76ers in danger of matching worst record in NBA history

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) The Philadelphia 76ers are on a PR blitz trying to win fans’ patience since they are unable to win on the court.

General manager Sam Hinkie – needing something to do with Jerry Colangelo now calling the shots – filmed a spot for the latest promotional video released Thursday that made it seem like he was stumping for votes on the campaign trail. Wearing a hard hat at the eventual site of their new team headquarters, Hinkie’s voiceover says the team is moving “into a building that will embody a lot of the values important to us.”

Hinkie and the 76ers even have a catchy campaign slogan: “Trust the Process.”

The fans the organization is trying to woo could easily shoot back with a motto of their own: Win Some Games.

Year 3 of – Tanking? Rebuilding? You pick the side – is the worst one yet under owner Josh Harris, Hinkie and coach Brett Brown.

Worst of the NBA season? Well, yeah, that was inevitable in training camp. Worst of all time? Getting close.

The Sixers are 9-66 entering Friday’s game at Charlotte, in danger of matching the worst 82-game record in NBA history. Should the Sixers lose their final seven games, they will finish at 9-73, tying the miserable mark set by – spoiler alert! – the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1972-73 season.

The Sixers have lost 10 straight games and would finish on a 17-game losing streak should they fail to put another “W” in the column.

Under Brown, the Sixers have at one point lost both 26 and 28 straight games, the latter the longest losing streak in the history of pro sports.

Allen Iverson, expected to be named to the Hall of Fame on Monday, once railed against practice but is now preaching another p-word: patience.

“I think in Philadelphia, real fans, you’ve got to be patient and understand how young these guys are and know that the potential is there,” Iverson said. “The talent is there, they’re just young, bro. We’ve got to give them a chance.”

The dysfunctional Los Angeles Lakers are the next closest in the worst-of-the-worst teams with 16 wins.

The biggest win of the season just might come in the draft lottery, where this avalanche of defeats has the Sixers positioned to win the No. 1 pick.

But losing has come at a price, even for the greatest players in franchise history.

“If you’re great here, you’re a legend,” Hinkie says in the video. “Wilt. Allen. Charles. You don’t need a second name.”

Sometimes, the legends don’t need a first one. Like Dr. J.

Julius Erving, the Hall of Famer who starred on the 76ers’ last title team in 1983, is tired of watching the franchise founder at the bottom of the NBA.

“It hurts to see the franchise down,” Erving said. “We want to be associated with a winning team. We’ve got to take crap from other retired players from teams that are winning right now. Then we have to remind them how we used to beat up on them in our day. It’s a little bit back and forth. There’s bragging rights. We’d like for the Sixers to help us get some bragging rights.”

There are the infamous kind of bragging rights, as well.

Fred Carter, who played on that 1972-73 Sixers team and would coach the team in the 1990s, said this year’s team is worse than the 70s edition because of how open the franchise has been about the plan to hit bottom. Carter said his Sixers were not built for losing; it just sort of happened.

Carter wants the Sixers to win at least one more game so the `73 team will continue to hold the dubious mark.

“Sunday, I’ll go to Mass. Sunday, I’ll light an extra candle for them,” he said, laughing. “I don’t know if I’ll be lighting a candle for them or lighting one for me, but I will light one. It’s better to be remembered than not remembered at all.”

This season’s Sixers would rather not go down as the worst of all time.

“Most of the games we’re in, we’ve been able to put up a game,” forward Nerlens Noel said.

So, can a team that had Christian Wood, Sonny Weems and even Elton Brand suit up this season avoid a single-digit victory season?

Let’s take a look:

– Friday, at Charlotte: The Hornets lead the series 3-0 and just thumped the Sixers 100-85 on Tuesday.

– Saturday, vs. Pacers: The Pacers lead the series 2-0 and will play the Sixers on the second night of back-to-backs.

– Tuesday, vs. New Orleans: “Ahhh, that’s their 10!” Carter said. “They shut down Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday. That’ll get them 10.”

Carter might be right. The woeful Pelicans (27-47) won in their only other meeting but have benched their injured stars for the season, meaning this could be Philly’s best shot at the 10th win.

– Friday, April 8, vs New York: Pro: It’s the Knicks. Con: New York leads the series 3-0.

Then it’s games against the Bucks, Raptors and Bulls, teams that are a combined 8-0 vs. the 76ers this season.

There could be hope in the franchise’s bloodlines – four seasons after the nine-win team, the 76ers reached the NBA Finals and they won it all 10 years later.

Can they find that franchise savior in the draft?

“Allen Iverson ain’t walking through the door,” Iverson said.

And the suffering continues.

This story has been corrected to show that the Sixers’ remaining games are in April, not March.

Is Matisse Thybulle ready for a big step forward with 76ers?

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Matisse Thybulle brings a valuable NBA skill to the table — he is an elite perimeter defender. Two-time All-Defensive Team in three years in the league.

But when the 76ers got up against Miami in the playoffs, Thybulle’s role shrank dramatically. While Doc Rivers needed his defense, Thybulle’s lack of an offensive game became a problem — the Heat largely ignored him and helped off him, allowing Miami to muck up the Philly offense (he was limited in the Toronto series because he was not vaccinated and could not play in road games). The 76ers tried to solve that problem this offseason by bringing in DeAnthony Melton, Danuel House and P.J. Tucker — solid role-playing defenders who can contribute on offense, too.

