Richaun Holmes

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Three questions the Philadelphia 76ers must answer this season

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The NBC/ProBasketballTalk season previews will ask the questions each of the 30 NBA teams must answer to make their season a success. We are looking at one team a day until the start of the season, and it begins with a look back at the team’s offseason moves.

Last Season: 28-54, most wins in four years

I know what you did last summer: The 76ers cashed in some of their immense assets, extra draft picks and cap space. They traded up for the No. 1 pick to get Markelle Fultz and signed J.J. Redick ($23 million) and Amir Johnson ($11 million) to one-year contracts.

THREE QUESTIONS THE 76ERS MUST ANSWER:

1) Will Joel Embiid stay healthy? The 76ers found their first sliver of success in years around Embiid. Of the 45 players to play at least 250 minutes for Philadelphia in the last five years, Embiid is the only one with a positive plus-minus:

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Embiid looked like a star when on the court. He was the best defensive rookie in years, and he was relentless on offense with his inside-outside game.

Of course he played just 25.4 minutes per game in only 31 contests last season, his first on the court after sitting his first two professional seasons due to injury. His injuries issues clearly aren’t completely behind him.

There’s a direct link between his health and Philadelphia’s chances of making the playoffs. It’s the team’s biggest variable, but it also leads to a smaller one…

2) How will the 76ers handle Embiid-less time? Not only did Embiid miss most of Philadelphia’s games last season, he played just about half the minutes in the ones he played.

There’s going to be a lot of time the 76ers must manage without him on the court. The better they do that, the more margin for error they’ll have for him missing games/having a minute limit.

They have enough centers to throw at the problem – Richaun Holmes, Jahlil Okafor, Amir Johnson. The key will be improved production from perimeter players, who’ll be tasked with greater roles when is Embiid is out.

Redick will help with his floor spacing, and Robert Covington‘s 3-point shooting regressing to his mean after a down year would compound the effects. But Philadelphia really needs at least one of its younger players like Dario Saric, Nik Stauskas, T.J. McConnell, Justin Anderson and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot to step up.

3) Is Philadelphia’s rookie starting point guard ready to win? Whether it’s Markelle Fultz or Ben Simmons, the 76ers will probably start a rookie point guard. Teams with rookie point guards usually struggle.

Maybe Fultz and Simmons can lean on each other, Simmons running the transition game and Fultz leading the half-court offense. Together, they might not face as large a burden as one rookie point guard would alone.

But neither Fultz nor Simmons is experienced in the nuances of NBA play, and while it’s generally fine for them to learn through their mistakes, Philadelphia is trying to make the playoffs this season.

T.J. McConnell is a nice safety blanket, but his upside is limited. It’s clearly better for the 76ers if they can get Fultz and/or Simmons going – particularly if they don’t have to balance present-vs.-future with that choice.

76ers take 1 big step (and a couple smaller ones, too)

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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

Even the NBA’s worst team has only a 25% chance of getting the No. 1 pick in the lottery.

The 76ers made their own luck.

Philadelphia finished with the league’s fourth-worst record, fell to No. 5 in the lottery, swapped picks with the Kings to move up to No. 3 thanks to a two-year-old trade then traded up to No. 1 by enticing the Celtics with a future draft pick (another pick acquired in that heist of Sacramento, a Lakers pick or one of the 76ers’ own).

Whew, that’s some Process.

No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz is the latest prize in the 76ers’ reverse engineering of the NBA’s system, joining Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. That’s an exciting young core that might be ready to lift Philadelphia from years of tanking to playoff contention.

To that end, the 76ers signed J.J. Redick to a one-year, $23 million contract. The 33-year-old has already shown signs of decline, but he’s an upgrade over any shooting guard on the roster. If their other young players are ready to make the leap, the 76ers didn’t want to learn the hard way they were a starting shooting guard short of reaching the postseason. In securing an immediate boost, Philadelphia essentially paid extra for flexibility. Redick’s salary will almost certainly outpace his production, the 76ers ensured no lasting negative effects beyond this season.

The same logic could apply to Amir Johnson, who signed a one-year, $11 million contract. But Philadelphia’s frontcourt depth and the dreary market for bigs make that deal less defensible – especially if Johnson’s salary could have been reappropriated for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (who surprisingly became an unrestricted free agent) or paying Robert Covington more up front (as opposed to in future seasons, when the savings might matter more) in a renegotiation-and-extension.

With about $15 million in cap space remaining, the 76ers will likely still renegotiate-and-extend Covington once they can in November. He fits well into a deep crop of solid assets beyond the big three: Dario Saric, Richaun Holmes, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Jahlil Okafor, Justin Anderson, T.J. McConnell, Nik Stauskas, Furkan Korkmaz (the No. 26 pick last year who signed this year), all Philadelphia’s own future first-rounders plus one extra (from either the Kings or Lakers – or both, if if Philadelphia’s own pick is conveyed to Boston). The 76ers even added to the pool this summer with a couple draft-and-stash selections – No. 25 pick Anzejs Pasecniks and No. 36 pick Jonah Bolden (who I’m personally quite high on).

