76ers

Circumstances lead to new Sixer, rotation changes

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.

Sixers rookies Landry Shamet, Shake Milton receive good (!) injury news

Sixers rookies Landry Shamet, Shake Milton receive good (!) injury news

Finally, some good health news, Sixers fans.

While Zhaire Smith continues an unfortunate trend of Sixers’ rookies suffering injuries, two other 2018 draft picks are progressing.

First-round pick Landry Shamet (sprained right ankle) and second-round pick Shake Milton (stress fracture in his back) are both asymptomatic, the team said Monday.

Shamet has been cleared for “light basketball activities” while Milton can “resume limited basketball activities.”

Shamet, a guard out of Wichita State, got banged up in the first half of the Sixers’ first summer league game against the Celtics. Shamet logged just 12 minutes before suffering the ankle sprain. He hit 2 of 5 from three for six points during the stint.

Milton never got the opportunity to play in summer league having suffered his injury during the pre-draft process. The 6-foot-6 guard/forward out of SMU is on a two-way contract with the Sixers, meaning he’ll spend the majority of his season with the Delaware Blue Coats and can spend no more 45 days with the big club.

Smith, the 16th overall pick acquired in a draft-night trade with the Suns, suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot and underwent successful surgery last week. There’s been no timetable for his return.

Both Shamet and Milton offer something the Sixers covet: shooting. Shamet shot 44 percent on 5.1 threes a game in 71 games. Milton was also proficient, shooting 43 percent on 5.1 attempts from distance in 87 games.

The Sixers’ rotation should be a tough one to crack this season, but being healthy for camp would be a fine start for Shamet and Milton.

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Despite Jamal Crawford's praise, Sixers should be wary of signing veteran free agent

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Despite Jamal Crawford's praise, Sixers should be wary of signing veteran free agent

Despite coming up empty in their goal of star hunting this summer, the Sixers are still currently one of the more desirable franchises in the NBA.

They reached the second round of the playoffs last season behind two up-and-coming stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Plus, the organization has a respected head coach in Brett Brown, state-of-the-art training complex, an intense fan base and much more to offer.

At least that’s how free-agent scorer Jamal Crawford views things.

“I like their city. I like how into it they are about basketball. I like their knowledge of basketball, how passionate they are,” Crawford said of Philadelphia last week to Brandon Robinson on Scoop B Radio. “I’ve always loved coach Brett Brown. I’ve been on record. I’ve been a fan of his for years. He just needed talent, and now he has that. He added Ben Simmons, I love his game. I love Jo-Jo. They’re both among my favorite players in the league to watch. Markelle (Fultz) is like a little brother to me. Obviously, he went to the University of Washington, and we talk every other day. JJ Redick is like a brother to me. We’ve been through wars together, so there’s so many things to love about Philadelphia for sure.”

That’s high praise from a three-time Sixth Man of the Year winner. High enough to the point that he would want to suit up for the Sixers?

“I think for me, especially being out there as a free agent, something could work out,” Crawford said. “I would be honored to play there, but things obviously have to take its course and I kind of got to sit back, but who wouldn’t want to play there?”

Well, that cleared things up. 

Now the Sixers, in a new position with players openly offering their services to them, have to be clear too: Crawford isn’t the answer.

No, not “The Answer” although Crawford does have some legendary crossover moves of his own. The 18-year veteran simply isn’t the right fit for this Sixers squad.

For all of Crawford’s accomplishments over nearly two decades in the NBA, the 38-year-old has been on a steady decline. His scoring has dropped in each of the past five years until he posted 10.3 points a night last season with Minnesota, his lowest mark since he averaged 10.7 a night way back in 2002-03.

While Crawford attributed his struggles with the Timberwolves to limited minutes, that doesn’t have anything to do with his efficiency or lack thereof. Crawford shot 41.5 percent from the field and 33.1 percent from three-point range in 2017-18. Those numbers aren’t outliers either as he has career averages of 41.0 percent field goal shooting and 34.9 percent three-point shooting.

And it’s not just the scoring itself. It’s also how Crawford scores the ball. Even though he received only 20.7 minutes per game with the T-Wolves, Crawford was 13th in the entire league in isolation frequency with 19.8 percent of his possessions coming in a one-on-one setting. For comparison, Simmons was the highest Sixer in isolation frequency at 9.0 percent (87th in the NBA).

It’s understandable the Sixers might be still be looking to replace the veteran scoring off the bench lost by the departures of Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova, but Crawford’s game doesn’t exactly scream the pace-and-space mantra preached by the club.

That just shows how Crawford isn’t an ideal fit offensively. We won’t even get into the defensive end of the court (*cough* Crawford had a defensive rating of 112.9 last season, which means opponents averaged that many points per 100 possessions he was on the floor, good enough for 490th out of 523 total players *cough*).

Crawford does still have a place in the league. He’s a volume scorer that can potentially get hot on any given night and pour in 30 points. He’s also great in the locker room, a reason he took home Teammate of the Year award in '17-18.

But with the above signs of decline as well as T.J. McConnell and a rejuvenated Markelle Fultz penciled in as the Sixers’ reserve backcourt, there might not be the opportunity in Philadelphia that Crawford is seeking out.

Part of the Sixers now being desired is having the power in their hands. This might be a perfect time to use that to their advantage and ignore Crawford’s interest.

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