Philadelphia 76ers

How Sixers plan to replace JJ Redick

How Sixers plan to replace JJ Redick

CAMDEN, N.J. — After Sixers’ practice Wednesday, a reporter asked coach Brett Brown, “Are you concerned about the shooting without [JJ Redick] in there?”

Brown responded, “What do you think?”

Clearly, JJ Redick’s left knee injury is a blow for the Sixers (see story). With Redick sidelined, a combination of Jerryd Bayless, Justin Anderson, Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot and possibly the recently acquired James Young will have to fill a huge shooting void. Brown said Bayless will start in Redick’s place.

Brown noted the Sixers' offense won’t change radically, but that the other guards will need to focus on off-ball movement without Redick in the lineup.

“JJ is amongst the league’s elite movers,” Brown said. “We need to move Jerryd more. [Robert Covington] is a little bit ground-bound at times. You’ve all sort of seen our structure enough to know almost what we’re hoping to do. And it’s movement. We don’t have to change anything, we just have to do what we do.

"Historically, [Bayless’] role has been stuck in a corner and spotting up, or loop him up to the top and put him in a rub. We’re trying to do more than that, and I think he can shine in that environment.”

Outside of his shooting, the threat of Redick’s jumper draws defenders away from the lane. His absence may make getting to the basket harder work for Ben Simmons.

“I think everybody just has to step up and fill that role,” Simmons said. “We need scoring. He helps us get a lot of shots by being a great shooter, so we need to work on getting our own shots.”

Redick has made more three-point shots (98) than Bayless, Anderson, and Luwawu-Cabarrot combined (95) this season in 34 fewer attempts. Bayless has shot better as a starter (40.4 percent from three-point range) than when he comes off the bench (35.3 percent).

According to Brown, Bayless’ most productive recent game, on Dec. 30 at Denver, may be a blueprint the team uses moving forward. Bayless scored 14 points on 6 of 10 shooting (2 of 3 from three-point territory) in a 107-102 Sixers’ win. Brown said he made a concerted effort to call plays for Bayless, and that the veteran guard responded by making big shots.

It also seems likely that, without Redick’s 17.3 points per game in the lineup, the Sixers will have to lean more heavily on Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons for scoring. But while those two are always front and center, Redick’s injury means Bayless will shift into the spotlight.

Markelle Fultz still 'hesitant' with his shot

Markelle Fultz still 'hesitant' with his shot

CAMDEN, N.J. — Markelle Fultz was clutch today. No, not in a game situation. But he delivered when Sixers coach Brett Brown ratcheted up the pressure on him.

“Today, six times I put him to the free throw line and say, ‘Hey, Markelle, if you make it, you keep it. If not, it’s the other team’s ball. It’s 92-91.’ And he goes 5 for 6, and he looked good doing it,” Brown said.

Brown explained after practice Wednesday he’s trying to put as much pressure on Fultz’s shot as possible in a practice setting. He said that while he likes what he’s seen from Fultz recently in practice, he doesn’t feel the rookie’s shot is ready for NBA action yet.

“He looks good,” Brown said. “You can see why he was the first player chosen. Stuff he does with the ball, his ability to get into the lane and find people. The hesitancy at times we see with his shot is true, it’s real. He can still impact an NBA game without having to shoot, he really can impact an NBA game without having to shoot.

“And so that doesn’t make him whole, though. It doesn’t make him whole. So finding what that next step is where he can go into an NBA game and feel more whole than he currently does, is the next timeline of, ‘OK, well when does he go play?'”

How “whole” Fultz needs to be to return to action appears to be subjective. One encouraging sign is Fultz’s free throw form, which appears hitch-free. Fultz shot 6 of 12 from the foul line in his four regular season games prior to being shut down, with a bizarre tilt of the head to the left and a long pause right before releasing the ball. Those issues weren’t visible when Fultz shot free throws after practice.

 

However, the Sixers don’t want Fultz back if he’s still hesitant to shoot jumpers, as Brown acknowledged. The Sixers are taking their time with the rookie — Brown confirmed they’re not going to rush his return because of JJ Redick’s left knee injury (see story). Instead, Brown will continue to have Fultz run the point for the second team at practice, and continue to try to coax Fultz into regaining full confidence in his shot.

In other injury news, Richaun Holmes will miss a second straight game Thursday night against Boston with gastroenteritis.

Bad timing for Sixers' only hot shooter to go on shelf

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USA Today Images

Bad timing for Sixers' only hot shooter to go on shelf

Sixers fans got a news update they didn't even know they were supposed to be dreading on Tuesday night, when the team announced that sharpshooting starting guard JJ Redick would be out with "a small cortical crack in the fibular head of his left leg." Redick suffered the injury Monday against the Raptors he will be "re-evaluated in approximately 10 days to two weeks." (This was, of course, preceded by a Woj Firecracker in which he commented that Redick's injury "isn’t serious and he will likely miss only a short window of time," which should inspire some cold sweating over how bad we were supposed to initially be expecting this injury to be.)

