Are Sixers too far gone for even Bynum to save?

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Are Sixers too far gone for even Bynum to save?

The Sixers are a mess.

Thats the easy part identifying what they are at the moment. The hard part is figuring out whether theyre capable of something more.

The San Antonio Spurs were in town on Monday. That was unfortunate for the Sixers. The other night, the Sixers pulled out an improbable victory against the Raptors. Some people were encouraged by that result. Doug Collins was one of them.

They showed a lot of resolve against the Raptors, Collins said before the Spurs game. They showed they can do it. But can we do it against a team of this caliber?

Nope.

The Spurs beat the Sixers at the Wells Fargo Center, 90-85. Right now, there arent many teams of any caliber that the Sixers can handle. Maybe the Washington Generals. Maybe not.

The Sixers went on a 24-3 run in the second half. They even took the lead and were up seven points with under four minutes left. They looked like they might shock San Antonio. Then the Spurs remembered they were the Spurs and they were playing the Sixers and that was that.

Tuesday marked the halfway point of the season. The Sixers have played 41 games. They have won just 17 of those. They are in fourth place in the Atlantic Division. They are in ninth place in the Eastern Conference. They are not having a good season not by any reasonable metric.

To put some perspective on how bad theyve been, the Sixers havent won back-to-back games since Nov. 30. That was so far in the past that its hard to remember if we were all wearing tri-corner hats and breeches.

They are 16th in points allowed per game. They are 23rd in rebounds. They are 26th in scoring. They are last in free throws.

Jrue Holiday has been excellent this year. If the NBA was a meritocracy (it isnt), he would be an All-Star. Thaddeus Young has been pretty good. Evan Turner has been inconsistent. Everyone else has fallen somewhere between mediocre and Kwame Brown.

The Sixers are a mess. It is worth repeating.

Well, were very concerned, Collins said. Were seven games below .500. Youre going to have to play over .500 basketball to make the playoffs. So, sure Im concerned.

How do you fix a team largely comprised of malfunctioning or entirely broken parts? Is it possible to get the Sixers operational, or should they be dismantled and swapped for basketball scrap metal?

The easy answer, the one the Sixers keep pushing as part of their unified talking points, is that everything will be fine when Andrew Bynum stops playing pop-a-shot and starts playing big-boy basketball against real competition. Adding Bynum certainly couldnt hurt, but you wonder whether the season will be too far gone to salvage by then.

Bynum talked to the media on Tuesday. For the first time all season, he participated in the morning shootaround before a game.

My knees feel good, Bynum insisted. Im not feeling any pain. Its just all good.

The center reiterated that he hopes to return around the All-Star Break. That will depend on the doctors. Before they clear him, Bynum will have to show that he can move laterally. As he admitted, that will be the biggest test.

For now, hes studying for the final exam, working on his shot -- post moves, hooks, that kind of thing. He said the touch is there. But what about his conditioning?

Obviously, its going to be bad, Bynum said.

Everyone laughed when he said it. Bynum laughed a little, too. It probably wont be as amusing if hes wheezing and they still arent winning.

Thats the thing. The Sixers have to worry about surviving until he returns, and they also have to worry about what kind of player hell be when he does. Hes already missed 50 percent of the year. Hes going to miss more games. When he finally takes off his street clothes and puts on his uniform, how long will it take him to scrub away all the rust? Can a guy with two bad knees parachute into a frightful situation at the last moment and save the entire season from going splat?

The Sixers are halfway through the season. They are a bad basketball team. Tony DiLeo and Rod Thorn should be on the phone every day shopping everyone not named Holiday to anyone even remotely interested.

But Collins promised they wont panic.

I always say this: Every team in this league is one day away from a crisis except the Spurs, Collins said.

One day away from a crisis? If only the Sixers were so lucky.

E-mail John Gonzalez at jgonzalez@comcastsportsnet.com

Charles Barkley: Sixers can be 'really good, really quickly'

Charles Barkley: Sixers can be 'really good, really quickly'

Charles Barkley is jumping on the Sixers bandwagon.

"I think the Sixers gonna get really good, really quickly, but it all depends on (Joel) Embiid," Barkley said. "They're not gonna win a championship the next couple years, but I think they can really become a perrenial playoff team in the next three years."

Sounds good, right? Not so fast. There are a lot of "ifs" according to Barkley. 

Most of those "ifs" ride on the health of center Joel Embiid. If the big man gets healthy, and the Sixers can resolve the "glutton of big guys," Barkley likes the Sixers chances.

"I think the most important thing they need to figure out is if Joel Embiid is going to be healthy. ... I like (Jahlil) Okafor and I like (Nerlens) Noel, but they gotta figure out if Joel Embiid is going to be healthy. 

"I like Ben Simmons, but that team's got a long way to go," Barkley said.

To hear more of Barkley's thoughts on the Sixers' future, watch the full video above. 

 

 

Team USA overpowers Argentina in 1st Olympic exhibition

Team USA overpowers Argentina in 1st Olympic exhibition

LAS VEGAS -- New team. Same old result.

Full of new star power -- and dominant on the inside -- the U.S. men's basketball team opened its bid for a third straight Olympic gold medal Friday night with a 111-74 exhibition romp over Argentina.

