The 6 best on-court fights involving the Sixers

The 6 best on-court fights involving the Sixers

Joel Embiid added another chapter to the Sixers' history of on-court fights Wednesday night as he scrapped with fellow All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns. Here’s a look at five of our other favorite on-court fights involving the 76ers.

5. Larry Bird vs Marc Iavaroni – 1983

This scrap took place in a preseason game. A. PRESEASON. GAME. Bird took exception to Iavaroni boxing out on a free throw. The two came together, were separated and eventually Bird made his way back to Iavaroni and landed a punch. Legendary Celtics coach Red Auerbach, then the team’s top basketball executive stormed the court and had to be separated (for his own good) from Moses Malone. Auerbach was later fined $2,500 for his action. A reasonable price to pay to not be punched by Moses Malone.

4. Sedale Threatt vs Danny Ainge – 1986

The Sixers/Celtics rivalry takes center stage again. Before he annoyed everyone as the Celtics president, Ainge annoyed everyone as a Celtics player. On this night, Sedale Threatt decided he had enough of Ainge’s act and delivered an open-hand shot to Ainge’s face. To Ainge’s credit, he stumbled but did not fall.

3. Charles Barkley vs Bill Laimbeer – 1990

This was the Thump and Bump Sixers vs the Bad Boys Pistons. In the waning seconds, notorious instigator Bill Laimbeer shoved a ball in his former teammate Rick Mahorn’s face. Charles Barkley, never one to back down from a skirmish, jumped in and the punches flew. Benches emptied. In the end, fines were handed out to both teams, and to more than a dozen players. Laimbeer and Barkley had to pay $20,000 fines and each sat out one game. Oh yeah, the Sixers won the game that night to clinch the Atlantic Division championship. 

2. Maurice Lucas vs Darryl Dawkins – 1977

The Sixres were on their way to taking a 2-0 series lead in the 1977 NBA Finals against the Trail Blazers when Darryl Dawkins and Bobby Gross tangled for a rebound. Dawkins tossed Gross to the floor. After some finger pointing by Gross, Dawkins went to deliver a haymaker and actually punched his own teammate Doug Collins. The Blazers’ Maurice Lucas came to Gross’ aid. Lucas and Dawkins squared off at center court. Fans actually stormed the court at the Spectrum. Order was eventually restored and the Blazers credit that moment as the turning point of the series. They went on to win the next four games and claim their first and only NBA title.

1. Julius Erving vs Larry Bird – 1984

This one takes top spot because of the star power involved. In November of 1984, Dr. J and Larry Bird were two of the top three recognizable stars in the NBA. This fight started after Bird attempted to bully his way into the post and picked up an offensive foul. As the teams went to the other end of the floor, Bird makes a beeline for Dr. J. A rookie forward by the name of Charles Barkley grabs Bird before he can get to Erving. Barkley then basically holds Bird up so that the Doctor can deliver the ultimate house call with three punches directly to the face. Remarkably, neither player was suspended. Gotta love the ‘80s.  

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Sixers Injury Update: Joel Embiid, Josh Richardson out for Saturday's game vs. Cavs

Sixers Injury Update: Joel Embiid, Josh Richardson out for Saturday's game vs. Cavs

The Sixers will be down two starters Saturday night when they return to Wells Fargo Center to play the Cavs.

Josh Richardson will miss his fifth consecutive game with right hamstring tightness, while Joel Embiid is out with a left hip contusion.

A team source told NBC Sports Philadelphia that Embiid reported discomfort after the Sixers' 119-113 loss to the Wizards on Thursday night and is being treated for the injury.

Embiid had 26 points, 21 rebounds and eight turnovers Thursday.

Richardson and the Sixers have been cautious with his hamstring. He told reporters in Washington, D.C., that this is the first hamstring injury he's dealt with and admitted that it's been a frustrating process.

“A hamstring is one of those things where you can think that you’re fine and then you take a wrong step and it’s a week or two-week setback," he said. "I don’t really want to get into that whole cycle. ... It’s just one of those things where I just don’t really know where I’m at most of the time. It always feels like I’m tiptoeing, trying not to do too much.”

The Sixers' preferred starting five of Embiid, Richardson, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris and Al Horford have played just 102 minutes together this season, posting a plus-21.3 net rating. 

Furkan Korkmaz has started the past four games in place of Richardson. Without Embiid, the Sixers will need to plug in another spot starter and perhaps search for further big man depth. Kyle O'Quinn hasn't played since Nov. 23, but he might be called upon vs. Cleveland.

