Now it's up to Sixers to make LeBron regret his decision

Now it's up to Sixers to make LeBron regret his decision

Here's to never forgetting.

Those are the words now-legendary head coach Mike Krzyzewski uttered toward a gathering of Duke athletic officials who had hoped to move past an embarrassing 109-66 defeat at the hands of Ralph Sampson and Virginia in the 1983 ACC tournament. 

Krzyzewski has often pointed to that as the pivotal moment when his program began to come of age. The proverbial line in the sand was drawn. Motivation was established. No longer would Duke be a doormat.

It's a lesson the Sixers organization, from top to bottom, should take to heart following LeBron James' decision to sign with the Lakers.

Make no mistake what happened here. The NBA's reigning king performed the business equivalent of posterizing the Sixers. 

After all indications were that he would sign with the Lakers in the days leading up to the start of free agency, James still had the Sixers send a contingent to Los Angeles for a meeting Sunday. 

A meeting he did not attend. A meeting which took place a day after he reportedly met with Magic Johnson at his house to seal the deal with the Lakers. A meeting which barely ended before James' representative announced said deal with the Lakers.

I'm sure one of James' media sycophants will be fed the company line as to why the meeting with the Sixers needed to take place. But it sure seems like it had the two-part goal of wasting Josh Harris and company's time while manufacturing the 11th-hour drama that was missing from James' most recent decision.

With Kawhi Leonard also likely headed to Los Angeles to join powers with James, the Sixers now find themselves hunting for stars in a suddenly clouded galaxy.

Anthony Davis isn't a fit even if he forces a trade from New Orleans. And everyone else seemingly available is currently one to two tiers below the type of player that guarantees a Finals appearance alongside Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.

That means it's likely up to the pieces currently in place to make the difference. 

Embiid has to take a step in his conditioning to ensure he can withstand the rigors of playoff basketball.

Simmons needs to make sure his game matures to a place where none of his playoff minutes can justifiably be given to T.J. McConnell.

Markelle Fultz has to play like the first overall pick in the NBA draft.

Brett Brown needs to develop Zhaire Smith into 1A because 1B isn't going to get the Sixers a title. (Especially with that added first-round draft pick in 2021 not looking as valuable as it once did.)

And this moment should help to fuel the fire for each of those individuals.

The Sixers sport two generational talents and loads of roster and salary flexibility. Yet, the best player in the world gave them a cursory glance before taking his crown and establishing another kingdom. It was the type of dismissal usually saves for chase-down blocks.

The mindset for the Sixers should be a simple one now: Here's to never forgetting July 1, 2018, and making sure LeBron James always regrets it.

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Sixers’ situation becomes bleaker with injury to Joel Embiid, loss to Cavaliers

Sixers’ situation becomes bleaker with injury to Joel Embiid, loss to Cavaliers

The Sixers haven’t won a road game since Jan. 20, both of their All-Stars are injured and, if the playoffs started tonight, they would not have home court advantage. In short, things could be going much better.

Joel Embiid sustained a left shoulder sprain Wednesday night and the Sixers dropped to 36-23 with a 108-94 loss to the Cavaliers. They play the Knicks tomorrow night at Wells Fargo Center.

Here are observations on the loss: 

First Simmons, now Embiid 

Embiid grimaced after a collision off the ball with Ante Zizic late in the first quarter, feeling at the area around his left shoulder. He took and missed both free throws after the foul call, seemingly in significant pain, then left the game and went back to the locker room. 

Early in the second quarter, Embiid briefly returned to the bench before again heading to the locker room. After a short conversation with head athletic trainer Kevin Johnson, he appeared to have a discussion in the tunnel with GM Elton Brand, who said before the season that he’d “be more a part of it with the players in a partnership for their care.”

The team announced at halftime that Embiid was out for the game. 

Embiid’s injury is bad news for the Sixers regardless of the circumstances, but it’s obviously even worse in the context of Ben Simmons being sidelined with a nerve impingement in his lower back. 

