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NBA Eastern Conference power rankings: Where do Sixers stand after Jimmy Butler trade?

NBA Eastern Conference power rankings: Where do Sixers stand after Jimmy Butler trade?

The second edition of our weekly Eastern Conference power rankings is an interesting one, as we look at how things stand after the Sixers' trade for Jimmy Butler. 

1. Toronto Raptors (12-3) Last week: 1 
Pascal Siakam is having a breakout season for the Raptors. The third-year forward from Cameroon is averaging 14.1 points and 6.5 rebounds. Despite two straight losses, the combination of Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry and an incredibly deep bench (the Raptors have 11 players averaging more than 14.9 minutes) keeps the Raptors at the top of the East, although the next three teams are not far behind.

2. Milwaukee Bucks (10-4) Last week: 3
Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging 25.8 points per game and shooting 56 percent from the field, which is ridiculous. That’s the highest shooting percentage of any player averaging at least 17.5 points. Milwaukee leads the East in a bunch of pretty important categories, including points per game; three-point makes; three-point percentage; points in the paint; rebounding; and defensive rating. Though Milwaukee has returned to earth after a 7-0 start, they still look like a real contender.

3. Boston Celtics (8-6) Last week: 2
The Celtics have the highest percentage of open shots (closest defender four to six feet away) and wide open shots (closest defender six-plus feet away) in the league. It’s inevitable that they’re going to start hitting more of those shots. Still, the 1-4 road trip Boston just returned from is a concern. They keep starting slow, spotting their opponents huge first-half leads, and Gordon Hayward isn’t yet anywhere near what he was pre-injury. 

4. Philadelphia 76ers (9-7) Last week: 4
It’s hard to argue that the Sixers didn’t get better through the Jimmy Butler trade. They added one of the best two-way players in the game, a star who gives them the shot creation and perimeter defense they were lacking. In order to compete with the Celtics, Bucks and Raptors, the Sixers needed a player like Butler. But it’s likely going to take some time to integrate Butler and make the most of his talent. As the season progresses, there's a good chance the Sixers rise up these rankings.

5. Indiana Pacers (8-6) Last week: 5
Victor Oladipo’s Most Improved Player campaign was no fluke, and the Pacers have a solid, deep supporting cast — seven players average more than 9.4 points per game. While the league is playing faster and taking more threes, Indiana is the doing the opposite. They’ve taken the second-least threes in the East, and play at the slowest pace in the conference. 

6. Charlotte Hornets (7-7) Last week: 8
The Hornets actually have the third-best point differential in the East. They turn the ball over less than any team in the NBA. While Kemba Walker has struggled in his last three games (20.3 points per game on 32.3 percent shooting), he’s one of the best scorers in basketball. Charlotte is a clear step or two below the top tier in the East, but they’re not an easy opponent.

7. Detroit Pistons (7-6) Last week: 7
Reggie Bullock’s buzzer-beater gave the Pistons a great comeback win on Wednesday night in head coach Dwane Casey’s return to Toronto. Detroit has the most second-chance points in the East. 

8. Miami Heat (6-8) Last week: 6
Outside of Josh Richardson, there’s not a ton to be excited about for the Heat. As a team, they don’t do anything exceptionally well.

9. Orlando Magic (7-8) Last week: 11
The Magic have won five of their last seven, and are feeling good about themselves after erasing a 16-point deficit in Wednesday’s win over the Sixers. 

10. Washington Wizards (5-8) Last week: 12
Three straight wins have given the Wizards a needed boost, even if none of them were against very good competition. On paper, Washington is still better than their record. After finishing fourth in assists last season, the Wizards are 21st in that category.

11. Brooklyn Nets (6-9) Last week: 9
Caris LeVert’s injury on Monday night was devastating for the Nets.
   
12. New York Knicks (4-11) Last week: 10

The Knicks have lost their last three games by an average of 22.3 points. Rookie Kevin Knox replaced Frank Ntilikina in the starting lineup on Wednesday.

13. Bulls (4-11) Last week: 13
Zach LaVine is in a shooting slump, which is bad news for the Bulls. Chicago has been outscored by 8.1 points per game, 28th in the NBA.

14. Hawks (3-12) Last week: 14
Atlanta played the Lakers and Warriors close on the road, but the Hawks have a six-game losing streak heading into a very difficult stretch (their next four games are against Indiana, the Clippers, Toronto and Boston). Trae Young has the the second-worst three-point percentage of any player with at least six long range attempts per game.

