Thad Out For 'A While:' What Do We Do Now?

Thad Out For 'A While:' What Do We Do Now?

Last
night's game against the Magic was about as unenjoyable as a 17-point
win can be—not only was the game an unwatchable affair against a crappy
team's JV squad (any win by less than 40 would've felt at least a little
underwhelming), but the Sixers lost Thaddeus Young in the second
quarter with what has since been identified as a left hamstring sprain.
No specific timetable has been given on Thad's return—coach Doug Collins
says he'll be out "a while"—but based on the returns of players like
Manu Ginobili and Luol Deng from similar recent injuries, it'll probably
be at least ten days, maybe about two weeks until we see Thad suiting
up again. (Unless it's a full tear of the hamstring, in which case the prognostication becomes a lot more dramatic.)

Regardless, this is a tough loss for a team ostensibly in the playoff
hunt—with their win against the Magic, the Sixers again move to three
back of the eighth-place Celtics, though those guys have won four in a
row and look poised to continue surging, even with a couple
season-ending injuries to key players. Thad has been the Sixers'
second-most valuable player this season and probably their best
all-around contributor, leading the team in rebounds, steals and field
goal percentage—an extremely odd package of stat-stuffing that speaks to
Thad's versatility as a player. By the all-encompassing but extremely
imprecise "Win Shares" statistic, Thad is easily tops on the team, his
4.4 Wins Added a full 1.5 wins better than Jrue Holiday, second on the
team with 2.9. He will be missed, whatever time he's out.

In a way, though, this is probably the best time of the year for
Thad to go down, especially if it is gonna be just a two-week injury.
That period should overlap the All-Star Break, a period where the Sixers
go a full week without playing, and even Thad misses two weeks, that's
just four games total that he'll have to sit out. If he comes back
shortly after that, his return should also come in time to be present
for the Funny Looking Kid With the Big Hair's Sixers debut, whenever
that is—the latest update now has him coming back in "February," a
typically FLKWB-esque update that's simultaneously encouraging and
discouraging—and at that point, of course, it will be critical for the
frontcourt pair to get as much time playing together, and with Evan and
Jrue in the back, as possible, to see what kind of potential this team's
young core has together.

If this is a full tear, though, and Thad is out for two months (as Howard Eskin predicts he would be),
that's bad. Even if our long-promised All-Star center comes back after
the Break as once anticipated, making a playoff push without Young would
be a tremendous challenge, and one I imagine the team probably isn't up
for. Thad has replaced Iguodala as the Liberty Baller who does all the
little things and whose contributions you can't even fully appreciate
until he's out, and then you realize "Oh yeah, it was nice how he dove
for all those loose balls, finished on the fast break, bodied up that
opposing power forward, and such." He'll get an MRI today, which should
tell us how bleak the outlook is for young Thad.

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Best of NBA: DeRozan scores career-high 43 points in Raptors' win

Best of NBA: DeRozan scores career-high 43 points in Raptors' win

TORONTO -- DeMar DeRozan scored a career-high 43 points and the Toronto Raptors rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat the Boston Celtics 107-97 on Friday night.

DeRozan shot 15 of 28 from the floor as he surpassed his 42-point effort against the Houston Rockets on March 30, 2015, helping the Raptors overcome the absence of fellow All-Star Kyle Lowry. Lowry sat out with a right wrist injury.

Serge Ibaka, acquired by trade from the Orlando Magic last week, scored 15 points in his debut, while fellow newcomer P.J. Tucker, picked up from the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, had a game-high 10 rebounds and nine points in his first game for his new team.

Isaiah Thomas scored 20 points for Boston, which also got 19 points each from Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart (see full recap).

Westbrook triple-double lifts Thunder over Lakers
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook scored 17 points in his 28th triple-double of the season, and his new teammates fit in seamlessly as the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 110-93 on Friday night.

Westbrook also had 18 rebounds and 17 assists for the 65th triple-double of his career.

It was the first game for new Thunder players Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott, acquired Thursday in a trade with the Chicago Bulls. Gibson scored 12 points and McDermott added eight, even though they arrived Thursday night and weren't even available for shootaround on Friday.

Alex Abrines and Andre Roberson each set a career high with 19 points, and Steven Adams added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Thunder.

D'Angelo Russell scored 29 for the Lakers (see full recap).

Pacers beat Grizzlies to snap six-game skid
INDIANAPOLIS -- CJ Miles made five 3-pointers and scored 17 points, Paul George had nine points and nine rebounds after remaining with Indiana following the trade deadline, and the Pacers snapped a six-game losing streak with a 102-92 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.

Monta Ellis finished with 16 points, Myles Turner scored 12, and Lavoy Allen, Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young each added 10 for the Pacers.

The Pacers outscored the Grizzlies 64-42 across the middle two quarters and never relinquished their lead, leading by as many as 27 points in the second half. The Grizzlies finished the game shooting 41 percent from the floor (35 for 84).

Troy Daniels had 13 points for Memphis and Marc Gasol scored 12. Indiana outrebounded Memphis 50-39 and scored 29 points off 17 Grizzlies turnovers (see full recap).

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

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

BOX SCORE

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.”