76ers

New Year's resolutions for Sixers in 2019

New Year's resolutions for Sixers in 2019

It feels like the Sixers experienced a decade's worth of drama in 2018. They packed a playoff series win, a bizarre scandal involving burner Twitter accounts, a trade for a superstar and much more into the past 12 months.

So, what should the Sixers' New Year's resolutions be for 2019? 

Paul Hudrick 

Elton Brand’s resolution has to be to add to the Sixers’ bench … but he has to be patient about it.

Game after game, the Sixers are exposed by deeper teams with more options. They lack real NBA players to complement their trio of stars. There’s also a dearth of athleticism among the Sixers’ reserves.

With that said, Brand does have to have a measure of patience. The trade deadline is Feb. 7. Not too long after that, several veterans on losing teams will be bought out. On New Year’s Eve, Feb. 7 might seem far away, but it’s not. In that span, the Sixers will play 17 games. The Sixers’ roster as currently constructed should be able to stay afloat until then. 

Remember, it wasn’t until buyout season that the Sixers were able to acquire Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova. At this point last season, the Sixers were 17-19 and were running a bench of T.J. McConnell, Jerryd Bayless, Amir Johnson, Trevor Booker and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot.

Now, it may be unfair to expect two players to come in and make the impact Belinelli and Ilyasova did, but the newcomers don’t need to. With Joel Embiid playing at an MVP level and Jimmy Butler now in the fold, they just need guys to fill in the gaps.

It may be tempting to look at every guy that becomes available, but let the other teams waste a roster spot on them. Put the onus on your players to keep you in the hunt until the right player(s) comes along.

Noah Levick

The biggest resolution for the Sixers this year should be pretty simple: Be healthy.

If everyone gets (and stays) healthy, Brett Brown will have a few interesting dilemmas.

Markelle Fultz is undergoing rehab in Los Angeles for thoracic outlet syndrome. Big man Justin Patton is rehabbing after surgery in September on a Jones fracture in his right foot. Zhaire Smith is getting back into basketball shape after suffering a Jones fracture in his left foot in August, then having an allergic reaction in September and subsequent serious medical complications.

All three could be internal solutions to some of the Sixers' aforementioned woes off the bench.

Though the Sixers would hope he can regain the smooth jumper that deserted him, Fultz's perimeter defense would be an upgrade over what the Sixers have now off the bench regardless.

Patton could, in part, fill the need for quality backup center minutes. He has a grand total of four NBA minutes, but you'd think an athletic 7-footer who was a first-round pick in 2017 might be able to help. Mike Muscala and Johnson haven't been suitable answers to back up Embiid. 

Though he's far from a finished product, Smith's defense might be a welcome addition. The Sixers believe he'll eventually add polish to his game, but you can envision Smith, once he's cleared to play, sticking his man and flying in the air for putback dunks.

All of these scenarios are, of course, hypotheticals. We won't know whether Fultz, Smith and Patton can make the Sixers a better team in 2019 unless they're healthy. And we certainly won't know whether the Sixers' goal of an Eastern Conference title is attainable unless Embiid, Ben Simmons and Butler reach the postseason injury-free.

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Sixers Talk podcast: The Sixers are bound to go on a run

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NBCSP/USA Today Images

Sixers Talk podcast: The Sixers are bound to go on a run

Danny Pommells and Paul Hudrick discuss Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons' relationship, if the Sixers are going to go on a run, stability around the team and more on this edition of Sixers Talk.

• Are you encouraged by the way Jo and Ben acted toward each other during All-Star weekend? (2:00)

• The team's mettle will be tested with six of the next nine games on the road (5:45)

• Are the Sixers finally poised to go on a run? (7:43) 

• Eastern Conference betting odds (14:40)

• Is there enough stability and structure in the organization? (20:54)

• How troubling would it be if Jimmy Butler and the Heat go further than the Sixers? (31:47)

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Brett Brown is more interested in Joel Embiid's head than his hand

Brett Brown is more interested in Joel Embiid's head than his hand

CAMDEN, N.J. — In Sunday night’s NBA All-Star Game, Joel Embiid did not appear bothered by his left hand. He sought out contact, didn’t seem to be in pain or discomfort, and posted 22 points and 10 rebounds. He also did not wear a splint on his left hand, as he'd done since returning from a torn ligament in his ring finger.

A team spokesperson said Wednesday that will remain the case with the Sixers, and that Embiid will now use buddy tape on his hand.

After Embiid shot 6 for 26 on Feb. 6 against the Bucks, head coach Brett Brown told reporters in Milwaukee he thought Embiid’s hand was affecting his shooting. 

Embiid had also said his hand was having an adverse impact.

“The Miami game, you’re kind of scared sometimes, you’re just trying to look for a foul or try to be physical,” he said. “Especially on the rebounds — I think that’s where it affects me the most. But, like I said, it’s not an excuse. I’ve gotta just figure it out and keep pushing.”

Still, Brown leaned toward the metaphorical after practice Wednesday when asked a broad question about Embiid’s health. 

I think the place that interests me the most, where I see his conditioning incrementally getting to an elite level, is his head. I think he is in a space that is excellent as it relates to his excitement, seeing this final third home — to grab the team by the throat and lead us in a bunch of different areas. ... I've been with him a long time, and when I look at him and I talk to him and I hear his words ... and we're always sort of, like you would with your children, judging their body language and all that. 

“I just think he's in a really good space. As it relates to the physical conditioning, we just went up and down hard for about 60 minutes — really up and down, up and down, up and down — saw no drop off. If you study the tape from the other night and you watch Joel Embiid run the floor and some of his rim runs … we all would be saying, 'Well, shoot, it can't get any better than that.' And so I think his fitness level is fine, and I think his headspace is even better. 

As for Embiid’s hand, Brown deferred judgement. After missing nine games with the injury, Embiid has played in eight contests, averaging 21 points and 10.4 rebounds. He’s shot 44.1 percent from the floor, 38.2 percent on three-point shots and 69.9 percent at the foul line.

“I believe I'll be able to tell more when when he gets double teamed at what I call the up block … and he's forced to pass more with his left hand, which used to be all bandaged up,” Brown said. “I used to get worried in that environment where people would come hard looking to whack it or double team him from that floor spot. I look forward to seeing him pass from that floor spot.

“It's easier on the other side, the down side, with his right hand, and I think that's where it will stand out probably the most for me, to see the difference of no wrap and the one that used to be wrapped.”

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