76ers

Charles Barkley has a bold prediction for the Sixers this season

Charles Barkley has a bold prediction for the Sixers this season

The Sixers' schedule came out Monday and it’s clear the NBA is showing the team a lot of respect.

The Sixers are going to be heavily featured on national TV throughout the season and have a marquee matchup on Christmas Day with the Bucks.

But there may not be anyone showing the team as much respect as former Sixers great Charles Barkley.

As a guest on NBA TV’s schedule release show, the always bold Sir Charles wasn’t shy about the expectations he has for his former team.

I’m going out on a limb right now, I’m riding and dying with the Philadelphia 76ers. I know it’s going to be a great battle between them and the Milwaukee Bucks all year. But I love Philadelphia. I love Al Horford, Josh Richardson. Milwaukee losing [Malcolm] Brogdon, I think that’s a big deal. But I think it’s a two-team race in the Eastern Conference between the 76ers and the Milwaukee Bucks. I can’t wait until they play each other head to head.

When pressed for a guarantee, Barkley didn’t hesitate.

I guarantee you the Philadelphia 76ers are going to win the Eastern Conference.

You could construe this as a former player building up his former team, but Barkley hasn’t been afraid to be critical of the Sixers in the past. He’s also pretty spot on in assessing the East. The Sixers and Bucks look poised to be the top teams.

Now that the schedule is out, we know the teams will square off in Philly on Christmas Day and April 20, and in Milwaukee on Feb. 6 and 22.

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Watch as Al Horford's shooting form blows Steph Curry's mind

Watch as Al Horford's shooting form blows Steph Curry's mind

Steph Curry is widely considered one of the greatest shooters in NBA history, with a silky jump shot that hoopers all over have tried desperately to imitate.

But Curry, of course, has been hurt for the majority of this season, which means he's spent a lot of time watching other players shoot. On Tuesday night, Curry got an up-close look at Sixers big man Al Horford's... unorthodox shooting form, and the Splash Brother was not sure how to react:

Curry's Warriors teammate Jordan Poole also seemed perplexed by Horford's release, and the NBC Sports Bay Area crew picked up on Curry's confusion.

To be fair to Curry and Poole, Horford's shot is indeed extremely bizarre. And because Curry and Horford play in different conferences, and play vastly different positions, the two haven't spent much time studying each other's shots in detail.

Horford effectively claw-grips the basketball, with his guide hand somehow in front of the ball instead of to the side. You can see in the video why Curry, whose shot when un-rushed is buttery perfection, struggled to make sense of the mechanics on this shot. It's super weird!

And yet, for its quirks, Horford's shot is surprisingly effective, especially for an NBA big man. He's having a bit of a down year, but Horford is still shooting better than 32% from deep and better than 70% from the free throw line, and his shot showed up in a big way in the fourth quarter of the Sixers' gutsy home win over the Lakers.

Maybe one day, when Curry is bored from effortlessly draining shots, he'll give Horford's form a try in a game. You know, for science.

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Sixers' game vs. Warriors was all about Kobe Bryant

Sixers' game vs. Warriors was all about Kobe Bryant

The floor was the same and the warmup routines were unaltered, but, as the Sixers prepared to play the Warriors Tuesday, it didn’t feel like a typical game night at Wells Fargo Center.

It clearly wasn’t, after the tragic deaths Sunday of Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash.

Sixers player development specialist Roy Hibbert and Warriors guard D’Angelo Russell, former teammates of Bryant’s, talked at half court.

Stephen Curry tapped Joel Embiid on the back to briefly interrupt his warmup and share a few words. 

Before tip-off, the Sixers paid tribute to Bryant and the other victims of the accident in several ways, including through players wearing No. 8 and No. 24 warmup uniforms, and by spotlighting Bryant’s framed No. 33 Lower Merion High School jersey.

The game began with the Sixers taking an eight-second violation, followed by the Warriors taking a 24-second violation. 

Embiid wore No. 24 to honor Bryant after clearing the move with Hall of Fame forward Bobby Jones — the Sixers retired 24 in Jones' honor in 1986. Zhaire Smith sported No. 7 instead of his usual No. 8.

Business eventually resumed, in a way.

“There really isn’t a message that I’m going to purposefully convey,” Brett Brown said pregame. “I’m coming into tonight to win. I think that’s probably the greatest, in my opinion, tribute you can pay to such an amazing competitor. I’m going to coach with that spirit. I’m not going to reference it. 

“We had a great day yesterday and we talked freely amongst our team. Everybody spoke. I think that everybody from that point will handle this tragedy in a personal way and I truly don’t think it’s my place anymore to determine what that is for individual players.” 

The Sixers won the game, 115-104, to move to 31-17. Embiid played after a nine-game absence because of a torn ligament in the ring finger on left hand, and he had 24 points and 10 rebounds.

Those and other details feel very much secondary, but below are a few further notes from the game:

Embiid’s night 

Embiid looked like himself — an All-Star starter for the third straight year — and didn’t appear hampered by the wrapping on his hand.

He seemed to run the floor pretty well and didn’t have any discernible conditioning issues, which is encouraging. Conditioning was a logical emphasis for Embiid during the time he was sidelined. 

Neto gets hot 

Backup point guard Raul Neto caught fire in the first half, scoring 19 points. His career-high is 22, while his previous high as a Sixer had been 13. 

Neto’s run gave Brown a chance to give Ben Simmons a little rest. Simmons had averaged 39.5 minutes per game during Embiid’s absence, carrying a heavy load for the Sixers. He only played 8:34 in the first half Tuesday. 

Smith looks solid, Milton impressive

Smith got hurt in his first NBA action of the season Saturday against the Lakers, spraining his left ankle.

The 20-year-old returned vs. the Warriors and acquitted himself reasonably well. He played 9:36 and scored the first NBA points of his second professional year on a dunk.

Another young player, 23-year-old Shake Milton, also had a positive performance. Milton started for the second straight game in place of Josh Richardson (left hamstring strain) and had 11 points (5 of 6 shooting). He’s gelled well with Simmons and did a nice job of picking his spots to attack. 

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