Shorthanded Sixers defeated by Vucevic, Magic

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Shorthanded Sixers defeated by Vucevic, Magic

BOX SCORE

ORLANDO -- The Sixers were forced to suffer in more ways than one on Wednesday night against the Orlando Magic.

Not only were they unable to pull off a comeback in a 105-94 loss to the Magic (see Instant Replay), they also had to watch themselves lose at the hands of former Sixer Nikola Vucevic.

Vucevic make shot after shot and grab rebound after rebound as a painful reminder of potential that is now being achieved for another team. The 16th overall selection by the Sixers in 2011, who later was dealt to the Magic in the Andrew Bynum trade, was a dominating presence in the first half.

The third-year Magic center made his first eight field goal attempts while recording 17 points and 10 rebounds by halftime. He finished the game with 21 points and 16 rebounds.

“Nik is a big body,” Thaddeus Young said. “He goes to the glass every time. He has good post work and he has a solid jumper where he is going to have to make guys play up on him. He will use his body to get past them and score layups. He’s definitely a good player.”

“When you look at their interior bigs, I think their percentage was 80 in the first half,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. “We couldn’t guard them and we had to go to schemes. We had to go about different ways to give help to our bigs and it’s a problem. We want to try and improve our ability to guard one-on-one.”

Brown admits that the team’s difficulty defending the paint is a combination of the Sixers’ team design and still figuring out ways to guard better individually.

Nonetheless, Young, playing for the first time since missing three games for personal reasons, had a three-point play in the closing seconds of the first half to cut the Sixers’ deficit to five. They had trailed by as many as 15 in the half.

The Sixers clawed their way back in the second half and even cut the deficit to just two points in the fourth quarter. However, they allowed second overall pick Victor Oladipo (18 points) to drain a three-pointer with three minutes to go to push their deficit back to nine.

The Sixers couldn’t recover from that final body shot.

“I think we got it to two, hung around two. We just couldn’t get over the top,” Brown said. “A few untimely things and Oladipo’s three especially put the game away.”

While the Sixers were dejected from not getting the win, they were certainly glad to have Young. The forward looked like he didn’t miss any action at all. He scored 26 points and grabbed eight rebounds off the bench.

“It was clear right from the get-go that he had bounce and he had energy. He wanted to play and he was good.” Brown said. “He got 29 minutes, which is more than I would have guessed at the start of the game, but it is great to have him back.”

Young was clearly in attack mode throughout the game. He shot 9 of 15 from the field and attempted 11 free throws.

“I was trying to get myself in a rhythm early,” Young said. “I knew I was coming off the bench and that was one of the things when I was a sixth man, I would say to myself be aggressive early. So I went back into my sixth man role like when I played for coach [Douh] Collins, and it worked out pretty well tonight.”

Evan Turner flirted with a triple-double, scoring 17 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and handing out eight assists. Michael Carter-Williams had his fifth 20-point scoring output (23) in 11 appearances this season.

Spencer Hawes (knee) and Tony Wroten (back) both missed their second consecutive games with injuries.

The Sixers return to action on Friday when they host Jrue Holiday and the New Orleans Pelicans.

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Nerlens Noel’s recent comments on the logjam of big men on the Sixers' roster did not come as news to head coach Brett Brown. While Noel had not been this publicly outspoken on the issue, he and Brown have been having open discussions about it. 

“I have been talking to Nerlens a lot and I have a fondness for him,” Brown said Tuesday on the first day of training camp. “I don’t begrudge Nerlens Noel at all for what he said. I don’t have any problems with it.”

The Sixers' crowded frontcourt this season is a continuation of last season’s conundrum in which Brown was tasked with playing Noel and Jahlil Okafor, two natural centers, together. The depth has increased with the return of Joel Embiid and additions of Dario Saric and Ben Simmons. 

So when Noel doubled down on Monday by saying, "I don't see a way it can work,” Brown recognized where the center's opinions were coming from as he enters his fourth season in the NBA. 

“I feel if we do anything well, we communicate with our players freely,” Brown said. “It is one hundred percent transparent — hard conversations ahead, easy conversations ahead. I have spoken with Nerlens about this a lot. 

“My messaging and my mood and attitude and things that come out of my mouth haven’t changed once. I feel very confident that I’m giving him the advice that he should hear from me and it still allows me to do my job. 

“We have talked about it freely, like I have talked about it with Jahlil and Joel. Those situations are part of pro sports. They’re ever-present with me and us right now.”

Noel has been a rare mainstay among a revolving door of players over the past three years. He is in a unique situation with Brown in that the two have experienced a long list of the team’s ups and downs together. Noel feels comfortable talking honestly with Brown about his viewpoints. 

“I’ve known Brett probably longer than most guys here and we’ve built a different type of relationship,” Noel said. “It’s been very front and forward and we talk and we keep it real. That’s what he’s been doing with me and that’s why I’m able to continue to talk to him about myself and him just telling me what position I’ll be in — he’ll try to put me in — to succeed.”

With Brown having an understanding of Noel, his focus is on what Noel can bring to the team this season. He believes Noel has an edge over Embiid and Okafor for minutes early on because Noel is the only one among the trio starting camp without restrictions from previous injuries. 

There is a tough competition for playing time among the bigs, and camp is about proving oneself through basketball, not through personal opinions. Brown was impressed on the first day of camp by the manner in which Noel approached the morning practice amid the comments.

“He has handled it with me and in the training session today like a pro,” Brown said. “He came to mean it. He didn’t back down at all. There was no moping or sulking or him being stubborn. He played. That’s what he has to do. I think that’s a real reflection of anybody of how you handle adversity. Today he handled it like a true pro and a true competitor.”

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

The Sixers finished in the basement of the NBA standings last season with a league-low 10 wins. But with the influx of young talent and addition of a couple veterans to the roster, the Las Vegas oddsmakers are betting on the Sixers to make some strides upward in the 2016-17 standings.  

Last week, the WestGate Superbook in Las Vegas set the Sixers' over/under for wins this season at an optimistic 27½, which was the fourth-lowest projection in the league.

Similarly, while Bovada is projecting another season of basketball filled with mostly losses in Philadelphia, the sportsbook doesn't view the Sixers as a shoo-in to finish as the league's worst team for the second consecutive year.

Per Bovada, the Sixers have the fourth-longest odds (125/1) to capture the Atlantic Divison title for the first time since 2001-02, beating out the Nets (250/1) by a considerable margin.

The favorite to win the division is the Celtics at 20/21, trailed closely by the defending division champion Raptors (21/20). The Knicks are between the Raptors and Sixers at 10/1.

The Sixers (150/1) also edged out the Nets (200/1) in odds to win the Eastern Conference championship. The two teams in the conference directly ahead of the Sixers in that futures bet are the Hornets (100/1) and Magic (50/1).

The Cavaliers are the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference at 5/11, followed by the Celtics (5/1) and Raptors (14/1).

Least surprising of all futures odds, Bovada has the Sixers tied with four other teams for the longest odds to win the NBA title. The Nuggets, Kings, Nets and Suns were tied with the Sixers at 500/1 odds to win the Larry O'Brien trophy.

The early favorites to win it all are the same two teams that met in the 2016 NBA Finals. The Warriors are alone at top with the shortest odds at 4/5 trailed by the Cavaliers at 3/1.