That grouping alone would be envy of many teams. And then there are still Embiid, Simmons and Fultz – the trio that will determine how quickly the brighter days ahead arrive in Philadelphia.

The 76ers’ revival is built on Embiid’s back – and feet and knees. He could be a generational player, but injuries have already cost him 215 games in three years and limited him to just 25 minutes per game in the 31 he has played.

Though it’s the one that looms far beyond, Embiid’s health isn’t the only potential pitfall this season. Rookie point guards – whether it be Fultz or Simmons – rarely lead good teams. It’s a position that typically requires fine-tuning.

Still, this is just the start in Philadelphia. Making the playoffs this season would be nice, but bigger goals down the road appear attainable either way.

The 76ers were in great shape entering the summer. They’re in even better shape now.

Offseason grade: B

Despite Paul George ejection, Pacers beat 76ers 120-111 to close in on playoff spot

Associated Press
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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Paul George scored 17 of his 27 points in the opening quarter and the Indiana Pacers inched closer to clinching a berth in the NBA playoffs with a 120-111 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night.

Thaddeus Young added 20 points, Myles Turner scored 18 and Kevin Seraphin had 17 to give the Pacers (41-40) their fourth straight victory and push them one win away from guaranteeing a playoff spot for the sixth time in the past seven years.

The 76ers (28-53) lost for the seventh straight time and finished with a home record of 17-24. They conclude their fifth straight season out of the playoffs Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks.

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot paced the Sixers with 24 points and Richaun Holmes had 17 points.

The Pacers ran out to a 16-4 lead and built a 21-point lead with 1:55 to play in the first quarter. George had nearly half Indiana’s 35 points.

The Sixers used a 14-2 run late in the second quarter, including an alley-oop dunk by Holmes and a 3-pointer from Luwawu-Cabarrot, to draw within seven points.

That was as close as Philadelphia would get until 3:36 remained in the fourth quarter, when a 3-pointer by Alex Poythress cut it to 111-104. The Pacers then ran off five of the next six points to regain control.

The Pacers shot 61.4 percent to the Sixers’ 45.2 percent to carry a 64-54 lead into the half. Overall, the Pacers shot 56.7 percent to the Sixers’ 46.7 percent.

George finished the first half with 19 points on 7-for-11 shooting.

TIP-INS

Pacers: Guard Aaron Brooks left the game in the first half with a sore right knee and did not return. He played 7 minutes, making a 3-pointer. … Guard/forward Glenn Robinson III (left calf strain) sat out his ninth straight game. Veteran center Al Jefferson (sprained left ankle) missed his seventh in a row. Jefferson was in uniform and on the bench and is expected to be back in the rotation for the playoffs.

76ers: The Sixers will end the season with six players on the injured list: Joel Embiid (left knee surgery), Jahlil Okafor (right knee soreness), Ben Simmons (acute fracture, right foot), Sergio Rodriguez (left hamstring strain), Robert Covington (right knee injury) and Jerryd Bayless (left wrist surgery).

DRAWING A CROWD

The Sixers saw a sizeable bump in attendance this season. Heading into their home finale they were averaging 17,398 fans at the Wells Fargo Center, about 2,500 more than last season. “They’ve cheered for us throughout some of the toughest circumstances, just kept us going, kept us fighting,” Holmes said.

WHERE HE STARTED

Young was selected by Philadelphia with the 12th overall pick of the 2007 NBA draft and played seven seasons with the Sixers, appearing in 516 games and averaging 13.7 points and 5.5 rebounds in 30.1 minutes per game.

 

LeBron James, Cavaliers end rough March with 122-105 win over 76ers

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CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James scored 34 points, Kyrie Irving dropped 24 and the Cleveland Cavaliers ended a turbulent and troublesome March with an easy 122-105 win over the injury-weakened Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night.

James made 14 of 22 shots in 30 minutes as the Cavs ended a three-game losing streak and won for just the third time in eight games to end the month 7-10.

It’s been an alarming stretch for the NBA champions, who are running out of time to get tuned up for the postseason. But against the lowly Sixers, Cleveland regained some of its swagger before heading into April when the real fun begins.

Kevin Love added 18 points and 10 rebounds as the Cavs won their ninth straight over the Sixers.

Richaun Holmes and rookie Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot scored 19 apiece for Philadelphia, which only dressed nine players after shutting down Jahlil Okafor and Robert Covington for the remainder of the season with knee injuries.

The Cavs have been shaky for some time with defensive issues, injuries and inconsistency leading to questions about whether they can repeat. Following Thursday’s loss in Chicago, the Cavs held a players-only meeting to clear the air.

“Guys talked,” coach Tyronn Lue said before the game. “Now we’ve got to move on and play. We’ve done enough talking over the last couple weeks. Now we just gotta settle in, we gotta play.”

They finally did just that, blowing the game open in the second quarter by outscoring the Sixers 38-23. James had two dunks in a span of 15 seconds as Cleveland built a 23-point lead.

