Do Sixers stars have an effort problem? One former NBA vet says yes

Do Sixers stars have an effort problem? One former NBA vet says yes

The Sixers' season has not exactly gone as planned.

Touted as likely title contenders back in October, the Sixers have been stuck at No. 6 in the Eastern Conference for some time, and with 32 games left in the regular season, it's fair to call this a disappointing campaign.

Have there been injuries? Yep. Does the team's roster construction handicap its best players? Indeed. Is the Eastern Conference surprisingly deep this year? You bet. 

But there's plenty of blame to go around, and former NBA champion Brian Scalabrine said Monday he thinks the team is struggling in part because of the effort put forth by the Sixers' two best players.

On a new episode of Scalabrine's "Scal and Pals" podcast, the former Boston Celtic and current analyst with Radio.com and NBC Sports Boston, took Simmons and Embiid to task for their performance in Saturday's drubbing against the Cs, and their performance this year in general. He did not hold back:

My problem is, because my experience is having to do everything to the greatest intent, because if I didn't I wouldn't have made it, right? I don't know what it's like to go play a game and not give a f---. I don't. I just don't. I don't understand. 

But Ben Simmons? He doesn't care. Sometimes he makes moves, he goes to the basket, he's laying it up, turning a corner, dunking off the wrong hand, going off the wrong foot, doing all these things. But sometimes, he's out there not impacting winning whatsoever. Embiid, it's the same thing, when they pick and choose when they wanna be great. But I don't know why they pick and choose certain times, and other times they don't. I don't get it. 

You lose to Atlanta, then why not just bring it — it's a nationally televised game, and you guys just lay an egg, and it doesn't look like you care at all. So, I'm with you — I'll never quit on the Sixers. But I don't understand the internal drive and motivation from both those guys.

That's definitely a take!

Scalabrine isn't exactly LeBron James, but he's a former NBA mainstay who enjoyed a 12-year career. Say what you want about his game, but the guy certainly understands what it takes to play in the league. 

And while the Celtics game itself might be an odd focus, with Embiid recently returning from injury and Simmons having another in a recent string of excellent games, there have been recurring worries about the stars' effort and buy-in over the years, both internal and external. Embiid responded earlier to call-outs from Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal over his effort. Simmons has been dinged for refusing to expand his game. 

They're both headed to the NBA All-Star Game later this month, but Scalabrine might theoretically be on to something: are Simmons and Embiid reaching their full potentials? Or are they existing off their given talents? Because this Sixers team should be better than it currently is, and yet here we are. 

The rest of this season will give both young stars a chance to re-write the narrative.

More on the Sixers

Matisse Thybulle is a much better defender in real life than in NBA2K


Matisse Thybulle is a much better defender in real life than in NBA2K

Matisse Thybulle is known for his defense in real life. In NBA2K, that is definitely not the case.

With the NBA season suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak, Thybulle and the Suns’ Mikal Bridges played each other in 2K on Friday night and streamed the action on Twitch.

Though Thybulle gave Bridges a little bit of a scare with a big third quarter, the virtual Suns beat the virtual Sixers, 75-64. 

While the intensity obviously didn’t compare to a typical game night at Wells Fargo Center, both Thybulle and Bridges — a Villanova product and a Sixer for about 20 minutes before a draft-night trade two years ago — were very into it.

Thyulle decided to sub himself into the game after just 28 seconds, and Bridges did the same 30 seconds later. 

“Which one’s shoot again?,” he asked. “Square?” 

As his team fell behind, Thybulle had some stern words for his players.

“Al, you’re better than that,” he said when Al Horford bit on a pump fake. “You’ve been in the league too long to be making those mistakes.” 

When Ben Simmons had a floater blocked, Thybulle wasn’t thrilled. 

“Ben, you’re 7-foot,” he said. “Just dunk it.” 

And a Mike Scott lay-up early in the third wasn’t what Thybulle was hoping to see. 

At one point, he tried begging for mercy from Bridges.

“Stop running pick-and-roll, I don’t know how to guard it,” he said. “Please. Come on, man.” 

Unfortunately for Thybulle, Bridges did not stop and the rookie left with a loss, albeit an entertaining one.

“I apologize to the Sixers, to my family, my friends, the people of Philadelphia,” he said. “This is not acceptable.” 

After personally finishing with no points on 0 for 3 shooting, Thybulle promised he'll be practicing.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

Josh Richardson bests Devin Booker in Sixers' NBA2K simulation win over Suns

Josh Richardson bests Devin Booker in Sixers' NBA2K simulation win over Suns

Even in a video game, the Sixers’ dominance at home continues.

Thanks to some stifling fourth-quarter defense, the Sixers took down the Suns, 76-62, in a simulation on NBA2K Friday.

Led by Josh Richardson and Al Horford, the Sixers went on a 13-4 run in the final period to seal the victory.

Here are observations from the virtual win:

J-Rich outduels Booker

Richardson was given the defensive assignment of trying to contain the high-scoring Devin Booker. Booker, who hung 40 on the Sixers in a real-life game in Phoenix back in November, got off to a hot start.

But so did Richardson.

The difference was the fourth quarter where Booker appeared to be laboring … at least that’s what the little Gatorade cup that popped up next to him would indicate.

It was Richardson’s strip on a Booker drive and lay in on the other end that sparked the Sixers’ fourth quarter run and helped put the game out of reach.

While Booker posted a game-high 27, he wasn’t very efficient, going 10 of 24 from the field. Richardson, on the other hand, had a team-high 22 points on 8 of 12 from the field and 3 of 3 from three. He also added four assists and two steals.

Embiid quiet offensively

If the Sixers deployed the offensive strategy in real life that they did in this sim, Brett Brown would have a lot of explaining to do.

The Sixers never really looked for Joel Embiid in the post until late in the game, where the All-Star center provided two big buckets. He only scored 10 points, but pulled in 15 rebounds and challenged a ton of shots at the rim.

Embiid’s speed rating must be like a 10 because he had trouble getting back on defense all night. There was also a moment where 2K color analyst Greg Anthony compared Phoenix’s DeAndre Ayton to Embiid … which certainly is a take.

Horford and Harris solid

Al Horford pounded the Suns’ bigs early, make 4 of his 5 shots from the field. He cooled off a little in the third, but buried a hook shot over former teammate Aron Baynes to extend the Sixers’ lead to seven before the period ended.

It was on the defensive end down the stretch where Horford shined in this one. He came up with a big steal and rumbled down the other end for a layup to give the Sixers’ their first double-digit lead. A couple possessions later he came up with a big block on Ayton which led to an Embiid bucket on the other end to put the Sixers up 12. Horford finished with 16 points, seven rebounds and two blocks.

Harris scuffled early and wasn’t really aggressive and looking to score. In the second half, he started cutting to the basket and looking for shots around the rim. He ended up with 16 points on 6 of 11. He also came up with two on-ball blocks after being switched onto Booker.

Sorry, Dario

Former Sixer and fan favorite Dario Saric had a tough night dealing with his former mates. Going up against the likes of Embiid and Horford, Saric scored just two points in 17 minutes.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers