76ers

As a Sixers fan, could you actually say no to LeBron James?

As a Sixers fan, could you actually say no to LeBron James?

Admit it, you see that headline and you say to yourself, "Really?" A case needs to be made for the most dominant, all-around player the league has seen since M.J. A guy who will go down as a top-five player ever at worst, arguably one or two in the history of the game. You’re saying, "Here we go again," this is clearly click bait or someone who has lost their flipping mind. James Naismith wouldn’t even bother turning over in his grave when pondering this one.

I mean, this is LeBron James we are talking about here. Forget the individual numbers, which are staggering. The MVPs, All-Star appearances, etc. Never mind the fact that he would be only 33 years old in the summer of 2018, when he is eligible to be a free agent. Hell, he looked older in high school than he does now (minus that pesky hairline thing). Greek gods are envious of the guy’s body. You can even put aside his considerable acting chops in Trainwreck — maybe I went a click too far there. Try focusing on the team aspect for a minute. He has led his squad to the NBA Finals seven consecutive seasons, winning three.

So what’s the catch here? Why wouldn’t any Sixers fan in the name of Alexey Shved want LeBron James playing for their team?    

Let’s assume, for our purpose, he would want to come here. Big assumption. But let’s dream for a minute. The 2017-18 Sixers, first and foremost, remain upright. Injuries are not an issue.

Joel Embiid, while staying healthy, dominates on the floor like he does on social media.

Ben Simmons is, in fact, the visionary, ball-dominant, 6-foot-10 Magic Johnson Jr.

Markelle Fultz is the peanut butter to Simmons' chocolate.

Dario Saric continues to be the all-purpose, tough, steadying presence while improving his jumper.

JJ Redick provides that sniper this team hasn’t seen in decades.

And Brett Brown can flat out coach.

In other words, all things work out perfectly. Add to that the Sixers' deep pocketbooks and payroll flexibility despite the need to take care of said core players. Plus, James and Simmons share representation. The two have even been tweeting at each other the last few days, and LeBron even wished Simmons a happy birthday.

Voila. Seems like a match made in heaven, right?

Wrong. At least for some Sixers fans.

Let me preface this by saying I am a believer in “The Process.” Have been from the start. But there seems to be a faction of Sixers fans or “Processors” who are against bringing in an established superstar of the ilk of LeBron James. Is this a linear thing? A championship can be achieved only by those core drafted pieces, by the nucleus of Embiid, Simmons, Fultz and Saric? Would LeBron somehow sully the purity of those Lake Hinkotonka waters? Would Sam disapprove? Would his brilliant mind somehow spontaneously combust in a Starbucks in Palo Alto with the news of adding a such an expensive and established piece? Do we really know what Hinkie’s vision at this point would be? Wasn’t this a key part of "The Process?" Clear cap space, and when the time is right, spend money with the big boys. Not bad money. Not Timofey Mozgov, Joakim Noah or Chandler Parsons.

We’re talking LeBron Freakin' James here.   

Is there not a need for someone with his skill set? Is it a chemistry thing? Clearly, that can’t be it. James is a chameleon, able to play any of four positions if needed. And while he may not be 25-year-old peak LeBron, he will still be great for a couple of years. And he has clearly proven that he can blend with talent around him.

Is it as simple as just good old fashion LeBron hate for “The Decision” or his perceived whininess? Golden State added Kevin Durant to an established, championship winning core that proved it could win without him. And that group was able to put egos aside. I’m confident the Sixers' young nucleus could do the same.

Are we really in a position in this town  — of any sports cities — to put parameters on how we get to the mountain top? Who cares how you get there so long as you get one — and hopefully more?  

Not me.

Joel Embiid disappointed Brett Brown has him on another minutes limit

Joel Embiid disappointed Brett Brown has him on another minutes limit

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid would like to play 48 minutes every game. The Sixers are looking at a maximum of 20 for opening night.

"I don't really know if there's a solid number," Brett Brown said Monday after practice. "I can tell if you were to choose a number, it's somewhere in the teens."

Embiid was hoping for more playing time on Wednesday against the Wizards, his first regular-season game since Jan. 27 (left knee surgery).

