Sixers fans need to relax about team's offseason

Sixers fans need to relax about team's offseason

Here’s a brief message that some Sixers fans can use right now: relax.

Remember that you have a team with two budding superstars that reached the Eastern Conference semifinals just last season and should only be headed upward from here.

Sure, there’s going to be some level of disappointment when Brett Brown proclaimed the Sixers were going “star hunting” this summer only to come up empty on the free-agent market outside of re-signing their own players.

But, more than anything, how things transpired for the Sixers over the past few weeks should let you know that much more goes into landing a free agent than simply basketball.

Look at the first major domino to fall in free agency, Paul George. The five-time All-Star didn’t hesitate to make his decision and announced he was rejoining the Oklahoma City Thunder at a Russell Westbrook party shortly after midnight on July 1.

Despite the Sixers being in the mix for George, the Thunder always had the upper hand. The Thunder had George in the fold for a full year after acquiring him from Indiana last summer and used every day to convince him OKC was the right place to move forward.

“They honestly check the boxes where I needed those boxes to be checked from what a player wants and needs out of a front office, out of a medical group, out of teammates, out of coaching staff,” George said during exit interviews. “I mean, honestly, they can't say it anymore [than] that. They checked the boxes on what needs to be checked.”

Even with George on the market, the Sixers always had their top focus on the biggest available fish in the game: LeBron James. They even secured a meeting with James’ camp, albeit only with agent Rich Paul and not the three-time champion himself. 

Still, the Sixers, with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid leading the way, were serious contenders for James as Paul confirmed.

"The teams that he looked at, he looked at for guys like Ben Simmons,” Paul, who is also Simmons’ agent, said on NBA TV during a summer league game. “There's a reason why he looked at Philadelphia, but ultimately he chose the Lakers.”

And what ultimately made James join the Lakers, no matter what his representatives say to the contrary, had little to do with basketball. James has turned himself into an entertainment mogul, so who better to learn from than Magic Johnson? 

After all, King James reportedly already had dinner in Los Angeles last week with Al Pacino and Leonardo DiCaprio

We all love Philadelphia, but those types of Hollywood power brokers aren’t exactly making reservations for restaurants on Broad Street.

So the Sixers swung and missed on George for familiarity and James for off-court opportunities. 

Perhaps you can swallow missing out on two of the game’s best players, but now role players are spurning the franchise too? That’s enough to push a Sixers fan over the edge … until you dig a little bit deeper.

Nemanja Bjelica had his qualifying offer with the Minnesota Timberwolves rescinded and immediately jumped to the best situation for him when he reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with the Sixers.

However, Bjelica informed the team he was backing out of the deal and returning to Europe. That was until fellow Serbian and Kings general manager, Vlade Divac, came calling. Now the two sides are apparently deep in discussion on a multi-year contract.

Once you push through the initial wave of confusion, you find out that Bjelica simply didn’t want to move his family to Philadelphia for a year and be back on the hunt next summer. He was seeking what most of us do in a new job, which is stability. 

While that may seem a bit unreasonable for an NBA reserve big man, you can’t blame a guy for trying. And now it appears he may find some of what he desired in Sacramento.

Back here in Philadelphia, the Sixers are surely second-guessing what happened to their star hunt this offseason. While it came up empty-handed, the Sixers — and their fans — have to understand that so much more factors into securing a free agent than what actually takes place on the court and is not a red flag on the franchise.

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Sixers vs. Pacers: 3 storylines to watch and how to live stream the game

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Sixers vs. Pacers: 3 storylines to watch and how to live stream the game

The Philadelphia 76ers (19-10) will be looking to shake off their Brooklyn loss at Wells Fargo Center, as the Indiana Pacers (18-10) come to town. The Pacers are on a five-game winning streak (with their most recent win coming against Milwaukee) and Victor Oladipo (who missed 11 games with a sore right knee) will have his second night back in the lineup. Here are three storylines to watch for tonight’s game and how to live stream the game.

• When: 7:30 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 7 p.m.
• Where: Wells Fargo Center
• Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
• Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

Pacers' defense is ridiculously good

The Pacers are one of the top defensive teams in the NBA. Their 101.3 opponent points per game is the best mark in the league, and over their past five games, they have held opponents to a remarkable 95.0 ppg. Their 102.4 defensive rating is second best in the league, as are their steals (9.1), opponent paint points (41.9), and opponent field goals made (37.4). They also allow the least second-chance points in the league, and I could go on and on, but you get my point. What this all comes down to is the Sixers must be cleaner and smarter on offense to beat this Pacers team.

Cannot rely on getting to the line

The Sixers are second only to the Los Angeles Clippers at getting to the charity stripe this season. It’s been a big part of their success and was one of the areas they struggled with in their loss to the Nets (Jimmy Butler being out also affected this, and he’s listed as questionable for tonight’s game). Unfortunately for the Sixers, the Pacers are also the best team in the NBA at limiting their opponents' appearances at the line (19.6). Relying on getting calls and being sent to the line won’t work for the Sixers tonight.

