Philadelphia 76ers

Sixers top Celtics despite Rondo triple-double

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Sixers top Celtics despite Rondo triple-double

BOX SCORE

BOSTON – This is a tricky time in the NBA season.

Teams that are fighting for playoff positioning can been seen on a nightly basis giving it their all, while clubs playing out the string can also be witnessed packing it in for summer vacation.

The Sixers and Celtics might not be headed to the postseason, but neither team looked in a hurry for the year to end on Friday night.

The Sixers were able to make enough plays in the fourth quarter to claim a 111-102 victory at TD Garden (see Instant Replay). It marked their second straight win in Boston, with the previous one also being their last road win on Jan. 29.

Overall, the Sixers have notched two wins in less than a week after losing 26 straight to tie the NBA’s longest skid ever.

“We're on a roll,” head coach Brett Brown said to laughter. “You see what I see. They stay together and they play. They give their ‘A’ effort more times than they don’t. They stay together. They cheer for each other, they continue to do the right thing and they have a true desire to get better.”

The Sixers appeared ready to break the game open at times but couldn’t because of Rajon Rondo doing it all to notch a triple-double and the Celtics’ activity on the glass. The C’s outrebounded the Sixers 49-34 in the game. Boston also grabbed 19 offensive rebounds on the night.

Once the Sixers matched the Celtics’ energy on the backboard, they were able to secure the win.

“Everybody is going to write different things about the game, but the game was won because we boxed out,” Brown explained. “They had two [offensive rebounds] in the fourth and four in the third.”

While the Sixers started to hold their own in the rebounding department late, they also got some good ball movement in the fourth quarter to make 11 of 17 field goals.

“That was about how you close out a game and we just haven’t had many of those this year,” Brown said. “I thought they did a really good job of understanding we are going to play through Michael (Carter-Williams) and Thad (Young) and we want the other people to take advantage of the attention that Michael and Thad receive.

“Again, that environment has been rare this year and I thought they did a good job closing out a game.”

Carter Williams and Henry Sims led all scorers with 24 points each. Young added 15 points and so did Elliot Williams off the bench, as all nine Sixers that took the court scored in the game.

That type of offensive balance and a decent job on defense should have been enough for the Sixers to take control, but Rondo made them sweat it out. The point guard had 11 points, 11 rebounds and 16 assists for his 19th regular-season triple-double.

“He is so dangerous and calculated,” Brown said. “The message to me for our young point guards is that he plays with such a deliberate pace, cockiness. I love it. He is so confident and strong and he will dribble and dribble wherever he wants.

“I thought the adjustment we made was we had to squeeze him and make him play in a crowd. We ended up creating 22 turnovers as a team and that was born out of our bigs playing better, but Rondo always is so dangerous.”

Dangerous enough to put a scare in the Sixers on this night, but not enough to keep them from a win.

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

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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

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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.