Philadelphia 76ers

Sixers handed first loss by Iguodala, Warriors

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Sixers handed first loss by Iguodala, Warriors

BOX SCORE

When the guy you let beat you ends up with a career night in the first half, chances are it’s going to be a long night. For the Sixers on Monday night against the Warriors at the Wells Fargo Center, the night could have lasted forever.

Ex-Sixer Andre Iguodala buried a career-high seven three-pointers -- he hit six of them in the first half -- for 32 points in the Warriors’ 110-90 victory over the Sixers (see Instant Replay). Though the Sixers fell behind by 20 points for the third straight game, there was no magical comeback this time.

The Warriors, and Iguodala, were just too good.

“The guys we let beat us, beat us,” said Evan Turner, who led the Sixers with 18 points. “You can’t go bucket to bucket with a team that can score like that.

“Look at the stat sheet -- the guys who usually make the threes didn’t make them tonight.”

Turner is right about that. Sharp-shooter Stephen Curry went 2 for 9 from beyond the arc, but he did a bunch of other things to make up for his poor shooting. Curry scored 18 points to go along with 10 rebounds and 12 assists for the second triple-double in the NBA this season (see 5 observations). Curry also had five steals and was the catalyst in forcing the Sixers into a season-high 24 turnovers.

Iguodala’s shooting (7 for 11 from three-point range, 11 for 18 overall) mixed with the turnovers was “deflating,” according to Sixers head coach Brett Brown.

“I think it gets deflating when you turn it over and they run and punish you with threes,” Brown said. “They’re a skilled team in the open court. I think it gets deflating when that happens.”

Still, it was a bit of sweet revenge for Iguodala, who did not receive the warmest of ovations when he was introduced before the game. Traded to Denver after the 2011-12 season in the ill-fated Andrew Bynum deal, Iguodala returned to the Wells Fargo Center with Denver last year and had a poor game.

This time, though, Iguodala couldn’t miss. Maybe he can thank his friend Turner for the motivation.

“Evan actually texted me right after they beat the Bulls. He was kind of talking trash,” Iguodala said. “He said you’re next. He’s the ultimate competitor, no matter who he’s going against. Actually, I wanted to shut him out tonight. I wasn’t even thinking about scoring.”

Iguodala scored 11 points in the first quarter and had 16 more in the second. After the third quarter, he sat down after playing just 20 seconds of the fourth.

“It was almost kind of like a high school game, where you get it going and you can’t miss,” Iguodala said.

Though Iguodala downplayed the revenge factor, saying playing against the Sixers is no big deal. After all, he’s playing for his second team in as many seasons and only Turner, Spencer Hawes, Thad Young and Lavoy Allen remain from his last season with the Sixers.

However, Warriors coach Mark Jackson wasn’t buying it.

“It’s no secret: You want to kill them,” Jackson said. “You say all the right things beforehand, just in case it doesn’t work out, but your mindset is to make a statement.”

Mix the revenge factor with a Sixers’ defense that was packed in the paint in attempt to keep Andrew Bogut and David Lee off the boards while shadowing Curry and Klay Thompson on the perimeter, Iguodala had plenty of time to hit the wide-open shots.

“He changed the game in the first half,” Brown said.

If the turnovers and Iguodala’s shooting weren’t demoralizing enough, the Sixers’ shooting ruined what self-confidence was left. The Sixers shot 35 percent from the field, including 22 for 51 (43.1 percent) from the paint. While the Warriors hit 15 three-pointers, the Sixers went 9 for 37 (24.3 percent) on shots outside the paint.

The result was a 39-point deficit for the Sixers in the third quarter.

Ouch.

“I think we were careless with the ball. I give [the Warriors] credit,” Brown said. “They’re a very underrated defensive team. They’re noted for their offense and they’re noted for their barrage of three-point threats and scorers, but they actually are an excellent defensive team with all the pieces. … I give them credit defensively, but I admit we were sloppy. We were careless. Some of that was a result of their good defense.”

Then again, after three straight improbable wins, the Sixers had to come down to earth at some point (see story). If there was one team it wasn’t going to be able to run against and wear down, it was the Warriors.

The Sixers will get another look at the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center. Last Friday, the Sixers overcame a 20-point deficit to stun the Wizards with a late surge in the second game of the year.

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.”