76ers

Sixers get taught lesson by efficient Spurs

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Sixers get taught lesson by efficient Spurs

BOX SCORE

Sometimes it really is as simple as it looks.

The extra pass, ball movement, check the egos at the door, place the team above individual accolades, etc., etc. That’s the way the San Antonio Spurs do it with coach Gregg Popovich and veterans like Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker.

In the Spurs’ 109-85 victory over the Sixers on Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay), it was all right there for everyone to see. The Spurs didn’t just run a clinic on Monday night, they did it especially for the 76ers as if to send a message …

This is how it’s done.

“That’s the Spurs and that’s what we aspire to get to,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said.

Brown should understand it more than most. After all, his only other gig in the NBA was with the Spurs when he spent 12 years learning from Popovich the way an NBA team is best run. It’s a lesson he’s been trying to pass on to his young team as the Sixers begin the sometime painful lessons in a rebuilding season.

So as the Spurs went on surges to build leads of 18 points in the first quarter and 29 points in the third quarter, Brown could say to his team, “See, that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.”

“What you saw was the extremes of a team that has been together and move the ball and shared the ball and moved freely versus a team that became static and stagnant and tried to do it individually and really had no rhythm to what we were doing,” Brown said.

“It’s played the right way. Everyone talks about play the right way. What does that mean? To me it means you share the ball. As simple as a concept as that is, it’s really hard at any level because you get egos involved and other factors are involved. Its impact is far reaching to other aspects of the game. That’s the essence of offense -- sharing it.”

Actually, the Sixers weren’t as awful as the final score indicated. They committed just 15 turnovers and four of them were by big man Spencer Hawes. The Sixers also continued to get buckets in the paint, pouring in 52 points from up close. The Sixers blocked nine shots and did a decent job at keeping the Spurs off the offensive glass.

Plus, Evan Turner scored 20 points for the seventh time in eight games while Hawes notched his fifth double-double of the season with 17 points and 13 boards.

There was some good stuff for the Sixers in the loss. Sometimes a team just goes up against a buzzsaw, even with future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan taking the night off.

“They have so many ways to beat you, and the chemistry is unbelievable,” Hawes said. “Even without [Duncan] in there, they have so many weapons.”

In a season that will go down as one big learning experience, Monday’s loss to the Spurs might end up hitting harder than most games. After all, Brown brought along the Spurs’ offense and ethic when he was hired for the Sixers’ job and likely won’t have to explain too much in the postgame film session.

It was all right there in streaks of black and silver racing up and down the court.

“The biggest thing we took from tonight from seeing it first hand was the unselfishness on both ends of the floor,” Hawes said. “They sell out for each other on defense and they get excited when they make the extra pass. Whenever we play the Spurs it seems like they only shoot threes and layups.

“We run the same offense. But look at how they did it and how we did it.”

They also run opposing players ragged. Though the Spurs were playing the second game of a back-to-back, rookie Michael Carter-Williams struggled to keep up with Parker. But it wasn’t like Carter-Williams was too slow or far out of position.

The Spurs just move the ball that fast.

“They throw the extra pass and it’s really hard to cover,” Carter-Williams said after his 2-for-11 shooting night.

And it isn’t just the offense for the Spurs, either. The Sixers shot 41 percent from the floor in the loss, marking the second time this season they failed to shoot at least 47 percent.

But as Brown explained, the Spurs’ offense spreads to all aspects of the game. The Sixers struggled to get out on the break and when stuck in a half-court offense, they didn’t get much ball movement.

“It spills over into many areas and facets of the game where the ball sticks and people don’t get touches. It’s deflating,” Brown said. “Then you go back to the other end and the ball is moving and you have to chase them around and it’s like ping-pong. They make the passes and they find the right people and they can shoot. It’s what we aspire to get to. That’s what we saw.”

The lessons learned in the loss to the Spurs will be put to the test on Wednesday night when the Sixers host the Houston Rockets. After that, the team hits the road for its first extended streak of the season with games in Atlanta, New Orleans and Dallas.

Joel Embiid thinks his minutes restriction is 'f---ing BS'

Joel Embiid thinks his minutes restriction is 'f---ing BS'

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid is letting it be known he is unhappy about his minute restrictions to start the season.

"That's f---ing BS," he said after practice Tuesday. "I wish I was playing more minutes. I think I'm ready for more than I don't know whatever number they have."

The Sixers are eyeing 16 minutes for Embiid on opening night on Wednesday. He played nearly 15 minutes in his two preseason games and feels he can handle more, adding his previously-injured left knee and ankle "felt great." 

