76ers

Wroten: Sixers exercising option a 'blessing'

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Wroten: Sixers exercising option a 'blessing'

WASHINGTON -- It’s been a good week for Tony Wroten.

Wednesday night, the second-year player came off the Sixers' bench to score 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting, helping the Sixers to a thrilling win over the Miami Heat in their season opener.

On Thursday night, before the 11:59 p.m. deadline, the Sixers exercised the third-year option on Wroten’s rookie contract.

“It is a blessing,” Wroten said. “I just want to thank the Philadelphia 76ers organization for giving me the opportunity and the extension. It is hard work, but hopefully it is also the first of many.”

Wroten was traded to the Sixers from the Grizzlies this summer for a 2014 second-round pick, protected through the top 50 selections.

Considering a year earlier he was selected 25th overall in the NBA draft, it is understandable why Wroten has strong feelings about being with a team that wants him and is giving him playing time.

“I love the city of Philadelphia and I love my teammates,” Wroten said. “So it was a big deal for me to get the contract extension, and by the grace of God, I am happy.”

Wroten hopes to settle in as head coach Brett Brown’s sixth man and concentrate on giving a consistent effort at both ends of the floor on a nightly basis.

“Now you get to just play basketball and not worry about anything,” Wroten said. “Hard work definitely pays off.”

Circumstances lead to new Sixer, rotation changes

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Circumstances lead to new Sixer, rotation changes

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers' already-shorthanded backcourt will be down another key player against the Bulls.

T.J. McConnell will miss Wednesday’s game to attend his father-in-law's funeral. The Sixers, already down JJ Redick (leg) and Jerryd Bayless (wrist), signed guard Larry Drew II to a 10-day contract Thursday. 

There’s no easy substitution for McConnell, who has averaged 12.6 points, 5.0 assists and 4.2 rebounds off the bench in his last five games. So much of his contributions come from hustle.

“You’re especially going to hear us say that the energy and the sort of spark that he gives needs to be generated as a group through our defense,” Brett Brown said Tuesday. 

Brown plans to play starting point guard Ben Simmons more than his averaged 35.0 minutes. He also intends to utilize Drew, a familiar face who already has played on the Sixers through 10-day contracts and summer league. 

“I respect him,” Brown said of Drew. “He’s good. He’s solid. He’s a true point guard. He was a natural request from my side when these other injuries and circumstances, like T.J. is going through, happened.” 

Drew had been playing in the G League this season, averaging 11.3 points, 7.5 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals for the Heat’s affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce. 

“[Brown] gave me kind of the rundown of what he was expecting from me and I told him he has the man for the job,” Drew said. “Come in, run the team, just be a leader, get guys shots and take open jumpers when you have them. No turnovers, just take care of the ball.” 

Turnovers a hot topic
That last item on Drew’s to-do list was at the forefront of topics for Brown when he addressed the media the day after the Sixers’ 105-101 loss to the Grizzlies (see story). The team committed 10 of its 24 turnovers in the decisive fourth quarter, a number further magnified when those 10 errors led to 20 Grizzlies points. 

“We can say let’s just dribble it up the floor, post Jo (Joel Embiid), and I bet we reduce our turnovers,” Brown said. “Or you can say, we play with a pace, we play with a speed, we lead the NBA in passes, we’re amongst the elite in assists, we like the style of play. But it needs to be filtered, it needs to tempered. All those things end up my answer to where we’re feeling some pain.”

Brown said the players have to “own” their turnovers. Embiid (4.2) and Simmons (4.0) lead the team in that category. Brown noted it is his job as the coach to keep emphasizing it game after game. The Sixers rank worst in the NBA with 17.6 turnovers per game. 

“I don’t want to overreact to Memphis,” Brown said. “I’m not discounting it. It’s not in my bucket of, ‘Oh, there’s 82 games.' It isn’t that. It’s a stinky loss. It’s a poor loss. But we’re going to move on.”

Injury update
James Young (gastroenteritis) is questionable Wednesday against the Bulls.

Cousins posts historic triple-double in double-overtime win

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Cousins posts historic triple-double in double-overtime win

NEW ORLEANS — DeMarcus Cousins had 44 points, 24 rebounds and 10 assists, Anthony Davis scored 34 points, and the All-Star pair led a 17-point New Orleans comeback in the final five minutes of regulation before the Pelicans pulled out a 132-128 victory over the Chicago Bulls in double overtime Monday night.

Cousins scored seven points in the second overtime on a 3-pointer, a turnaround jumper and two free throws with 8.2 seconds left. He became the first NBA player since Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1972 to have as many as 40 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists in a game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

E'Twaun Moore scored 15 points, including a 3 in the second overtime to help the Pelicans win for the fifth time in six games.

Jerian Grant had 22 points and 13 assists, and Robin Lopez also scored 22 for the Bulls, who appeared well on their way to their fifth victory in six games when they opened the fourth quarter with a 23-5 run to take their largest lead at 104-86.

Chicago still led by 17 when Bobby Portis hit a pair of free throws with 5:06 left in the fourth quarter. But Cousins and Davis led New Orleans back with a stunning 21-2 run. Jrue Holiday tied it at 110 on a 3 with 46 seconds left, and Davis briefly gave New Orleans the lead with an alley-oop dunk of Holiday's lob (see full recap).

Murray's 38 points lead Nuggets over Trail Blazers
DENVER — Jamal Murray scored a career-high 38 points, including a three-point play in the final minute, and the Denver Nuggets beat the Portland Trail Blazers 104-101 on Monday night.

Nikola Jokic had 16 points and 12 rebounds, and Will Barton hit four free throws in the final 10 seconds to secure the win and spoil Jusuf Nurkic's return to Denver.

Nurkic had 19 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks in his first game back at Pepsi Center. Damian Lillard had 25 points and seven assists for Portland.

Nurkic played two-plus seasons with the Nuggets to begin his career, and was playing his first game in Denver since he was dealt to Portland last season. He received a smattering of boos when he was introduced as a starter and a few during the game (see full recap).

Bucks beat Suns hours after firing Kidd
MILWAUKEE — Khris Middleton spent three-plus years under Jason Kidd's tutelage, blossoming into a dangerous scorer with the Milwaukee Bucks.

He showed off what he learned in the Bucks' first game without Kidd.

Middleton scored 35 points, Malcolm Brogdon added a career-high 32 and Milwaukee beat the Phoenix Suns 109-105 on Monday night hours after firing Kidd.

"It's tough for me," Middleton said. "He took my game to another level. He took this team to a whole other level. Today was a tough day."

Assistant Joe Prunty was promoted to replace Kidd for the rest of the year. After a slow start, the Bucks heeded the new coach's call to focus (see full recap).

Rockets come back to top Heat
HOUSTON — Chris Paul wasn't thrilled with how the Houston Rockets played Monday night.

The veteran was perfectly happy with the outcome though.

James Harden scored 28 points and the Rockets overcame a big early deficit to beat the Miami Heat 99-90.

"You have those games during the season where (you) win the game and move on ... out of 82 of them sometimes it's going to be ugly, but you just want to win," Paul said.

Miami led by double digits before halftime, but the game stayed close throughout most of the second half. It was tied with about three minutes left when Harden hit a 3-pointer just before the shot clock expired. That was the start of a 7-2 run that made it 95-90 with 38 seconds left (see full recap).