A Process era Sixer, Melbourne United's Casper Ware returns to Philadelphia

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A Process era Sixer, Melbourne United's Casper Ware returns to Philadelphia

Twenty-three players suited up for the Sixers during the 2013-14 season, a campaign best known as the beginning of general manager Sam Hinkie’s “Process” era, one in which the Sixers endured a historic 26-game losing streak. None of those players are still on the team, but one of them will be back at Wells Fargo Center on Friday night.

Casper Ware won the last time he played in Philadelphia. He had nine points and five assists in the Sixers’ 113-108 win over the Boston Celtics on April 14, just one of 19 victories for the team that season.

He’ll return Friday night as the starting point guard for the National Basketball League’s Melbourne United, the Sixers’ first preseason opponent (7 p.m./NBCSP+). 

Ware does not look like the typical NBA player. He’s listed at 5-foot-8, 178 pounds. There have never been any doubts about the 27-year-old’s quickness or playmaking abilities. The biggest question has always been the small stature. 

But for a few weeks, on a tanking team playing out the string, Ware got his shot. In nine games, he averaged 5.3 points, 1.1 assists and 0.9 steals.

The Sixers traded him to the Brooklyn Nets in October for Marquis Teague and a 2019 second-round pick. The next day, the Nets waived him.

Since then, Ware has made a successful career for himself in Gemany, China, France and Australia. He’s been an All-Star the last two seasons for Melbourne, leading the team in scoring and assists last season as Melbourne won the NBL title.

But he’s never stopped thinking about making it back to the NBA.

“That’s always the goal,” Ware said Wednesday after Melbourne United’s practice at Temple University. “I’m a guy that says I’ll never give up. My goal is to make it to the NBA and play at the top level. I’m at Melbourne, but I’m still looking forward to trying to get back to the NBA.”

He’s seemingly been close to fulfilling that goal a few times. Ware impressed with the Washington Wizards in the preseason in 2016. And he was the Portland Trail Blazers in summer league this year, though he only played 11.5 minutes per game in Las Vegas.

Last preseason, Ware gave NBA scouts and decision-makers a taste of what he can do in a testy preseason matchup with Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Ware posted 20 points, six rebounds and three assists and held Westbrook to nine points on 3 for 10 shooting. Melbourne nearly stunned the Thunder, falling, 86-85.

Ware is fully aware that another performance like that against the Sixers could be a major boost for his NBA stock.

“You’re always aware of that. It’s a big stage no matter what — it’s the NBA,” Ware said. “Everybody watches NBA games. So you notice that, but you don’t want to dwell on it too much. Just going out there, playing, doing my job, and if somebody sees me and likes me, it happens. 

“But you can’t be out there thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to play for somebody to see me,’ or ‘I’m going to play to make a team.’ I just want to go out there and play hard no matter what.” 

By the way, while none of the players from the 2013-14 Sixers are on the 2018-19 version, the head coach still is. Ware remembers Brett Brown’s persistent positivity during a difficult first season.

“You’d think with what they were going through, he’d be kind of down,” Ware said. “But he was always up, always active, always interacting with the players. In the mornings you’d see him, he’s got a big smile on his face. Always bringing the energy in practice. You would never know we were going through that losing streak at the time.”

It’s tempting to see Brown as a survivor of “The Process,” and to see Ware as one of its casualties. But if you look at things the way Ware does, his process just isn’t finished yet. 

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Glenn Robinson III on his role with the Sixers: ‘I don’t really understand it’

Glenn Robinson III on his role with the Sixers: ‘I don’t really understand it’

Glenn Robinson III was having by far the best season of his NBA career, starting for the Warriors, averaging 12.9 points per game and shooting 40 percent from three-point range.

Then he was traded to the Sixers.

Since being acquired by the Sixers along with Alec Burks, Robinson has started two games, come off the bench in four and missed all nine of his three-point attempts.

In an interview with Basketball Insiders’ Spencer Davies, he did not sound pleased with his situation.

Even when (Golden State) played Philly, I showed them what I could do,” Robinson told Davies. “So to play those consistent minutes a night and perform well … that’s the most disappointing part about coming here is that — both of us (are) coming off career years where we’re looking at hopefully big numbers after the season. I know I’ve got a family to feed. So you think about all those things.

“All those things play a role, and then when you come here and your role’s not really explained or you don’t know what’s going on with the trade — it’s not like it was a trade where you come in and immediately have an impact. It’s a little different, so … this team is full of wings, full of guys who can play. So really, I don’t really understand it. But it’s a business, you’ve got to make it happen and go out and try to do your best every night.

Though the Sixers have actually gone 4-2 with Robinson, the team has been in a state of constant change since acquiring him and Burks. Since Robinson has joined, the Sixers have used five different starting lineups. They’ll have to use a sixth Thursday night vs. the Knicks with Joel Embiid out because of a left shoulder sprain. Ben Simmons will be re-evaluated in approximately two weeks with nerve impingement in his lower back. 

Robinson had a promising first game after the trade, scoring 10 points on 5 for 6 shooting against the Bulls and moving sharply off the ball, but it’s certainly true that Brett Brown has yet to find a clear role for him.

Last Friday, Robinson talked about the adjustment of moving in the middle of the season. 

“It’s always different,” he said. “You come into a new team and there’s new plays, new personnel. I think that they’ve came it pretty simple when both AB and I have been on the court. Like I said, it’s always different and you kind of learn on the fly and adjust. But teammates have been great, kind of telling us where to be and what to do during the games.”

The 26-year-old is in his second stint with Brown and the Sixers after playing 10 games in Philadelphia his rookie season. 

He still expressed some optimism to Davies that the team can turn the season around. 

“A lot of talent. I think we can go as far as we stick together and want to go,” Robinson told Davies. “We’ve just got a lot of great players and they know how to play the game. That’s the biggest thing, so as long as we can stick together, come together … it’s about defense for this group. We’ve got all the talent in the world to score. I think that we’ve got high chances.”

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This stat shows just how brutal the Sixers have been on the road

This stat shows just how brutal the Sixers have been on the road

It doesn’t take heavy analysis to see that the Sixers are in serious trouble. They’re fifth in the Eastern Conference and both their All-Stars are dealing with injuries

The biggest conundrum with this team is its home and road splits. The Sixers have the best home record in the NBA at 27-2 but fell to 9-21 on the road after a brutal loss to the Cavs Wednesday. 

It was their seventh straight loss on the road and ensured that they will go through the month of February winless away from Wells Fargo Center.

Seems unprecedented, right? Like nobody has ever been this dominant at home and so putrid on the road? Well, that’s because the Sixers are making weird, not-so-great history.

As of now, the Sixers are on pace to be the only team in NBA history to win at least 90 percent of their home games and lose two-thirds of their road games, per Basketball Reference

At 9-21, the Sixers have the same road record as their opponent Thursday, the New York Knicks. Yes, the New York Knicks. The 20-38 Charlotte Hornets have a better road record (11-20).

Brett Brown and it seems like every single player on the team has been asked about the road issues. Nobody has been able to give a concrete answer. Then again, if they had one, this might be figured out.

As it stands, the Sixers are underperforming, and their road woes are the biggest culprit. It won’t get much easier with a four-game West Coast slate that starts Sunday against the Los Angeles Clippers and with Ben Simmons and possibly Joel Embiid still on the shelf.

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