Thrust into bigger role, Sixers' Holmes stars in win over Wizards

Thrust into bigger role, Sixers' Holmes stars in win over Wizards

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For as much as the Sixers' bigs are talked about, Richaun Holmes often is left out of the conversation. 

He's not the centerpiece of the team like Joel Embiid nor was he heavily involved in trade talks like Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. He is the backup center who bides his time on the bench and quietly stays ready when he gets the nod.

And on Friday, he was the standout player in the Sixers' 120-112 win over the Wizards (see Instant Replay)

"He's been sort of the person that people forget about because of the logjam of five men," Brett Brown said. "We all sort of think, 'Well, he should just accept it because he's behind Joel and Nerlens and Jahlil. Good ol' Richaun. Go to the D-League and it's OK.' And that doesn't work. He's a pro, he's competitive. He's handled it. He's really been a wonderful teammate."

Holmes was bumped up in the rotation following the trade of Noel to the Mavs. He moved into the second-unit role while Okafor started in place of the injured Embiid. 

Holmes recorded his first double-double with 12 points (6 for 9 from the field) and 10 rebounds (three offensive). He also blocked a career-high five shots, tying Embiid for the most by a Sixer this season. The second-year big man put together this impressive performance in 26 minutes off the bench (see feature highlight).

"Just play hard," Holmes said of his approach. "Just go out there, show what you've been working on, play hard every second you're out there. That's the motto I've got."

Holmes is averaging 16.1 minutes and has appeared in just 32 of the Sixers' 57 games. This season, he also spent time with the Delaware 87ers of the Development League to get playing time. Holmes embraced an opportunity similar to Friday's a month ago when he scored 18 points in as many minutes against the Clippers. 

"I try to approach every game this season the same way, whether everybody was playing or people were hurt," Holmes said. "Prepare like I'm going to play 30 minutes a game. I think having that mindset helped me to stay ready at all times and be aggressive when I had a chance."

Brown did not rule out the possibility that Holmes could start at some point if he continues this production. The Sixers are limiting Okafor to 20 to 24 minutes per game, according to Brown. That, combined with Embiid's injury, could lend itself to an increased role for Holmes. 

"I think in that environment, it wouldn't seem out of the ordinary for Richaun to get a start from time to time," Brown said. 

Even if he remains on the second unit, Holmes proved he can provide a spark off the bench. Dario Saric noted how Holmes' impact on both ends of the floor bolsters the frontcourt in addition to a more offensively-minded Okafor (11 points, two rebounds). 

"I think he played unbelievably good in both ways,” Saric said. “Everybody knows he's an elite guy finishing around the rim, and he stepped in Nerlens' place, he replaced him unbelievably good. I hope he will get the same minutes for the next game because we have Jahlil, who is more like a post-up player, who likes more to score from the low-post block, and we for sure need some guy like Richaun who will play in both ways."

Perhaps the person least surprised by Holmes' game was Holmes himself. It was the result he puts in long hours to produce.

"It's all about the grind,” he said. “All about keep working, keep trying to move up, keep trying to get better every second and it’ll pay off." 

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."

Bryan Colangelo on Noel trade, Okafor market, 'regret' with Embiid injury

Bryan Colangelo on Noel trade, Okafor market, 'regret' with Embiid injury

Here are some assorted quotes from Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo, after he opened his day-after-trade deadline press conference by announcing Ben Simmons is out for the season.

On Nerlens Noel
"Nerlens was obviously a part of something here over the last several years that has become a tough slog through of a lot of losing and unfortunately a lot of things that brought people to a point where it was about moving forward. 

"That's where we are today. Nerlens is a player that contributed a lot to the organization in a lot of ways. A respected teammate. We think that in Dallas he's got an opportunity to achieve what he'd like to achieve, which is a starting role and a commensurate contract."

Draft picks involved in Noel trade
"The value of second-round picks is higher with the use of two-way contracts.

"In terms of the first, not dissimilar to what happened with the OKC pick that's due to us. You never know what's going to happen in this league, you never know how it's going to turn out. 

"We're realists, we talk about the true value of the pick as two seconds."

Why not a better return for Noel?
"The market dictates what's there. And interestingly given our situation with multiple talented bigs, I think its pretty safe to say that people view us as a place to come if they're looking for a big.

"Several bigs were out there and available.

"Trade went down early, Nurkic going to Portland. There was some conversation obviously with Jahlil early, some advanced discussions.

"The situation with Nerlens, him being a RFA certainly affected how people approached that type of player.

"It was more or less the case that concern with how that contract might look in the future was a concern and (caused) apprehension."

Regret how you handled Joel Embiid's injury status?
"I regret saying day to day when it should have been out indefinitely.

"It was a mistake to put out day to day. It won't happen again.

"Two to three weeks may have been mentioned as a possibility, but to say that publicly might 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.

"Sometimes, taking it a step further, sometimes a bone bruise may stay on a scan for six to eight weeks."

Market for Okafor?
Because Okafor is on a rookie contract with two years left, Colangelo said the market for him was "more broad" and more conducive to a trade, but the right offer did not materialize.

Colangelo said talks could be revisited in the offseason.

Adding Justin Anderson in Noel deal
"Justin Anderson is a young wing that we think is going to add something to this team in the way of a defensive-minded approach, talent, athleticism.

"We like to describe him as someone who's got that edge. ... Philly fans are gonna love Justin's approach to the game.

"We're excited. He adds something to the mix that we're excited to have."

On why they're not tanking
"I think I say Dario Saric, he’s the answer (to that question) for us. He was capable of moving into a much more significant role and if you look at the path of this basketball team over the last month and half, Dario has performed at a level even above Ersan and what this allows for is more time and more opportunity for Dario to play those minutes, continue to cut his teeth on the NBA so that as I indicated earlier next year he’s going to hit the ground running and have so much more to offer.

"In Ersan’s case when you are talking about building something, I knew we had an asset that was going to potentially walk away because our contract desires didn’t align. We did have a really unique opportunity given Ersan’s expiring contract and being a team with extraordinary cap space right now to potentially re-negotiate and extend his deal. And that deadline would have been March 1. I did have dialogue with his agent about a scenario where we would give him a bump in the current year and extend him by one year. As much as that was intriguing because of the amount that was discussed or thought to be available based on our cap space it didn’t fit the term they desired. Having said that we moved forward.  

"This opens a door for our young core players to get better and play. If you look at the numbers I don’t think we are going to take an incredible step back given that we have some players to step in and fill that void. So again, Ersan gave us a while he was here. He made us competitive but some of the others have really come I and done what they needed to do which is develop into serviceable and or highly contributing players and that’s what we are finding with these guys."