Sixers create only more questions with woeful loss

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Sixers create only more questions with woeful loss

Did Doug Collins know what he was doing?

Did Collins know he was inviting never-ending scrutiny when he fired off criticism of his players after the team’s 98-84 loss to the lowly Magic on Tuesday night?

Those are questions that remained to be answered. One thing that stands as a fact is this season has been a major disappointment for the Sixers.

The Sixers’ effort on Tuesday against the Magic was inexplicable. They lost to a team that had three wins in its last 31 contests.

Adding insult was the fact that two players the Sixers traded away put up significant numbers.

Nikola Vucevic registered his 32nd double-double of the season with 12 points and 19 rebounds. His counterpart, Spencer Hawes, grabbed one rebound in 20 minutes of work.

Rookie Maurice Harkless also scored 10 points on just four field goal attempts for the Magic.

Meanwhile, the Sixers’ prized possession that they acquired for the two young talents, Andrew Bynum, was nowhere in sight.

“I think the team that we've tried to put together, we have never seen,” Collins said after the defeat. “And so I think what happens is when you take a huge piece away from it, your warts show.”

The Bynum saga should resonate at the core with any Sixers fan. The move has not worked out. It has not been handled well, and when the big man does speak he gives one little reason to think things will get any better.

Bynum’s absence has greatly impacted the Sixers. With that said, players still have to play the game and Tuesday night’s showing resembled people who are thinking about April vacations.

Does that say more about the coach or the players?

Another question that lacks an answer at the time. However, being embarrassed and outclassed by a Magic team that won for just the 16th time on Tuesday should stir up some emotion in the Sixers. It certainly brought out the fire in Collins.

“Can I tell you something? If everybody looked inside themselves as much as I did, this world would be a CAT scan. OK?” Collins said. “I mean, believe me, there's not two days go by that I don't go to [team president] Rod [Thorn], I don't go to [general manager] Tony [DiLeo] -- 'what can I do? Can I do anything different? How can I be a better coach? How can I be a better leader? How can I help these guys?' Sometimes you've gotta help yourself. You know? Sometimes you’ve gotta help yourself. Youth is a very blaming thing.”

The blame game never works in sports. It is a win together or lose together reality, and the Sixers are showing only the back half of that scenario.

Shawn Long the latest of Sixers to seize opportunity

Shawn Long the latest of Sixers to seize opportunity

CHICAGO -- Injuries have been creating opportunities for different players on the Sixers all season.

Just last week, we took a look at the emergence of Richaun Holmes and how he has moved up the depth chart and proven himself to be a reliable first backup center next season (see story).

Shawn Long has been capitalizing on the same opportunities since earning a call-up from the Delaware 87ers. The Sixers signed Long to a multi-year deal on March 16 following the end of his 10-day contract. His contract is guaranteed for the remainder of this season but partially guaranteed after that, making every game an audition for the future.

The Sixers are down to three centers since the season-ending injury of Joel Embiid (see story), and just two when Jahlil Okafor is out. Long has slid into the backup (and sometimes backup-to-the-backup) role Holmes previously held.

"I think that Shawn Long has really grabbed his brief opportunities and been more than serviceable," Brett Brown said this week. "He's shown reasons why he should be considered a genuine NBA player."

Long's numbers, standing alone, aren't jaw-dropping. Taking a closer look, though, they are efficient. In seven games this month, Long is averaging 5.8 points (shooting 59.3 percent from the field) and 3.5 rebounds in 9.0 minutes.

In Wednesday's loss to the Thunder, Long led the Sixers with six rebounds (in a game they were held to a season-low 25 boards) and 13 points in 15 minutes off the bench. Seven of those minutes came in the first half, so this wasn't just a case of getting a run in a fourth-quarter blowout situation.

On Monday, Long spread his contributions across the stat sheet in the Sixers' overtime loss to the Magic: four points, two rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks in 11 minutes.

Going back to Sunday's 105-99 win over the Celtics, he played a key role in the Sixers' third-quarter push that cut a double-digit deficit to only three points heading into the fourth. He posted eight points and three rebounds in 5:52 during the third.

Long has to watch his foul trouble as he gets adjusted to defending NBA opponents. He is averaging 4.7 personal fouls in 11.0 minutes over the last three games.

Long also continues to focus on his three-point shooting to stretch the floor. He is just 2 for 3 from three as a Sixer. On Wednesday, he worked on long-range drills with Holmes after shootaround.

With the skills he has and those he is honing, Long could be the latest member of the Sixers to make a name for himself by maximizing playing time when he receives it.

"Isn't it fantastic -- as we've seen over the years, opportunity uncovers different qualities in people," Brown said.

Now with Thunder, Jerami Grant still considers Sixers family

Now with Thunder, Jerami Grant still considers Sixers family

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Jerami Grant was the first familiar face to be traded in a season that has seen Nerlens Noel and Hollis Thompson exit town as well.

The Sixers dealt Grant to the Thunder on Nov. 1 in exchange for Ersan Ilyasova and a protected draft pick. The Thunder had already played the Sixers on opening night in Philadelphia, and nearly five months passed before Grant faced his former (and only other) team.

"It's still family, everybody in the organization," Grant said. "They're doing well, they're playing a lot better, so I'm happy for them."

Grant's life was thrown into a tailspin when he was traded. In a flash, he had to leave the city he had called home since 2014. So quickly, in fact, his family had to move out of his home in Philadelphia for him.

"I had to pack my bags and things in two hours," Grant recalled. "I had to get a physical so I could play the next day in L.A. At first it was a little shock, but once you settle down, it's OK."

Grant quickly found a role with his athleticism. He averaged 6.1 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 21.2 minutes before the All-Star break. The reunion with childhood best friend Victor Oladipo was an added bonus to the adjustment period.

"I settled in well," Grant said. "I think everybody did a great job of just bringing me in. I think the fans have done a great job of embracing me. Whenever I get on the court, they give me a standing ovation, so that's great. My teammates are great, too."

Grant's playing time waned when the Thunder acquired Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott from the Bulls. Grant is averaging 3.4 points, 1.5 rebounds and 0.2 blocks in 12.3 minutes since the break. He continues to stay focused on improving his three-point shot every day in practice, which was a focal point with the Sixers.

Grant played 11 minutes against the Sixers and scored three points (a trey, nonetheless), along with three rebounds and two assists (see game recap). Brett Brown has seen Grant play enough games to believe in spite of his lessened role on the Thunder, he will have a place in the league for years to come.

"He lives right, he's prideful, he wants to be good," Brown said. "He's athletic enough to feel like there's potential there. He's a wonderful person and a great teammate. There's a cleanliness, there's a wholesomeness to Jerami Grant along with pedigree, his family tree ... that makes him for sure to me an NBA longtime player."