Philadelphia 76ers

Sixers ride strong start to road win over Hawks

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Sixers ride strong start to road win over Hawks

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA -- Sixers head Doug Collins spent a significant amount of time during Thursday’s practice at Georgia Tech in conversation with two of his young leaders -- Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday.

It was not a talk about blame. Instead, it was an exchange about the importance of starting games right and not easing into a contest. The coach shared statistics and examples with the players to explain the importance of a quality start.

That message appeared to certainly sink in with Holiday, Turner and the entire team as the Sixers scored 40 points in the first quarter en route to a 101-90 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night (see Instant Replay).

The Sixers’ 40 points in the first period were a season high for the team in a quarter this season. They also shot 73 percent and had 10 assists on 16 made field goals in that dominant opening frame.

“We were just really, really sharp,” Collins said. “I thought Evan came with a very good first quarter. I thought Jrue did even though he didn’t score that much. Thad (Young) was active, Spencer (Hawes) and Damien (Wilkins).

“I mean it really set the tone for the game and then we found a way to close it out. It wasn’t pretty at the end. That is a really good road win for us against a playoff team.”

Getting off to a good start was particularly important for Holiday, who was trying to put Wednesday’s 2-for-24 shooting nightmare behind him.

Holiday connected on 2 of 3 shots in the first quarter for four points to go along with four assists.

The All-Star point guard did struggle again overall from the field, evidenced by his final line of 3-for-14 shooting for just nine points. However, Holiday’s ability to set the pace of the game early and get everyone involved put the team on the right track.

“I am not sure if I really had that good of a start. It was me more trying to facilitate and getting other guys going,” Holiday said. “Again, just getting into the paint. Sometimes when you see the numbers they can either hurt your feelings or you see it as criticism and you learn from it.”

The Sixers rode that fast start to a 13-point halftime advantage. They increased that total to as much as 19 points in the third quarter, mainly behind a good performance from Turner.

Turner scored 10 of his game-high 24 points in the third quarter. He also grabbed 11 rebounds in the game.

“We won and that is always fun,” Turner said. “We all played well. Everyone contributed and that helps a lot.”

“I thought this was the best game Evan has played in a while,” Collins said. “He was really sharp and it makes me feel good because I spent a lot of time with he and Jrue sitting around and talking at the practice facility, talking about getting yourself prepared to play, especially coming down the stretch.”

The Sixers sputtered in the late stretches of the game, but they were able to put it away thanks to their balance.

Hawes (19 points and 12 rebounds), Young (14 points and 13 rebounds) and Wilkins (16 points) each seemed to come up with a key play when the Sixers needed it to help secure the win.

"These games are important for us," Collins said. "I've got young players. Little things that you keep teaching, that's why we're going to coach and teach and play these games to the finish."

The Sixers return to the court on Saturday in Miami against the Eastern Conference-leading Heat.

2017 Sixers training camp: 5 storylines

2017 Sixers training camp: 5 storylines

Monday is media day, which means the start of training camp is 24 hours away. The Sixers are positioned to be a team to watch in the NBA this season, and with that comes storylines to pay attention to before it kicks off. From health to new additions to contract extensions, here are five things to look for in training camp. 

Restrictions
Minutes. Games. Back-to-backs. Those are in question when it comes to Joel Embiid. Last season the big man was limited to 31 games, did not play in back-to-backs, followed a closely-watched minutes restriction, and underwent season-ending knee surgery in March. Embiid has not been cleared for 5-on-5 yet, making his game availability to be determined during camp.

“It’s not about being ready for the first practice or the first game,” president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said regarding Embiid last week. “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.”

It also remains to be seen if Ben Simmons, who missed all of last season because of a Jones fracture, will end up being placed under restrictions as well. The Sixers have enhanced their medical staff with the addition of Dr. C. Daniel Medina Leal to the newly-created VP of athlete care position. Leal previously worked for FC Barcelona.

Embiid contract extension
The Sixers and Embiid have a very significant decision to make before the start of the regular season. The deadline for Embiid’s contract extension is Oct. 16, two days prior to opening night.

