Sixers turn in sloppy effort against Heat

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Sixers turn in sloppy effort against Heat

The first time the Sixers played the Heat this year was the season opener. The Sixers won, as the Sixers and their fans remembered. The Heat remembered, too (see story). Sixers head coach Brett Brown thought that might be a motivating factor for the visitors -- that and the fact that the Heat came to Philly on a surprising three-game losing streak.

“You’re getting a very talented, angry team that’s going to go up many, many levels defensively,” Brown said before tipoff. “That is going to be a real test for our young team, because we lead the league in turnovers already, and we’re going to be faced with an angry team that prides itself on defense, that is extremely well coached, that rolls out a bunch of thoroughbreds that are going to make us pay if we’re not smart. I think that’s the nature of, in my opinion, the team we’re going to play. And that’s what makes them special.”

As Brown anticipated, the Heat looked special in their 101-86 win over the Sixers at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay). You know who didn’t look special? If you guessed the Sixers, you are smart and observant -- or maybe you just watched the game.

The Sixers adopted a slogan this season: “Together we build.” Friday was a good night for that, because the Sixers had all the bricks they’d ever need. The Sixers shot 36.9 from the floor (only 2.6 percent better than their lowest single-game effort this season). They hit just 2 of 20 attempts from three-point range. The math nerds among you know that works out to 10 percent -- which was the worst single-game mark this year.

Part of it -- a large part -- was the Heat defense. Miami was great defending the perimeter. But part of it was the Sixer's long-range shooting, which was broken all evening.

“More than not, I think [the Heat] do a good job chasing and contesting,” Brown said. “Only a handful of threes, I think, were poor shots where we perhaps could have driven it or early in clock. I thought we had some good looks.”

Pause.

“Two for 20,” Brown continued, “is 2 for 20.”

That it is.

Making matters worse (which was hard to do, but they did it), the Sixers did not take care of the ball. If you’ve watched any Sixers hoops this year, you know that’s nothing new. The Sixers' capacity to create turnovers is staggering and unmatched.

The Sixers entered the game averaging 17.2 turnovers. If you think that’s a lot, it is. It’s the most in the NBA. On Wednesday, the Sixers committed 24 turnovers in a win over the Bobcats, which is the kind of oversized number that ought to come with its own cartoon character that shoots eyeballs attached to springs out of its face when it sees something unbelievable.

That unsightly season-long trend continued against the Heat. The Sixers turned the ball over 23 times against the Heat, which led to 25 points for Miami.

“We actually spread our turnovers around quite well,” Brown said, getting a laugh from the media assembly. “You can’t just blame it all on pace … it doesn’t give you the freedom to be reckless or irresponsible. Sometimes we’re wishing things. We’re hoping things. We’re trying to will our way into making something happen. The game tells you everything -- it’s not there.”

It wasn’t there Friday. Not the shot from distance, not the attempt to limit turnovers, not even uncontested attempts from the free throw line. The Sixers took 37 free throws and made 22. That’s 59.5 percent. Like a lot of the other stats from Friday evening, it wasn’t good.

“How about the free throw number -- 22 for 37?” Brown asked rhetorically. “Those are enormous numbers. You’d think we’d look down and say ‘we lost to the Miami Heat by 50.’”

They didn’t. It just felt that way.

Jahlil Okafor relieved deadline has passed; Bryan Colangelo explains why no trade

Jahlil Okafor relieved deadline has passed; Bryan Colangelo explains why no trade

Jahlil Okafor is still a Sixer.

He's not a New Orleans Pelican or a Portland Trail Blazer or a Dallas Maverick. He's not going back home to Chicago or to Indiana to play with Paul George. He's in Philly for at least the next 26 games and he's ready to get to work.

"I was happy that the trade deadline was over with and I knew where I'd be finishing the rest of the season," Okafor said. "After the past couple weeks I couldn't wait until 3 o'clock yesterday would pass, which means I wouldn't have to worry about where I would be and have to deal with all the trade rumors.

"It's a sigh of relief. I'm glad it's over with. I'm still a Sixer so I'm excited about playing tonight."

Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo on Friday spoke at length about the team's future. He's said he's planning to build around the team's "transformational players" in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.

He also addressed the deal that sent Nerlens Noel to Dallas for a protected first-round pick, Justin Anderson and Andrew Bogut. With all of the rumors swirling around Okafor, there wasn't much chatter around Noel.

The biggest reason for Noel's departure is his contract. Noel is set to become a restricted free agent this summer. He's a desirable player in today's NBA as a big that can run the floor and offer elite rim protection. Okafor can't become a restricted free agent until 2019.

Colangelo said there was a market for Okafor, but he just couldn't find the right deal.

