I don’t think the Philadelphia 76ers are going to go 0-36 to end the season. They are going to get one more win.
Most nights they are overmatched — the other team is just more talented. That’s why they lost game 26 in a row Thursday night to the Houston Rockets, 120-98. The Sixers are bad as they rebuild (call it tanking if you want, Adam Silver still calls it rebuilding) and the Rockets are likely the sixth best team in the NBA. Henry Sims tries hard for the Sixers, but he’s not stopping Dwight Howard.
The Sixers now face another problem — teams are up for them. Nobody wants to be the team that lost to the Sixers and ended their streaks. Opponents are focused.
So what game can the Sixers win to break the streak? Here are four real possibilities
Sat. March 29 vs. Detroit Pistons. That’s Philadelphia’s next game and their chance to avoid owning the NBA record for the longest losing streak all by themselves (they are currently tied with the 2011 Cavaliers). On paper the big front line of the Pistons — Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, Josh Smith — should overwhelm Sims and the rest of the Sixers front line, but the Pistons shoot themselves in the foot more than any team in the league. The Pistons come in having lost 9 of their last 11, and they will be on the second night of a back-to-back having to play in Miami Friday night. If an energized Sixers team gets a tired Pistons team where Smith starts jacking up threes and Brandon Jennings tries to play hero ball the Sixers can certainly win.
Fri. April 4, at Boston Celtics. This is one team looking to end up high in the lottery this season, just like the Sixers. As of right now this Celtics team has lost 8-of-9 and are giving young players such as Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk big minutes. The Celtics also start some quality guys — Rajon Rondo is an All-Star, Avery Bradley can play, Jeff Green can be mind blowing when he wants to — but this is another team coasting to the finish line and playing poorly on the defensive end. This is another team the Sixers could steal one against.
Mon. April 14, vs. Boston Celtics. See the comments above, but note the Sixers are at home for this one.
Wed. April 16 at Miami Heat. Yes, against the Heat — this is the final regular season game before the playoffs and coach Erik Spoelstra might well sit LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and anyone else who will matter in the postseason. The Heat will not care about this game at all… but the Sixers might.
The Spurs’ 94-87 win over the Mavericks on Wednesday didn’t produce the Gregg Popovich fireworks that followed San Antonio’s last win over Dallas.
But Wednesday’s game still featured a very strange moment, when a cameraman ran onto the floor during play.
I’m not so bothered by the cameraman. He clearly thought a timeout had been called, potentially getting confused by the shot-clock buzzer sounding. It’s not ideal, but mistakes happen.
But why did the officials allow play to continue? That was absurd (though, thankfully, irrelevant).
(hat tip: reddit user Pontus_Pilates)
Before the season, Nerlens Noel called the 76ers’ center situation – with himself, Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor – “silly.”
Philadelphia general manager Bryan Colangelo advised Noel to stay in his place. 76ers coach Brett Brown told Noel focusing on his strengths would yield a big payday. Noel has mostly been away from the team while rehabbing from surgery.
Has any of that changed Noel’s perspective?
Noel, via Jessica Camerato of CSN Philly:
“I don’t think the roster’s changed,” Noel said Thursday. “So, I don’t think the roster’s changed.”
Noel didn’t seem concerned that he wouldn’t fit back in with the team after being away for the start of the season. He envisions his role as simply “being Nerlens Noel.” What exactly that will entail will unfold this season.
“I put myself in a different place with all these things,” Noel said. “Do what you can control. That’s what I give power to, is what I can really control. I think right now I’m in a good place mentally, I think my body feels great and I just want to get back to playing basketball and let things take care of themselves.”
This sounds like someone who still wants out.
In fact, the 76ers have only gotten bigger, trading combo forward Jerami Grant to the Thunder for power forward Ersan Ilyasova. Ilyasova will limit Philadelphia’s opportunities to play two-center lineups – not that those appear fruitful. Plus, Embiid will get more minutes.
A defense-first interior player, Noel faces a tough fit. The 76ers just don’t have a roster that complements his skills after years of asset accumulation and tanking – which also likely grinds on him.
Noel said he’ll focus on what he can control, and I believe he’ll try. But it’s hard when the situation around him is so counter to his best interests.
A new Collective Bargaining Agreement is expected to be finished soon, but with months until the current deal expires, both the owners and players can afford to take their time and get the details right.
Both sides reportedly agreed to keep the age minimum – which requires players to be 19 and one year removed from their high school class’ graduation – in place.
David Aldridge of NBA.com:
Other issues, like the age limit for players entering the league, are still on the table. The league has long sought to increase the age limit from its current 19, and at least one year removed from one’s high school class, to at least 20 years of age. The union has talked about a “zero and two” setup, similar to that used by baseball — players can enter the Draft out of high school, but if they choose to go to college, they have to stay in college at least two years (in baseball, it’s three years) before declaring for the Draft.
The union wants to lower the age minimum. Adam Silver wants to raise it.
Most likely, the current one-and-done rule remains in place.
But a zero-or-two setup could be an interesting compromise. That would allow players certain they’re ready for the pros out of high school to declare for the NBA draft. In all other cases, Silver would get his wish.
Again, the status quo likely remains in tact. But it’s good both sides are discussing the issue to see whether there’s a better solution.
Take comfort, chairs and staffers.
The 76ers have raised Joel Embiid‘s minute limit from 24 to 28.
Jessica Camerato of CSN Philly:
This was never a hard limit. Embiid played more than 24 minutes in five of his 12 games with a high of 27 in an overtime contest. Presumably, the new “limit” will also allow for Embiid to sometimes it.
Embiid’s numbers per 36 minutes are eye-popping: 28.6 points, 12.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 3.8 blocks and 6.4 turnovers. A small workload likely factors into his per-minute dominance, and he’s still a long way from typical starter minutes. But I’m interested to see how his production translates over a larger sample.
The 76ers, in their mission to be less bad this season, will also appreciate a few more minutes of Embiid. They defend like the NBA’s second-best defense with him on the floor and the league’s second-worst defense without him. They also score a little better with him. Overall, they get outscored by just 2.2 points per 100 possessions with him and a whopping 14.2 points per 100 possessions without him.
This could give Philadelphia a couple extra wins over the rest of the season. At minimum, it’ll make the 76ers more enjoyable to watch for a few more minutes each game.