76ers avoid NBA record for losses in a season

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PHILADELPHIA — These 76ers are relieved not to be part of history.

Carl Landry scored 22 points to lead Philadelphia to a 107-93 victory over the injury-depleted New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night, ensuring that the 76ers won’t tie their own league record for fewest victories in an 82-game season.

“We didn’t want to be a part of that,” Landry said. “We tried to do whatever it took to lock in, in practice, in film sessions and just have a carryover to each and every game.”

Philadelphia improved to 10-68 and now is one win clear of the 1972-73 76ers, who set an NBA mark for futility with a 9-73 mark. The 76ers have four games remaining.

“We hope to get a few more before our season ends,” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said, adding he was happy for his players.

“They’re good people, they genuinely care (and) they put in a fantastic day’s work,” he said. “Our record wouldn’t indicate that, but they do. And so to get a win and just move on, they deserve that.”

Isaiah Canaan added 16 points for the 76ers, who snapped a 12-game losing streak while winning for just the second time in the last 27 contests.

Landry made his first nine shots before finishing 9 for 10 from the field, including tying a career high with two 3-pointers.

Dante Cunningham led the Pelicans with 19 points and Alexis Ajinca chipped in 12 points and 10 rebounds.

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The game had more of a D-League feel to it.

The Pelicans started five players who have combined to start just 76 games this season. And only Tim Frazier, whom the Pelicans signed on March 16, entered averaging more than 7.6 points. Joining Frazier in New Orleans’ starting five were Luke Babbitt, Toney Douglas, Ajinca and Cunningham.

The Pelicans were missing nearly 100 points of scoring without injured players Anthony Davis (left knee), Ryan Anderson (sports hernia), Tyreke Evans (right knee), Eric Gordon (fractured right ring finger), Jrue Holiday (right inferior orbital wall fracture) and Norris Cole (lower back).

“We don’t have any excuses,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “You have to make do with what you have. There’s no sympathy in this league.”

Helped by Landry’s 10 third-quarter points in just 4 1/2 minutes, Philadelphia took an 88-73 lead into the final period.

The 76ers used a 10-3 run to open the final quarter to go in front 98-78 with 9 minutes remaining. T.J. McConnell capped the spurt with a spinning, driving layup that drew fans in the crowd of 10,978 to their feet.

“I didn’t see it tonight,” Gentry said. “I thought we were trying, but we just didn’t have that energy we usually have.”

M-V-P! M-V-P!

The fans serenaded Landry with chants of “M-V-P! M-V-P” late in the game, something not heard on Philadelphia’s home court since the days of recent Hall of Fame inductee Allen Iverson.

Even Landry was surprised by the crowd’s reaction.

“I was like, `What? MVP? Me?”‘ he said. “It was funny. It definitely put a smile on my face, and it makes me feel good.

“It definitely made me feel good that the fans of Philly, blue-collar people, the majority of them, appreciate the effort that I put in, each and every day.”

VILLANOVA PROUD

Cunningham, a member of Villanova’s 2009 Final Four team, wore his Final Four jersey and a Wildcats hat in the visiting locker room after the game.

He’s been connecting with former teammates and coach Jay Wright over the last 24 hours.

“I haven’t been able to keep my phone charged,” he said. “I’ve been texting the whole time. It’s been awesome.”

Along with his Pelicans teammates, Cunningham watched the championship game from a private room in a Philadelphia steakhouse.

“I was screaming the whole time,” he said. “It was good.”

He hoped to catch up with Wright and the Wildcats upon their return to Philadelphia on Tuesday, but their arrival didn’t match the Pelicans’ schedule.

Cunningham received cheers during pregame introductions.

TIP-INS

Pelicans: The Pelicans beat the 76ers 121-114 on Feb. 19 in New Orleans. … The Pelicans, who entered on a two-game winning streak, last won three straight games Jan. 19-23. … Frazier averaged 5.7 points and 7.2 assists in six games with the 76ers last season. He finished with 12 points.

76ers: The crowd erupted in loud cheers in the first quarter when the 76ers replayed Kris Jenkins’ game-winning shot from Villanova’s national championship victory over North Carolina on Monday night. … Canaan strained his left shoulder in the third quarter but later returned. … Elton Brand made his first start in his 15th game for the 76ers. Brand finished with two points.

