With a star down again, what should we expect from this year's Sixers?

With a star down again, what should we expect from this year's Sixers?

For the third straight season, the Sixers will be dealing with an injury to one of their stars after the All-Star break.

Ben Simmons suffered a nerve impingement in his lower back and will be re-evaluated in approximately two weeks, a team source confirmed Tuesday to NBC Sports Philadelphia. That doesn’t mean Simmons will be back in two weeks. The Sixers will be without the All-Star point guard for at least that long with just 24 regular-season games left.

Unfortunately for the Sixers, this is nothing new. The last two seasons have seen Joel Embiid deal with injuries after the break. Now, they’ll be without the normally durable Simmons.

In the last two instances of missing one of their franchise cornerstones — though the Sixers are hoping this absence will be shorter — the team has had mixed success.

In 2017-18, Embiid suffered an orbital bone fracture after he collided with Markelle Fultz. Embiid missed the final eight games of the regular reason and the first two of the playoffs against the Heat. The Sixers won all eight of those games — part of a 16-game winning streak to close the season — and Game 1 against Miami.

Much like this year’s team, the 2017-18 squad benefited from a soft schedule. Just three of the 16 wins during that streak came against playoff teams — the LeBron James-led Cavs, the East’s seventh seed, Milwaukee, and the West’s eighth seed, Minnesota. As of this posting, this year’s team has the second-easiest schedule in the NBA over the last 24 games.

The team of two years ago had also acquired veterans Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova on the buyout market. While players of that caliber likely won’t be available this time around, GM Elton Brand already acquired a strong veteran duo in Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III. Belinelli and Ilyasova resurrected a bench that had issues scoring all season. The Sixers are currently 27th in the NBA in terms of bench scoring. Burks and Robinson likely won't have that profound of an impact, but they should help.

The biggest commonality that the 2019-20 team shares with the 2017-18 squad is that the star that was playing was doing so at a high level. Simmons nearly averaged a triple-double in those 16 games (14 points, 10.4 assists, 9.8 rebounds) and had one of the finest stretches of his career.

In his last five games — even when you include his rough night in Milwaukee — Embiid has averaged 31.8 points, 12.4 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.8 steals. He’s also shooting 50.5 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three. His aggressive nature is obvious in the fact that he’s averaging 13.6 free throw attempts a game in that stretch.

While the team kept things afloat two years ago without Embiid, it didn’t go as well last season. In the 24 games after it was announced that Embiid was dealing with left knee tendinitis, he played in just 10. The Sixers went 7-3 in those games and 7-7 in the ones missed.

Like this year’s team, that squad also had issues with fit. They were trying to integrate Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris along with Simmons. It didn’t quite work out like the Sixers would’ve hoped. Embiid coming in and out of the lineup likely didn’t help the continuity problems. This season, Al Horford’s clunky fit offensively has forced the veteran big to become a reserve at times and forced Brett Brown to lessen his minutes next to Embiid.

The circumstances are more similar to two years ago than last year’s team, but there’s no question the Sixers face a huge new challenge without Simmons. They sit fifth in the East and have just 24 games to make up ground. Let’s see how this year’s version handles that adversity.

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.

More on the Sixers

Jim Lynam has tales on when Moses Malone stunned him, Julius Erving’s class, relationship with Maurice Cheeks

AP Images/David Zalubowski

Jim Lynam has tales on when Moses Malone stunned him, Julius Erving’s class, relationship with Maurice Cheeks

If you’d like in-depth, entertaining insight into some of the great players and moments in Philadelphia basketball history, Jim Lynam is the right person to talk to.

Now an analyst with NBC Sports Philadelphia, Lynam played and coached at St. Joe’s, served as a head coach, assistant coach and general manager throughout the years with the Sixers, and has developed close relationships with a slew of Hall of Famers. He joined Paul Hudrick and Danny Pommells on the latest Sixers Talk podcast and had plenty of stories to tell about Moses Malone, Charles Barkley, Maurice Cheeks and Julius Erving.

Lynam's first experience with the late Malone was in 1985, when he joined the Sixers as an assistant coach after a stint with the Clippers. 

Moses, in my mind, was going through the motions,” Lynam said on the podcast. "And I personally was concerned, maybe after three or four days. … Is Moses all right? Is he hurt? Does he always start like this? They were almost, to a man, dismissive of my thoughts, from [head coach] Matty [Guokas] right up to Harold Katz, the owner. So, this went on for the entire preseason. Moses was beyond desperate. And I’m now really concerned. This guy was key to our team if we’re going to be legit. 

“Well, we open the season in New York against rookie Patrick Ewing, and all the fanfare. Moses gave Patrick Ewing 38 [points] and 24 [rebounds]. It was the first sweat that he broke. And he put Patrick Ewing in the basket probably about six times. So it was a real eye-opener for me.

