Sixers tie NBA record with 26th consecutive loss, this one at hands of Rockets

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The last time the Philadelphia 76ers won a basketball game we were going to spend the next four days talking about how Peyton Manning was going to carve up the Seahawks defense. We had nine more days of hype until the Sochi Winter Olympics opened (and one Olympic ring didn’t).

Since Jan. 29 the Philadelphia 76ers have not won a game — that stretch reached 26 in a row at the hands of the Rockets Thursday night, 120-98.

That ties the NBA record set by the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers. The Sixers can break the record and own the dubious distinction outright Saturday night when they host the Detroit Pistons.

Loss 26, like so many of the losses before it, was simply a matter of the more talented team exerting itself. The Sixers went into this season looking to compile draft picks and be bad so those picks had value. The result is that most nights Philadelphia is outclassed.

The Rockets start All-Star Dwight Howard at center, the Sixers start Henry Sims, a guy who has bounced around between the NBA and the D-League and was a throw in as part of the Spencer Hawes trade with the Cavaliers. The Rockets have James Harden — who had a triple double of 26 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists — while the Sixers gave pretty good run to 10-day contract guys Casper Ware (22 minutes) and James Nunnally (18).

The Sixers tried to show some fight early on. It was 43-43 as the Sixers were hanging around midway through the second quarter, but then Howard (5-of-5 for 15 points in the first half) and Harden returned to the game and led a 20-6 run to pull away 63-49 lead at the half. Houston shot 52 percent and had 20 fast break points in the first half.

You had a feeling how the second half would go… and it did. Houston blew it open in the third quarter, scoring 37 points (to the Sixers 31) and it was 100-80 at the end of three. The fourth quarter was just garbage time.

Like the last couple months, really.

James Anderson put up 20 on the Rockets for the Sixers, he has big games against them. But that was about the only performance of positive note.

I’d say Sixers fans should blame management for this mess, except most of them seem to be on board with “Team Tank.” They will not be booing the Sixers if they lose on Saturday and set a new record, they will be cheering. This is Philly — they are both harsh and smart fans. They know (or at least hope) this is temporary. This makes more sense to them then cheering for Mark Sanchez.

The Sixers players, they will just keep trying. And one night they will not be overmatched. One night they will win.

C.J.McCollum, Eric Gordon both withdraw from USA Basketball for World Cup

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First Anthony Davis. Then James Harden.

Now add C.J. McCollum and Eric Gordon to the list, as reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Don’t be surprised if a couple of new players are added to the USA roster for training camp.

The loss of those four stars strips the Team USA of some international experience. As pointed out by John Schuhmann of NBA.com, now only four members invited to USA camp have played in the World Cup or Olympics: Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond, Kevin Love, and Kyle Lowry — and Lowry just had thumb surgery and is questionable for the playing in China.

USA Basketball can still roll out this starting five:

Damian Lillard
Bradley Beal
Khris Middleton
Tobias Harris
Andre Drummond

Then off the bench have Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Lowry, Jayson Tatum, P.J. Tucker, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez.

That’s still enough talent, coached by Gregg Popovich, to win the World Cup. The USA remains the heavy favorites for a reason.

USA Basketball is scheduled to begin its pre-World Cup camp in Las Vegas Aug. 5, with an intrasquad exhibition game at the T-Mobile Arena on Aug. 9. Then the team heads to Southern California for more training followed by an exhibition against Spain on Aug. 16 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Then the team heads overseas for the World Cup, which begins in China on Aug. 31.

James Harden reiterates it was ‘false talk’ he and Chris Paul were at odds

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The Houston Rockets — not in an anonymous way, but in a “we are putting our names on this, quote me” kind of way — have pushed back hard on the narrative that there was tension between Chris Paul and James Harden that led to the Rockets trading CP3 for Russell Westbrook this offseason. Rockets GM Daryl Morey has denied it, team leader P.J. Tucker called it fake news, and Paul himself has pushed back.

Harden has done that again, speaking at his camp on Saturday.

The counter-argument to this: Chris Paul is in Oklahoma City right now.

People will believe what they want to believe, but the Rockets guys have all gone on the record about this. Nothing leaked and anonymous.

From the Rockets’ perspective, they made a trade for Westbrook that is a roster upgrade. Houston has a dynamic duo that can compete with the Los Angeles teams and the other contenders around the league, and whatever questions fans and the media may have about the ultimate fit of Harden and Westbrook the talent level is not in question.

Do the Rockets make that trade if everything is great between Harden and Paul? Probably, if they saw CP3 as in decline and Westbrook as a talent upgrade (which they did). The Rockets can be a cold, business-like organization in terms of their pursuit of a title.

We will see next season if that calculation paid off. Whether or not Harden and CP3 got along.

Report: Kyle Korver reaches one-year deal to join Milwaukee Bucks

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The Bucks can never have enough shooting around a driving Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Enter Kyle Korver. The veteran sharpshooter will be headed to Milwaukee on a one-year contract, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a quality pickup at the minimum (it is a veteran minimum contract). Korver averaged 8.6 points per game last season, taking 72 percent of his shots from beyond the arc and knocking down 39.7 percent of them. The man has gravity and pulls a defender because even at age 38 defenders cannot leave him. Shooting is a skill always in demand.

The Bucks will start Wesley Matthews at the two and have Sterling Brown behind him. They have Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton at the three. Now they have some reliable veteran depth at those spots and a guy who can hit the big shot for them.

James Harden buys piece of MLS Houston Dynamo

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NBA players being minority owners in a soccer team is not new, LeBron James owns a small piece of Champions’ League winner Liverpool, for example.

James Harden is keeping it closer to home — he bought a share of the Dynamo, Houston’s MLS franchise.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to join the ownership group of the Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash and proud to be a part of a club with tremendous history and a great future,” Harden said in a statement. “Houston is my home now, and I saw this as a way to invest in my city and expand my business interests at the same time. Soccer in general, and especially MLS, have exploded in this country throughout my lifetime. I’ve been a fan of the game for several years, and I know that Houston has a massive soccer fanbase, so it was an easy decision for me when this opportunity arose.”

Harden reportedly purchased a five percent stake in the team.

The Dynamo — a former MLS cup champion and a franchise that has consistently been strong — is primarily owned by Gabriel Brener, and it has boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya as one of its minority owners.

Harden has earned more than $141 million in NBA salary in his 10 NBA seasons and has four years left on the $228 million contract extension he signed with the team in 2017. In addition, he has a large shoe contract with Adidas and other endorsements.