He has expressed his feelings to the team. 

"I always think I have a voice so I'm sure they're listening to what I have to say too," he said. "But they're making a decision based on what they think. But I think that's BS."

Embiid's desire to play more minutes likely will be an ongoing situation this season, or at least early on. He expected to be cleared for 24 minutes at this point. (In comparison, he logged 22:25 last opening night.) Embiid feels the best way to get his body in game shape is to actually be in the game, not training on a cardio machine. 

"I think the concept of minute restrictions is kind of complicated," Embiid said. "I don't think there should ever be minute restrictions. I think it should always be about how my body feels and how it's reacting." 

The Sixers, however, are continuing to proceed with caution with the injury-prone big man. After missing his first two years because of his foot, he underwent season-ending knee surgery in March. Embiid also sprained his left ankle in the preseason finale. He has not played in a regular-season game since Jan. 27. 

Add that to the fact Embiid is a centerpiece of their future after inking him to a five-year, $146.5 contract extension last week.

"They know that I'm frustrated, but once again you've got to trust the doctors," Embiid said. "They care about me. It's all about the long-term view." 

The coaching staff is faced with the tricky task of managing Embiid's allotted minutes over a 48-minute span. Brett Brown is considering using up his playing time in the first half instead of spacing it out to have him available in the fourth quarter. 

Embiid estimates if he started the third, as an example, he would be resting for 16 minutes before he got the nod late in the final quarter. He said that is "tough" on both his body and on the coaches. Brown agrees after trying to balance his playing time last season. 

"You think it's smart to save four minutes to end a game with him, but the canyons in between where he just sits there and sits there and then he's got to come in and save the day, I don't know if I like that," Brett Brown said. 

"It's on my mind, do we just spend our money and we'll get you more money the next game and so on, and just play him regularly and grow it from that base versus he sits forever and then he's just got to come in and save the day. Or oops, it goes to overtime and, 'Sorry, you can't play against Memphis in overtime.'"

The Sixers will have to balance the medical staff's minute guidelines with Embiid's intense desire to be on the court and the team's record. They are looking to make a significant push in the win column, and Embiid is the driving force behind that jump.

"I think this is a big year for the whole team and me personally," Embiid said. "I feel like I've got something to prove, too. So I want to be out there with my teammates and win some games."

If it were Embiid's call, he would play until he didn't feel like he could anymore. It's not up to him, though. And so there's just one thing left for him to do.

"Like I always say," he said, "you've got to trust the process."

Banged-up Markelle Fultz is latest chapter in Sixers' painful rookie history

Banged-up Markelle Fultz is latest chapter in Sixers' painful rookie history

CAMDEN, N.J. — Brett Brown has been here before. The scenario isn’t as drastic as in the past, but it’s familiar nonetheless: starting the season with an injured rookie for the fifth straight year.

Markelle Fultz will begin his first NBA season dealing with ongoing right shoulder and right knee soreness. The No. 1 pick is expected to play on opening night Wednesday, but will come off the bench after appearing in only two preseason games. 

Brown has learned to manage this type of situation after years of experience. Nerlens Noel missed Brown’s entire first season because of an ACL injury. Joel Embiid sat out the following two seasons with foot injuries. Ben Simmons suffered a season-ending foot fracture in last year’s training camp. 

The biggest lesson? 

“To go slow,” Brown said. “To not put them in a position where it’s going to produce some difficult times.” 

Fultz was likely to be a starter when the Sixers traded up to draft him first overall in June. The 19-year-old guard hasn’t had that much experience since then thanks to injuries in both summer league and preseason. 

The Sixers face John Wall, Kyrie Irving and Kyle Lowry in the first three games alone. That would be a tall defensive task if Fultz were to start. 

“This league is driven by men, this league is driven by veterans,” Brown said. “To just put him in that environment is just, I think, poor coaching and I’m not doing it.”

Just as Simmons took advice from Embiid during his injury, he is offering words of wisdom to Fultz.

“[You’ve] got to to take your time and you definitely have to take care of your body,” Simmons said. “Put your body first. There’s no need to rush.”

The Sixers have the backcourt depth to adjust without Fultz in the starting lineup. They have been turning to veteran Jerryd Bayless at shooting guard alongside Simmons, their intended backcourt pairing last season. 

In the meantime, Brown will balance Fultz’s health, his growth as an NBA player, and the team’s success. 

“The end game needs to be developing Markelle Fultz," Brown said.