76ers

Sixers fans should play the villain and boo Jared Dudley relentlessly in Game 5

Sixers fans should play the villain and boo Jared Dudley relentlessly in Game 5

Joel Embiid may have called Jared Dudley “a nobody” after this past weekend’s Sixers win against the Nets, but he’s certainly somebody to Philly fans. He’s the latest embodiment of all the city’s frustrations. My student loan debt? Jared Dudley’s fault. My 2004 Ford Explorer not starting once per month? Also his fault.

Dudley, who looks more like the Pillsbury Dough Boy than an NBA combo forward, played his role perfectly on Saturday: he instigated a fight and got one of the Sixers' star players in Jimmy Butler ejected from the game alongside him. He knows what he’s doing. He knew what he was doing when he called Ben Simmons “average” last week. He’s stirring the pot. Dudley did his job. Now it’s time for Sixers fans to do theirs.

Boo the you-know-what out of him. No mercy.

During the Sixers’ embarrassing performance in Game 1 last Saturday, boos rained down throughout the Wells Fargo Center. Following that nine-point loss, Simmons was quick to say, “If you go on that side, stay on that side,” in response to Sixers fans’ boo birds. There are two certainties in life when athletes are addressing the city’s fans. One: don’t do that. And two: if you play like crap, you’re going to hear about it. The Sixers slugged their way through the last month of the season and no-showed a home playoff game. It was well deserved. Simmons going berserk early in Game 2 on his way to a triple-double performance only further justified the booing as the kick in the pants the team needed.

The national sports media circuit predictably came out flaming against the Philly faithful after Game 1, creating a referendum on the merits of fans booing their own teams’ players. At the risk of coming off as your cliched, annoying uncle, I will say that if you’re not from the Philly area, you don’t have the slightest idea of what you’re talking about in situations like this. Let us cope with our sports disappointments on our own. No matter how Philadelphians act, there will always be critics policing our sports fandom. You’re not my therapist. You can’t tell me what to do.

Which brings us back to The Round Mound of Zero Rebounds. Everyone already thinks Philly fans are the worst people in the universe. Go full heel. Play the villain. People in this city love wearing a “Philadelphia vs. Everybody” shirt or hoodie. Don’t just lean into the role. Cannonball into it! When Dudley steps off that bus from Brooklyn, he should have the same fear in his eyes as Jaime Lannister did when he saw Bran Stark from across the Winterfell courtyard. He shouldn’t even get off the bus!

Go crazy. Break out J.D. Drew-level boos when he gets announced in the Nets’ starting lineup. “AVEEEE-RAGEEEE” chants every single time he touches the ball. The Sixers should display a video of Elmer Fudd in Space Jam on the jumbotron whenever he checks in. Have the arena shaking like Patrick Robinson just took a Case Keenum interception back to the house if Simmons yams a dunk right on his shiny, bald head. It’s a close-out game. Go out with a bang before worrying about making Canada jokes during the entire second round against the Raptors.

If the city of Philadelphia had an unparalleled period of peace for the next five decades, in which a boo never left a fan’s lips at a sporting event, it would not matter in the eyes of the world. We’ll always be terrible. We’ll always be mean. We’ll always be snowballs and Santa Claus and D batteries and puking on little girls and eating literal horse feces.

There’s a song by the band Titus Andronicus where frontman Patrick Stickles screams, “You will always be a loser!” 30 times in a row before triumphantly proclaiming, “And that’s okay!” at the track’s conclusion.

We’ll always be the worst. And that’s okay.

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James Ennis will decline his player option but could very well still return to Sixers

James Ennis will decline his player option but could very well still return to Sixers

James Ennis will decline his player option and become a free agent, his agent, Scott Nichols from Rize Management, confirmed Monday morning.

The news was first reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. Ennis’ player option was for $1.85 million.

According to Nichols, Ennis is seeking a more lucrative, multi-year deal. Nichols said Ennis, after being acquired by the Sixers in February in a trade with the Houston Rockets, enjoyed his stint in Philadelphia, and it’s possible he could return to the Sixers. 

