It’s going to be hard to be a Philadelphia 76er this season. It’s no joy to be a fan of them this year, but the losing that everyone knows is coming will not be fun for coaches or players either.
It can be tough to build good habits, a good work ethic in the midst of getting smoked eight out of 10 times you walk on the court. The Sixers lost their last four preseason games, all by double digits, and while you can say “it’s just preseason” this is one trend likely to carry over into next week. It’s not a matter of effort from the players, it’s how management chose to put together a team.
Thaddeus Young is trying to be a leader this season and to teach his young teammates how to be professionals in the face of adversity, as he told Gordie Jones at CSNPhilly.com.
Young said he has talked to his teammates, telling them, “We can’t lay down for 82 games. It’s a long season. If we lay down for 82 games, it’s going to be an even longer season. Guys are going to get frustrated. Guys are going to get stressed out.”
I’ll ignore the incorrect use of lay/lie to say Young is right.
The challenge for the Sixers through this season will be building a foundation for future success. When the losing piles up and piles on the motivation to keep working, to keep doing things right fades. It can be a cancer that destroys the foundation they are trying to build. It’s one of the risks of this strategy, of going bad to get good — even if you land Andrew Wiggins in the next draft, you may need to clean house to change the team culture again so you can grow with him.
Brett Brown has a tough job ahead as a coach for the Sixers this season. At least he has Young on his side.
“I have to help lead,” he said. “I have to help teach them. I’ve been talking to Coach, each and every day — basically just going in there (to Brown’s office) and going over a lot of game tape. I’m learning on the fly, and I have to teach on the fly also. … Sometimes it does get to you a little bit, but with these guys, they listen. They try to retain all the information we’re putting in. They’re very receptive.”
With time running down in the third quarter, LeBron James went hard to the basket for a layup, and the shot was contested by Jeremy Lamb, who ended up poking LeBron in the eye on the play.
It isn’t intentional, but it looks painful.
That blow could have LeBron sitting out Saturday night when the Cavaliers take on the Washington Wizards in Cleveland. From Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
LeBron James said he suffered a scratched cornea in his right eye in Friday’s 112-105 win over Charlotte after being examined by a Hornets team physician.
James, who scored 32 points in 40 minutes, could not keep his right eye open during his postgame interview session and said his vision was blurry… Summing it all up, James said “if coach decides to give me a game off (Saturday), it’s not because I’m resting. It’s because I’m banged up.”
He was treated by the Hornets’ team doctor who administered eye drops, but the Cavaliers will make the call closer to game time depending on how LeBron is feeling.
The Cavaliers are 0-6 without LeBron this season. They also have just a one-game lead over the Celtics for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. (Boston beat Phoenix on Friday, despite Devin Booker dropping 70, and they have a key game with the Heat on Sunday.) That said, the Cavaliers are two games up in the loss column on the Celtics, which is a decent lead, but the Cavs need to start winning consistently.
And beating a hot Washington team will not be easy even with LeBron.
Devin Booker was the story of the NBA Friday night.
The 20-year-old Suns’ guard — who never scored more than 19 points in a game at Kentucky in college — dropped 70 on the Boston Celtics in a losing effort. He becomes only the sixth player in NBA history to score at least 70 in a game. At the end the Suns were fouling and calling time outs to stop the clock and get the ball back to Booker, but as Phoenix coach Earl Watson said to those who complained, “You got a problem with that? Do something. Simple as that.”
NBA Twitter exploded at what Booker did.
Booker himself responded this way.
There was no hesitation. None was expected.
After UCLA was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16 by Kentucky, the Bruin’s Lonzo Ball — who is expected to be a top-three pick — declared for the NBA draft this June.
Ball is expected to go second or third in the upcoming NBA draft. Speaking with people around the league Washington’s Markelle Fultz is a clear No. 1, but after that if the Lakers — the team with the second-worst record in the league — have the No. 2 pick they are expected to snap up Ball. Depending on how the lottery shakes out the top of the draft, Ball could fall a little — there are teams that like Josh Jackson — but not much.
Ball is a 6’6″ point guard who averaged 14.7 points, 7.6 assists and 6.1 rebounds a game for UCLA last season. He has fantastic passing vision, impressive shooting range (although he can take some questionable shots), and a great sense of floor spacing and how to run an offense, particularly in transition. However, his weaknesses were exposed in his final game some as De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky completely outplayed Ball. Defensive pressure took Ball (and the Bruins) out of rhythm, forced them to play in the half court (where Ball is not as strong), and it’s one of the things Ball is going to have to adapt to at the next level where everyone is more athletic. Also, he’s going to need to get more consistent defensively.
The potential for Ball to be special is there, which is why he will go high in the draft.
And no, the rantings of his father will not change that. Teams see the father as a distraction that can be handled, they aren’t going to let him get in the way of drafting talent.
Kobe Bryant said “Thank you. I learned so much from you as a player.”
Jerry West said he loved him like a son.
Jeanie Buss said “No one celebrates a championship like you, but please no more asking Mark Madsen to dance.”
The Lakers unveiled a new statue for Shaquille O’Neal Friday night, one flying high over a Staples Center entrance, and the stars were on hand for the event. Phil Jackson was there making Snoop Dogg jokes. Shaq and Kobe were sharing laughs. It was a big night for a big man with a big personality. And a big heart.
Check out the highlights above.