As we've reiterated repeatedly here at The700Level, Dario Saric has given Sixers fans more than we ever could've reasonably asked for in his rookie season. Just coming over in the first place was miracle enough, but the fact that he broke through his rookie adjustment period to put this team on his back when Joel Embiid got injured, and actually kept this team competitive and watchable for months afterwards, was just more of a blessing than we could hope to repay him for. But there's one way the Sixers could certainly begin to pay him back: By shutting him down for the remainder of the season.
Not that he necessarily needs it, and certainly not that he wants it. Dario undoubtedly yearns to stay out there, to be the only 76er to play all 82 games this season, to help this team get to 30 wins for the first time since Eisenhower was in the White House. But the evidence seems to suggest that The Homie rapidly running out of gas as the season nears its close. He's hit just six of his last 28 three-point attempts, looking like his legs are largely gone. After his 5-18 shooting night against Atlanta last Wednesday, he openly admitted his late-season exhaustion. ("I was tired.... so many games.") And yesterday, he was held to a 24-minute "guideline" due to heel soreness.
How many more warning signs do we need before Dario is officially put behind protective glass for the rest of the season? I want to see the Sixers get that 30th win as much as anybody, and I certainly don't want to see any late-season slump or benching end up tipping the Rookie of the Year vote in favor of Malcolm friggin' Brogdon. But considering Dario's body is seeming pretty vulnerable these days and that this team passes around meniscus tears like a bag of Doritos, I'd say the priority at this point should just be getting Saric out of this season alive. He probably already has four undiagnosed maladies that should be season-ending, why risk adding more at this point?
Let's shut him down and park him on the bench next to Joel, Jahlil, Ben, RoCo and (until demonstrated otherwise) Sergio for the season's remainder. Call it tanking if you must, though understand that the Lakers and Suns have basically been pulling vets since the All-Star Break, and we couldn't out-tank them if we sent the Sevens roster to the rest of the Sixers' games for our final five games of the season. Whatever: Let's just let Alex Poythress, Shawn Long and Tiago Splitter play 40 minutes a night for the rest of the year at this point, then give 'em each a gold watch and send 'em to Process Retirement. Bet we still find a way to win two more games with them, anyway.
Well, what a fun trip down memory lane that was. Just as they have seemingly spent much of the past four years doing, the Philadelphia 76ers traveled to Toronto last night on the second night of a back-to-back -- without Joel Embiid, natch -- and got minced. The Sixers got outpaced 36-19 in the first quarter and never recovered, eventually falling by a score of 128-94.
It was another game where the things our rookies were good at, they were really good at, but the other stuff killed us. Ben Simmons ended with an impressive 18-10-8 -- even hitting a couple quasi-jumpers in the process -- but the way that the Raptors were able to shrink the floor against him and his ultra-limited range more or less strangled our half-court offense. The Sixers were -20 with him on the floor, and the cramped spacing partly led to a down night for our normally reliable shooters. (Robert Covington and J.J. Redick -- the former plagued by foul trouble -- couldn't even get their shots off, going a combined 1-3 from deep.)
And Markelle Fultz's presence only exacerbated things, as he kept refusing to shoot from the perimeter, driving no matter how open he was. He made some nice plays and got to the line eight times, but his increasingly miserable FT form -- he shot the last one seemingly one-handed, with his other arm blocking his eyes -- shows why that's about all he's capable of at the moment. As suggested by Spike Eskin on a recent Rights to Ricky Sanchez pod, shutting him down until he can relearn how to shoot might be the move for our No. 1 overall pick at this point. He's not helping himself or the team playing like this at the moment.
Of course, the biggest reason for the drubbing was the lack of Embiid. The team has no one to really hold down the middle without him at the moment -- Amir Johnson is our most reliable backup but he's something of a black hole on offense at the moment, and Jahlil Okafor (who got his first game action of the season) is still brutal when it comes to defensive decision-making. The team actually might look best at the moment sans Embiid with Simmons at the five, though that's not sustainable for long periods, especially when DeMar DeRozan is carving up our defense for 30 points on 8-12 (!!) shooting.
Terrible throwback performance by the Sixers, and given that it's their third loss in a row to start the season, it may lead to a lot of understandable Same Old Sixers chatter. But don't forget how good that opening-night performance was against the Wizards, how much of the game against Boston we were leading for, and how tough a three-game stretch to start the season this was in general. I thought we'd go 0-3 and we went 0-3 -- next up is the Pistons on Monday, and in the couple weeks that follow, we play the Mavs, Hawks and Pacers. We wont' be winless for long -- though the sooner we can put one in the W column and avoid this team getting stuck in a peak-Process vortex, the better.
Apparently, Kyrie Irving doesn't want to talk about LeBron James.
During the Celtics' win over the Sixers on Friday, a fan asked Irving, "Where's LeBron?"
Irving's response ... NSFW ...
WARNING: The video contains offensive language. But if that kind of thing doesn't bother you, you can watch it here.
Irving was asked about the incident by reporters Saturday.
So what he's basically saying is "sorry, not sorry."
With the video circulating on social media, expect Irving to hear from the league.