Jimmy Butler, Joel Embiid lead Sixers past Jazz 113-107

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jimmy Butler had the sellout crowd chanting his name and singing his favorite theme song.

Butler scored 28 points in his home debut, Joel Embiid had 23 and the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Utah Jazz 113-107 on Friday night.

Butler, the four-time All-Star acquired Monday from Minnesota in a five-player trade, got a loud ovation during introductions and quickly made an impression as the Sixers built a 16-point lead in the first quarter.

Fans serenaded him throughout the game and he got to hear the team’s “1-2-3 Sixers” theme song after the win.

“I already knew this crowd would be excited,” Butler said. “Now that I have them on my side it’s better for me. Y’all, we, have some great fans. Y’all have the catchiest song. I used to sing it in my head when I came in here.”

The Jazz rallied after a rough first quarter and the teams went back-and-forth in the fourth quarter. Jae Crowder‘s put-back after Ricky Rubio‘s stole the ball and missed a lay-up gave Utah a 107-105 lead with 1:37 left. JJ Redick tied it on a pair of free throws. Ben Simmons‘ driving lay-up gave the 76ers a 109-107 lead.

Butler then hit a jumper to extend the lead and drew an offensive foul, sending the crowd into a frenzy as Hall of Famer Allen Iverson jumped up to celebrate from his courtside seat.

“The atmosphere was amazing,” Embiid said.

The 76ers are 29-1 in last 30 regular-season home games.

Redick had 16 points and Simmons had 10 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Embiid scored 12 of his points in the fourth quarter after he played less than a minute in the third because he had four fouls.

Donovan Mitchell led the Jazz with 31 points.

“We competed but we have to be smarter,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “We had some mistakes where we have to think more. They add up against a team like this.”

After the Jazz made the first basket, Butler scored on a reverse layup to begin a 12-0 run. He also nailed a 3-pointer during that stretch as Philadelphia dominated early.

But Utah closed to 54-52 at halftime following Derrick Favors‘ alley-oop dunk.

Redick and Mike Muscala hit consecutive 3s early in the third quarter. However, the Jazz came back and went up 81-80 on Mitchell’s jumper late in the quarter.

“Up until the end, we made a few mistakes, but we played passionate,” Mitchell said. “Honestly, they’re a great team, but we had the game in the bag except for a few mistakes. I think the game just got away.”

 

Scouts’ take: Jimmy Butler will help Philadelphia most at end of games

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Jimmy Butler will be in the starting lineup for the Sixers Wednesday night in Orlando.

Butler is an elite two-way player, a top 10 NBA talent. Where will his game help the Sixers most? Defense is the first thing that comes to mind: Having Butler and Ben Simmons assigned to the two-best perimeter players of the opposition, with Joel Embiid backing them up, has the potential to be lock-down. Philadelphia already has a top-10 defense this season and this trade could make them exponentially better.

But scouts Brian Windhorst of ESPN spoke with had another interesting opinion: Butler helps Philly at the end of games because he wants the ball.

The 76ers have struggled to score late in close games at times, a function of their primary ball handler, Ben Simmons, being a suspect shooter. They were out-executed by the Boston Celtics in crunch time during the playoffs last season. Joel Embiid is off to a fantastic start to the season, but he’s shooting just 35 percent in clutch time this season because it can be hard for the big man to create a shot when the defense is set up to deny him.

Butler leads the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring this season and has a long history of shot-making in winning time.

“He brings something to Philly that they just don’t have, which is an experienced playmaker who can demand the ball and demand attention. That probably will make it easier on the rest of their guys,” one scout said. “JJ Redick can do that a bit, but he can’t create like Jimmy. It’s one of the rarest things in the NBA. From that standpoint, they hit a home run in this deal. There just aren’t many players like that available.”

That theory likely will not be put to the test by the Magic on Wednesday night.

It makes sense on paper, though. Embiid is not going to create his own shot without a play design to help out (and he’d be doubled quickly in the post), and with Simmons the defense is going to lay back and cut off driving lanes. Butler changes the late game dynamic.

It’s going to be interesting to watch this new big three in Philly meld, and to see if they’re willing to make the sacrifices needed to fulfill the potential of this roster.

J.J. Redick’s game-winning three lifts 76ers past Magic

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PHILADELPHIA — JJ Redick hit a 3-pointer with 17 seconds left to lift the Philadelphia 76ers over the Orlando Magic 116-115 on Saturday night. You can see the video above.

Redick had his best game since moving to Philadelphia’s bench at the start of the season, scoring 31 points on 10-of-20 shooting, including eight 3-pointers.

Aaron Gordon had a chance to tie it with 10 seconds remaining but missed his second free throw, and a desperation heave by Terrance Ross missed the net entirely.

Joel Embiid had 32 points and 10 rebounds for the 76ers, including 19 points by halftime. He did it with an outside game in the first half but was more of a force down low after intermission.

Dario Saric scored 13 points and Robert Covington had 12 as the 76ers improved to 2-1 this season.

Evan Fournier had 31 points to lead Orlando. Nikola Vucevic added 27 points and Gordon had 20.

Ben Simmons left the game after the first quarter with a tight back, meaning Philadelphia had to lean that much more on Embiid and Redick.

With Simmons out, Markelle Fultz was given an opportunity to play extended minutes and run the offense. Fultz finished with eight points on 4-of-11 shooting and added seven assists with only one turnover.

However, with the game on the line, 76ers coach Brett Brown opted to use T.J. McConnell at the point and kept Fultz on the bench.

High scores have been common in the early part of the NBA season as teams are pushing the pace and trying more shots, especially from deep.