A game that was over almost before it began showed the U.S. has to improve its shooting and conditioning. It also showed that there is plenty of talent among a group of players that seem to want to play well for each other and their country despite the absence of Olympic stalwarts Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

"There's a willingness from these guys to work on anything we need and to work hard," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "These are very good guys."

A U.S. team that hasn't lost a game in 10 years had little trouble with Argentina, which some consider a medal contender in Rio. Paul George scored 14 first-half points, Kevin Durant added 12, and the U.S. blew open the game early before an appreciative crowd on the Las Vegas Strip.

Even with Bryant retired and James taking this Olympics off, there was no real talent drop off on a team heavily favored to win gold once again. The depth of the U.S. showed as coach Mike Krzyzewski rotated players in and out, searching for the right combinations on a team with 10 new players from 2012.

"Nothing is for sure," Durant said. "We want to get this gold and right now we have a job to do. We have to prepare the right way."

Count the Argentines among those who were impressed at the first real game for the Olympic team.

"Obviously, they have the best talent and the best size in the world," Argentina's Luis Scola said. "That's a big difference in their favor."

The game was the first of five exhibitions the U.S. will play before traveling to Rio to defend the gold medal. The U.S. team has spent the last week practicing in Las Vegas in preparation for the tour and the games.

There weren't any opening night jitters, though the U.S. shot only 45 percent and missed all but 14 of 41 3-pointers. With DeMarcus Cousins pulling down 15 rebounds in just 16 minutes, the U.S. dominated inside, outrebounding Argentina 53-30.

"The big thing is getting in shape and they are not there where they will be," Krzyzewski said. "But we really have an inside presence on the boards."

For Durant the game was a chance to play with a pair of his new Golden State teammates, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. It was also a chance for Durant and Carmelo Anthony -- the only two players from the 2012 team -- to demonstrate that this will be their team in Rio.

Both players cheered from the bench as the minutes were spread around, jumping up to clap for teammates. Every U.S. player got quality time, with Green's 12 minutes the least played by any American.

"We're going to have fun and we're going to enjoy ourselves," Anthony said. "If it's not fun it's not worth it. We're going to enjoy ourselves but at the same time we're going to be focused in trying to get that gold medal."

Durant finished as the game's high scorer with 23 points, while George had 18 and Carmelo Anthony 17. Andres Nocioni had 15 for Argentina, while Manu Ginobili added 11 for Argentina, which lost to the U.S. in the semifinals of the 2012 Olympics.

Though at times little defense was played, there was plenty of offense to keep the crowd at the new T-Mobile Arena happy. The teams combined to put up 70 3-point attempts, 41 of them from the U.S.

Oddsmakers had made the U.S. a prohibitive 29.5-point favorite in what at times looked a lot like an NBA All-Star game. But while the U.S. team is loaded with 12 NBA players, the Argentines had only three on their roster and the talent difference showed.

While the team is full of new players, the gold medal run will be the last for Krzyzewski, the national coach for the last decade. His teams have lost only one game during his reign, which will end after the Olympics with San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich taking over.

Manu Ginobili intrigued by coach Brett Brown, Sixers before re-signing with Spurs

Manu Ginobili intrigued by coach Brett Brown, Sixers before re-signing with Spurs

The Spurs have been one of the most consistent NBA teams for nearly 20 years. They have made 19 consecutive postseason trips and won five championships during that span. 

The Sixers, on the other hand, are entering a phase of building a new foundation with a group of young players. They are working to improve upon a 10-win season, let alone making the playoffs.

Yet four-time NBA champion Manu Ginobili saw more than records when weighing his options in free agency. The veteran point guard looked to the Sixers sidelines and was intrigued.

Head coach Brett Brown previously worked in the Spurs basketball operations department and on the coaching staff under Gregg Popovich. He was part of four championship teams in San Antonio. When the Sixers approached Ginobili this offseason, he gave them consideration before returning to the Spurs, where he has spent his entire 14-year career.

“The fact that Philadelphia had a great coach and a person I appreciate so much as Brett Brown, made it more appealing in the case the Spurs didn’t happen,” Ginobili told The Vertical on Thursday. “But the Spurs happened and they always had the priority.”

The Sixers reportedly offered Ginobili, 38, a two-year, partially-guaranteed deal worth around $30 million. The Spurs first offered him a one-year, $3 million contract. Ginobili ended up re-signing with the Spurs for one-year, $14 million. 

“It was not my main option. I never wanted to leave San Antonio,” Ginobili said. “But I had to listen to all the options that are there.”

Ginobili averaged 9.6 points, 3.1 assists and 2.5 rebounds in 19.6 minutes coming off the bench last season. The Sixers are adding veteran leadership, and Ginobili is one of the most experienced in the game. In addition to his reliability at the position, he could have been a mentor to the entire team and worked with Ben Simmons to help hone his point guard skills as the rookie big man plays point-forward. His years of international competition would have gelled with incoming players such as Dario Saric, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Sergio Rodriguez. 

The Sixers signed point guards Jerryd Bayless (three years, $27 million) and Rodriguez (one year, $8 million) this summer. T.J. McConnell and Kendall Marshall still are under contract. Last season's starting point guard Ish Smith signed with the Pistons at the start of free agency.