76ers

Recognizing Moses Malone's past and Joel Embiid's present

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Recognizing Moses Malone's past and Joel Embiid's present

This article originally ran on Jan. 11 of this year, the day the Sixers announced Moses Malone's No. 2 would be retired. It's been re-published for tonight before the Sixers officially raise the banner before their game against the Nuggets.

You can catch Malone's retirement ceremony live at halftime of Friday's game on NBC Sports Philadelphia and the MyTeams app. 

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The Sixers made the correct — and some would say overdue — decision to retire Moses Malone’s number.

The late Hall of Famer will be honored on Feb. 8 before the Sixers play the Nuggets. Not only will no one ever don No. 2 for the Sixers again, but nobody other than Malone has ever rocked the number in franchise history.

Though Malone only spent five seasons here — four in his prime and one in the twilight of his career — his impact on the organization is undeniable. Acquired in 1982, fresh off his second MVP award with Houston, Malone went on to win his third with the Sixers in 1983. And, of course, he led the franchise to its third NBA title while capturing Finals MVP.

While we remember Malone’s dominance down low, you can’t help but compare what he did to what Joel Embiid is currently doing. 

By age 24, Malone was in his fourth NBA season after spending two years in the ABA before the merger. Through those four seasons, Malone averaged 20.9 points, 15.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. At the same age, but after only playing two-plus NBA seasons because of injury, Embiid is averaging 23.5 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks.

Malone collected his first MVP award in his third NBA season. While the competition is incredibly steep for the award this season, Embiid has at least put himself in the conversation — especially if the Sixers can get their act together and go on a serious run.

Embiid’s numbers compare favorably to that of Malone’s first MVP season, per Basketball Reference.

But let’s forget all the numbers for a minute. The one thing these big men have in common is their big personalities. Malone was the one who famously proclaimed, “Fo’, fo’, fo’” when asked for a prediction of how the Sixers’ playoff run in 1983 was going to go. It was a bold prediction that was only one game off as the team steamrolled their way to a championship.

This is a quote from the Sports Illustrated article after Malone was traded to the Sixers for Caldwell Jones and a first-round pick.

"There are lots of things that I can do that the public hasn't seen yet," Malone says. "The people will see how much I'm an all-around player. They say CJ [Caldwell Jones] is a great defensive player. I was the best defensive player the Houston Rockets ever had. Some nights I had to prepare for three guys: the center, the power forward and the small forward. I had to check them all. If CJ does that, he'll foul out every other game."

In the past, Embiid has called himself a guard, has boasted about being the best defensive player in the league and has frequently been known to tell opposing players “you can’t guard with me” ... with some colorful language thrown in. He has, however, mellowed on the social media trash talk.

Malone’s Hall of Fame status was cemented by his greatness but also his longevity. He was able to play 19 NBA seasons and retired at the age of 39 after playing in three different decades.

Embiid has a long way to go and will likely always have his injury history questioned, but he’s looking to put himself among the greatest Sixers of all time. Perhaps, one day, No. 21 will hang in the rafters of the Wells Fargo Center.

Bringing the city of Philadelphia a Larry O'Brien tropy would certainly help that cause.

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What should Sixers' rotation be for playoffs?

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What should Sixers' rotation be for playoffs?

After Sunday night's All-Star Game, we still have three days to kill before the Sixers are back in action. 

Today, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Paul Hudrick and Noah Levick discuss who should be part of the Sixers' playoff rotation. 

Tuesday, they'll look at how the Sixers can overcome the Celtics, and Wednesday they'll review their expectations for the rest of the season.

Hudrick

Brett Brown has said that his rotation will be at 10 players for now and will go down to nine when the playoffs come. You could make the argument that number should perhaps be eight given how elite the starting five is.

Looking at the five bench guys now, Brown has mentioned that veteran Mike Scott is a lock as the backup four. You figure T.J. McConnell will also be in as the backup point guard. Brown also seems determined to see how much he can use Boban Marjanovic. The other two guys off the bench should be James Ennis and Jonathon Simmons, without a doubt.

