76ers

Sixers need group effort to fix defensive woes

slideshow-sixers-hawes-young-uspresswire.jpg

Sixers need group effort to fix defensive woes

The Sixers’ defense is broken and certainly needs fixing.

The Sixers are one of 16 NBA teams that allow at least 100 points per game. They actually give up 110.1 points per game, which is the highest in the league.

“We turn it over a lot and they run at us,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. “We take quick, bad shots and they run at us. And a lot of our transition defense problems are coming from turnovers and quick, bad shots because we are so adamant at playing at a speed.

“But somewhere down the road there has to be a responsibility to play that style of play.”

The Sixers commit 17.8 turnovers per game, second-worst in the league to only the Houston Rockets.

Pushing the pace lends to committing turnovers, which has been testing the Sixers’ transition defense. Add to the fact that the Sixers do not have a defensive specialist like an Andre Iguodala and therefore their defensive success must be rooted in all five guys being in sync at all times.

“Usually, that one guy dictates a lot of things that goes on defensively,” Thaddeus Young said. “We all know ‘Dre was the guy who was going to go out and stop guys. We don’t have that one guy, so different guys have to step up each night.”

“Nobody stands out and says, ‘I am a consideration for an all-defensive team,’” Brown said. “It highlights that we need a group effort. It’s not like we have shot blockers or a perimeter stopper. Anything we do has to be done as a group and done perfectly.”

Brown could opt for his team playing a more deliberate style of basketball. That could cut down on mistakes, as well as the easy baskets being scored by the opposition.

However, that is not going to happen. Brown wants his team to play fast and score plenty of points. That hasn’t been a problem with the Sixers leading the NBA in pace (102.8 possessions per 48 minutes) and ninth in scoring (103.0 points per game).

The key is to take their minus-7.1 point differential and push that into the positive range.

“I want to persevere with this style and this way of playing,” Brown said. “Because we have seen with the group that we have and the talent base and the experience we are not going to beat those teams we have beaten playing any other way.

“I just want to coach it better. I don’t want to say now we are playing on our heels and we don’t want to run anymore because it comes with too many problems, which it does at the moment.”

Brown believes down the road his team will figure out how to blend playing an up-tempo style without being reckless.

Brown did make one tweak Sunday that he is going to stick with, at least in the short term, and that is playing rookie Hollis Thompson in the starting lineup.

“We want to sell defense, and I like his length,” Brown said of Thompson. “It is a rotation at this stage that I want to experiment with. That’s what this year is about and I see it being something we want to continue looking at.”

Winless Suns fire head coach Earl Watson

usa-earl-watson-suns-fired.jpg
USA Today Images

Winless Suns fire head coach Earl Watson

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns have fired coach Earl Watson just three games in to the NBA season.

The Suns announced the firing Sunday night after hours of meetings at the team's headquarters.

Assistant coach Jay Triano, a former head coach of the Toronto Raptors, was named interim coach. Triano was an assistant at Portland before coming to Phoenix last year.

Watson was promoted from assistant to interim coach of the Suns after Jeff Hornacek was fired Feb. 1, 2016. The interim tag was removed on April 19 of that year. With an extremely young team, the Suns struggled under Watson. He compiled a 33-85 record. Watson's only full season was 2016-17, when the team went 24-58.

The 38-year-old Watson played collegiately at UCLA and in the NBA for 10 seasons. He often spoke of his long talks with John Wooden, emphasized togetherness and a family atmosphere to nurture the young squad but wins were hard to come by.

And owner Robert Sarver apparently didn't like what he saw. Phoenix is 0-3 and two of the losses were especially ugly. The Suns were blown out 124-76 by the Portland in their season opener Wednesday night, the most one-sided loss in franchise history and the most one-sided season opener for any NBA team.

Phoenix was routed by the Clippers in Los Angeles 130-88 on Saturday night.

"I Dont wanna be here," point guard Eric Bledsoe tweeted Sunday, just as the news of Watson's firing surfaced in an ESPN report. The tweet by Bledsoe, a former Clipper, was followed by one from the Clippers' DeAndre Jordan saying "Come back home bro."

Bledsoe has been rumored in possible trades for months.

Watson's dismissal is the first NBA coaching change in well over a year. Hornacek's hiring by the New York Knicks, which was finalized in June 2016, had been the most recent change -- and the irony there is that Watson got the job in Phoenix with 33 games left in the 2015-16 season, after the Suns fired Hornacek.

Watson was the league's second-youngest active coach behind the Lakers' Luke Walton, and the Suns were tied with the Chicago Bulls as having the youngest opening-night roster in the NBA this season.

"I'd like to see the fight be a little bit more," Watson said after the blowout loss to the Clippers. "Or a lot more, until you know they're just fatigued."

The Suns came into this season with only four losses by 40 or more points in franchise history. They've had two in the first three games of this season. Phoenix has not made the playoffs in seven years, the longest drought in the franchise's 49-year history.

Watson was the 17th Suns coach in the franchise's history.

This was the first NBA season where every coach who started one year had the same job to begin the next.

Kyrie Irving fined $25,000 for inappropriate comments toward fan during Sixers game

ap-kyrie-irving-celtics-sixers.jpg
AP Images

Kyrie Irving fined $25,000 for inappropriate comments toward fan during Sixers game

NEW YORK — The NBA has fined Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving $25,000 for responding to a fan with inappropriate language.

Kiki VanDeWeghe, the NBA' executive vice president of basketball operations, announced the fine Sunday.

Irving spoke to a fan at halftime of Boston's 102-92 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night (see story). 

The NBA fined Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins $25,000 for language he used toward a fan late in a loss to Memphis on Wednesday night in the season opener.