"I didn't know about that, but that's very disappointing," Embiid said Monday of the minutes restriction. "I feel great and hopefully that changes based on today's practice and tomorrow's practice."

The Sixers are being cautious with Embiid, who has both a lengthy history of injuries and a massive new contract extension. He clocked 15 minutes in both of his preseason games last week. Embiid felt he could have played twice as many minutes.

While the Sixers aren't ready to go as high as 30 minutes yet, they could exercise some wiggle room based on the flow of the game.

"There will be some minutes restrictions, but it's also a judgment of how is the game being played, not just looking at rote, rigid number," Brown said.

The NBA's new timeout rules could impact Embiid's playing time. The updated format changes include a decrease in the maximum number of timeouts allowed (18 to 14), 75-second team timeouts and fewer timeouts in the final minutes of the game. 

"One of the things that we're doing this year unlike previous years is there's a little bit of a looseness in relation to it doesn't have to be rigid if the game didn't dictate some track meet," Brown said. "This is like I'm coaching in the London Olympic Games again. The game moves. I can have guys at a scorers table for two minutes with no stoppage. So sometimes the torrid pace of a game doesn't favor Jo where you go flying up and down."

In addition to individual games, it remains to be seen if Embiid will be cleared this season for back-to-backs. The Sixers face their first set of consecutive games this Friday and Saturday against the Celtics at home and the Raptors in Toronto.

Markelle Fultz likely to start season on bench for Sixers

Markelle Fultz likely to start season on bench for Sixers

CAMDEN, N.J. — Brett Brown likely will bring Markelle Fultz in off the bench to start the season. 

The No. 1 pick missed the majority of the preseason because of soreness in his right knee and right shoulder. Fultz played a total of 47 minutes over just two games. He practiced Sunday.

When asked if Fultz will start, Brown said “I don’t believe so” and noted the lack of in-game experience. The Sixers face the Wizards’ dangerous backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal in the regular season opener Wednesday. 

“He hasn’t played much basketball in preseason,” Brown said Sunday. “He’s been out for a while. He hasn’t been with our group. I think the decision like, do you put him into the fire right away and have him play against starting NBA defensive players, especially with the little foundation that he has? I don’t think that’s smart.”

Fultz, last season’s Pac-12 leading scorer, struggled offensively in the preseason games in which he did play. He shot 2 for 13 from the field (0 for 3 from three) and scored four points in the opener against the Grizzlies. Facing the Celtics, he scored 12 points off of 5 for 11 shooting from the field (no three-point attempts).

“At the end of the day, I want to do whatever I’ve got to do to help my team win,” Fultz said. “So if that’s coming off the bench, I’m fine with that. Just contribute any ways I can.”

All the while, the change in his shot form has been in the spotlight. He missed the second preseason game against the Celtics because of shoulder soreness. He previously described the injury as ongoing and did not point to a specific moment of injury (see story). Fultz was sidelined for the final two preseason games with right knee soreness.

“My shoulder is bothering me, so that’s the reason my shot’s like that,” Fultz said. “At the end of the day, I’m not going use that as an excuse, like I said before. But my shoulder is the main reason why my shot’s doing that.”

The Sixers traded up to draft Fultz first overall largely because of his ability to complement Ben Simmons off the ball. The pair hasn’t played together much since then, though. Jerryd Bayless started four of the five preseason games at shooting guard alongside Simmons.

“You have a plan in your head. It’s deviated from the summer, lots of it because of his injuries and lack of availability,” Brown said. “But we’ll all sort of see how I use him and how he uses himself. It will all be driven out of, how do we develop him and still win games?”

Fultz’s role could change throughout the season. The Sixers will work through his minutes, guard pairings and ball-handling responsibilities. These considerations will be based on Fultz’s health, matchups and the availability of his teammates, all the while trying to be successful. 

“The balance of development and winning is a slippery slope because he hasn’t played basketball and he’s really had an erratic preseason,” Brown said. “How we are fair in delivering him to an NBA court and situations that I put him in and volume of minutes he gets with the notion he’s the first player chosen, we understand the microscope, the pedestal that he is on. But the reality with all those other things that I just said are also my responsibility to figure it all out. Ultimately, you’ve got play and develop him and take some hits so that he can grow with us.”