Jonah Bolden has been the odd man out, but that may not continue into the postseason. He lost his job as Joel Embiid’s backup really by no fault of his own. He’d been doing a nice job as the backup five and makes a ton of sense as a rim protector that is capable of switching onto guards and can hit the occasional open three.

As we saw in the game against the Celtics, Marjanovic is a liability against bigs like Al Horford and Daniel Theis with the ability to hit shots from the perimeter. Marjanovic was exposed big time in the pick-and-roll, already a sore spot for the Sixers.

With McConnell, he seems more like a matchup-type player as he can be exposed by bigger guards. That’s where the Jimmy Butler point guard experiment comes into play. If I were Brown, my playoff bench would be Scott at the four, Bolden at the five and then either Ennis or Simmons as a backup wing while Butler runs the point. The nice thing about having useful, versatile pieces is you can match up against other teams and also swap players that maybe don't have it on a given night.

If the starters all play around 40 minutes, that leaves about 40 minutes — 13 apiece — for three players. That should be manageable given the strength of the starting unit.

Levick

The playoff rotation is going to have to be largely matchup-dependent. That’s a good thing.

The Sixers now have the personnel to adapt off the bench to most situations. For instance, if you’re playing the Bucks and have to deal with the threat of Brook Lopez as a three-point shooter, you’d likely prefer Jonah Bolden’s quickness and ability to defend away from the rim over Boban Marjanovic. If you’re playing the Hornets, Jonathon Simmons could get more minutes as a physical defensive option against Kemba Walker. T.J. McConnell might play a more prominent role against the Celtics, a team he thrived against last postseason.

Furkan Korkmaz should not be part of the equation; Simmons, Ennis, McConnell and Mike Scott all offer more reliable value. Korkmaz is dependent on hitting three-point shots, and he hasn’t done that consistently. And unlike Korkmaz, Simmons, Ennis, McConnell and Scott all have playoff experience.

We also shouldn’t forget about Zhaire Smith. According to general manager Elton Brand, the expectation is still that he’ll play this season. If Smith gets back on the court and his stint with the Blue Coats goes well, he deserves a shot to show what he can do this year at the NBA level. And if Brett Brown likes what he sees, Smith’s perimeter defense and athleticism could be an intriguing playoff option. 

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All-Star night is more than Ben Simmons could have hoped for

All-Star night is more than Ben Simmons could have hoped for

There aren't a ton of things that faze Ben Simmons. At least, that’s how it usually seems.

Until you’re being announced as an NBA All-Star for the first time in your career and waiting to sub in on Team LeBron.

“Here we go, don’t mess up,” Simmons thought to himself as he took the court.

Next to him was Dwyane Wade. Across from him was Dirk Nowitzki.

“I’m playing with legends, D-Wade … [Nowitzki] hit a three on me” Simmons said with a smile, before going on to talk about the influence that Nowitzki had on him as an international basketball player.

For playing just 16 minutes, Simmons sure had an impact, finishing with 10 points on 5 for 5 shooting, seven assists, six rebounds and zero turnovers.

He also had a little something in him that not everyone else had. While the majority of players said they started to feel the game get competitive midway through the fourth quarter, Simmons had a different answer.

“That first second I stepped on the court, just stepping in with the mentality of trying to get a win," he said.

Simmons, alongside Team LeBron got that win Sunday night, but it was clear from his demeanor there was something bigger he took away.

“I had a great time," he said. "Nothing was what I expected, but it was just fun to be out there, something new, something I hadn’t done before.”

Simmons walked out of the arena with a little extra pep in his step, which got me thinking about the day he was announced as an All-Star.

“I grew up thinking about championships, honestly," he said then. "I didn’t really think about All-Star appearances.”

But now, I’d think Simmons would admit that tonight was a little bit more special than even he imagined.  

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