Will injuries force teams like Sixers into a trade?

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Will injuries force teams like Sixers into a trade?

If there has been one element to define the 2012-13 NBA season its been big injuries to franchise players. Obviously, Andrew Bynum has been among the most notably absent this season, but the Sixers are hardly alone.

The Mavericks missed Dirk Nowitzki for a long period while the Timberwolves have played without Kevin Love, the Bulls without Derrick Rose and the Wizards without John Wall. Then there are the Cavaliers who have been without both Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao and the Lakers have missed Steve Nash.

Thats an All-Star team of injuries right there.

In the Sixers Atlantic Division, every team has faced a significant injury to a key player, and for the most part, teams (and fans) have not panicked or rushed out to make moves to fill gaps.

At least not yet.

For now, the plan for the Sixers, as well as every other team in similar predicaments, is to hold the fort until the reinforcements arrive. For the most part, that plan has worked well for teams in the Atlantic, though it hasnt always been easy. Patience has won out across the league.

We just have to wait and be patient and try to get some answers, said Sixers general manager Tony DiLeo last Friday when discussing the shape of his roster. We want to see how Andrew fits in and how our players fit in with him.

Dont expect teams to be patient for too much longer, though. With the NBA trade deadline set for Feb. 21, GMs may be chomping at the bit with some big names reportedly being shopped around.

Could the Sixers be kicking a few tires and looking to make a move? Probably. Its no secret the team is looking to add a backup point guard with reported inquiries made for Oklahoma Citys Eric Maynor. But the Sixers likely wont make any type of move until Bynum returns or until closer to the deadline.

When we made the trade for Bynum, we built the team around him, DiLeo said. Thats one of the questions we have to answer.

In the meantime, here are a few of the players that could be traded before the Feb. 21 deadline:

Rudy Gay, Memphis
Why would one of the best teams in the West be looking to move its leading scorer? Easy ... money. Gay is signed through the 2014-15 season and is owed approximately 37 million over the next two seasons.

Tyreke Evans, Sacramento
The Chester, Pa. native is still just 23 years old and has an expiring contract. He also is playing in basketball limbo with the dysfunctional Kings and his stats have dropped off a bit as a result.

DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento
Incredibly talented, but troubled, Cousins may need a change of scenery. Then again, that change could be Seattle whenif the Kings become the Sonics.

Derrick Williams, Minnesota
Reports are that the Twolves have already soured on the 2011 No. 2 overall draft pick and are looking to move him. Then again, reports seem to indicate that all-star Love has soured on Minnesota.
Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers
What good is a list of players on the trading block without the perennially tradable Gasol? Where could Gasol go? How about to any team willing to pay his 20 million salary next year.

As for the Sixers potential trade chips:

Nick Young
He took his first DNP-CD during Saturday nights victory over the Rockets and isnt much of a defender. He does, however, have something that a lot of teams are interested in -- an expiring contract. Young was dealt at the deadline last season from Washington to the Clippers. Could he be on a fourth different team in a little less than a calendar year?

Dorell Wright
Another expiring contract and at a relative bargain of 4.1 million. What also makes Wright more attractive than Young is that he actually plays some defense.

Royal Ivey & Damien Wilkins
Expiring contracts.

E-mail John R. Finger at jfinger@comcastsportsnet.com

Brett Brown wants Sixers to focus on turnovers, transition defense in next 10 games

Brett Brown wants Sixers to focus on turnovers, transition defense in next 10 games

NEW ORLEANS — The Sixers take a pause after each set of 10 games over the course of the 82-game season to identify areas they want to improve in the next increment.
 
They are now 22 games into the season and two into the current grouping. Brett Brown has targeted two aspects, one on each end of the floor, to hone in on: turnovers and transition defense.
 
“Our turnovers continue to haunt us and we can’t let it go,” Brown said earlier this week. 
 
Turnover problems are nothing new to the Sixers. As a young team, they struggled heavily last season and ranked 29th with 16.4 per game. This season the number is higher. The Sixers currently are at the bottom of the NBA with 17.3 turnovers per game.*
 
They are running into problems late in games. The Sixers average 3.6 turnovers in the first quarter (tied for 22nd with the Clippers) compared to 5.0 in the fourth (also 30th in the NBA for that quarter). 
 