Love knocked down a pair of 3-pointers early in the third and the Cavs entertained their crowd with a few alley-oop dunks while opening their lead to 32.

James, who was pulled 90 seconds into the fourth, was in a foul mood following Thursday’s game. He was on the floor Friday at Quicken Loans Arena about two hours before tip-off to get up some shots, something he routinely does for important games.

Given the state of the Cavs, this one was significant.

Cleveland came in trailing Boston by a half-game for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

TIP-INS

76ers: Rookie F Dario Saric went 3 of 12, 1 of 7 on 3s. … Philadelphia decided it was best to sit Okafor (sore right knee) and Covington (swollen right knee) for the last seven games to get them ready for next season. It’s possible Covington will need surgery after an MRI revealed torn meniscus. Those injuries are the latest for the hobbled Sixers, who lost Joel Embiid earlier this month and never got top pick Ben Simmons on the floor after he broke his foot before the season.

Cavaliers: Improved to 15-1 against Atlantic Division teams. … Cleveland was once again short-handed as F Richard Jefferson (left knee tendinitis) and G Kyle Korver (left knee soreness) sat out. Lue didn’t know when either will return. … World B. Free, who played for the Cavs from 1982-86, was honored during a timeout in the first quarter. A fan favorite, Free rarely passed up a shot while averaging 23 points in 275 games for Cleveland. Free broke in with the Sixers in 1975. … Lue said meetings are only effective “if you did something about it. We had a couple of meetings and now we have to do something about it. We can talk all we want but until we perform it means nothing.”

 

Without Joel Embiid, 76ers snap Miami’s 13-game winning streak

Associated Press
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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Nerlens Noel, Robert Covington and Dario Saric each scored 19 points to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to a 117-109 victory Saturday night over Miami, snapping the Heat’s winning streak at 13 games.

Goran Dragic had 30 points for the Heat, whose winning streak was the longest in the NBA this season, the third-best in team history and tops in league history by a sub-.500 team. Miami, which fell 1 1/2 games back of idle Detroit for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot, hadn’t lost since Jan. 13 at Milwaukee.

Philadelphia center Joel Embiid missed his ninth straight game and 12th in the last 13 due to a bone bruise on his left knee. Team president Bryan Colangelo also revealed before the game that Embiid has a slightly torn meniscus in the same knee.

But the 76ers, perhaps smarting after a 125-102 drubbing at Miami a week earlier, played inspired basketball with their Rookie of the Year candidate watching.

Philadelphia put seven players in double figures.

James Johnson‘s three-point play with 4:44 left cut it to 100-96 but Philadelphia scored 10 of the next 11 points, capped by T.J. McConnell‘s three-point play that made it 110-97 with 3:04 left.

Noel put an exclamation point on the Sixers’ second straight victory with an alley-oop dunk off a feed from McConnell with 27 seconds to play.

James Johnson matched his season high with 26, Tyler Johnson scored 17 and Hassan Whiteside had 12 points and 19 rebounds for Miami.

Behind 12 first-half points from Ersan Ilyasova, the 76ers led 54-48 at the break.

DANCING EMBIID

Embiid’s absence came one night after cellphone video captured him dancing on stage at a Meek Mill concert in Philadelphia.

The video caused a mini firestorm in Philadelphia on Saturday.

Speaking to reporters at Saturday morning’s shootaround at the team’s practice facility in Camden, New Jersey, the 22-year-old rookie said his dancing was all about having fun.

“Meek invited me to the stage,” Embiid said. “I had fun. That’s what I’m about, just enjoying life.”

Philadelphia coach Brett Brown deflected questions about Embiid in Saturday’s pregame meeting with reporters, saying he had a conversation with Embiid about it and that he wanted to keep that talk private.

But Colangelo later acknowledged that dancing on stage might not have been the best choice for Embiid to make given his injury.

“Being at the concert was not disappointing,” Colangelo said. “Probably being on stage and dancing was a little bit given the circumstances and given the potential reaction.”

Colangelo also revealed that in addition to a bone bruise on his left knee Embiid has a minor tear in his meniscus. Colangelo said the latter injury isn’t thought to be serious nor is it believed to be causing any symptoms.

After sitting out his first two seasons with a foot injury, Embiid injured his knee on Jan. 20 in a 93-92 home victory over Portland.

TIP-INS

Heat: Dion Waiters (sprained left ankle) missed his third straight game. . The teams wrap up their four-game season series on March 1 in Miami. The host 76ers won 101-94 on Nov. 21, and the Heat routed Philadelphia 125-102 Feb. 4 in Miami.

76ers: Jahlil Okafor did not play. … Colangelo said it was unlikely that Embiid would play in either of the team’s two remaining games before the All-Star break, Monday at Charlotte and Wednesday at Boston. He added that it was “very unlikely” that Embiid, who was selected to participate in the Rising Stars game and Skills Challenge, would participate in All-Star festivities. . Richaun Holmes returned to the lineup after missing two consecutive games due to the flu. Holmes had six points and four rebounds.