It was certainly possible to picture an Embiid-centric team thriving without Simmons, especially given that the Sixers have the third-easiest remaining schedule in the league. If both their All-Stars are out for an extended period of time, though, it would be a massive hit.

There are a heap of fair criticisms one can have about the Sixers this season — Brand’s decision to spend as much money as he did on Horford and Harris, other complementary pieces not doing enough, abysmal efforts on the road, you name it. However, having your second All-Star get hurt two days after he scored a career-high 49 points and the day after announcing the diagnosis of your other All-Star’s injury is just very bad luck. 

We’ll update this post with any further news on Embiid’s injury.

Secondary options not close to good enough 

With Embiid out, the Sixers needed Harris and Horford to carry a bigger load.

Neither player was up for the task. 

Harris, whose status changed from doubtful to questionable to available for Monday’s game with a right knee contusion, did not look explosive and shot 4 of 13.

Horford made a few nice passes, had three steals and hit two threes, but he wasn’t nearly as the Sixers needed him to be, with 10 points in 34 minutes. 

It wasn’t a strong night for Josh Richardson (nine points on 4 of 12 shooting), either.

Norvel Pelle was out for a second straight game with an upper respiratory illness, which led the Sixers to play Kyle O’Quinn as their backup center. In his first action during a close game since Jan. 20, Quinn had six points, four blocks and two rebounds. 

O’Quinn reportedly wanted to be waived, but perhaps Embiid’s injury will shift his thinking. Players must be waived by March 1 in order to retain playoff eligibility in the event they’re picked up by another team that season. We looked at available guards that might be interest the Sixers today (see story).

Milton starts again 

Shake Milton was the Sixers’ starting point guard, as he had been Monday vs. the Hawks.

The 23-year-old didn’t start the game well, allowing Darius Garland to hit his first three shots. Though the defensive drop-off from Simmons to Milton is substantial, Milton was a bright spot offensively, picking the right spots to attack and knocking down 4 of 6 threes. 

He finished with 20 points, four rebounds, four assists and no turnovers. If you’d like a positive in a situation that currently looks rather bleak, Milton is a good choice. 

Richardson and Alec Burks (13 points on 6 of 11 shooting) split up backup ball handling duties. 

A terrible 1st half 

The Cavs scored 30 of the game’s first 36 points in the paint. The Sixers missed a handful of open looks inside early, including a very easy fast break Horford layup attempt off a long pass from Milton. They made just 11 of their first 36 field goals and 2 of their first 12 threes. 

No Sixer played especially well in the first half, and yet the team only trailed by 11 points. With all due respect to the 17-win Cavs, who did beat the Heat on Monday, the deficit would surely have been worse if the Sixers were playing a decent opponent. 

Embiid’s injury played a part in these particular early road struggles, but a team that is 27-2 at home should simply not be 9-21 on the road.

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Sixers injury update: Joel Embiid exits game vs. Cavs with shoulder injury

Sixers injury update: Joel Embiid exits game vs. Cavs with shoulder injury

Already down Ben Simmons, the last thing the Sixers needed was an injury to their other All-Star.

Joel Embiid suffered a left shoulder sprain and will not return vs. the Cavs, according to NBC Sports Philadelphia's Serena Winters. He went back to the locker room with a left shoulder injury after he was fouled by Ante Zizic late in the first quarter in Cleveland. 

Embiid and the Cavs’ big man got tangled up and Embiid came up grabbing his shoulder. He then went on to miss both free throws and grimaced the entire time. Furkan Korkmaz purposefully committed a foul to get Embiid back to the locker room.

The Sixers are already without Simmons, who was diagnosed with nerve impingement in his lower back. He’ll be re-evaluated in two weeks, per a team spokesperson.

The team is also without Norvel Pelle who is dealing with an upper respiratory illness. That leaves Al Horford and Kyle O’Quinn as the only players that can play as true NBA fives.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

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