76ers

Celtics coach Brad Stevens believes new Sixers big man Amir Johnson is right mentor

Celtics coach Brad Stevens believes new Sixers big man Amir Johnson is right mentor

LAS VEGAS — The Sixers quickly pursued Amir Johnson at the start of free agency in their hunt for veteran experience. Celtics head coach Brad Stevens believes the Sixers will get leadership and much more. 

“He’s the guy you want with young guys,” Stevens said this week. 

Johnson most recently played for the Celtics for his 11th and 12th NBA seasons. He was a vocal member of a playoff team each year there. His personality became infectious. 

“If you lose, he’s positive and talking about there’s always tomorrow,” Stevens said. “If you win, he’s talking about all the things you need to do to make sure that you continue to get better.”

Johnson worked closely with his younger teammates in Boston to share the experiences he learned coming up in the league on contending Pistons squads. He is ready to impart his wisdom on the Sixers, too. 

“I'm always vocal, I'm always talking, and I got that from Rasheed Wallace of course,” Johnson said. “Me being in my 13th year, I feel like I've got a lot to give. I definitely will lead by example on the floor and have a lot to say to the young guys.”

There are plenty of young guys on the Sixers’ roster. The players that finished last season with the team have an average age of 24.5 years old. 

The 30-year-old Johnson was intrigued by the Sixers' core when he signed a one-year, $11 million deal. Among his new teammates, he looks forward to playing with Joel Embiid, who impressed him when they faced off last season. 

The Sixers are deep with young talent that can greatly benefit from absorbing the knowledge Johnson has to share.

“Amir’s the ultimate positive teammate," Stevens said. "He always brings the right energy, brings the right focus.” 

Joel Embiid ready for home playoff debut, says Sixers' 'time is now'

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Joel Embiid ready for home playoff debut, says Sixers' 'time is now'

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid received a text message from across the NBA following the Sixers’ 27-point win over the Heat in Game 1. 

It was from Draymond Green, sending his championship-winning insight. 

“Draymond texted me after the first game when we blew Miami out,” Embiid recalled Monday. “He basically told me that it’s not going to be the same in Game 2. They came back and they won that game.” 

Green was right. Each contest has been a match of adjustments, including Embiid’s return from a 10-game layoff. Wearing a required mask with goggles, Embiid played in the Sixers’ Game 3 and Game 4 victories. 

Now he’s poised to make his postseason home debut Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Center, where he’s been eager to compete in a playoff game his entire career. 

“The atmosphere was amazing, it was insane,” Embiid said of the home crowd in Games 1 and 2. “After going to Miami, I felt like nothing compared to it. … We’ve been almost perfect [at home] since the beginning of the year. It just shows you how much we need them. Especially myself, I play better in that type of environment. I need the fans to get into it and push me. That makes me elevate my game.” 

Embiid’s offensive game has been impacted since coming back from a concussion and left orbital fracture suffered on March 28. He scored 23 points (5 for 11 FG) with seven rebounds, four assists, three blocks and three turnovers in Game 3. The following game, he posted 14 points (2 for 11 FG, 0 for 4 from three), 12 rebounds, five blocks and eight turnovers. Embiid is shooting 31.8 percent from the field and 71.4 percent from the line in the series. 

“The main thing, especially when it (the offense) doesn’t go my way, is just be a beast defensively,” he said. 

Embiid cannot play without the protective mask, though, which he has described as “annoying” and “weird.” Markelle Fultz and Amir Johnson tried on the goggles after practice Monday to get a glimpse into his line of vision. 

“They kind of saw my pain when I have to wear them,” Embiid said. “But that can’t be an excuse. I have to get used to it.” 

Embiid’s mindset going into Game 5 is to close out the Heat series and get some extra time before the second round (see story). The Celtics and Bucks series is tied 2-2. He sees the first round as just the starting point for the Sixers’ postseason. 

“A lot of people say that we have a bright future, but I think our time is now,” Embiid said. “We have a pretty good chance. We have a special team, a lot of great guys. I don’t think we need anybody else. We’ve just got to work with what we have, and we have a special team. I feel like we have a pretty good chance to go far. 

"So it’s just about us taking care of the little things, like not turning the ball over, just playing together, like we've been doing, sharing the ball, not be selfish, and everything is going to take care of itself." 

Embiid will take the court for his first postseason game in Philadelphia when the Sixers tip off against the Heat at 8 p.m. Tuesday on NBCSP.

"The playoffs, that’s kind of like you play in front of the whole world," Embiid said. "I feel like I thrive in that type of situation because I feel like I was made for this." 

Sixers know what must be done to knock out Heat

Sixers know what must be done to knock out Heat

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers have pushed the Heat to the brink of elimination and now they are hunkering down for yet another battle in this hard-fought first-round matchup. 

The Sixers do not anticipate closing out the series Tuesday night at home to be any easier than the first four grind-it-out games. 

“You don’t have to be a wise man to know what is about to happen, what style of play they’re going to try to play,” Brett Brown said before practice Monday. “Especially when they’re going to go home if they’re not able to find a win. We understand that.”

The Sixers are returning to the Wells Fargo Center up 3-1 after completing the challenging task of taking two straight games on the road. As they prepare for what could be a deciding game, they are focused on fixing their mistakes from the previous ones. The Sixers overcame giving up 30 points on 27 turnovers, shooting 7 for 31 from three, and trailing by 12 in Game 4. 

“I said it after the game and I’ll say it again now: we were very fortunate to win that game,” Brown said. “The discipline that we did not show offensively and defensively in the first three periods, especially as I go back and watch it, can’t happen.” 

Regardless of the final score, the Heat have proven to be a feisty squad each night. The tussle between Robert Covington, James Johnson and Ben Simmons exemplified the spirit of the series. The teams were whistled for a combined 10 technical fouls in Games 3 and 4. 

Goran Dragic said the Heat are not going to show up at the Wells Fargo Center to surrender. The Sixers don’t anticipate them to, either. 

“A team like Miami, their culture, their organization, their group of guys, they have fighters, they have warriors on their team,” JJ Redick said. “Every game in this series has been tough. There’s no expectations that Game 5 will be any different.”

The Sixers have not advanced out of the first round since 2012, the last time they were in the playoffs. With a 3-1 lead, their objective Tuesday is clear. 

“Our mindset is to close it out,” Joel Embiid said.