Sixers Mailbag: Pressure on Joel Embiid, Brett Brown?

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Sixers Mailbag: Pressure on Joel Embiid, Brett Brown?

Training camp begins this month, so you know what that means … another edition of the #CSNSixersMailbag. From playoff expectations to Embiid’s back-to-backs to the guards’ roles, these are the questions on your mind about the Sixers.

All three could be on the court at the end of a game. Of course, that depends on matchups and if the Sixers are going big. In this scenario, Simmons could be at the one, Covington at the three, and Saric at the four. The Sixers will have the flexibility to experiment with numerous lineups throughout the season. Because so many players can play different positions, they won't have to rely on just one unit in tight games.

Confidence always has been key to Nik Stauskas' game. He should enter this season carrying it over from the previous one. Stauskas shot career-bests with 39.6 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from three-point range in his third year, ran the point in a pinch and also focused on improving his defense. He will have the invaluable opportunity of picking the brain of one of the best shooters in the league, JJ Redick.

I am interested to see what the Sixers end up doing with Stauskas this season. He is in the final year of his contract, which automatically puts him on my trade watch list. Stauskas boosted his value last season and the Sixers are overcrowded at the two spot. Will he play the entire season in Philadelphia? That is an uncertainty worth keeping an eye on.

The Sixers signed Jerryd Bayless last season for reasons that still are applicable on this revamped roster. Let's start with on the court. Bayless has combo guard skills that allow Brett Brown to play him at the point and shooting guard. Originally, the plan was for him to complement Ben Simmons while Simmons ran the floor. That changed when both players missed last season because of injuries. This season, Bayless can either be the point guard or play off the ball at the two. 

Off the court — and this cannot be overlooked on a young team — Bayless was brought in to be a leader. The Sixers will be relying on two rookies, Simmons and Markelle Fultz, who have never played an NBA game to take on starting roles. Players like Bayless and Redick will be instrumental in their development. Bayless already formed a mentor-like relationship with Simmons last season while both were rehabbing.

If it were up to Joel Embiid, he would play 48 minutes in 82 games. But it's not. Embiid's playing time will be determined, once again, by the team. He has the pressure to stay in shape and well-conditioned, especially with the possibility of a contract extension. Beyond that, the Sixers will map out how frequently he's on the court.

More pressure will be on Brett Brown as long as the Sixers are healthy. If he has a fully available roster, this will be the first time he will actually be able to coach for a whole season. Brown had a brief window of opportunity last January when the team went 10-5 before Embiid was sidelined.

Back-to-backs will be a storyline all season. The Sixers held Embiid out of consecutive games after he missed his first two seasons because of injuries. He is entering his second season, coming off knee surgery in March and has not played in a game since Jan. 27. In June, Brett Brown said the idea of Embiid and Ben Simmons playing without minute restrictions is "ambitious."

I would expect the Sixers to proceed with caution and hold him out of the majority of back-to-backs. With 14 back-to-back series, my prediction is he plays in two sets of consecutive games. The Sixers' priority is keeping Embiid healthy for the long-term and playing two straight nights in December, let's say, isn't worth the risk.

Video proof that Embiid, Saric are soccer prodigies

Video proof that Embiid, Saric are soccer prodigies

BOSTON — Noise of energy and excitement emanated from a small area just off the basketball court at Sixers shootaround Thursday morning.

Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot were in a circle with a member of the staff enthusiastically playing soccer. 

Well, kind of. They were using a basketball.

Watch the video above to see the trio of soccer fans show off their skills. 

Just last week they met with several European football players during the team's trip to London, including Thierry Henry.

@frenchtouch20 meets his childhood idol @thierryhenry!

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My guys @thibautcourtois @hazardeden_10 #Blues #TheProcess #Blues

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Meet up with some @spursofficial today after practice!

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Bazemore game-winner nets Hawks rare consecutive victories

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Bazemore game-winner nets Hawks rare consecutive victories

ATLANTA -- Kent Bazemore hit a jumper with 2.1 seconds remaining and the Hawks rallied from 19 points down to beat the New Orleans Pelicans 94-93 Wednesday before a sparse crowd on an icy night in Atlanta.

With the score tied at 92, DeMarcus Cousins drew a blocking foul on John Collins with 13.7 seconds remaining, earning a trip to the foul line. Cousins made only one, giving the Hawks a chance to pull out the victory.

Bazemore knocked down the winning shot with Anthony Davis in his face. New Orleans had one last chance, inbounding the ball to Cousins near the hoop. He came up short on a quick shot, pleading with the officials for a foul call while the Hawks celebrated.

Bazemore led the Hawks with 20 points, while rookie John Collins added 18. Jrue Holiday paced the Pelicans with 22 points, while Cousins had 19 points and 14 rebounds. But Davis was held to just eight points on 2-of-8 shooting.

Coming off a victory over San Antonio, the Hawks won back-to-back games for only the second time this season and snapped the Pelicans' three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Warriors fend off Bulls for 14th straight road win
CHICAGO -- Klay Thompson scored 38 points, Stephen Curry added 30 and the Golden State Warriors beat the Chicago Bulls 119-112 on Wednesday night for their franchise record-tying 14th straight road win.

Kevin Durant had 19 points as Golden State moved into a tie for the third-longest road winning streak in a season in NBA history. The Los Angeles Lakers hold the record with 16 straight road wins during the 1971-72 season.

Next up for the NBA-leading Warriors is a trip to Houston for a showdown with the Rockets on Saturday night.

Nikola Mirotic scored 24 points for Chicago, which dropped to 14-8 since its 3-20 start. Robin Lopez scored 12 of his 16 points in the first half, and Kris Dunn also had 16.

The Warriors played without Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala due to injuries, and Jordan Bell sprained his left ankle when he challenged Lopez's dunk on the Bulls' first possession. Bell stayed down for a while and then was helped to his feet. He tried to put pressure on his leg and grimaced before he opted for a wheelchair ride off the court.

The 23-year-old Bell was selected by the Bulls in the second round of the June draft and then dealt to the Warriors for financial considerations. X-rays were negative, but he will have an MRI on Thursday (see full recap).

Hornets ride record-setting 1st half to victory
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 21 points, Dwight Howard had another double-double and the Charlotte Hornets used a record-setting first half to beat the Washington Wizards 133-109 on Wednesday night in coach Steve Clifford's return.

The Hornets made 12 of their first 13 shots and scored a franchise-record 77 points in the first half to build a 16-point lead. They extended that to 28 in the second half in a game that was never close.

Kemba Walker had 19 points, Howard had 18 points and 15 rebounds and Jeremy Lamb had 16 points for the Hornets, who won for the fifth time in their last seven games.

Clifford returned after missing 21 games because of headaches caused by sleep deprivation. The Hornets were 9-21 in Clifford's absence and had fallen eight games under .500.

Bradley Beal had 26 points for the Wizards, whose five-game road trip got off to a rocky start (see full recap).