The official box score says Malone had 35 points and 13 rebounds, but it must have felt like 38 and 24 to a coach getting his first exposure to Malone's Hall of Fame talent. 

“The public persona of Moses was really quite different than who the real guy was,” Lynam said. “He was really one of the best. He was genuine, no nonsense, come to do his work every day. A person of few words, yes, but when he spoke, all heads turned.”

Lynam has a vivid memory from that same year of an incident that showed him Erving’s character. He recalled a mob of fans swarming around Erving after a preseason game, eager for his autograph.

“As we’re walking down this corridor with people all over the place, a fan barges out with a pad and a pen, and obviously somewhat inebriated,” he said. “The first cop takes exception. … Doc’s trying to take care of the fan. ‘Sure, sure I’ll sign.’ And there’s this cop literally with a stick. To see Doc defuse that — he takes cares of the fan. ‘Fine, my man, ‘ he says, ‘but we’ve gotta go.’

"The fan’s ecstatic because he got the autograph. [Erving] turns to the cop, and I could see in the cop’s eyes, he’s irate. Puts his arm out to the cop and he kind of gives him a side embrace, and he says, ‘Thanks, my man, I appreciated that.’ And I went, ‘Are you kidding me?’ It was like watching somebody walk on water. He defused what could’ve been a split skull and a near-riot in a matter of seconds, that’s how good he was.” 

Erving was the first of his kind, according to Lynam.

“Playing above the rim, playing in the stratosphere — he brought the game up there,” he said. “He was the first one, because he did it with a combination of spectacular and graceful.”

From 2001-2005, Lynam coached under Cheeks, who hired him to be an assistant on his staff with the Trail Blazers. One quality Lynam admired in Cheeks as a player was “the game was never too big for him.”

“That’s a huge compliment that I would pay a player because, for a lot of good players, the game can get too big,” he said. “Charles Barkley used to tell me, ‘Coach, you’ve gotta be careful who you set that last shot up for.’ Obviously he said it one night when I didn’t set it up for him. But Charles is right. Not everyone relishes having to take, or looks forward to taking, the shot that’s going to decide the game one way or the other. In that light, Cheeks was as good as there was."

You can listen to the full podcast below, which also includes a story from August of 1989 that involves Lynam frantically searching through the city of Philadelphia, looking to tell Cheeks he’d been traded.

Subscribe and rate Sixers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

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.

More on the Sixers

Sixers smother Wizards in rare road win in NBA2K simulation

Sixers smother Wizards in rare road win in NBA2K simulation

If only the real Sixers were as good on the road as the NBA2K version.

The Sixers smothered the Wizards in a 64-50 win during an NBA 2K20 simulation Friday night.

A 17-0 run to start the fourth quarter pushed the Sixers’ lead from five to 22 and essentially sealed the victory.

Perhaps Washington’s mascot — who basically looks like Gonzo from the Muppets with a gut and a wizard hat on — rollerblading on the court at halftime affected the hardwood.

Here are observations from the win:

Bully ball defense

Bradley Beal got off to a scorching start, scoring all 11 of the Wizards’ first-quarter points. After that, it was tough sledding for Beal and the Wizards.

The star guard had just one point in the second and two in the third. By the time Beal hit a three with under four minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Sixers had already gone on a 17-0 run and put the game away.

Embiid quiet again

For some reason, the Sixers don’t get the ball to their best player in this video game. It makes zero sense. Embiid did appear to be playing banged up. He kept flexing his shoulder and had a little medical symbol pop up next to him. Embiid scored one basket with 16.9 seconds left in the first half. That’s it. He did challenge a ton of shots at the rim.

On the other hand, Ian Mahinmi was the Wizards’ best player and played really well … which is something. Mahinmi, who has one of the worst contracts in the NBA, would not normally be the type of big who takes it to Embiid, but in this simulation, it was Mahinmi’s night.

Sixers would take this Harris and Horford in real life

Yet again, Horford was strong in this simulation. He was great on both ends, punishing rookie Rui Hachimura in the post offensively and defensively. Though the mighty Mahinmi did take it to Horford on a couple possessions. 

Tobias Harris and Josh Richardson were also big in this one. Harris, who was the 2K Player of the Game, posted a double-double while Richardson put the clamps down on Beal. Both players played a big part in the fourth-quarter run.

A night to forget for Neto

In a surprise move, virtual Brett Brown decided to go with seldom-used Raul Neto as his backup point guard. It did not go well. Neto missed his first four shots, which all seemed of the forced variety. Brown had seen enough and went to Richardson as his backup one.

Brown gave Neto a second chance in the second half and the veteran point guard rewarded him. Neto came up with a steal on former Sixer Ish Smith and finished on the other end in the third.

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.

More on the Sixers