76ers

What's the Sixers' ideal rotation for 2019-20 season?

What's the Sixers' ideal rotation for 2019-20 season?

With training camp beginning Tuesday, there are plenty of topics to discuss involving the 2019-20 Sixers. Running the Give and Go are NBC Sports Philadelphia's Paul Hudrick and Noah Levick.

In this edition, we ask: What's the Sixers' ideal rotation for this season? 

Hudrick 

Brett Brown has been criticized for his “rotation” for years and I’ve always thought that was silly. If your players aren’t good and your bench isn’t deep, your rotation isn’t going to be great.

This season, Brown may have the most talented and deepest roster he’s ever had. He has a starting five that should play big minutes and his reserves are a mix of useful veterans and intriguing young players.

Given the chemistry they’ve developed and their talents, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are likely to have all their minutes together — something Brown did more of at the end of the regular season when Embiid was available. The trio of Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Josh Richardson will likely stick together, allowing Horford to slide to the five, Harris to the four and Richardson to a wing spot defensively.

Mike Scott and James Ennis are clearly your first two off the bench. They’re seasoned and offer defensive versatility that meshes well with the members of the starting unit. After that, there are jobs to be won.

I like Trey Burke a little more than Raul Neto but either player should slot in nicely as Simmons’ backup and both can play alongside the 6-foot-10 point guard. Brown also mentioned the possibility of Richardson taking over some point guard duties. Kyle O’Quinn will be a more effective version of Amir Johnson, a veteran big that will be ready at a moment’s notice, whether because of load management or injury.

Then it’ll be the battle of the young guys. Matisse Thybulle, Zhaire Smith, Shake Milton, Furkan Korkmaz and Jonah Bolden will all be fighting for minutes. Ideally a battle between first-rounders in Thybulle and Smith for wing minutes makes the most sense. Both are immensely talented on defense and a little raw on offense.

Brown mentioned at his luncheon Wednesday that nothing is set in stone — especially during the first third of the season. The top seven seem like they are. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Burke be No. 8 and either Thybulle or Smith be No. 9.

Levick 

As far as personnel, I think Mike Scott, James Ennis, Zhaire Smith and a backup point guard — Raul Neto in some spots, Trey Burke in others — should be regular bench players during the regular season. Big man Kyle O’Quinn should also be part of the mix, especially on load management nights for Joel Embiid, and it would be nice to see rookie Matisse Thybulle get some opportunities, too. For me, Jonah Bolden, Furkan Korkmaz and Shake Milton would be the odd men out on most nights.

Brett Brown acknowledged at a luncheon with members of the media Wednesday that “there’s probably five, six guys, you know, seven guys that are gonna have to fight for stuff."

"Always, at the end of the day, the gym tells me," he said. "They will show me, they will tell me, and somebody’s going to put their hand up and grab a spot."

There are a lot of pieces to juggle, and Brown will likely need to trim things down a bit before the playoffs. He’ll have chances to experiment, though, and with that in mind, here are three lineups I think have intriguing potential:

Simmons
Richardson
Harris
Scott
Horford

All starters minus Embiid, with Horford sliding to center and Scott at power forward. I’d expect this group to play together a good amount when Embiid sits, and I like the idea of giving Horford the chance to anchor the defense. You could also put a more conventional wing like Ennis at the three and use Harris at the four if you think Harris could be exploited defensively against a particular opposing small forward. 

Simmons
Smith
Ennis
Horford
Embiid

This group is, like many the Sixers will employ this season, a strong defensive unit. The pairing between Simmons and Horford is one I think could thrive. They’re two 6-foot-10 guys who can run, handle the ball and pass it very well. There are some exciting possibilities between the two with dribble handoffs early in the shot clock and pick-and-rolls with Simmons both as the ball handler and as the roller.

Richardson
Smith
Harris
Scott 
O’Quinn 

Since he’ll likely be a complementary player on offense with the starters, how about allowing Richardson to run the show a bit in these sort of lineups? And with Harris at the wing, you have a strong pick-and-roll player who can initiate, freeing Richardson to move around some off the ball, as well. 