Thybulle wants to be part of the solution, too, and told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer he spent the summer focused on his offensive game.

“I’m really proud of what I did,” Thybulle said of his offseason. “I’ve worked harder than I’ve worked. And I had a meeting with [Sixers coach Doc Rivers] early this week and was telling him I feel more bought in than I’ve been before.”

No doubt Thybulle put in the work, we will find out soon if it paid off — and if that will get Thybulle paid.

Thybulle is entering a contract year — the 76ers can extend him up until Oct. 18, after which he would become a restricted free agent next summer. Thybulle said his goal is to remain in Philadelphia (and he’d like an extension).

“At this point, I would always want to stay in Philly,” he said. “And if it’s up to me, that’s always going to be my choice.

“But considering that I’ve realized the reality of how far out of my control it is, if I do get traded or something does end up happening, I can look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day.”

With a win-now Sixers team, Daryl Morey may be in a wait-and-see place with Thybulle, letting the market set his price next offseason. If he signs now, it will likely be on a team-friendly deal (but maybe one that still works for the 25-year-old).

If Thybulle gets on the court this season and shows an improved offensive game, one where he can make teams pay for helping off him, his price goes up and there may be multiple teams bidding for his services next summer. And Doc Rivers would be happy in the short term.

It’s up to Thybulle to prove it now.

 

Markelle Fultz will miss start of training camp, at least, with broken toe

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The basketball gods continue to turn their backs on Markelle Fultz.

A torn ACL had limited him to 26 games over the past two seasons, but he was healthy and ramping up to a larger role this season with a young and interesting Magic team. Then came the news he fractured his left big toe during a training session. As a result, he will be out for at least the start of training camp, the team announced. From the official announcement:

“He has been placed in a walking boot and his return to play will depend on how he responds to rehabilitation and treatment. Fultz suffered the injury during a preseason workout prior to returning to Orlando and imaging confirmed the fracture.

He will not need surgery, according to the team.

Fultz was set to split point guard duties with Cole Anthony, this injury means RJ Hampton could see more run at the point for now. Fultz should be able to return either during the end of the preseason or early in the season.

Fultz was the No.1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft but never found his footing with the 76ers (in part due to injury). However, since getting out of that spotlight and allowed to develop in Orlando he’s been a solid rotation point guard when healthy. Last season in 18 games he averaged 10.8 points and 5.5 assists a game, and while he’s still not an efficient shooter he can run a team.

How Anthony and, eventually, Fultz will work off the ball as rookie Paolo Banchero gets the opportunity to create more offense will be just one of the interesting things to watch with this Magic team this year. We’ll have to wait a little while to see Fultz.

 

Vintage Kobe: Redeem Team recalls him running over Pau Gasol

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If the goal of a trailer is to get you to want to see the movie, then well done Netflix. I’m in.

Netflix released a trailer for its upcoming Redeem Team documentary on the 2008 Olympics, featuring some vintage Kobe Bryant. Just as a quick refresher, in 2008 the USA’s toughest opponent would be a deep Spanish team led by peak Pau Gasol but also with Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, José Calderón, Rudy Fernández, Juan Carlos Navarro and more. This was a legitimately dangerous team and one the USA would face first in group play.

Kobe wanted to set a tone — and did by running through his friend Gasol. (Warning: There is NSFW language in the video clip below.)

“‘First play of the game I’m running through Pau Gasol.’ And we was like, ‘What?’ He said, ‘First play of the game, I know what they’re gonna run.’ And he knew Pau was gonna be the last screen and he said ‘I’m running through him,'” Dwayne Wade said

Spoiler alert: The USA thrashed Spain in group stage play. However, come the Gold Medal game it was a lot tougher for the Americans to beat the Spaniards, with Kobe having to have a big fourth quarter and — what often goes unremembered — a master class from Chris Paul in game management to control the tempo and flow.

I’m all in for the documentary, which drops on Oct. 7 on Netflix.

Spurs’ Keldon Johnson to miss start of training camp with shoulder injury

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Keldon Johnson is poised to have a monster season on a rebuilding Spurs team.

Except he’s going to miss the start of training camp and the team’s preseason games. And could be out longer.

Johnson suffered a “right shoulder posterior dislocation during Spurs open gym” the team announced Saturday. Posterior dislocations are rare (less than 5% of all dislocations) and are usually from a fall on an extended arm. Recovering from the injury depends on many factors but can extend out for months. However, the Spurs said Johnson is expected to be available for the start of the regular season less than a month from now.

Johnson averaged 17 points and 6.1 rebounds a game last season, and is an elite perimeter shooter off the catch-and-shoot (39.8% from 3 overall), who also can put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim. He was the team’s second-leading scorer last season (to Dejounte Murray, who is now in Atlanta).

The Spurs will be cautious with bringing Johnson back. Even in what could be Gregg Popovich’s last season as coach the Spurs are looking more to be part of the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes than push for a playoff spot. Johnson is a quality player who helps San Antonio win games, which both is why they want him back healthy and why they are not going to rush him.