Both teams shot lights out from 3-point territory. The Sixers, paced by Redick, shot 17 of 34 (50 percent) while the Magic, led by Fournier’s six 3-pointers, shot 16 of 29 (55.2 percent).

Thirteen players attempted shots from beyond the arc, eight for Orlando and five for Philadelphia.

Report: Spurs preferred Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons in Kawhi Leonard trade

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Summer in the NBA was a little odd this year. Things happened quickly with LeBron James heading to the Los Angeles Lakers, and after Kawhi Leonard was traded to the Toronto Raptors, things sort of settled down. Everyone seems to be waiting for the summer of 2019.

Meanwhile, conversations are still abound when it comes to Leonard and where he ended up this year. Eventually, the Raptors were able to put together a package around DeMar DeRozan that put Leonard in Ontario for the upcoming season. Beyond? We don’t know about that yet.

Many were underwhelmed with the haul the San Antonio Spurs reigned in for their former No. 1 player and Finals MVP. Leonard obviously tanked some of his trade value by letting his desires to leave Texas (likely for LA) but DeRozan didn’t seem like fair value.

That left many to speculate what kind of deals the Spurs could have put together, and perhaps which they turned down. Even further, which deals might San Antonio been rebuffed on?

According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, the Sixers turned down San Antonio’s feeler for a deal involving either Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons. Rumor had it that Markelle Fultz could have been on the table, but Lowe shut that down.

Via The Lowe Post at around 28:00:

“There is no evidence that the Spurs wanted Fultz. I’ve been told the Spurs never asked for Fultz, and actively didn’t want Fultz, and in fact wanted one of the two big guys.”

The conversation between Lowe and Sixers guard JJ Redick was an interesting one, with other tidbits coming from the sharp-shooting veteran. Redick went into detail about how he felt the media treated Fultz last season, and also mentioned that he thought LeBron heading to the Lakers had been years in the making.

There has already been some reporting that Leonard has purchased property in Toronto rather than renting, which could be a sign that Leonard wants to stay. It could also be that he’s getting into the real estate speculation game in Canada’s largest city. Who knows with that guy?

Perhaps the most unfortunate part of Leonard heading to a team like Toronto, where it is unclear whether he would like to stay, is that we have to have much of the same conversation we had about him as we did the entirety of this past season. That storyline was boring to start with, and it’s stretched beyond the possibility of any kind of satisfying answer.

Good luck with that one, Raptors fans.

JJ Redick explains why he was upset at coverage of Markelle Fultz last year

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JJ Redick famously lashed out at reporters last season for covering seemingly every moment of 2017 No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz’s workout routine last season. The Philadelphia 76ers guard chided reporters for zeroing in on a player who was just 19 years old at the time, and who was clearly going through some sort of odd mental block with his shooting form.

During Zach Lowe’s podcast on Thursday, Redick elaborated on his emotions at that time, saying that he felt it was out of line for media to continually publish updates on Fultz during practices.

Redick’s response comes at around 35:00 during Lowe’s podcast:

You have a responsibility to cover the story, I get it … There’s a tension to it. I think whatt made me angry that day, and it had been festering, was the way in which people were physically covering him with the cell phones.

That was like our third practice leading up to the trade deadline, and I think the trade deadline had just passed, so we had three practices in the span of that weak. Every time we’d finish practice, or finish shootaround, and the doors would open for the media … you’d see this mad rush to get prime footage location. Everyone would get their cellphones out and they’d start recording him … doing who the fuck knows. Dribbling a basketball, shooting a free throw … mundane things. We, by that point, had seen months of him shooting.

On that particular day, Bryan Colangelo had a press conference … and they all came in with body language like they were vultures preying over a dying, decaying body. The kid was 19, he’s clearly going through something. I got angry … basically cussed them out.

He was my rookie so I guess I was protective but also empathetic. Whatever he was going through, physically or mentally, as an athlete we’ve all been there. There’s varying degrees of extremes to that but we’ve been there.

Lowe: There were also people in your organization who were saying, ‘Why is he out there when the media is coming in?’

Redick: That was his choice. Markelle is an adult, he wanted to be out there.

As an athlete, Redick’s disposition is understandable. He is going to be loyal to his teammates, and have more empathy for the athlete’s side of things. But the line of morality for journalists doesn’t necessitate shielding legal adults who are struggling to perform on a basketball court. That was the duty of the 76ers, if anything. Readers seemed to eventually tire of hearing about Fultz and his issues, although local editors in Philadelphia probably saw less of that.

Redick doesn’t have the experience or training to decide what is newsworthy and when. That is up to editors and journalists covering teams. The real burden lay with the Sixers when it came to Fultz last season. Teams close practices to the media all the time, and the reality is it isn’t natural for media to attend one-on-one workouts for individual players. Media access for those types of things are decided by front office.

The 76ers decided not to (or could not) dissuade Fultz from being in front of the media during the time they were allowed into the practice facility. That’s on Fultz, and the Sixers. Fultz made an adult decision to allow the media to cover him during a vulnerable time. That’s probably not what Redick wanted — and my personal opinion is to concur — but that’s what happened.

The Sixers could have just as easily kept him away, and had private sessions with Fultz until he returned to some kind of form becoming of an NBA player. Videoing the No. 1 overall pick from a $1 billion sports franchise was not just within the realm of journalistic morality, it was necessary from a duty of coverage standpoint, particularly for local outlets in Philly.

Redick can feel the way he feels. He has that right. Journalists cover what they do, with years of training to dictate how to do it. They don’t have to agree. For Sixers fans, the hope is that trainer Drew Hanlen really has fixed Fultz’s jumper, so we can put this story to bed.

I’ll agree with Redick on one point: the whole story is quite tired.