JJ Redick, we need you!

The Sixers are going to need a big night from JJ Redick, especially if Jimmy Butler is out for tonight’s game. Redick is shooting just 5-24 (20.8 percent) from deep over his past three games, and the Sixers are going to need some threes to beat this Pacers team. Despite being elite defensively in what seems like every other category, the Pacers are allowing opponents to shoot 36.3 percent from three (22nd), so if there’s one place that I could choose for the Sixers to be lights out from, it would be from the three-point line.

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NBA Eastern Conference power rankings: Important stretch looms for Sixers

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NBA Eastern Conference power rankings: Important stretch looms for Sixers

The Celtics are creeping back toward the top, the Raptors continue to impress, and an important stretch looms for the Sixers.

Here are our latest Eastern Conference power rankings.

1. Toronto Raptors (23-7) Last week: 1
There’s a substantial gap between the Raptors and the rest of the East, as evidenced by Toronto’s 20-point win at the Warriors on Wednesday night without Kawhi Leonard.

2. Milwaukee Bucks (18-9) Last week: 2 
With last Friday’s trade, the Bucks added George Hill and freed up cap space heading into the offseason. After the Raptors, it’s tight at the top of the East, but unlike the Sixers, the Bucks have beaten Toronto — twice. 

3. Sixers (19-10) Last week: 3
Fortunately for the Sixers, they don’t have to play the Nets again until March. The next six games up through Christmas will be a telling stretch. Can the Sixers beat the teams they’re supposed to beat (the Cavs and Knicks) and pull off a couple wins against strong opposition (the streaking Spurs, the Pacers, Raptors and Celtics)?

4. Boston Celtics (17-10) Last week: 4
After their early struggles, the Celtics are gelling, with seven straight wins. All of the first six were by nine points or more, and they won the seventh thanks to some clutch shotmaking from Kyrie Irving.

5. Indiana Pacers (18-10) Last week: 6 
Victor Oladipo returned to the lineup Wednesday after missing over three weeks with knee soreness, and the Pacers beat the Bucks by 16 points. Indiana did more than just tread water without Oladipo; the Pacers have won five straight and can move ahead of the Sixers in the standings with a victory on Friday. Bogdan Bogdanovic is shooting 49.6 percent from three-point range, the highest percentage of any player with at least 25 long range attempts. 

6. Charlotte Hornets (14-13) Last week: 7
The Hornets almost lost a game in one of the worst ways imaginable vs. the Pistons. Bismack Biyombo and Malik Monk ran onto the floor after Jeremy Lamb’s go-ahead jumper with 0.3 seconds left, leading to the Hornets being assessed a technical foul and owner Michael Jordan smacking Monk on the back of the head in a “tap of endearment.” A win’s a win, though, and the Hornets have three in a row.

7. Detroit Pistons (13-13) Last week: 5
Following a late-November stretch of five consecutive wins, Detroit has lost six in a row. The Pistons’ complementary pieces around Blake Griffin just haven’t been good enough to vault Detroit near the top tier of the East.

8. Orlando Magic (13-15) Last week: 8 
Nikola Vucevic is consistently very good. The rest of the team is not.

9. Washington Wizards (11-17) Last week: 9
John Wall had perhaps his best game of the season on Wednesday after missing the previous game due to bone spurs in his left heel, but the Wizards still lost.

10. Brooklyn Nets (11-18) Last week: 11
The day after dropping a career-high 39 points on the Sixers, Spencer Dinwiddie signed a three-year extension with Brooklyn. It would probably behoove the Nets to tank, but they have the talent to hang around the playoff picture.

11. Miami Heat (11-16) Last week: 10
Miami beat the Clippers by 23 and lost to the Jazz by 27 in an odd past week. In the middle of those two games was Dwyane Wade’s final matchup against LeBron James, which the Heat lost.

12. New York Knicks (8-21) Last week: 12 
Undrafted rookie Allonzo Trier signed a two-year, $7 million deal Thursday, which is a nice off-the-court story. On the court, the Knicks have lost seven of eight. Frank Ntilikina is playing again after a three-game stint on the bench, and he had a career-high 18 points Sunday night.

13. Cleveland Cavaliers (7-21) Last week: 14
"Folk hero" Matthew Dellavedova had a triumphant return to Cleveland.

14. Atlanta Hawks (6-21) Last week: 15 
Saturday’s win over the Nuggets was by far the best of the season for Atlanta. John Collins is averaging 25 points on 61.6 percent shooting and 13.5 rebounds over the past four games. 

15. Chicago Bulls (6-23) Last week: 13 
A franchise-record loss, players reportedly on the brink of mutiny under new head coach Jim Boylen, and Jabari Parker out of the regular rotation. It’s a messy situation in Chicago.

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