76ers

Elton Brand talks Markelle Fultz, Zhaire Smith, potential additions, more

Elton Brand talks Markelle Fultz, Zhaire Smith, potential additions, more

You have to give Elton Brand credit. The Sixers general manager has already been more accountable than either of the team’s two previous GMs.

He’s a regular fixture at games and spoke with the media before Saturday night’s win over the Raptors.

Brand gave a medical update, talked about the team’s search for more talent and the expectations going forward.

Update on Markelle Fultz, Zhaire Smith

Really there was good news and kind of no news here.

Smith, acquired in a draft-night trade with the Suns, suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot back in August. He then had an allergic reaction in September that required a thoracoscopy. Because of complications, Smith lost a significant amount of weight.

He’s finally been able to get back on the court though on a limited basis.

"Zhaire has been in the gym every morning, early in the morning, sometimes 5 a.m., shooting,” Brand said. “He's in good spirits. He'll have another test on his foot after the holiday. But we expect to see him back this season."

As Brett Brown alluded to Wednesday night, the Sixers could definitely use another capable perimeter defender. The hope is Smith can provide that once healthy.

With Fultz, there wasn’t really anything new to report. He’s in L.A. undergoing rehab for thoracic outlet syndrome with physical therapist Judy Seto. He’s not doing any basketball activities at this time.

The only interesting thing to note is that Brand was noncommittal when asked if Fultz would play again this season. Brand also said he’ll have another update on Fultz after Christmas.

Both Fultz and Smith will be with the team in Boston Christmas day.

Where can the team improve?

Brand wasn’t shy in saying that he’s looking for ways to improve his roster. He acknowledged that he’s looking into the trade and buyout markets.

He also mentioned the G League as a possible resource, with senior VP of player personnel Marc Eversley and assistant GM Ned Cohen just returning from the G League Showcase in Las Vegas. It’s easy to scoff at the notion of a player from that level making an impact for a title contender, but it’s not crazy.

Brand singled out Haywood Highsmith and Norvel Pelle as two players already in Delaware to keep an eye on. 

Highsmith, a product of D-II Wheeling Jesuit Academy, has been playing extremely well for the Blue Coats — especially recently. He’s a great athlete, has ideal size (6-foot-7) and is shooting 39 percent from three. The Sixers recently had him in for a workout.

Pelle is an intriguing player. He was a highly-touted prospect coming out of high school but had academic eligibility issues at St. John’s and then Iona. He decided to turn pro but went undrafted. He’s been spending time overseas and in the G League. He’s a tremendous athlete and the Sixers could use an athletic five to rim run and back up Joel Embiid.

Can either player help the Sixers? You never know.

Expectations for the season

Since Brand pulled the trigger on a trade for four-time All-Star Jimmy Butler, the expectations have heightened. With that said, Brand has been quick to temper those expectations but acknowledges them.

He wants what the fans want.

“I’m confident, I’m encouraged that we will be right there with these elite teams when it counts in April, May and hopefully June,” Brand said. “We want to win. We want to win big. I don’t want to let this city and the fans down.”

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Joel Embiid says series vs. Nets is 'over' after Game 4 win

Joel Embiid says series vs. Nets is 'over' after Game 4 win

Don't expect a Warriors-type collapse from the Sixers, according to Joel Embiid.

After making a joke about that possibility after a dramatic Game 4 win at Barclays Center, Embiid was caught stopping at Shake Shack for his postgame meal. 

Like the gentleman in the video asks roughly 9345298570235 times: Is it over?

Well, none of this should come as a surprise. Embiid, who's been dealing with left knee soreness that caused him to miss Game 3, has been physically imposing his will in the games he has played and has now laughed(!) at two postgame press conferences. He's clearly ruffled the Nets' feathers, causing Jared Dudley to charge at him and Brooklyn's GM to burst into the referees locker room postgame.

He's probably right. But you probably don't want to give the Nets any extra fuel for Game 5, but the Sixers have given them plenty throughout the series and here we are at 3-1.

The Sixers are the villains and they don't seem to care. In fact, it seems to be galvanizing them.

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Sixers fans should play the villain and boo Jared Dudley relentlessly in Game 5

Sixers fans should play the villain and boo Jared Dudley relentlessly in Game 5

Joel Embiid may have called Jared Dudley “a nobody” after this past weekend’s Sixers win against the Nets, but he’s certainly somebody to Philly fans. He’s the latest embodiment of all the city’s frustrations. My student loan debt? Jared Dudley’s fault. My 2004 Ford Explorer not starting once per month? Also his fault.

Dudley, who looks more like the Pillsbury Dough Boy than an NBA combo forward, played his role perfectly on Saturday: he instigated a fight and got one of the Sixers star players in Jimmy Butler ejected from the game alongside him. He knows what he’s doing. He knew what he was doing when he called Ben Simmons “average” last week. He’s stirring the pot. Dudley did his job. Now it’s time for Sixers fans to do theirs.

Boo the you-know-what out of him. No mercy.

During the Sixers’ embarrassing performance in Game 1 last Saturday, boos rained down throughout the Wells Fargo Center. Following that 9-point loss, Simmons was quick to say, “If you go on that side, stay on that side,” in response to Sixers fans’ boo birds. There are two certainties in life when athletes are addressing the city’s fans. One: don’t do that. And two: if you play like crap, you’re going to hear about it. The Sixers slugged their way through the last month of the season of and no-showed a home playoff game. It was well-deserved. Simmons going berserk early in Game 2 on his way to a triple-double performance only further justified the booing as the kick in the pants the team needed.

The national sports media circuit predictably came out flaming against the Philly faithful after Game 1, creating a referendum on the merits of fans booing their own teams’ players. At the risk of coming off as your cliched, annoying uncle, I will say that if you’re not from the Philly area, you don’t have the slightest idea of what you’re talking about in situations like this. Let us cope with our sports disappointments on our own. No matter how Philadelphians act, there will always be critics policing our sports fandom. You’re not my therapist. You can’t tell me what to do.

Which brings us back to The Round Mound of Zero Rebounds. Everyone already thinks Philly fans are the worst people in the universe.Go full heel. Play the villain. People in this city love wearing a “Philadelphia vs. Everybody” shirt or hoodie. Don’t just lean into the role. Cannonball into it! When Dudley steps off that bus from Brooklyn, he should have the same fear in his eyes as Jaime Lannister did when he saw Bran Stark from across the Winterfell courtyard. He shouldn’t even get off the bus!

Go crazy. Break out J.D. Drew-level boos when he gets announced in the Nets’ starting lineup. “AVEEEE-RAGEEEE” chants every single time he touches the ball. The Sixers should display a video of Elmer Fudd in Space Jam on the jumbotron whenever he checks in. Have the arena shaking like Patrick Robinson just took a Case Keenum interception back to the house if Simmons yams a dunk right on his shiny, bald head. It’s a close-out game. Go out with a bang before worrying about making Canada jokes during the entire second round against the Raptors.

If the city of Philadelphia had an unparalleled period of peace for the next five decades, in which a boo never left a fan’s lips at a sporting event, it would not matter in the eyes of the world. We’ll always be terrible. We’ll always be mean. We’ll always be snowballs and Santa Claus and D batteries and puking on little girls and eating literal horse feces.

There’s a song by the band Titus Andronicus where frontman Patrick Stickles screams, “You will always be a loser!” 30 times in a row before triumphantly proclaiming, “And that’s okay!” at the track’s conclusion.

We’ll always be be the worst. And that’s okay.