76ers

Joel Embiid's injury a blow, but lofty goals remain when he returns

Joel Embiid's injury a blow, but lofty goals remain when he returns

The news of a Joel Embiid injury is not what Sixers fans wanted coming out of the All-Star break.

While the All-Star center’s left knee soreness may seem alarming, his head coach downplayed it at the team’s practice facility Wednesday, referring to it as tendinitis (see story).

Brett Brown mentioned that Embiid had been dealing with a knee issue “for a few weeks” and that his playing in the All-Star game did not affect the injury.

“It’s a natural dot connector and it shouldn’t be to think that had anything to do with it,” Brown said at the team’s practice facility. “The bottom line is nobody needs to read into anything here. This is an NBA athlete that has some soreness in a knee, he’s had an MRI and we all should move on. 

“We’ll miss him obviously, playing wise, but it’s not anything that isn’t completely pointed toward keeping him ready and especially ready when it matters most at the end of the year.”

But with Embiid being out for at least a week, Brown and company have to move on without him.

What that initially means is more minutes for fan favorite Boban Marjanovic. Marjanovic certainly brings something to the table with his massive frame, efficient play around the basket and his abilities to screen and roll. Defense will be the issue when he’s asked to cover more fleet-footed fives.

That’s where rookie Jonah Bolden could come in. Bolden lost the backup center role through no fault of his own. He’d been playing well, providing rim protection with quick feet on defense and also hitting the occasional three. 

“You’d think Jonah’s got a chance to reclaim some of his court time that he had prior to the trade,” Brown said. “That is in my mindset, I had him on my second team today. It’ll be good to see him again.”

Other than missing a MVP-caliber player, the biggest disappointment is that the Sixers won’t get to further develop the chemistry of their new starting five. With the playoffs looming, getting that unit to play at its peak is more important than wins and losses.

There are loftier goals that lie ahead of the next last 24 regular season games.

“I’ve been on different teams where the goal is to get into the playoffs,” Tobias Harris said. “Here the goal is to win in the playoffs and to win big. I think we’d be doing ourselves a disservice if we just said, 'Let’s get out of the first round.' We’re trying to go for a championship here.”

It’ll be up to Harris and the other starters to carry more of that scoring load in Embiid’s absence. The player that may bear more of that burden is Jimmy Butler.

Butler can score on all three levels and create his own shot better than any player on the Sixers with Embiid out. Butler put up back-to-back 38-point performances back in early December. One of those games was with Embiid struggling mightily in Toronto and the other was with Embiid sidelined in Detroit.

While he won’t alter his approach with Embiid out, he knows what’s at stake in general.

“I’m going about it the same way,” Butler said. “It’s time to pick it up a little bit. This is the final stretch. I’m ready, man. My mind, my body. I’m relaxed, calm and collected, ready to win some games.”

Once Embiid's body is ready, the Sixers will look to take another step toward their championship goals.

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2019 NBA free agency rumors: Rockets reportedly plan to pursue sign-and-trade with Sixers for Jimmy Butler

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2019 NBA free agency rumors: Rockets reportedly plan to pursue sign-and-trade with Sixers for Jimmy Butler

Well, at least one team is trying to throw a wrench in the Sixers’ attempt to #RunItBack.

The Rockets plan to pursue Jimmy Butler in a sign-and-trade with the Sixers when the NBA’s legal tampering period begins Sunday, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

There’s a lot to untangle here. Woj is not saying that the feeling is mutual or that the Sixers would be inclined to go through with the deal. He said “if” Butler wants to go to Houston and “if” he can talk the Sixers into it. That’s two pretty big “ifs.” Woj also said the Sixers plan to “be aggressive” in re-signing the four-time All-Star.

From the Sixers’ perspective, it makes little sense to do a sign-and-trade. In order to make the money work, you’d have to take back the contracts of Eric Gordon and Clint Capela. Gordon is not the same player he once was — which is why the Rockets would be willing to move him — and Capela would be a backup center making an average annual salary of $18 million. You could theoretically flip Capela, but that’s a dicey option. The Sixers would be in a better spot by just allowing Butler to walk and use the cap space to re-sign Tobias Harris and JJ Redick and perhaps another free agent.

For Butler, there is an appeal in wanting to play for the team he grew up watching and alongside two future HOFers. But the Sixers just seem like a better fit on the court and money wise. The situation on the Rockets seems combustible. Chris Paul has reportedly asked to be dealt and it’d be interesting to see how Butler would react to James Harden’s play on defense. The Sixers can also offer Butler a five-year, $190 max deal because they own his Bird rights. It’s unclear how much Houston can actually give Butler with their murky cap situation — though GM Daryl Morey has navigated such situations before.

Butler has said repeatedly that his decision in free agency won’t be based on money.

“You always want to be able to win, I think that’s key for sure,” Butler said during his exit interview. “You’re looking at coaches, you’re looking at the city. There’s a lot that goes into it. For me, as long as I got my people with me, they’re happy, they’re smiling and we’re waking up knowing were getting to work in an environment where we’re having fun … we get it, we understand.”

Does that sound more like Houston or Philadelphia? Buckle up, Sixers fans. This is just the beginning.

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2019 NBA free agent targets: Danny Green, Seth Curry among wing options for Sixers

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2019 NBA free agent targets: Danny Green, Seth Curry among wing options for Sixers

June 30 at 6 p.m. is getting closer and closer.

After Paul Hudrick looked at free agent point guard options for the Sixers yesterday, we’ll review five wing options today.

We’re not going to touch on marquee names like Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant, all of whom seem like distant possibilities for the Sixers. 

Danny Green

Green is a logical option for the Sixers, especially if JJ Redick departs. The 32-year-old shot 45.5 percent from three-point range last season and has a strong track record as both a shooter and a defender. He wasn’t at his best this postseason and didn’t see the floor during the Raptors’ decisive stretch in Game 5 of the Finals, but he has ample playoff experience and doesn’t shy away from taking big shots. 

Reggie Bullock 

Bullock is a tier below Green but might be in the Sixers’ price range. For his career, he’s a 39.2 percent shooter from long range, though his production and efficiency dipped after he was dealt from Detroit to the Lakers in February. While he’s played almost 30 minutes per game the past two seasons, Bullock would be well suited for a bench role in Philadelphia. If James Ennis were to sign elsewhere, Bullock would be a strong replacement.

Seth Curry 

You may be starting to sense a theme here. At 28 years old, Curry has firmly established himself as a legit NBA player, not just Steph’s brother. Again, his standout skill is his three-point shooting — 45 percent on 3.9 attempts per game for Portland last year. The Sixers hope Zhaire Smith and Matisse Thybulle can be effective three-point shooters, but both still need to prove they’re capable in that area. Though a player like Curry might not be in Smith and Thybulle’s class athletically, you know you’d be getting an excellent shooter. 

Thabo Sefolosha 

Even at 35 years old, with his career presumably on its last legs, Sefolosha could help a contending team. He’s a long, smart player who does a lot of little things very well and posted a plus-8.6 net rating last season, higher than Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles. That’s not to say Sefolosha is better than those players, but it’s clear he’s not done quite yet. General manager Elton Brand said on draft night that he doesn’t want to lean too heavily on young players, so expect the Sixers to place a high value on reliable veterans. 

Garrett Temple 

One of Temple’s most attractive qualities for the Sixers would be his ability to defend multiple positions at 6-foot-6. He’s had some fluctuations as a shooter, with his career average at 35.3 percent. Temple likely wouldn’t immediately slot into the Sixers’ playoff rotation, but, if he can be had at a low price, would be a solid option off the bench. 

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