76ers

Apparently, DeMarcus Cousins threatened to fight Nik Stauskas on a plane

Apparently, DeMarcus Cousins threatened to fight Nik Stauskas on a plane

Apparently, DeMarcus Cousins wasn't a big fan of Nik Stauskas.

Discussing the Cousins trade on his podcast Monday, Zach Lowe recalled a story from two years ago when Cousins threatened Stauskas on Sacramento's team flight to China.

"DeMarcus Cousins ruined Nik Stauskas, or almost did," Lowe said. "The stories about DeMarcus Cousins berating Nik Stauskas, threatening to fight Nik Stauskas on the plane when they were going to China for the preseason. 

"He ruined Nik Stauskas, he ruined Sauce Castillo to the point where he just had to go somewhere else."

Lowe and guest Brian Windhorst went on to compare Stauskas to Buddy Hield, the centerpiece of the Kings' return for Cousins. Both felt the Kings did poorly in the Cousins trade, arguing the draft pick they received from the Pels was equivalent to the one they got from the Hornets (No. 22) for Marco Belinelli.

Windhorst told a story of a conversation he had recently with a personnel executive who said Hield will be a backup two-guard. 

"You know who [Hield] is very similar to in that regard?" Lowe asked. "Nik Stauskas."

"[Stauskas] had a nice stretch in the first third of the season for the Sixers (which showed) he's going to be a rotation player. I think he settles into that — his shooting has slumped a little bit. But that's an example of DeMarcus Cousins ruined Nik Stauskas, and now they're trading him for maybe an equivalent player."

The Kings are just a complete mess, which is hugely important for the Sixers, who own pick swap rights with Sacramento in the 2017 draft and also have the Kings' unprotected 2019 first-rounder (see story).

That trade continues to boost former Sixers GM Sam Hinkie's credibility and make Kings owner Vivek Ranadive and GM Vlade Divac look like they don't know what they're doing.

"If your owner has stability and knows what he's doing and knows how to hire the right people and get out of their way, that's a (good) situation. This was created by Vivek," Windhorst said.

"And that doesn't mean that Vlade didn't make the decisions within the trade that they made with Philadelphia, but putting Vlade in that position when he wasn't ready for it — and I think everybody, including Vlade would agree — led to this.

"I just can't believe how little they got (for Cousins). You know that they've been offered so much more for DeMarcus in the past. And so not only is the recent decision to basically sell the long-term for the now, to trade Nik Stauskas so that you can sign Kosta Koufos or whatever else they did with that money, going and signing Arron Afflalo."

At that point, Lowe interjected and poured on poor Vlade, recounting the players Divac signed with the money freed up in the Stauskas heist.

"Kosta Koufos, Rajon Rondo — who might be out of the freaking league next year — and Marco Belinelli. ... That's who they traded those picks and swap rights for — those three players, who aren't going to help you win and everybody knew they weren't going to help you win. And they could have acquired two of them via free agency if they used the stretch provision and had any idea what the stretch provision was."

The Kings made their bed. Their only real chance of avoiding a catastrophic next few years is if Hield — a.k.a. Stauskas 2.0 — can pull them out of it.

Sixers-Jazz observations: A rare sweep of Utah

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Sixers-Jazz observations: A rare sweep of Utah

BOX SCORE

It wasn’t a high-scoring performance like Saturday’s game against the Warriors, but the Sixers got the job done with a 107-86 win on Monday over the Jazz.

The Sixers improved to 9-7 as they swept the season series and beat the Jazz at home for the first time since Nov. 16, 2012. 

• Let’s go to the end of the game and start with the push. 

With four minutes to go, Joel Embiid swatted Donovan Mitchell’s drive and then yelled to the rookie as the Utah guard was on the ground. Mitchell bounced up and shoved Embiid, who fell as they started to run back down the court. Was Embiid fazed? Not at all. He made the “T” motion from the floor as Mitchell was whistled for a tech. The crowd broke out in a “Trust the Process” chant and Embiid smiled and waved his arms. Yes, Embiid was in his element. 

• Embiid, who was a game-time decision because of left knee soreness, played 27 minutes. He posted 15 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Embiid started to hit his stride in the second quarter (seven points, four rebounds in 6:22). The big man, who wants to live at the foul line, didn’t attempt his first free throw until three minutes into the quarter.