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Why is there a basketball hoop traveling through Philadelphia during protests?

Why is there a basketball hoop traveling through Philadelphia during protests?

Over the last week, you’ve likely seen, read about, participated in or experienced in some way protests against racism and police brutality following the death of George Floyd.

You might also have noticed a basketball hoop rolling around Philadelphia. 

NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Marc Farzetta recently talked with Philadelphia native Stephania Ergemlidze, who’s responsible for the traveling games of 1-on-1.

“Basketball is the one way I know how to spread love and I know how to bring people together,” Ergemlidze told Farzetta, “so it was a no-brainer.”

Ergemlidze said that she was cognizant of not wanting to detract or warp the messages of protestors. Philadelphians gathered on Saturday for the seventh straight day in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“That was something I was very, very nervous about,” she said. “What way can I do it where I’m not actually distracting from the protests? My goal was not to distract from the protests. My goal is to amplify it and show the positive sides of things, because right now I feel like they’re sharing a lot of negatives, like rioting and looting, but there’s also a lot of peaceful protesting going on.”

You can watch Ergemlidze’s interview with Farzetta in the video above. 

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Would a neutral site help or hurt the mercurial Sixers?

Would a neutral site help or hurt the mercurial Sixers?

The night the NBA season was suspended back on March 11, we were all wondering about the possibility of the league playing games without fans.

The last player the Sixers media got to speak with was Glenn Robinson III. As he sat at the podium six feet away from us, he pondered what it might be like to play a game with no fans and what might be done to account for a quiet gym.

"I think how they play music when we're on defense, and offense they kind of play the instrumental in the background — maybe they turn that up a little bit," Robinson said. "Maybe they got the fake fans that cheer in the background, so maybe we can do that. That'd be interesting for us to do, is act like there's more fans here."

A reporter mentioned that fake fan noise wasn't a bad idea.

"I'll take that credit," Robinson joked.

Almost three months later, not only do empty stands appear to be a reality, but games at a neutral site in Walt Disney World are part of the return-to-play format approved by players and owners.

While it’s unknown whether the NBA heard Robinson’s idea, that is reportedly a notion the league is considering, with fake crowd noise provided by the folks at NBA 2K.

For the Sixers, the situation will be especially difficult to grasp. They were on pace to have the widest gap between their home and road record in NBA history. 

The happiest place on Earth for the Sixers was the Wells Fargo Center, where they boasted a preposterous 29-2 record. On the road, they had as many wins as the rudderless Knicks with an abysmal 10-24 mark. To make matters worse, the Sixers finished 0-4 in the state of Florida this season with two losses each in Miami and Orlando.

It's hard to know if having no true home-court advantage will hurt the Sixers or their opponents more.

The stakes will be much higher than the previous four games in the Sunshine State, or any game before the season was suspended, for that matter. The Sixers will have two or three “preseason” games and just eight regular-season games — which they absolutely need — before the playoffs begin.

Brett Brown has always referred to the last third of the season as a sprint. This time line is even more accelerated. Perhaps that’ll force his players to have a heightened focus and put their road woes behind them.

“Of course, [playing with no fans is] going to have some level of an impact,” Brown said to reporters on May 15. “I do feel just the mere fact that we'll be playing again might be able to sort of minimize whatever awkwardness playing in front of zero fans is going to teach all of us.”

For those of us at home, the lack of crowd noise, however unfortunate, could add an interesting dynamic. If Joel Embiid is telling an opposing center that they can’t bleeping guard him, we may hear it. When Tobias Harris gets hacked on his way to the lane with no whistle, we may hear the earful he gives the official. When Ben Simmons throws down a rim-rocking dunk, we may hear him bellowing.

It’s uncharted territory for every person involved.

“I think it will be almost comical,” Brown said, “like the communication with referees and the back and forth with players and the rest. I mean, think about that, so much of it really is drowned in 20,000 people — there won't be at all. And so how it will play out, I don't know. None of us have ever done this.”

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