76ers

Whew! Sixers figure things out just in time

Whew! Sixers figure things out just in time

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CHICAGO — That momentum the Sixers had at the All-Star break must’ve had a hard time making the trip to the Windy City, but they got it when they needed it most.

Ben Simmons scored the last of his career-high 32 points from the line with 5.6 seconds left and the Sixers pulled out a 116-115 win in both teams’ return from the hiatus.

The Bulls had a pair of looks at a game-winner in the final seconds but the ball bounced away and left the Sixers with their sixth straight victory.

All-Star Joel Embiid added 30 points and 13 rebounds — his ninth straight double-double — to help the Sixers end their four-game road losing streak.

Simmons had 11 assists and seven rebounds to come close to his seventh triple-double and Dario Saric chipped in 13 to help the Sixers take the season series from the Bulls.

JJ Redick made a pair of free throws with 8.0 seconds left to cut the lead to a point, then Simmons drew a foul to put the Sixers ahead for good.

Up 93-91 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Sixers watched Bobby Portis score 10 points during a 12-5 run that gave the hosts a lead they wouldn’t lose until the final seconds. Portis, who missed the first of the Bulls’ final chances, finished with a career-best 38 points and Zach LaVine added 23.

• Chicago left the door open by missing four straight shots in the final minutes, but an Embiid turnover with about a minute to play kept the Sixers from tying the game at 112-112 or taking the lead. LaVine nailed a three-pointer at the other end to make it 115-110 and keep the Sixers scrambling.

• The Sixers jumped out to a 25-7 lead midway through the first quarter after making their first five three-point tries — including two by Embiid — but trailed, 69-67, at the break. Chicago’s Portis led the charge for the hosts by scoring 14, a dozen of which came on triples, in the second period.

• One more triple-double will put Simmons in some rare company. Hall of Fame enshrinee Magic Johnson was the last NBA rookie to record seven during the 1979-80 season.

• Justin Anderson, who left a Feb. 12 win over New York with a sprained right ankle and missed the Sixers’ finale before the break, did not play Thursday night. 

• Chicago benched center Robin Lopez and guard Justin Holiday on Thursday as the franchise joins several others in a race for the best odds in the NBA draft lottery. 

Sixers coach Brett Brown remembers days like that and said there’s more to the story.

“It didn’t beat me down, but you had to coach yourself a little bit,” Brown said of recent seasons. “We went overboard just with the relational side and the development side. Anything that fell under those two categories, we went overboard trying to help guys, help them get better, help them stay in the league.”

• The Sixers return home Saturday hoping to extend an 11-game winning streak at the Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers tip off against the Orlando Magic on Saturday at 5 p.m.

LA Clippers owner Steve Ballmer takes tanking jab at Sixers

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LA Clippers owner Steve Ballmer takes tanking jab at Sixers

The Sixers have been minding their own business this summer.

We touched on that earlier this week as players from one Eastern Conference contender after another opened up about how their respective teams were going to reach the NBA Finals (see story).

That’s fine. You would expect those squads to feel confident in their ability, especially now that the conference’s boogie man, LeBron James, has moved on to Hollywood.

But then the Sixers had a grenade lobbed their way from an unlikely source.

Speaking at an event dubbed “The Playbook,” essentially a pep rally for LA Clippers fans to speak with members of the front office, owner Steve Ballmer assured supporters in the crowd that the franchise wasn’t going to adopt a tanking method to get back in contention like the Sixers.

“That ain’t us. Nuh-uh, no way,” Ballmer said, per the Los Angeles Times. “People can do it their way. We’re going to be good our way. We’re not going to show up and suck for a year, two years. I think we got higher expectations on us than the long, hard five, six years of absolute crap like the 76ers put in. How could we look you guys in the eye if we did that to you?”

Wow, OK.

Let’s look at the fact that the Sixers’ history, which includes three championships and a laundry list of some of the game's all-time greats, provided the organization with the leeway to undertake such a massive overhaul in a promise to reclaim the glory days. 

The Clippers, on the other hand, have just 13 playoff appearances in their 48-year history and zero titles. 

But this isn’t to beat up on the Clippers. They had to dig themselves out of the mess former owner Donald Sterling created and it can’t be easy always operating in the “Showtime” shadow cast by the Lakers.

This is more about what exactly Ballmer has accomplished — or hasn’t accomplished — in his brief time running a franchise to take a shot at the Sixers from across the country.

Since paying $2 billion for the Clippers prior to the start of the 2014-15 season (one year after the Sixers started “The Process”), the team has actually taken a wrong turn. In that ’14-15 campaign, they won 56 games and reached the Western Conference semifinals. The 2015-16 season produced 53 wins and a first-round exit. In 2016-17, LA registered 51 victories before bowing out in the first round again. Last season, the Clippers had a 42-40 record (two of those losses came to the Sixers) and missed the postseason.

Plus, in just the past calendar year under Ballmer’s watch, the Clips have lost their big three of Chris Paul (trade), Blake Griffin (trade) and DeAndre Jordan (free agent).

That doesn’t exactly scream team on the rise.

Ballmer may indeed have a plan to make sure the Clippers get back in the hunt. After all, he does have respected basketball minds Jerry West and Lawrence Frank handling front-office business and Doc Rivers still orchestrating things on the sidelines. And L.A., while now missing its star trio, does have some intriguing players on the roster that could surprise a few people.

Still, that collection was projected by ESPN to finish with a 35-47 record in 2018-19 and miss the playoffs again in the stacked Western Conference.

With the Clippers staring a decline right in the face and the Sixers boasting two franchise cornerstones in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons along with other solid pieces from Sam Hinkie’s process, it appears a bit misguided for Ballmer to take such a swipe.

Ballmer might not want the Clippers to tank under his leadership. The thing is, the organization might be forced into that method regardless.

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Sixers hire Lindsey Harding as 2nd female full-time scout in NBA from WNBA

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Sixers hire Lindsey Harding as 2nd female full-time scout in NBA from WNBA

The Sixers have made a historic hire in their scouting department.

The team has hired former WNBA star Lindsey Harding as a full-time scout starting next season. 

"I think when you have this goal in mind, your gender shouldn't even matter," Harding told ESPN’s Ramona Shelbourne. "It should be about if you can do it, if you're good, you're experienced, if you know what you're doing and what you're talking about."

Harding, a Duke product and the No. 1 overall pick in 2007 WNBA draft, is just the second woman to be hired by an NBA team as a scout after a career in the WNBA. Jenny Boucek, who is now an assistant coach with the Dallas Mavericks, was the first former WNBA player to be hired as a scout back in 2006 by the Seattle SuperSonics. Becky Hammon, one of Harding's former opponents who urged Harding to pursue this path, was hired as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014. Hammon has since been interviewed for the Milwaukee Bucks' GM job and been promoted to Gregg Popovich's top assistant.

Harding completed the NBA's Basketball Operations Associates Program last season after retiring in 2017. The 34-year-old guard spent nine seasons in the WNBA and represented Belarus in the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

"Lindsey has quickly become one of the game's bright young minds in basketball operations," Sixers head coach and interim GM Brett Brown said to Shelbourne. "Having graduated from the NBA's Basketball Operations Associates Program last season, Lindsey is applying the same grit and basketball IQ she used as a player in her move to the front office. We look forward to the work Lindsey will do to help grow our program and further solidify a culture of winning.

"It's no secret how much I value the culture we've built in Philadelphia and how much a family-like atmosphere means to our program. Lindsey is a leader, and she is a welcomed addition to the 76ers family. I look forward to working with her."

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