76ers

How Sixers got in holiday spirit

simmons-embiid-sixers.jpg

How Sixers got in holiday spirit

NEW YORK — Holiday music could be heard in the Sixers' locker room shortly before their Christmas Day matinee game against the Knicks. 

Veteran Amir Johnson scrolled through his phone, selecting songs to set the tone of the season. Around the room, boxes of Beats by Dre headphones were at each locker, a gift from Ben Simmons. Players talked about their families making the quick trip from Philadelphia to New York City to be together. 

Monday was a work day for the Sixers, but the team still was in the holiday mood.

The Sixers kicked off Christmas early with a Secret Santa before leaving for Toronto last week. It's an annual tradition by Brett Brown, one the players look forward to.

"It's dope," Johnson said. "It brings the team together. It's just something fun, gets your mind off of basketball. It shows you what Christmas is about — giving and sharing." 
 
The gift givers will remain anonymous for the sake of maintaining the secret in Secret Santa. Players could keep their gift or swap it with a teammate based on their number in the selection order. 

Richaun Holmes held on to his limited edition Air Forces Ones. Johnson did the same with his Louis Vuitton scarf and matching hat. 

Trevor Booker received Creed cologne and traded it to Justin Anderson for an MCM backpack. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot got a watch he exchanged with Jacob Pullen for a Common Project backpack. After all the Secret Santa transactions, Pullen ended up with a Gucci wallet. 

"It keeps you in the Christmas spirit," Holmes said. "Being around great guys like this, always wanting to give, it makes it fun to be around them and it brings us closer together."

The Sixers then gave a gift back to Philadelphia — a victory over the Knicks

Embiid remains doubtful, Fultz draws into rotation for Game 3

ap-joel-embiid-76ers-mask.jpg
AP Images

Embiid remains doubtful, Fultz draws into rotation for Game 3

MIAMI — Joel Embiid remains doubtful leading up to Game 3 of the Sixers' first-round series against the Heat. 

An official decision does not have to be made until closer to the 7 p.m. start time. There is a possibility Embiid could go through pregame warmups before his availability is determined. The big man is sidelined by a left eye orbital fracture suffered March 28. 

“He went through stuff yesterday that was decent,” Brett Brown said Thursday before shootaround. “He had a little bit of contact, trying to get used to the mask, felt some bodies. But at this stage this morning, we are listing him as doubtful.” 

Embiid once again was taking threes before the start of shootaround. He posted he was "(expletive) sick and tired of being babied" on Instagram following the Sixers' Game 2 loss, their first since he was injured. The series is tied 1-1. 

If Embiid does not play, the Sixers could start either Amir Johnson (Game 1 starter) or Ersan Ilyasova (Game 2 starter). Heat center Hassan Whiteside was unfazed by the uncertainty of the matchup. 

“I’m not even thinking about what Philly’s doing,” Whiteside said. “I’m just thinking about what the Heat’s doing.” 

One decision the Sixers have made is to play Markelle Fultz more in Game 3. He had been receiving Ben Simmons’ backup minutes but was on the court for less than five minutes in Monday’s loss. Brown cited the physicality of the game as the reason he went with T.J. McConnell instead. 

“I will go back to Markelle,” Brown said. “He deserves the opportunity to play basketball in that role again. … My belief is that he will learn from the last situation.” 

Brown will watch to see how Fultz is getting into the paint, handling pressure and is getting the Sixers into their offense. Fultz is looking to be a playmaker and use his length as an advantage on defense. 

“I just want to go out there and play as hard as I can,” Fultz said.

Sixers bringing 'bunker mentality' into road playoff setting

ap-sixers-covington-brown.jpg
AP Images

Sixers bringing 'bunker mentality' into road playoff setting

You’ve witnessed the Miami scenes. 

The pristine beaches, exciting nightlife, eclectic cuisine. The list goes on.

It all adds up to one of the best destination experiences in the United States.

And the Sixers don’t want anything to do with it.

This is a business trip.

Scratch that. This is battle.

“It just becomes, I think, a little bit more insular, a little bit more of a bunker mentality,” Brett Brown said at Wednesday’s practice. “It’s a little bit more of trying to minimize distractions. You’re not in your own bedroom. You’re not in your own sort of comfort zone, your own routine, rhythm to your day.

“It’s a huge part of young players figuring out life on the road and it certainly gets exacerbated in the playoffs. But I like it. I like the mentality and the spirit of being together. I think we have a very close team and I think it forces you to become even closer when you’re just not at home.”

Games 3 and 4 inside AmericanAirlines Arena will feel like anywhere but home for the Sixers. In the first road playoff game for this young team, the players will have to deal with crowd noise and an extremely physical opponent.

The volume will subside as the Sixers are able to string together baskets, and they know the only way to do that is take the smart approach to the Heat’s increased physicality.

“It doesn’t have to be macho vs. macho,” Brown said. “That’s not how we want to play. We want to have an intellectual response to physicality. It can mean speed, it can mean space, it can mean the technique of just creating a lead and getting open. A simple jab step and putting your arm in somebody’s chest and throwing out a lead hand as an example of stuff you’d learn in eighth grade. But it all equals fundamentals, poise, technique, that stuff to combat physicality.

“It’s not they punch you, you punch them, they punch … it’s not that at all."

“You don’t want to do anything that can put yourself in a predicament, allow someone to get hurt,” Robert Covington said. “Nobody wants to get fined, nobody wants to be on the back end of something like that because it can be retaliation that can come from it. You have to play smart and just have to sit up here and do it different ways. You cannot get caught up in the moment and do something crazy.”

Whatever physical tactics the Heat attempt, the Sixers promise they’ll be ready this time around.

“I’ve got a few hits for people coming their way,” Ben Simmons said.

“I’m ready to play.”