76ers

Jonah Bolden might not play for Sixers this season but has intriguing future

Jonah Bolden might not play for Sixers this season but has intriguing future

Jonah Bolden considered himself to be viewed as “the mystery kid” in this year’s draft. After playing in Serbia last season, he was relatively unknown in comparison to his draft classmates. He wanted to participate in summer league to prove what he could do at the NBA level and he accomplished just that. 

Bolden stood out on the Sixers' roster with his versatility and, most noticeably, his ability to spread the floor with a three-point shot. It was easy to envision how these skills would translate to the NBA, especially on a Sixers team that will have a positionless lineup in many cases. 

A report by David Pick indicated Bolden will remain overseas with Maccabi Tel Aviv for the upcoming season. While a source said no official decision has been made about where Bolden will play, it would make sense for him to spend another season competing internationally because of the crowded Sixers roster.

Regardless of where Bolden is this coming season, there will be a high level of intrigue surrounding the 21-year-old’s game. Before we see what Bolden can do, CSNPhilly.com spoke to one of Bolden’s opponents about what can be expected. 

Hawks 2017 draft pick Alpha Kaba played against Bolden last season in the Adriatic League. Bolden and Kaba, both 6-foot-10, were matched up at times when Bolden’s team, Red Star, faced Mega Leks. 

“First of all, he’s really an athletic player,” Kaba said. “He can put the ball on the floor, he can shoot, he’s a complete guy. It was really amazing playing against him because it’s a kind of a challenge because he’s a great player.”

During summer league, Bolden averaged 8.8 points and shot 31.4 percent from three. There were instances when more traditional big men had trouble chasing Bolden to the arc. Kaba saw glimpses of that last season. 

“He was spreading the floor a lot,” Kaba said. “He likes to take the rebound, bring up the ball and that’s how we played. He was like a stretch-four, even a three. He can bring up the ball, take some screens, set some pick-and-rolls.”

Bolden also grabbed 6.3 rebounds, blocked 1.4 shots and had 1.9 steals per game in summer league. He uses his size to cause problems on the defensive end. 

“Defensively, he’s athletic, he can block some shots, take some rebounds,” Kaba said. “He’s got a pretty long wingspan too so he can cover all of the floor by helping on the opposite side.”

When Bolden does play in the NBA, he will look to pose the same matchup issues Kaba and others already have experienced in Europe.

How to manage Joel Embiid's health while pushing for playoffs

How to manage Joel Embiid's health while pushing for playoffs

CAMDEN, N.J. — In some ways, Joel Embiid is a dream to coach. You can go to him in the post whenever you need a bucket, rely on him to erase defensive mistakes, sit back and watch as he takes over games.

But in other ways, coaching Embiid is not an easy job. Brett Brown has to constantly weigh Embiid’s health with the immediate desire to win. That balancing act has never been more difficult for Brown, who commented Wednesday on how he plans to manage Embiid with the playoffs in sight.

“Everything is still, and it should be, delivering him to a playoff round,” Brown said. “It’s not cramming for the exam and doing whatever you can to get home court, it’s not that at all. And so I feel like the path that we’re all on is both professional and responsible. So it’s that more than trying to cram for an exam.”

The Sixers have six back-to-back sets in their final 27 games. Embiid played his first ever back-to-back on Feb. 2 vs. Miami and Feb. 3 at Indiana. Since then, he’s had an injury scare with his right knee (on Feb. 10 vs the Clippers) and missed the Sixers’ final game before the All-Star break with a sore right ankle.

That said, Embiid’s obviously taken major steps forward. After being sidelined for his first two NBA seasons and playing just 31 games (and only 25.4 minutes per game) in his rookie year, he’s played in 44 of the Sixers’ first 55 games, and is averaging 31.4 minutes per game.

But the Sixers are 3-8 when Embiid doesn’t play. Without Embiid, the Sixers don’t look like a playoff team. With him, they look like a team which could earn home-court advantage. The Sixers are currently seventh in the Eastern Conference at 30-25, two games behind the fourth-seeded Washington Wizards.

When asked how he’ll generally manage his players’ minutes in the final third of the season, Brown referred to his time as a Spurs assistant, implying that the Sixers will approach things more aggressively than a championship contender.

“In my old life, when you felt like you were going to be in the finals and win a championship, you definitely started managing stuff differently in this final third,” Brown said. “That’s not where we’re at now. We are fighting to get in the playoffs.

“And we’re in a fist fight, we want a little bit more than that. And we’re going to play with that in mind, and when the opportunity arises when I can rest some of our guys, I will. But it’s not about being conservative right now or feeling like we’re entitled and we’re in the playoffs; we aren’t. So we’re still fighting to do that, and I’ll coach it accordingly.”

It might sound like there’s a contradiction between that desire to fight for the postseason and Brown’s goal of “delivering [Embiid] to a playoff round.” The Sixers probably need Embiid to play the majority of their final 27 games to make the playoffs in the first place. On the other hand, nothing in Embiid’s past suggests that he’s capable of playing all six remaining back-to-backs and suiting up fully healthy in Game 1 of the postseason.

The key for Brown is finding the perfect middle ground between riding Embiid hard every night and babying his 7-foot-2 star to the detriment of the team. With the playoffs finally in sight after five seasons of processing, that’s going to be one of Brown’s greatest challenges in the home stretch.  

Rookie of the Year down to 2 and Ben Simmons' odds slipping

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Rookie of the Year down to 2 and Ben Simmons' odds slipping

Donovan Mitchell continues to creep closer to Ben Simmons in the NBA Rookie of the Year race, and the gap in Bovada's odds for the two is as close as it's been all season.

Simmons is now -250 to win the award, meaning a $250 wager is required to win $100. 

Mitchell is at +170, meaning a $100 wager wins you $170.

In the most recent odds update in January, Simmons was at -650; Mitchell was +400.

It's a clear two-man race at this point.
 
Simmons is averaging 16.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.9 steals and 0.9 blocks this season. No player in recorded history has hit all five criteria in the same season.

Mitchell, however, has been on fire for the NBA's hottest team. The Jazz have won 11 straight games to test the Pelicans for the 8-seed, and over that span, Mitchell has averaged 21.3 points, albeit on 41 percent shooting.

For the season, Mitchell is at 19.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.5 steals. He's made 35.4 percent of his threes and 83.6 percent of his free throws.

Both are stars in the making, but it's worth noting that the Jazz are playing better than they have all season and Simmons is still the favorite. Where Utah ends up will be a determining factor in the Rookie of the Year race — if the Jazz can somehow end up the 7-seed in a loaded West, arguments for Mitchell will grow louder.

Both Simmons and Mitchell were two of five guests this week on NBA TV's Open Court: Rookies Edition. Interesting talking points from the special: 

• Mitchell referenced former Sixer Jrue Holiday as an under-the-radar tough player to guard, saying he watches film of Holiday every day.

• Simmons recalled LeBron attacking him frequently in the first quarter of their first meeting, saying he wasn't surprised LeBron wanted to send a message by going right at him.

• The Morris twins were mentioned by Simmons and Jayson Tatum when asked about the most imposing players in the league. Everyone cited DeMarcus Cousins.

• Simmons downplayed the importance of his NBA redshirt season, saying you don't really know what it's like to play back to back and deal with the hectic travel schedule until you're involved in it every day.