UP NEXT

Pelicans: At Boston on Wednesday night.

76ers: Host Knicks on Friday night.

Wizards hire former Cleveland Browns exec Sashi Brown, former Georgetown coach John Thompson III

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The Wizards chose Tommy Sheppard as their new general manager.

Now, they’re filling the rest of the front office.

Wizards release:

Sashi Brown will serve as chief planning and operations officer for Monumental Basketball and Daniel Medina will serve as chief of athlete care & performance for Monumental Basketball.

Brown will manage efforts relating to technology, finance, communications, security, research and player engagement and Medina will head up medical, training, mental health, strength and conditioning, nutrition and physical therapy/recovery.

Leonsis also announced a new athlete development & engagement department which will be led by former Georgetown and Princeton Head Coach John Thompson III. Thompson will use his vast experience to lead a team that will focus on maximizing player potential both on and off the court for all Monumental Basketball athletes. Employing a holistic development approach, the department will focus on financial literacy, post-playing career opportunities and the overall empowerment and development of the athletes.

In addition to Sheppard’s promotion and the addition of Brown, Medina and Thompson, Leonsis also announced two promotions of current staff. Sashia Jones, who previously served as vice president of community relations, was promoted to vice president of player engagement and will work with Thompson to provide services to players for all teams. Brett Greenberg, who previously served as vice president of basketball analytics/salary cap management, was promoted to assistant general manager for strategy and analytics.

When the Cleveland Browns hired Brown to run their front office in 2017, it was an unconventional choice. He’s a Harvard Law grad whose apparent football connection was serving as the Browns’ and previously Jaguars’ general counsel.

Now, he’s getting hired to work for an NBA team with even fewer obvious basketball ties.

That might be fine. Employers should more often consider untraditional candidates. Maybe Brown’s intelligence will translate.

It is a weird fit, though.

Under Brown’s watch, Cleveland essentially imitated imitated Sam Hinkie’s Process. The Browns went 1-32 in Brown’s two seasons in charge, accumulated assets, didn’t draft particularly well and still rose into a budding power under the next general manager.

Now, Brown will work for Wizards owner Ted Leonsis, who said his team would never tank.

To be fair to Brown, he might have more than one gear. Just because he thought that strategy was right for the Browns at that time doesn’t make it the only way he can contribute. It’s also possible Leonsis is more open to new ideas.

Thompson is part of basketball royalty in Washington. Both he and his father coached Georgetown. Though the younger Thompson had his ups and downs on the job, it’s still a prestigious position – especially in D.C.

It’s a little surprising Medina landed with with another NBA team so quickly. The 76ers had plenty of issues with Joel Embiid‘s, Zhaire Smith‘s and Markelle Fultz‘s health. But evaluating medical personnel is extremely difficult. Results say only so much. The counterfactual is hard to assess.

Why did Jimmy Butler choose Miami? It started playing dominoes in Little Havana

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Jimmy Butler‘s push to get himself to Miami in a sign-and-trade caught the NBA off guard.

The basketball cultural fit made sense — the Heat’s focus on hard work and conditioning as a foundation for winning are very Butler — but with the Sixers, Lakers, Clippers, Rockets and other teams interested in him Butler could chase a ring next season. The Heat were a year or two and a couple of big moves away from that level. Yet Butler chose Miami after meeting with the Heat staff and canceled other meetings. Soon enough, the deal got done and Butler was a member of the Heat.

How did butler come to that moment? It started when he played dominoes in Little Havana. Anthony Chaing at the Miami Herald put together a fantastic look at how Butler — with some help from Dwyane Wade — came to love Miami.

As for Butler’s fit with the city of Miami, he started exploring that in April with a tour through Little Havana. With the 76ers in town to take on the Heat in the final home game of Wade’s career on April 9, Butler used the first part of that day to learn about the area.

Butler was determined to experience “the real Miami” and settled on Little Havana as the neighborhood to tour…

On April 9 during a tour of Little Havana, Butler was looking forward to proving he was a better dominoes player than those at Domino Park that day. Not aware that double-nine dominoes were used at the park, Butler was thrown off because he grew up playing with a double-six set…

The group ended up playing double-six dominoes. And of course, Butler won.

