Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers simply can't catch a break

slideshow-020613-sixers-collins-uspresswire.jpg

The Sixers simply can't catch a break

The Sixers got more bad news. Is there any other kind for them?

Thaddeus Young has had his best season as a professional. He leads the Sixers in rebounds per game (7.6) and he’s fifth in the NBA in points in the paint. He’s played good defense, too. Doug Collins called him the Sixers' “most important player.” When Young went down with a hamstring injury on Monday, it was obviously unfortunate for a team that hasn’t had many positive headlines this year.

That trend continued on Wednesday. The Sixers faced the Indiana Pacers, a good team but a team that was playing its third game in three nights. It didn’t go well for the Sixers. They got thumped 88-69 at the Wells Fargo Center. It was a season-low point total for the Sixers.

“[The Pacers] can get you in the mud,” Collins said. “And that’s what they did tonight. They got us where we just stood around. They can throw that ball in the post and pound you … I don’t even know. We looked like a team that played 10 games in 10 nights. That’s the kind of energy we played with [Wednesday].”

During the ugly outing -- which snapped a three-game winning streak for the Sixers -- it was reported that Jason Richardson will have surgery on his knee next week and is done for the year. According to a Sixers spokesman, Richardson recently saw his third specialist, Dr. Jonathan Glashow from Mount Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan. Richardson is expected to see a fourth specialist “as early as [Thursday],” the spokesman said. The team also added that no decision on surgery has been made yet.

Either way, it was not a cheery update on the 32-year-old shooting guard. (To review, the Sixers apparently got one good knee out of four in the Andrew Bynum/Richardson deal.) Add all that -- the injuries to Young and Richardson, along with the regular and lasting on-court struggles -- to the seemingly never-ending Bynum saga and you have a pretty sad season for the franchise so far.

“It’s part of basketball,” Spencer Hawes said. “Guys go down and everybody has dealt with it. We’ve been lucky up until this point to not really have anything major. You know, [Jason Richardson], outside of him, guys haven’t really been out for any long period of time. With Thad out, it’s an opportunity for a lot of guys.”

An opportunity? Perhaps that’s true for individual players. Maybe Arnett Moultrie will get more minutes now. He had his best game as a pro against the Pacers. That’s not such a grand statement considering he’s played in just 15 games this season and spent time in the D-League. Still, Moultrie had 12 points and was on the floor for over 20 minutes against Indiana, his best numbers on both fronts this year. Sixers CEO Adam Aron was so excited at one point that he tweeted this:

“Not sure who is hotter right now Sxers Dream Team in black or Arnett Moultrie, in his best game so far.”

So there’s that. An opportunity for Moultrie. He’s probably excited. That’s about as good as it gets at the moment. The Sixers had big hopes for this year, but those aspirations are fading quickly. They are 21-27, which puts them four games behind the Boston Celtics for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They are also just four games ahead of the sad-sap Detroit Pistons in the postseason race. Right now, the Sixers are adrift.

The fans know it. It’s become a national laugh line, actually. One Philly resident tweeted about buying 18 tickets to the Pacers game for less than $1 -- not $1 each, $1 total. It was quickly picked up by Deadspin and lampooned.

It’s OK, though. The Sixers appear to be in on the gag. Consider this exchange between one reporter and Collins after the Indiana defeat:

Reporter: “It looked like you went to a lot of zone to try to combat their size.”

Collins: “We didn’t play any zone tonight.”

Reporter: “Really?”

Collins: “None.”

Pause.

“Maybe we were just standing,” Collins quipped. “It looked like we were playing zone.”

At least they still have a sense of humor.

Sixers have Joel Embiid on 'hyper-conservative progression' plan

usa-joel-embiid.jpg
USA Today Images

Sixers have Joel Embiid on 'hyper-conservative progression' plan

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.”

NBA Notes: Bulls bring back Doug Collins as special adviser

usa-doug-collins.jpg
USA Today Images

NBA Notes: Bulls bring back Doug Collins as special adviser

CHICAGO -- Doug Collins has returned to the Chicago Bulls. Just not on the sideline this time around.

The rebuilding Bulls hired Collins on Tuesday to serve senior adviser of basketball operations, providing "an expert resource" for the front office and coaching staff.

Collins will report directly to executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson. General manager Gar Forman and coach Fred Hoiberg remain in their jobs.

"Doug will not be coaching," Paxson said. "Doug will not be a decision maker. None of the roles have changed."

While no one is getting fired at this point, Collins becomes another set of eyes for an organization that finally committed to a full rebuild after taking a patchwork approach in recent years (see full story).

Pelicans: Cunningham agrees to contract
A person familiar with the situation says the New Orleans Pelicans and forward Dante Cunningham have agreed on a one-year contract worth $2.3 million.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on Tuesday on condition of anonymity because the agreement, which was first reported by Yahoo, has not been announced.

The 6-foot-8 Cunningham spent the past three seasons in New Orleans, where he averaged 6.6 points and 4.2 rebounds in about 25 minutes per game last season.

The 30-year-old Cunningham has spent eight seasons in the NBA, beginning with Portland, which selected him in the second round of the 2009 draft out of Villanova.

Cunningham could start for New Orleans at small forward in a lineup that would feature DeMarcus Cousins at center, Anthony Davis at power forward, Rajon Rondo at point guard and Jrue Holiday at shooting guard.

Heat: Dragic retiring from Slovenia team
LJUBLJANA, Slovenia -- NBA guard Goran Dragic has confirmed he is retiring from the Slovenia team that won the European basketball championship.

Dragic says on Tuesday, "I achieved what I wanted, the gold medal, and this is the right time to bid farewell."

The 31-year-old Dragic led Slovenia with 35 points to beat Serbia 93-85 in the final on Sunday in Istanbul, earning the MVP award.

He says Slovenia's qualifying campaign for the 2019 world championship will start in November, and it would be impossible for him to play due to his professional duties with the Miami Heat in the NBA.

Tens of thousands of jubilant Slovenes greeted the new European champions on Monday in the capital of Ljubljana.