For such a serious business matter, there are so many question marks involved on both sides. How many games will Embiid play? How is his health after yet another injury last season?

If the Sixers offer the max in the extension, would they be overpaying? If Embiid accepts a percentage of the max based on these uncertainties, will he be taking less than if he waited for restricted free agency?

These questions will be answered in less than a month.

Point guard role
The Sixers plan to utilize Simmons as an unconventional 6-foot-10 point guard. Expect him to be tasked with defending power forwards on defense. This role will lend itself to more versatile lineups wherein the Sixers can be a position-less team in many cases. With Simmons at the point, Markelle Fultz will slide over to the shooting guard spot when they are paired on offense. The Sixers traded up to draft him No. 1 in part for his ability to play off the ball.

The backup point guard roles will have to be sorted out. Jerryd Bayless is returning from appearing in just three games last season because of a wrist injury. The veteran can play both guard spots in the backcourt. T.J. McConnell, who started 51 games last season, will once again find himself fighting for minutes.

Jahlil Okafor's future
The Sixers are entering another season with a logjam of centers. Jahlil Okafor still does not have a clearly defined role with Embiid as the starter and Richaun Holmes making a strong case for increased minutes as the backup.

The team remains open to trading Okafor, as they attempted to do last season, if they find the right fit. Okafor’s health will factor into the Sixers’ opportunity to make a deal. He continued to battle right knee soreness after undergoing surgery for a meniscus tear in March 2016. Okafor last played on March 22.

Looking to improve his game, Okafor has gone “mostly” vegan. He is down to 258 pounds, 20 less than his weight in last year’s training camp.

Starting 5
The Sixers had 30 starting lineups last season and will be looking for more consistency this time around. Don’t expect standard roles, either. With Simmons running the point, players will be shifted into different positions depending on matchups.

Back in July, I projected the 2017-18 starting five and that group hasn’t changed, in my opinion. I am going with Fultz, JJ Redick, Robert Covington, Simmons and Embiid. 

There are many people who reacted strongly to the idea of Covington as a starter instead of Dario Saric. Covington is key to the Sixers' defense, though, and Saric can thrive as a go-to in the second unit if he embraces that role.

Sixers owners Josh Harris, David Blitzer form sports, entertainment business

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Sixers owners Josh Harris, David Blitzer form sports, entertainment business

Sixers managing owner Josh Harris and co-managing owner David Blitzer have formed Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment (HBSE), a global sports and entertainment business.  

HBSE will encompass multiple sports teams to include the Sixers, New Jersey Devils (NHL), Delaware 87ers (G League), Binghamton Devils (AHL), and Team Dignitas (esports), which the Sixers acquired last September. Harris is the owner/chairman/governor of the Devils and Blitzer is the owner/vice chairman/alternate governor of the team. 

The Sixers Innovation Lab Crafted by Kimball, the Prudential Center and the GRAMMY Museum Experience Prudential Center, also will be part of HBSE. 

“As we continue to expand our scope in the world of professional sports and entertainment, we’re excited to launch Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment,” Harris said. “We believe this endeavor allows us to continue to grow strategically and innovatively.”

Sixers CEO Scott O’Neil was named CEO of HBSE. 

“This commitment to growth, which started with the acquisition of the Philadelphia 76ers, has quickly emerged as a growing and dynamic sports and entertainment company,” O’Neil said. “The formation of HBSE is a signal that this is just the beginning to an incredible future.”

Brad Shron, Sixers executive VP, general counsel, will be HBSE’s general counsel. Additionally, members of the Sixers' staff were promoted to the following positions and will be involved with HBSE: Chris Heck, Sixers president; Lara Price, Sixers chief operating officer; Jake Reynolds, Sixers chief revenue officer; Katie O’Reilly, Sixers chief marketing officer.

“We take pride in hiring the best and brightest talent from a variety of backgrounds and industries with the goal of shaping a well-rounded, dynamic organization,” Blitzer said. “HBSE provides a unique opportunity to harness the power of our talented management team and our shared resources to fuel growth and expansion, and a means to accelerate and sustain long-term success.”