years ago,” he said, “I heard a phrase: ‘If they show you who they are, believe them.’ That’s over a period of time. … On first glance, when I check some of our guys, I think they have a real chance for greatness. We aspire to win a championship in the city. Then you want another one, and then another one.”

As Sixers camp nears, Joel Embiid still not ready for 5-on-5

As Sixers camp nears, Joel Embiid still not ready for 5-on-5

The foremost question on everybody’s minds when Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo and coach Brett Brown met with reporters over lunch Wednesday afternoon was simple: When is Joel Embiid going to be able to play 5-on-5?

“Right now,” Brown said, “we can’t give you a direct answer.”

The 23-year-old Embiid, who as a rookie in 2016-17 displayed uncommon skills and equally uncommon charisma, underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee in March, ending his season after 31 games.

The 7-2, 280-pound center is the obvious key to a young, promising team, but he is not yet ready to go full-tilt. 

“If you walk in the gym, it looks like he could play 5-on-5 basketball,” Colangelo said. “But we’re going to take our cues from the people who know best.”

And right now the Sixers’ medical staff, headed by the newly hired vice president of athlete care, Dr. Daniel Medina, favors what Colangelo called “a hyper-conservative progression.”

“Will he be ramping that up throughout the preseason?” Colangelo said “Yes. How many games, we’re not certain. Is it every game? We don’t know. That will be based on what we’re told.”

The Sixers open training camp next Tuesday in their Camden, New Jersey-based facility. The preseason begins Oct. 4 against Memphis at the Wells Fargo Center, while the regular season opens Oct. 18 in Washington.

“It’s not about being ready for the first practice or the first game,” Colangelo said. “And he will be out there for the first practice and the first game. The question is how much, how little, if at all. Those things will be determined by certain criteria along the way.”

Colangelo said, in fact, that he has a document that spells out the criteria that must be met before Embiid can play.

“There is a plan in place,” Colangelo said, “and it’s a progression-based plan. It’s criteria-based, and as he’s checking off boxes, and continues to jump over each and every successive item, then we’ll put him out there on the floor. There’s no timetable. There’s no scheduled number of minutes. There is no decision on back-to-backs. All of that is yet to be determined.”

Embiid, the third overall pick in the 2014 draft, missed his first two seasons while recovering from a broken foot. He averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks last season, despite a minutes restriction; he averaged just 25.4 a game.

When Brown was asked whether Embiid will be on such a restriction this season, he said, “We all hope not, obviously.”

The other question about Embiid concerns whether he and the team can reach an accord on a contract extension. Colangelo said he is “cautiously optimistic” that that can happen before Oct. 16, the NBA’s deadline for extending players on their rookie deals.

But the primary question remains about Embiid’s health.

“This really is about creating an opportunity for him to have long-term, sustainable health,” Colangelo said, “not to get ready for the first preseason game per se, or the second preseason game. Again, that progression is going to lead to hopefully a full season of competitive basketball, without restriction. That’s the goal.”