• Ben Simmons broke out of a quiet first half in which he shot 2 for 9 from the field (five points). He scored 14 points in the third and finished with a career-high 27 (13 for 24 from the field, 1 for 4 from the line). Simmons had his 11th double-double with 10 rebounds. He had a season-low two dimes. The rookie point guard (four steals) joined Paul George, Steph Curry and Kent Bazemore as the only players with 30 steals so far this season. 

• JJ Redick scored all 20 of his points in the second half. After going 0 for 3 from the field through two quarters, he wrapped up the game by going 6 for 10 from the field (2 for 2 from three).

• The game was in the Sixers’ control the entire way. They held the Jazz to 15 points in the first quarter, the least amount of points scored by a Sixers’ opponent in any quarter this season. That’s what shooting 25 percent from the field will do. The Jazz have had trouble keeping up with the Sixers early on. They actually held the mark for fewest first-quarter points (21) by a Sixers’ opponent in their first matchup on Nov. 7. 

• The starters combined for just nine of the Sixers’ 25 first-quarter points. Robert Covington and Redick were scoreless while T.J. McConnell led all players after one frame with eight points. 

• Two-way contract player Jacob Pullen made his NBA debut in the final minute of the game.

• Injury updates: The Sixers’ Justin Anderson (left leg), Markelle Fultz (right shoulder) and Nik Stauskas (right ankle) were sidelined. Dante Exum (left shoulder), Rudy Gobert (right leg) and Joe Johnson (right wrist) were out for the Jazz. 

• Eagles running back LeGarrette Blount and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery were in attendance. You can imagine what happened.

• The Sixers had a very special guest as the ceremonial bell ringer. Seventeen-year-old Mike Shelly won the Chick-fil-A half-court shot contest on Saturday with a jaw-dropping basket. When the Sixers later learned his story of battling Stage 4 Lymphoma and losing his brother in a motor vehicle accident, they decided to bring him back for a memorable night. In addition to the pregame ceremony, Shelly also will fly with the Sixers to Atlanta in March and tour the Chick-fil-A facility. 

• The Sixers served up Four’N Twenty beef pies at halftime in honor of their first international partnership with the Australian company. My verdict: not bad. NBC Sports Philadelphia video producer Christina Betz has an in-depth review here

Joel Embiid questionable vs. Jazz with left knee soreness

Joel Embiid questionable vs. Jazz with left knee soreness

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Joel Embiid is questionable for the Sixers' Monday's matchup against the Jazz but the big man expects to play. 

Embiid will be a game-time decision because of left knee soreness. He is experiencing tightness and will go through pregame warmups to see how he reacts. After that, the call will up be up to him. 

"My whole body's a little bit sore, but I think I should be playing tonight," Embiid said. "If I feel good, I'll play. It's not on them (the Sixers). I think it's more on me."

Embiid took three-point shots and free throws after shootaround Monday. He did not attribute the discomfort to one play in particular. He took a tough spill Saturday against the Warriors but said that wasn't the specific cause.

"Maybe just a little bit because I landed on both of my knees," Embiid said. "It wasn't a little bit painful but it's nothing to be worried about." 

Embiid said his questionable status was not because of needing a day to rest. Embiid played 33 minutes Saturday. In fact, he said he was going to be "set free, basically" in terms of his minutes following that game. 

Embiid shot "a little bit" at Sunday's practice and did not go through shootaround Monday, something he has been doing to make keep his body ready for the game itself. 

"There's still a schedule in place," Embiid said. "I'm not cleared for back-to-backs yet. I expect at some point this season to be playing back-to-backs. You've just got to follow the plan and see how my body reacts. But it's been going well so far." 

Embiid has sat out twice this season, the last time being against the Jazz in Salt Lake City. The Sixers won that game, 104-97. 

The Sixers know what they have to do if Embiid cannot play. Dario Saric scored 25 points and JJ Redick added 20 in the Sixers' victory over the Jazz. Richaun Holmes started that night in place of Embiid, but he also is questionable because of gastroenteritis. Expect Amir Johnson, who did not play against the Warriors, to see more minutes if neither big can play. 

"In that case [without Embiid], we need to share the ball, we need to move a lot, we need to play a little bit faster," Saric said. "Try to attack Utah in the fast break because they are a really good defensive team of the half court." 

Jerryd Bayless is cleared to return after missing the last six games because of a left wrist injury. Justin Anderson (left leg) and Nik Stauskas (right ankle) are out.