Philadelphia 76ers

Tired Sixers handed crushing loss by Hawks

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Tired Sixers handed crushing loss by Hawks

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These are the dog days of the NBA season, Sixers head coach Doug Collins said immediately after his team suffered a 124-101 loss to the playoff-bound Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).

Need proof? Just take a look at Jrue Holiday's stat line from Wednesday night.

Need more? Check out what Holiday did on Tuesday night in Brooklyn.

Two games, two assists, six turnovers and 15 missed shots in 55 minutes.

Oh yes, these are the dog days indeed.

“I’m tired,” Holiday said. “There’s a lot of fatigue and I try to take care of my body as best as possible, but that’s not really an excuse.”

Holiday is struggling as the Sixers limp to the end of a disappointing season. Wednesday's defeat dropped them to 31-47 with four games to go. But Holiday's struggles are not appearing seemingly out of nowhere. A glance at the season-long stat sheet shows that the Sixers' All-Star point guard had been trending downward for a few weeks.

The culprit? Too many minutes, too many games and too much responsibility all thrown his way at once.

For Holiday, the season has been like he just learned how to doggy paddle and was immediately thrown into the deep end.

“Imagine if we were a playoff team right now and getting ready to go into the playoffs,” Collins said. “That’s what I talked about with the growth. The added minutes, added responsibility, an All-Star -- every time you go out there to play now [opposing players get ready].”

But that's the way it's going to be for a player the Sixers have gone all-in on. Opening night Holiday got a four-year contract extension. With Thad Young, the Sixers have two pieces of the jigsaw puzzle they have been putting together for the past decade.

But at 22, Holiday has been thrust into the limelight quickly. Given that he plays the most demanding position on the floor, the candle has burned at both ends.

It's not that Holiday can't handle it. He just didn't have enough help.

Obviously, Andrew Bynum was supposed to provide the help to boost the Sixers into the elite of the Eastern Conference. Obviously, that never happened.

Bynum would have been pretty helpful on the boards against the bruising Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night when they out-rebounded the Sixers by 33 with Reggie Evans grabbing 24 boards.

Bynum also would have been a great deterrent to the Hawks' fastbreak, too. Without the reinforcements, the Hawks scored 25 fastbreak points, forced 15 turnovers and notched eight steals.

Holiday was charged with five of those 15 turnovers.

“We so used to value the ball,” Collins said. “We led the league last year in fewest turnovers. Too many times I look down and I see too many points off turnovers. We were minus-12 [in points off turnovers] tonight. If we’re down in that stat, chances are we’re not going to win the game. That’s a real barometer for our team.”

The Sixers have had a small margin for error all season long. As such, the increased turnovers required speed and the Sixers haven't had it this year. Where other teams could beat them in transition for dunks and kick-out threes, that element was missing this year for Collins' crew.

“One of the things we’ve missed this year is speed on the wings,” Collins said.

They did have hustle an energy from Young, who finished the game with 28 points on 14-for-20 shooting. Young scored 22 points during the first half for a Sixers' season best and also helped the team build an early eight-point lead.

But it didn't last no matter how hard Young worked.

“I wanted to come out and show that I had energy and I’m still trying to win games,” Young said. “I’m focused finishing the season the right way and continue playing as hard as I can.”

The Sixers return to action on Friday night when they travel to Washington to face the Wizards. After that, the Sixers return home for the last game of the year at the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday against Cleveland.

The season wraps up with a game in Detroit on Monday and the finale in Indianapolis next Wednesday.

Sixers to hold Blue x White Scrimmage at the Palestra on Oct. 1

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Sixers to hold Blue x White Scrimmage at the Palestra on Oct. 1

If you’re a die-hard Process believer who can’t wait for the Sixers' preseason opener, you’ll have a chance to see the team in action three days prior, albeit in a scrimmage.

The Sixers announced Thursday that they will be holding a Blue x White Scrimmage on Oct. 1 at the Palestra from 1-3:30 p.m. Tickets will be free to the public.

“The building strongly represents the toughness and perseverance of the city of Philadelphia and of the 76ers organization,” coach Brett Brown said.