“He’s built good relationships within his short time there with his teammates like Ben [Simmons] and Joel [Embiid] and has found a quiet leadership role there, too,” Nichols told NBC Sports Philadelphia.

Ennis talked at his exit interview last Monday about the close friendship he’s developed with Simmons, mentioning that Simmons talked him into getting a Cane Corso dog, the same type of dog Simmons has. 

Ennis boosted his stock during the postseason as a key member of the Sixers’ bench, averaging 7.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 11 playoff games. During the regular season, Ennis won the “tournament” for wing minutes off the bench in a landslide, beating out Jonathon Simmons and Furkan Kokrmaz.

“It was tough at first because it was unsure if I was going to play,” Ennis said. “Me and Jonathon were play one game, sit one game, so it was kind of rocky at first. But I got more games under my belt, got more comfortable, and it just took off like that. I appreciate the staff believing in me, Elton Brand bringing me here and Coach [Brett] Brown allowing me to play.”

At 28 years old, Ennis has already played for six teams. The Sixers, if they’re willing to offer a deal that Ennis and Nichols like, may offer the stability that’s been lacking during his career.

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The spotlight is on Elton Brand for his first NBA Draft, free agency as Sixers general manager

The spotlight is on Elton Brand for his first NBA Draft, free agency as Sixers general manager

Last year, the Sixers’ pre-draft process was, for some time, a mystery. As the team investigated then-president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo’s alleged use of burner Twitter accounts, the typical pre-draft routine was interrupted. Then, with the search underway to replace Colangelo, the Sixers took on the NBA draft with Brett Brown as the interim general manager at the head of a collaborative leadership structure.

Elton Brand was a part of that group that helped shepherd the organization through the draft — and came away with a commendable haul of Zhaire Smith, Landry Shamet and Shake Milton. 

Now, Brand is the man in charge. He attended the team’s first pre-draft workout on May 6 in Camden, New Jersey — the team will hold its second group workout Monday — and was at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago this past week. The draft is a month away and then, soon enough, the Sixers will shift into free agency mode.

Brand said at his end-of-season press conference Tuesday that he’s looking forward to it all. 

I’m excited. We have a great group. Dynamic core. I look forward to being the GM for the first time going into free agency, going into the draft. We were in [Game 7] until the last shot to go into overtime and win and get to the Eastern Conference Finals. Disappointed we didn’t get there, but highly optimistic and I’m proud of what we've done. I look forward to this offseason. I know we’re going to grow and get better.

Things change rapidly in professional sports, but let’s just take a moment to acknowledge that, even by the warped standards of the Sixers, it’s been quite a year.

Brown famously proclaimed on draft night that the team was “star hunting, or star developing.” The “star hunting” part ended up falling on Brand, since the Sixers’ two biggest summer acquisitions under Brown were Mike Muscala and Wilson Chandler. Brand later traded away both players in the early-morning, pre-deadline deal for Tobias Harris, Mike Scott and Boban Marjanovic that confirmed, if there was any lingering doubt, his willingness to be bold.

Though Brand didn’t hold much back in his first attempt at lifting the Sixers to title contention, he gave himself ample flexibility this offseason. The Sixers have more free agents than players under contract for next year, and they have five draft picks, tied with Atlanta for the most of any team. There’s no undoing the moves he made in his first season, but Brand has the choice to fundamentally reshape the Sixers again if he’d like.

Another path Brand could take is paying what’s necessary to bring back Harris and Butler and figuring out the rest at the margins. (Regardless, upgrading at backup center will be a priority.) It’s also very possible Brand tries to find a middle road.

Owner Josh Harris said Tuesday he’s comfortable going into the luxury tax, though Brand added, “We’re going to be fiscally responsible. We’re not just going to be jumping into the luxury tax with the moves we make.”

Brand will, of course, have a team to support him with all the minutiae of the salary cap — trade exceptions, the mid-level exception, you name it — in his first offseason. After experiencing a bizarre last summer in a peripheral role, Brand is in the limelight. 

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