"The market dictates what’s there and interestingly given our situation with the multiple talented bigs I think it's safe to say people view us as a place to come if they are looking for a big," Colangelo said. "Several bigs were out there and available on the market. A trade went down early. (Jusuf) Nurkic going to Portland. There was some conversation with Jahlil early, some advanced discussions to the point we pulled him out of a game situation just because there was so much at stake given the terms of a proposed transaction."

It seems like Okafor has been on the trade block since the day he was drafted third overall in 2015. With Embiid's emerging as a star and Noel's being the team's longest-tenured big, it had been difficult to see Okafor's long-term fit with the Sixers.

To Okafor's credit, he's taken it all in stride. As Colangelo alluded to, he had "advanced" talks on a deal that would send Okafor to Portland. The talks got serious enough to where Okafor was held out of a win over the Heat and began the handshaking ritual of a player on the move. He was also held out of the next game in Charlotte.

Through all of it, Okafor wasn't bitter. He just quietly kept working.

"I never looked at me being shopped as a negative thing," Okafor said. "It's just part of the business... I am here so there are no hard feelings or anything like that. No, not at all.

"I never felt disconnected from the team. When I wasn't traveling with the team I was still here in the facility with [Embiid and Simmons]. I was never just at home alone or anything like that. I was still with the team. Some of the coaches would stay back so I always felt connected with the Sixers."

Okafor will get his first action of the second half of the season tonight against the Wizards. He's been dealing with knee soreness, a result of a surgery to repair a torn meniscus last March. He said Friday afternoon that he's feeling healthy after the All-Star Break and the Rising Stars Challenge.

After all the speculation and rumors, Okafor just wants to play basketball.

"I think it's something a lot of players in the NBA have to deal with," he said. "We're all basketball players. We want to play well for ourselves and for our team.

"Whatever happens in a few months, we'll see what happens then. Right now I'm just worried about playing these last 26 games and playing well for the city and playing well for the team. "

Colangelo admits mistake when classifying Joel Embiid's injury

Colangelo admits mistake when classifying Joel Embiid's injury

CAMDEN, N.J. -- In retrospect, the Sixers would have done things differently.

For more than a month, the team did not announce a timeframe for Joel Embiid's return from a left knee contusion. After he missed 14 of the last 15 games, the Sixers said on Wednesday Embiid would be out the next four games and are targeting a March 3 return.

The next day, president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo addressed the lack of timetable provided. 

"We should have just said 'out indefinitely,' even though the treatment was still day to day," Colangelo said. "But the fact that there was uncertainty, I'll own that."

Embiid's injury goes back to Jan. 22 when he suffered the contusion against the Trail Blazers. After the Sixers held him out three games, he played on Jan. 27 against the Rockets and has been sidelined since.

Embiid was very candid on Thursday in expressing his displeasure of how his injury news had been shared. While he had been optimistic he would return earlier than March, citing a recovery period of less than a month, it didn't line up with the day-to-day status.

"I wasn't too happy with the way it was kind of handled before," Embiid said.

"I saw the day-to-day part. I was told that I was going to miss at least two or three weeks. So I wasn't happy with the way it was handled.

"I thought keeping my name out there was going to just like literally have people think about me all the time instead of just saying when I was going to be back. So I'm happy that they did that today and they said that I'm out for the next four games."

Colangelo addressed that timetable.

"The two-to-three week comment, I think I know where that came from," Colangelo said. "There was a lot of discussion, and despite the fact that we were saying it's day-to-day treatment and evaluation, two to three weeks may have been mentioned as a possibility of what it may be. But a possibility.

"To say that publicly may not have been the best thing at the time because I was also told sometimes it's four to six weeks for a bone bruise to resolve itself."

The lack of clarity on Embiid's return had upset Sixers fans who wanted more transparency. They had been through years of lengthy injuries, including the past two with Embiid, and were frustrated by this recent absence.

"There's never, ever been any effort to deceive fans, to mislead fans, to mislead [media]," Colangelo said. "We give the information as we're given the information. We've got very good medical care, very good medical oversight. Everything is explainable, but injuries are unpredictable is the best way I can describe it."

Embiid isn't the only player whose status was made public this week. On Friday, Colangelo also announced Ben Simmons will miss the remainder of this season. The first overall pick has been sidelined since training camp after suffering a Jones fracture in his right foot.

"There's no deceit, there's no movement toward doing anything to be dishonest here at all. It's quite simple," Colangelo said. "Injuries are a hard thing to manage. Injuries are a harder thing to manage with daily interface with the media, the public, games being played, the schedule, no practice, practice -- it's a sensitive issue. 

"And you're not talking about simple things. You're talking about complex injuries, you're talking about high-level performers and I'm calling them our stars. They're the ones everyone wants to see. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. And they're both out. Nobody is more frustrated than them."

After not committing to injury timetables, the Sixers are committing to taking a different approach. 

"It was our mistake to put out 'day-to-day' opposed to 'out indefinitely,' Colangelo said. "But that mistake will not be made again."