While Joel Embiid likely won't play in the scrimmage (see story), the event is a good opportunity to see No. 1 picks Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons. Fultz’s summer league campaign was cut short by a sprained left ankle.

The scrimmage is also an early chance to get a sense of what Brown’s rotation may look like this year, his fifth with the Sixers and first in non-tanking mode.

The preseason will begin at Wells Fargo Center on Oct. 4, against the Memphis Grizzlies. The first game of the regular season is on Oct. 18, a nationally televised contest vs. the Wizards in Washington, D.C.

Give and Go: What is the biggest challenge for Brett Brown this season?

Give and Go: What is the biggest challenge for Brett Brown this season?

With training camp starting next week, our resident basketball analysts will discuss some of the hottest topics involving the Sixers.

Running the Give and Go are CSNPhilly.com Sixers Insider Jessica Camerato and producer/reporters Matt Haughton and Paul Hudrick.

In this edition, we discuss the biggest challenge for head coach Brett Brown this season.

Camerato
For years Brett Brown has faced the challenge of piecing together a shorthanded roster to put some kind of, any kind of, rotation on the floor. This season he will have healthier players to work with, and that in itself will pose a different set of challenges.

Brown has a young roster that is eager to play. Former No. 1 pick Ben Simmons has been waiting nearly 12 months to make his NBA debut since suffering a Jones fracture on the last day of training camp. Markelle Fultz, this year’s top pick, has not played since mid-February as a student-athlete at Washington. Joel Embiid last suited up on Jan. 27 before undergoing season-ending knee surgery.

These hungry players, and it is not limited to only the three mentioned above, will want to be in the game as much as possible. Brown will be tasked with managing eagerness and anxiousness to play all while following medical guidelines and restrictions. Lineups could change from a night to night based on player availability (back-to-backs, rest, etc.). Brown will have to establish consistency and flexibility at the same time, also keeping his players on board even if they can’t be on the court as much as they would like to be.

Haughton
Brett Brown will face a whole new world as head coach of the Sixers in 2017-18. He’ll have to find a way to make a rookie backcourt work, mix contributing veterans into the fold and, for the first time in his tenure, face some semblance of pressure to win.

But Brown’s biggest obstacle next season has nothing to do with X’s and O’s or wins and losses. The coach must maintain the spirit of the process.

At first glance, you may think that has something to do with continuing to lose games for the highest possible draft pick. No, not at all. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

In Brown’s four years at the helm, the Sixers have lost a combined 253 games. Some close, some by a wide margin and far too many of the nightmarish variety.

But no matter the previous game’s score, Brown always had his players on the court for the next matchup ready to give their max effort. His ability to stay positive amid the mounting losses and still push his guys to play all out every single night is somewhat remarkable (see story). It’s what the players love about him the most.

The egos that go along with high-level talent and the pressure of playoff aspirations mean Brown is sure to encounter some new challenges. However, it may just be that process mentality that gets the Sixers fully over the process.

Hudrick
For the last four years, Brown has barely had enough healthy players to form an entire team. And even when he had healthy players, most of them were borderline D-Leaguers (now G-Leaguers, of course).

The blessing and the curse for Brown this season is having real, NBA talent up and down his roster.

Nerlens Noel is gone so the logjam at center is over, right? Nope. Embiid is your starting center and franchise cornerstone. Richaun Holmes proved last year that he is a capable backup at the pro level. Jahlil Okafor is still here and needs to prove he's healthy if the Sixers hope to move him. Oh yeah, the team also went out and signed veteran Amir Johnson away from the Celtics. The uncertainty behind Embiid's status means there will be minutes available, but how many? Bottom line: This team still has four NBA-caliber centers.

The newest challenge for Brown is an overabundance of guards/wings. With Fultz, JJ Redick and a now healthy Jerryd Bayless added to the mix, where does that leave T.J. McConnell, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Nik Stauskas, Justin Anderson and Furkan Korkmaz?

Sure, it's a nice problem to have, but figuring out the rotation on an improving roster will be the biggest challenge for Brett Brown this season.