Are Sixers too far gone for even Bynum to save?


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?


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

Give and Go: Predicting Sixers' MVP, win total and more for 2016-17

Give and Go: Predicting Sixers' MVP, win total and more for 2016-17

The Sixers officially get back to work Wednesday night in their regular-season opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder (see game notes).

Before tip-off, Sixers insider Jessica Camerato and producers/reporters Matt Haughton and Paul Hudrick run the Give and Go to break down some burning questions surrounding the team.

What is the one stat that will most define the Sixers' season?


The Sixers want to build a defensive identity and understandably so — they ranked last in the league in rebounds with a minus-518 differential and were outscored by 10.2 points per game, also last in the NBA. That being said, I am looking at turnovers this season. Last season, the Sixers were prone to throwing away points with errors. They ranked 29th (second to the Suns) with 16.6 turnovers per game. The team is down two ball handlers in Jerryd Bayless and Ben Simmons (both injured), which heightens the challenge. In order for the Sixers to get into any type of rhythm and build an offensive flow, they have to actually maintain possession.

It's got to be defense.

Brett Brown is banking on Joel Embiid being the centerpiece to the team's defense, and he better be for the head coach's sake. Embiid also better get some help from the guys around him on that end of the floor or it will be another year-long parade of bad rotations, easy buckets at the rim and wide-open jumpers. In Brown's three years as Sixers head coach, the team has ranked 29th, 20th and 30th in opponents' points per game. That has to change if the Sixers want to take the next step in their rebuild.

With an abundance of big men and Simmons eventually taking the court as the team's main facilitator, the Sixers need players that can shoot. Last season, they took the eighth-most three-point attempts in the NBA while finishing 24th in three-point percentage. That second number has to go up if the Sixers ever want to create floor space.

Who will be the Sixers' MVP?


The towering 7-foot-2 presence is going to be the dominating force on both ends. Brown intends for Embiid to become the “crown jewel” of the defense and the offense to go through Embiid and Jahlil Okafor, whose role is restricted (knee). Embiid has shown in a small sampling of preseason games he is capable of leading the team on all sides of the floor.

Of course the answer is Embiid, but let's go another route and say Brown.

The coach got an extension last season and also received a boost in roster talent. Now he just has to figure out how the pieces fit together. That didn't go so well with Okafor and Nerlens Noel a season ago, but playing those two together was essentially the only intriguing thing about the Sixers in 2015-16, which is why Brown stuck with the pairing. With better players to mix and match this time around, I believe Brown will figure out some solid options to have the squad in better position to compete on a nightly basis.

The easy pick is Embiid, but I'm going a little outside the box with Dario Saric.

The 22-year-old Croatian showed off the versatility of his game during the preseason. He's an old school player that excels in the team game. He's what's often referred to as a "glue guy." He has skill, but the skills he lacks he makes up for with grit and basketball savvy.

What is your season projection for the Sixers?

This season was supposed to be a bridge year, the start of rebuilding. That will be delayed until the team is healthy with key players like Simmons, Okafor and Noel back at 100 percent. In the meantime, the Sixers' outlook is better than last season’s 10-win total but less than earlier projections with Simmons in the lineup. Because of injuries, I am shifting their win projection to 19.

The injury bug, starting with No. 1 overall pick, Simmons, has certainly put a damper on the Sixers' projected win total. Las Vegas odds books originally set the mark at 27½, which seemed like a long shot even with a full roster. I say they show strides but fall just shy of doubling last season's win total and finish with 19.

This really depends on the return of Simmons. Simmons will make this team so much better on both ends of the floor. Bayless' absence early will hurt this team as well. And don't forget about all the minutes restrictions. The Sixers are going to struggle early on, but if Simmons returns in January, I think this team can double its win total from last season and win 20 games.

Sixers-Thunder 5 things: Season opener is here, let the fun begin

Sixers-Thunder 5 things: Season opener is here, let the fun begin

Finally, basketball is back.

The Sixers will look to put their miserable 2015-16 season behind them when they get the 2016-17 campaign underway with Wednesday's season opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Wells Fargo Center (8 p.m./CSN, Pregame Live at 7).

It should be a fun ride. Let's take a look at the season-opening matchup:

1. Long time coming
If you thought you had a long wait for Wednesday's opener, just think how Joel Embiid and Dario Saric feel.

For Embiid, it will be especially gratifying to take the court for a regular-season game. After being selected No. 3 overall by the Sixers in 2014, the center has been forced to sit out two straight seasons because of a pair of surgeries on his troublesome right foot and endured countless hours of rehab.

Now healthy and fresh off averaging 11.4 points and 6.0 rebounds in 14.7 minutes during the preseason, Embiid is ready for his first meaningful game action in 970 days.

"I can't wait (for Wednesday's game)," Embiid said, per the Inquirer. "That's going to be my first official NBA game. I just went through the preseason. I thought I got better game by game. I'm looking to finally get that first game."

As for Saric, he spent the past two years playing for Anadolu Efes in Turkey after being the 12th overall selection in 2014 and traded to the Sixers. By joining the Sixers a year early, the Croatian, who averaged 10.2 points and 4.5 rebounds in 21.1 minutes during the preseason, passed on an opportunity to potentially earn more money.

Both Embiid and Saric have shown their committment to "Trust the Process" from the start, and now the rookies will finally get to prove their worth on the court for the Sixers.

2. Don't forget there is a D in Philadelphia
With Embiid, Saric, Jahlil Okafor, (maybe) Ben Simmons and some added outside shooting, offense shouldn't be an issue for the Sixers this season. However, the other end of floor remains a work in progress.

Head coach Brett Brown stressed Embiid's need to be the Sixers' anchor on defense throughout the preseason.

“He needs to be the crown jewel, the centerpiece to our defense,” Brown said of Embiid.

That was hard to do with the big man averaging just 14.7 minutes a game during the preseason. With Nerlens Noel sidelined because of knee surgery and a host of new faces trying to find chemistry together, it was more of the same defensive issues as the Sixers allowed 107.1 points per game during exhibition play.

Now, we get it, it's only preseason and a lot of the problems on defense have something to do with the roster's lack of talent in recent years. But it's still a continuing trend for the Sixers under Brown. In his three seasons at the helm, the Sixers have allowed averages of 107.6, 101.0 and 109.9 points per game.

Sure, Embiid can be the centerpiece on defense, but he can't be the only piece.

3. Watch out for Westbrook
Speaking of defense ... it will be tested right from the start by one of the NBA's best offensive players in OKC point guard Russell Westbrook.

With Kevin Durant's bitter departure to the Golden State Warriors, the Sixers and the rest of the league can expect a supremely focused Westbrook.

Just how focused? In 61 career games without Durant, Westbrook has averaged 28.0 points, 8.4 assists and 7.1 rebounds.

Those are MVP-type numbers. And you better believe Westbrook is out to prove he's capable of pulling in that hardware and much more without his former superstar teammate.

4. Injuries
Robert Covington (ankle) is expected to play in the opener. Simmons (foot), Noel (knee) and Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are out for the Sixers.

Alex Abrines (hip) is expected to play for the Thunder.

5. This and that
• The Sixers have lost 14 straight matchups to the Thunder.

• Westbrook, who had triple-doubles in both games against the Sixers last season, has averaged 22.0 points, 9.4 assists and 7.9 rebounds against them in his career.

• Brown is 1-2 in season openers as Sixers head coach.

• Nik Stauskas scored a career-high 23 points in the March 18 meeting between the two teams last season.

• The Thunder grabbed 65 and 68 rebounds in the two games against the Sixers a season ago.