Brown frequently highlights points allowed off turnovers when assessing a loss. The Sixers are tied with the Timberwolves for 25th with 18.2 points in that category.

Rather than just looking at turnovers as a whole, Brown is delving into the who’s and why’s of the problem. Joel Embiid leads the team with 3.7 turnovers per game. The Sixers look to him as the focal point of the offense. As a rookie, he is adjusting to NBA defenses, especially double teams, while being the go-to at the basket. 

Sergio Rodriguez is behind Embiid with 2.7, not counting Jerryd Bayless (3.0) who only has played three games. Rodriguez has said he “takes risks” at the point but is trying to be more secure with the ball in his hand (see story)

“We’ve got repetitive examples of people either too much in a crowd,” Brown said. “Examples of people not handling pick and rolls when they come out and hedge. Post players dribbling too much and not reacting to double teams and to pass outs.”
 
On the opposite end of the court, the Sixers are last in the league with 18.5 fast break points scored by opponents. Their defense fluctuates when Embiid is on the sideline, based on his 28-minute restriction. However Brown does not want the rest of the team to lapse without their big man. Brown has been emphasizing the need for pace and has been stressing all season the importance of career-best fitness to get up and down the floor.

“We still don’t get back the way I want to in transition defense,” Brown said. “We do see differences in our defense dramatically when Joel is in the game or not. But it still doesn’t camouflage the fact that we have to get back on defense.”

The Sixers will have to tackle these issues in a 10-game period in which they are shorthanded with a slew of injuries and illnesses. 

"The good thing is, we’ve selected two things that have hurt us and we need to claim them again," Brown said. 

*All stats according to NBA.com

Best of NBA: Magic overcome Wall's 52 points to beat Wizards

Best of NBA: Magic overcome Wall's 52 points to beat Wizards

WASHINGTON -- Elfrid Payton scored 22 of his season-high 25 points in the first half and the Orlando Magic overcame John Wall's 52-point performance to beat the Washington Wizards, 124-116 on Tuesday night.

Wall had the highest-scoring game of his career and kept Washington in it with 33 points in the second half as the Wizards cut the lead below 10 in the fourth quarter. The guard made 18 of 31 from the field and added eight assists.

Payton went 8 for 8 from the field and 3 for 3 from the line off the bench in that first half, nearly matching his previous season best of 23 points in the first two quarters alone. Payton finished 9 for 12 and handed out nine assists.

Orlando won its third straight game and its 124 points were a season high (see full recap).

Spurs trounce Timberwolves to reach 13-0 on the road
MINNEAPOLIS -- Kawhi Leonard scored 31 points and the San Antonio Spurs improved to 13-0 on the road this season with a 105-91 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night.

Leonard hit 11 of 15 shots after not scoring at all in the first quarter and Patty Mills scored 15 points off the bench for the Spurs (18-4), who played without Tony Parker after he bruised his left knee against Milwaukee on Wednesday night. San Antonio overcame a slow start to shoot 52.7 percent.

The Spurs moved past the 1969-70 New York Knicks to take sole possession of the second-best road start to begin a season in NBA history. The Golden State Warriors started 14-0 last year.

Zach LaVine scored 25 points for the Timberwolves. Karl-Anthony Towns had 11 points and 14 rebounds, but shot just 3 of 16 (see full recap).

Anthony, Knicks blow past depleted Heat
MIAMI -- Carmelo Anthony matched a season high with 35 points, and the New York Knicks beat the injury-ravaged Miami Heat 114-103 on Tuesday night.

Kristaps Porzingis had 14 points and 12 rebounds for New York, which is three games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2012-13 season. The Knicks lost Derrick Rose to back spasms in the third quarter.

Goran Dragic scored 29 points and Hassan Whiteside finished with 23 points and 14 rebounds for the Heat, who fell to 2-8 at home.

The teams were tied at 68 late in the third quarter, when the Knicks went on a 27-13 run over the next eight minutes to take control. Anthony finished 13 for 27 from the field, and Porzingis and Joakim Noah combined for 22 rebounds (see full recap).