Butler spent the first part of that end-of-the-season day trying to get a feel for Miami, its people, their love of basketball, and if he would be happy there. He ultimately decided yes, he would. Wade had planted the seed with Butler that the Heat organization and Miami would be a good fit for him, but Butler had to explore and figure it out for himself.

Butler started that months before he met with teams, but by the time he walked out of the room where Pat Riley, Erik Spoelstra, and the rest of the Heat brain trust had been to pitch him on June 30, Butler knew where he wanted to play. He left it to the Heat and 76ers to figure out the sign-and-trade (which sent Josh Richardson among others to the Sixers, a move that cleared out enough cap space for Philly to sign Al Horford).

Now it’s on that Heat brain trust to add a lot more talent to the roster.

Bucks GM Horst says keeping Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez was summer priority

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Milwaukee made the leap last year — won 60 games last season, had the MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo, was top five in offense and defense, reached the conference finals, and became a serious title contender. It was an amazing season and run, one that earned GM Jon Horst Executive of the Year honors, as voted by his peers.

But a GM’s job is never done.

The Bucks went into the summer with three starters as free agents and a lot of questions about keeping the roster together. Milwaukee retained two of those starters — Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez — and those two were the top priorities, Horst told Eric Nehm of The Athletic.

Khris was always a focus… He’s our second superstar, our second star. He’s an All-Star. He’s been one of our best players for a long period of time here. Fits our culture, fits our style of play, fits our aging curve. He’s become a leader of our team. For us, we want to try to recruit with him and play the culture fit, winning. Create an environment he wanted to play in for a long, long time. A place where his family is happy with Sam and the baby and everything…

When we got Brook last offseason, we understood, at some level, how important he was going to be to us and how important he was going to be and what the value was going to be. We also understood if he’s as good as we think he’s going to be, it’s going to present a lot of challenges.

The challenges Horst is referring to are about money. The Bucks got Lopez on a one-year steal of a contract at $3.4 million, but he played his way into an eight-figure salary. Keeping Lopez meant roster changes were needed to create cap room.

The ultimate upshot of that is Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic are no longer with the team. The Bucks could have matched the four-year, $85 million offer Indiana put on the table for Brogdon, but doing so would have put them deep into the luxury tax and tied their hands in other ways. The Bucks signed Wesley Matthews as a stopgap instead.

Malcolm is very, very important and we knew how important he was to our team. It will be hard to replace him. I think we’ve done the best that we can and we’ll continue to work in ways to be creative and fill that gap.

Horsts’ moves this summer should keep the Bucks as title contenders next season, they head into the season as the favorites in the East.

That’s not the biggest question facing Milwaukee, however. That is: Did the moves keep Antetokounmpo happy? Next summer he can be offered a super-max contract extension to stay with the Bucks through his prime, if he turns it down the Bucks have to consider trading him. Will Antetokounmpo take the money? Every move Horst made this summer needed to bring Antetokounmpo closer to answering yes to that question.

We’ll see how it went in a year.

Chris Paul says players don’t really talk about money in locker room

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Locker room banter flies all over the conversational map: Clubs/restaurants to first cars to rappers to Fortnite to why Player X never has any lotion and always has to borrow someone else’s.

What doesn’t come up? Money.

That according to Chris Paul, who should know after 14 years in the league and now serving as the players’ union president. He was talking about his campaign to help players become more financially aware and said this to Clevis Murray of The Athletic.

“I think the reason why I’m so passionate about this is because I’m finishing up my 14th year in the NBA, and I’ve been around long enough to realize that guys in our league, we talk about everything in the locker room except for finance, except for money,” he said. “Nobody talks about money, because it’s one of those uncomfortable things.”

It’s a strange dynamic in an NBA locker room because everybody knows what everybody else makes, it’s very public, and that provides a certain measuring stick of worth.

Yet how does one player tell another “man, your entourage is too big, you’re blowing your money.” Players finally making money understandably want to take care of family and close friends, but other people come into their life and things can spiral fast. CP3 says he gets it, and he is working with Joe Smith — who made $60 million in NBA earnings and lost all of it — to help prepare rookies.

The stories of NBA players blowing through their money absolutely happen, but they also are not the majority, and the numbers are shrinking. More and more players are learning to be smarter with their money and set themselves up on some level for life after basketball. Not all, but guys who stick in the league a few years tend to learn. If Paul and the union can come up with ways to reach players at an earlier age and prepare them for what is to come, all the better.