76ers

In Mike Muscala, Sixers may have found solution for backing up Joel Embiid

In Mike Muscala, Sixers may have found solution for backing up Joel Embiid

The one clear difference between Wednesday night’s game and the 22 that preceded it for the Sixers was its stress-free nature — the team finally played a complete game, leading from start to finish in a 117-91 win over the Knicks.

The other, more subtle difference is who took Joel Embiid’s minutes when the big man went to the bench.

Mike Muscala stepped into the backup center role Wednesday night, as Amir Johnson was relegated to the bench until the final eight minutes when he replaced Embiid with the outcome already sealed.

Muscala had 10 points on 4 for 6 shooting (2 for 3 from three-point range) and eight rebounds. He was a plus-13.

Johnson has had a poor start to the season. His negative-5.7 net rating is the worst among regular players. With Johnson on the bench, head coach Brett Brown used Ben Simmons at the backup five spot against the Nets. Wednesday, he went with a more conventional look.

“Just the fact that he’s been pretty good defensively,” Brown said of his decision to have Muscala back up Embiid. “It would be easy for me to say he can stretch the floor and he can shoot threes, probably at a more reliable, frequent rate than, say, Amir. But I also think that he’s been good defensively.”

While Muscala has held his own on defense, he’s often been placed in uncomfortable positions having to guard opposing perimeter players. The Sixers typically switch one through four, so most opponents have tried to isolate the 6-foot-11 Muscala on players with a quickness advantage.

“I’ve tried to work on my movement on the perimeter, being able to guard perimeter players and switching like that,” Muscala said. “The five was what I played in college and most of my life, so I do naturally feel more comfortable there. Having Joel behind me when I’m at the four is a treat, because he’s such a great rim protector. I think knowing that helps a lot of our perimeter defense.”

For Muscala, the one notable difference Wednesday outside of the minutes he received at center was the fact he didn’t have to wear a protective mask.

After suffering a fractured nose and facial laceration on a collision in practice Nov. 6, Muscala had been forced to don the mask, which he admitted Wednesday “definitely didn’t help.”

In the eight games he played with the mask, Muscala shot 32.7 percent from the floor, 31 percent from three-point territory. Without the mask, you'd expect his shooting numbers to trend closer to his career 48.1 percent mark from the field, 36.9 percent from long range.

While Embiid’s MVP-level play, of course, deserves more attention than a decent night in a rare blowout win from Muscala, the backup center position matters.

It’s as small a sample size as you can get, but if Muscala is knocking down three-point shots and playing solid defense inside like he did vs. the Knicks, there's no need for Brown to give his starting point guard double duty as his backup center.

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Which era of Sixers basketball would make the best documentary?

Which era of Sixers basketball would make the best documentary?

The Sixers are a franchise rich in history and, let’s face it, rich in drama.

With ESPN moving up the release of The Last Dance, a documentary about the dominance of Michael Jordan and the Bulls in their last Finals run, it sparked an interesting debate on the Sixers Talk podcast.

Which era of Sixers basketball would you most like to see a documentary on?

Co-hosts Danny Pommells and Paul Hudrick both made the case for Dr. J, Moses Malone and the teams of 1980’s … but for very different reasons.

Don’t get me wrong,” Hudrick said, “some of The Process stuff would be great to get some behind-the-scenes nuggets of what was going on there with some of the decisions that were made and getting some answers to the questions that we’ve all had. …

“[In a documentary on the 1980’s team] we can all go back and watch and see, ‘Oh, Dr. J, he won a championship.’ But to get that context of there were people who were doubting him and then he proved them all wrong. It’s little stuff like that you don’t know about until you go and watch [a documentary] like that.

Pommells agreed with wanting to see something on that era, but wasn’t nearly as interested in reliving The Process years.

To hell with The Process. I ain’t trying to watch nothing on that. I lived through it, I experienced all these little idiosyncrasies. I think once the Bryan Colangelo thing happened, that completely let me know that I was over it, past it, finished with it, ready to move on — because I’m just exasperated at this point. …

“It would be a black eye on the Philadelphia sports landscape.

Do you agree with Pommells? Would you rather see something on the Allen Iverson-led teams? Or way back in the Wilt Chamberlain-Hal Greer days?

For more on the debate, check out the full Sixers Talk podcast below.

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Sixers Home School: Should Andre Iguodala have won 2006 Slam Dunk Contest?

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Sixers Home School: Should Andre Iguodala have won 2006 Slam Dunk Contest?

There's a lot of home schooling going on right now, so why not use some of this time to learn more about the history of your favorite teams? In this edition of Sixers Home School, we look back at the 2006 NBA Slam Dunk Contest.

No Sixers player has ever won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, but you can make a very good case that Andre Iguodala should have won back in 2006. In his second season, Iguodala squared off against Atlanta's Josh Smith, Memphis' Hakim Warrick and 5-foot-9 Nate Robinson of the Knicks. 

At the 11:00 mark of the video, you'll see Iguodala bring out Allen Iverson to assist him on one of the most incredible dunks you'll ever see. It took a couple tries to get it right, but Iverson throws the ball off the back of the backboard, and Iguodala comes running in from beyond the photographers to catch it and then soar through the air to dunk it on the other side of the rim. It earned Iguodala a 50 and it's fun to hear Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley and Magic Johnson going nuts. It's one of the most amazing dunks in the history of the contest.

After another impressive dunk at the 22:27 mark of the video, when Iguodala threw the ball up in the air, caught it on the bounce and went behind his back to dunk it, Kevin Harlan says "it's over."

But it wasn't over. At the 23:45 mark, Robinson calls out the original miniature dunker, Spud Webb, from the crowd. Robinson then jumped over Webb and threw down a fantastic dunk, getting the crowd on his side. Then at 27:15, Iguodala, needing a 45 to win, completed a between-the-legs lefty dunk that left the judges scrambling to decide what to do.

Kenny Smith and Clyde Drexler both gave the dunk an "8," and when the scores were added up, Iguodala received a 45, leading to a dunk-off with Robinson.

Ah, the dunk-off. From 29:00 to 33:30 in the video, you'll see Robinson try to complete a between-the-legs jump pass from midcourt, catch the ball of the backboard and dunk. He tries and fails 15 times before finally completing it. You'll get tired just watching him try and try again. Even though Robinson had to move closer to the three-point line to finally get the timing right, the completed dunk earned a 47 from the judges, meaning that Iguodala needed 48 for the win. 

At 34:55, you'll see Iguodala do a version of Isaiah Rider's "East Bay Funk Dunk" that won the 1994 dunk contest. But four of the five judges only gave Iguodala a 9, and his 46-point dunk gave Robinson the title by one point. At the 35:25 mark, you'll see Iverson say "We got robbed." Barkley agreed. Was Iguodala robbed? You can judge for yourself.

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