15. Cavaliers (2-12) Last week: 15    
It feels like just about everyone on the Cavs is injured. Cleveland somehow beat the Hornets by 24 on Tuesday, then lost to the Wizards by 23 on Wednesday. They’re the only team in the East without a road win and have the worst defensive rating in the NBA.

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Al Horford makes a donation for coronavirus relief in Dominican Republic, regions where he's played in United States

Al Horford makes a donation for coronavirus relief in Dominican Republic, regions where he's played in United States

Al Horford has donated $500,000 to support coronavirus relief in the Dominican Republic, as well as in each region of the United States where he's played for a team, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.

Horford’s father Tito was the first Dominican-born NBA player, and Al was born in the country. The family later moved to Michigan, where Horford attended Grand Ledge High School. He went to the University of Florida and has played for three NBA cities — Atlanta, Boston and Philadelphia. 

Several other members of the Sixers organization have also made charitable donations during the coronavirus pandemic. Joel Embiid has pledged to donate $500,000 to COV-19 medical relief efforts. Ben Simmons launched “The Philly Pledge,” an initiative which encourages donations to Philabundance and the PHL COVID-19 Fund that’s received support from a wide range of Philadelphia athletes, among them teammates Matisse Thybulle, Tobias Harris, Norvel Pelle and Marial Shayok. 

Sixers managing partners Josh Harris and David Blitzer have made several donations related to coronavirus relief, including to Philabundance and to CHOP and Cooper Hospital.

Limited partner Michael Rubin aims to have his company Fanatics produce a million masks and gowns for hospital and emergency healthcare workers. 

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Sixers Home School: The night Allen Iverson crossed over Michael Jordan

Sixers Home School: The night Allen Iverson crossed over Michael Jordan

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 night Allen Iverson crossed over Michael Jordan.

In a vacuum, rookie Allen Iverson crossing over the legendary Michael Jordan on March 12, 1997, at what was then known as the CoreStates Center was impressive enough.

Putting it into context makes you understand just how big of a deal it was at the time.

The 21-year-old Iverson was having a strong rookie campaign after the Sixers drafted him No. 1 overall. He was still a month away from setting an NBA rookie record with five straight games of 40-plus points. He wasn’t sporting what would become his trademark cornrows — though he did rock them when he won MVP of the Schick Rookie Game. 

This night was when he began to really put a bow on what would turn into a Rookie of the Year season.

As for Jordan and the Bulls, they were ho humming their way to a 69-win season and their fifth title in seven years. Jordan was 33, and though his game had evolved, he was as dominant as ever. Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman provided all the help he would need.

But on this night, it wasn’t about the Bulls, who celebrated receiving their championship ring ceremony by trouncing the Sixers and shutting down Iverson earlier in the season.

This was about the kid from Hampton, Virginia. The six-foot guard from Georgetown that grew up idolizing His Airness, but also told a coach back in high school that he was good enough to take him. 

“I remember the first time I played against him,” Iverson said in his Hall of Fame speech. “I walked out on the court and I looked at him, and for the first time in my life a human being didn’t look real to me.”

Though the first time the two actually talked was not necessarily cordial.

“The first time I ever talked to him was that year playing in the Rookie Game,” Iverson said in an interview with Complex. “I’ll never forget it because he said, ‘What’s up, you little b----?’ I’ll never forget it.”

Whether the moment provided extra motivation or what, Iverson was at times the best player on the court — which, given who was on the court, is a hell of a statement.

Iverson would finish with a game-high 37 points and foul out in a four-point loss. No, the Sixers didn’t win that night, but the fact that Iverson nearly willed a team full of guys like Scott Williams, Mark Davis and Rex Chapman to a victory over that juggernaut was remarkable.

But over the course of time, nobody remembers — or really cares — who won that game. It was the moment A.I. crossed over M.J. It wasn’t quite a torch-passing moment as Jordan would go on to win another MVP and championship, but it was a clear indication that Philadelphia had drafted a star.

That highlight dominated every sportscast the following day and had Sixers fans' imaginations running wild.

The legend of Iverson only continued to grow from there as he became one Philadelphia’s most celebrated athletes and joined his idol in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016.

Years later, he spoke to Jordan about the moment he got him with his legendary crossover.

“I went to a Charlotte game and I was telling him how much he meant to me and how I rocked with him,” Iverson went on to say in the interview with Complex. “He was like, ‘Man, you don’t rock with me like that because you wouldn’t have crossed me like that.’”

For as much as Iverson had idolized Jordan, his desire to beat him and be the best outweighed that.

“I always knew that once I got to the league, I was going to try my move on the best,” Iverson said, “so he was just a victim that night.”

That night, a star was born and a legacy was just beginning.

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