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How Joel Embiid can improve with the subtleties of screening and rolling

How Joel Embiid can improve with the subtleties of screening and rolling

The Sixers, through 22 games, have run the fewest pick-and-rolls in the NBA, and at the worst efficiency

Joel Embiid is in the bottom top 10 percent of the league in efficiency as a roll man. 

None of those stats are encouraging at first glance.

That said, are there any positive signs for Embiid’s progress as a screener and a roller? And how can he get better?

Rolling isn’t always the right option

While Brett Brown said after practice Wednesday that he wants Embiid “screening and rolling more than popping,” rolling isn’t always the right option for the All-Star center.

Because Ben Simmons frequently stations himself in the “dunker spot,” Embiid often needs to float out behind the three-point line for the Sixers to maintain proper spacing.

When opposing big men drop on the pick-and-roll, there’s typically not much to be gained by Embiid rolling.

Embiid pops on the play below against the Raptors, and it’s a reasonable move with Marc Gasol dropping into the paint on Josh Richardson’s drive. Ultimately, the bigger issue is he settles for a mid-range jumper instead of either taking an open three or putting pressure on Gasol to guard a drive to the rim. 

A game-winning variation  

Before Richardson’s hamstring injury, the Sixers were incorporating the action above more into their offense. It’s a basic look — Richardson rubs off a screen to the top of the key, then Embiid steps up to give him a ball screen. 

Embiid’s game-winning dunk on Nov. 12 vs. the Cavs came from a smart variation. After Embiid’s roll to the rim, he set a strong down screen for Tobias Harris, flowing into a perfectly executed high-low.

On most of the occasions Embiid rolls to the rim and doesn’t receive the ball initially, a deep post-up is the next best option. Instead of finding Embiid on the high-low Nov. 15 in Oklahoma City, Al Horford swung the ball to Harris and created a good angle for a post catch. Embiid will score or get fouled in these positions more often than not. 

Getting snug

The “snug pick-and-roll” is, in theory, a way to allow Embiid and Simmons to both be near the rim at the same time without the only result being claustrophobic spacing. 

Embiid set a hard screen on RJ Barrett, forced the desired switch and got an and-one Nov. 29 against the Knicks. 

“We've been trying to do that bit by bit over the years,” Brown told reporters. “I think that you have a deep pick-and-roll with those two, a lot of times they do switch. I thought Ben did a good job of finding that and if they don't switch you got Ben going downhill, and we're trying to just continue to work on his finishing. And it is a look that I think, especially in crunch-time environments, interests me a lot.” 

The obvious problem with the snug pick-and-roll is there’s minimal space for anything to develop. Simmons has little margin for error with his first read. 

Though Embiid eventually had the switch the Sixers wanted against the 6-foot-5 Malcolm Brogdon on the play above, Simmons had already committed to a righty jump hook on Myles Turner and didn’t have room to change his mind. 

Developing the tricks of the trade 

Embiid’s value as a roller increases against teams that aggressively hedge the pick-and-roll.

He didn’t even roll very far on this play from Nov. 8 in Denver — just a couple of feet after screening for Richardson — but the scheme the Nuggets were using meant Will Barton had to tag Embiid before flying out to Furkan Korkmaz. Barton couldn’t recover in time.

Embiid’s chemistry with his new teammates is predictably not yet at an advanced stage. Richardson has a tendency to snake back in the opposite direction of his initial drive, and Embiid still seems to be figuring that out. 

They were on different wavelengths here. 

Since Embiid draws so much respect from opposing defenses, many pick-and-roll actions involving him are going to be inelegant. Especially late in games, teams often know what’s coming and load up to stop it.

He can still be helpful in those situations by focusing on doing the simple things. The technique isn’t textbook on this play, but his screen on Donovan Mitchell gets the job done. 

One of the next steps in Embiid’s evolution as a screener and roller will be applying a few of the dark arts that are prevalent across the NBA, whether it’s stealthily using his upper body like Horford or giving the ball handler space to drive by sealing his man in the lane.

He did the latter well vs. Larry Nance Jr. and the Cavs. 

As a 7-foot, 280-pound player with diverse offensive skills, Embiid is a threat as a roller, at least on paper.

It often won’t be as easy for him as just rolling with purpose to the rim and being rewarded with dunks, but he’s shown he has the ability to help himself and his teammates get good looks. 

For Embiid, it’s clearly important to work on dealing with double teams, refining his post game, limiting turnovers and hitting open three-point shots at a decent rate. 

But the 25-year-old big man also has plenty of room to improve as a screener and roller. 

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