To a certain extent, injuries like this are to be expected over the course of the NBA season. It may not feel like it, with Joel Embiid a perpetual DNP risk and Markelle Fultz suffering from jump-shot amnesia, but the Sixers had actually been relatively lucky with health so far this season. Out of a possible 40 games so far, none of Ben Simmons, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, T.J. McConnell or Redick have played fewer than 35, with even Embiid's 31 played feeling slightly miraculous. Someone important from their rotation — no, Justin Anderson doesn't count — was bound to miss a couple weeks with injury. 

But, man, losing Redick right now is gonna hurt. It's not just that he's been scorching lately — though that he undoubtedly has been, averaging 20 a game with a 51/46/94 percent shooting slash line over his last eight, since coming back from a hamstring injury that caused him to miss two contests. It's that while he's been that hot, the rest of the team has gone ice cold. 

Saric was similarly searing from deep at the beginning of 2018, but he's cooled off in the last couple, hitting just 2 of his last 10 triples. Jerryd Bayless has hit multiple threes in only one of his last 10 games. Covington, whose three-point bombing was so furious at season's beginning we started to wonder if Redick was gonna get jealous, has now gone just 31 percent from deep over the same eight-game stretch when Redick has been raining holy Process hellfire. Even McConnell, who never seems to miss when he actually deigns to take a triple, is just one for his last nine from distance. And three-point shooting continues to be the one blight on Embiid's otherwise superlative sophomore season, as he's just 3 for 17 from three so far in 2018. 

With only six players that Brett Brown can really trust right now — maybe seven if you wanna give Amir Johnson the benefit of the doubt — injuries to anyone is devastating to the Sixers' chances to be competitive on a nightly basis. And, as previously harped on here at The 700 Level, the Sixers are currently in the midst of a particularly tough January, which will see them play the Celtics, Bucks (twice), Spurs and Thunder — as well as the much-improved Bulls — over the next two weeks. 

What to do for the Sixers, then, in JJ's absence? Well, we'll certainly see a lot more of Bayless' streaky shooting, and maybe some more minutes for a recovering Anderson. We may also get a first look at the recently-signed wing James Young, who shot 37 percent on 9.4 attempts a game from deep this season in the G-League. And, hopefully, we see some greater offensive aggression from McConnell, who after the Raptors game, essentially owned up to the fact that he has to be willing to take open shots when they're given to him if he wants to be the Sixers' fifth guy down the stretch. 

Of course, it's tempting to wonder if this might not be the perfect circumstances for the return of Fultz to the Sixers' rotation. But such hopes don't seem particularly practical at the moment —Fultz's jumper has obviously not fixed itself overnight (or, uh, over two months), and no one — not even Brown — is pretending there isn't a major problem here. I don't know how or when the Fultz situation will get better, but in the meantime, it's hard to see him returning anytime soon, and even harder to picture him being the cure for what ails the undermanned Sixers if he does. 

Perhaps the biggest worry here, if you're a Sixers fan, is if Redick's injury will end up pushing the Colangelos toward making a short-sighted move to bolster their current depth, a.k.a. the much-feared "panic trade." If the Sixers struggle over their next two weeks — going 2-5, say, and dropping to three or four games out of the playoff picture — it's not impossible that the team will sniff around a quick-fix upgrade on the wings. The good (or bad) thing for the Sixers is there aren't a ton of obvious names that are both available and fit the team's timeline of trying for max cap space this summer — and both Lou Williams and Nikola Mirotic have likely priced themselves out of any cheap deadline dealings with their strong play of late. 

But, hey, while we're on the subject of short-sighted deadline dealings: Boy, could sure use Nik Stauskas right now, huh? Not to say that he's lighting it up since being sent to Brooklyn in December by any means — he hasn't scored more than five points in a game this year for Brooklyn — but he is shooting 47 percent from deep for them in his limited looks, and again, the Sixers thrived a year ago with Sauce as their starting two, even when he wasn't putting up numbers. He'd never be the long-term solution for Philly, but there was always a scenario in which it'd be helpful for the team to have him around in a pinch, and now that theoretical is upon us. (Meanwhile, since scoring 40 combined points in his first three games for the Sixers, Trevor Booker has scored a whopping 38 total in the 12 contests since.) 

Bottom line: This is gonna be a tough couple of weeks coming up for Philly. The good news? No back-to-backs for the Sixers this month, so no games yet where we definitely won't have Embiid or Redick. And if the Sixers can manage to tread water the next few weeks — even going 3-4 would be pretty acceptable — things should get a lot easier for them in February and especially March, when hopefully the team will be closer to whole again. Just have to hope nothing else Woj-worthy happens with the Sixers in the meantime.