Sixers say they’re taking ‘accountability’ concerns seriously

Sixers say they’re taking ‘accountability’ concerns seriously

CAMDEN, N.J. — When a player on a team throws around the word "accountability,” more than a few eyebrows get raised.

Comments like that seem to come out more often when you’re in the midst of a three-game losing streak, with the last game being a lifeless blowout.

But the overall consensus after practice on Thursday is that Josh Richardson, the player that expressed those concerns after Tuesday’s drubbing by the Pacers, was right.

“Yeah, I agree,” Ben Simmons said. “We sat down and talked this morning. We all know why we're here, what we want to get out of being here — that's a championship. And we just have to hold each other accountable.”

While Richardson’s comments were a topic of conversation, that wasn’t the sole reason for the team meeting. This was just the first chance the Sixers had in a while to sit down and talk as a team in their facility.

When a question of accountability comes up, the head coach is often in the crosshairs. Brett Brown wasn’t shirking responsibility, admitting that he needed to do a better job getting his team ready to play on a nightly basis.

Brown sees positivity in the fact that the team was able to practice. The Sixers’ schedule has felt non-stop, but the games are more spread out in January. That will afford them more opportunity to practice and perhaps allow the starting five more time to gel in a more controlled setting.

In the long term, Brown believes Richardson’s comments will wind up galvanizing the Sixers. 

“I understand what was said but I don’t try to dissect that and look deeper,” Brown said. “I think it’s quite honest and simple. I understand it, I think that we will be better off for this situation — I truly do. I think today’s practice was awesome. It’s one of the first days you really had a chance to sweat and have a legitimate practice in a very, very long time.”

Another positive sign is that Joel Embiid, who missed Tuesday’s game with left knee soreness, was a full participant on Thursday.

Embiid didn’t comment directly on Richardson’s comments. Instead he mentioned that he thought the team was in a good place after talking openly Thursday.

He did have one interesting remark when asked about the team’s starting five not clicking offensively.

“We just got to look at ourselves and see what we can do better individually,” Embiid said. “We gotta help each other, even if that means being outside of your comfort zone as far as to help the team win. Meaning that if you gotta space and shoot it, you gotta do it. We need everybody to buy into that. We'll be fine. We're gonna be fine. We're still finding our groove. We haven't been totally healthy, the whole starting lineup. Like I said, we'll be fine.”

You likely don’t have to strain your eyes too hard to read between the lines here. Though some may view this as a “call out,” it’s in line with Embiid’s comments about Simmons to the media earlier this season and what his message has been to Simmons as a teammate.

It's no secret that Simmons’ unwillingness as a shooter has hurt the Sixers offensively. His propensity to go to the dunker spot has made for a clunky fit on offense.

Though Embiid and Simmons are the team’s All-Stars and longest-tenured players, they’re not above reproach. While acknowledging that he’s looked to as a leader on the team, Embiid said he welcomes any criticism his teammates have that will make him better.

“Everybody has the freedom to do whatever they want,” Embiid said. “[Ben and I] are not entitled. I've been here the longest. Ben has been here. We're not entitled. The way I get better, I like people telling me what I don't do best, and I feel like every time, if I do something wrong, these guys let me know. Like I said, we're humble. We want to learn. We want to get better. He wants to learn, he wants to get better. So there's no sense of people being afraid to speak up. Everybody has a freedom, and that's the culture that we have. And there's nothing going on.”

Adding to the team’s wonky fit offensively is the addition of Al Horford. Horford is the team’s oldest player, but he’s also new. He admitted that though Embiid is younger, he looks to the All-Star center as a leader. Horford is getting more comfortable when it comes to speaking up, but his role is still growing.

Horford came away from Thursday’s team meeting and practice encouraged, saying the vibe was “all positive.”

The consummate teammate, Horford is not going to ruffle feathers over his role despite his recent struggles.

“He’s so classy and at times just wanting to be a good teammate that he doesn’t sort of impose himself all the time on the game,” Brown said. “And at times I don’t call his number a lot, either. We’ve been going to a lot of Tobias [Harris] and Joel, as an example. So, I do not worry about it, and I most importantly go back and ask how do I help him?”

It looks like the Sixers are holding each other accountable. We’ll see if that helps them in Houston Friday.

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The fun Joel Embiid-Ben Simmons moment you might've missed during All-Star Game in Chicago

The fun Joel Embiid-Ben Simmons moment you might've missed during All-Star Game in Chicago

There’s been a lot made of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons’ fit on the court. In the past, there have been rumblings of the pair not necessarily getting along off it.

During All-Star Weekend in Chicago, the pair seemed to get along swimmingly.

But there was this fun moment we likely all missed initially.

While it’s true that they’re very different people and may not be best friends, it seems like they have a mutual respect and admiration for one another.

Both players shined throughout the night. Simmons (17 points, six rebounds, five assists, two steals) put on a show during his first run, dunking everything in sight. Team Giannis basically ran their offense through Embiid (22 points, 10 rebounds, one ridiculous Dream Shake on LeBron) down the stretch.

Their chemistry appears to be growing. That could only help the Sixers as they look to go on a run in the final 27 games after the All-Star break.

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Villanova's Jay Wright reportedly linked to New York Knicks head coaching job

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Villanova's Jay Wright reportedly linked to New York Knicks head coaching job

In the midst of another successful season at Villanova, Jay Wright’s name is yet again surfacing in connection with NBA jobs.

Wright has been linked — again — to the vacant New York Knicks job, per Adam Zagoria for Forbes.com.

The idea of Wright to the Knicks is not new. After New York fired former Sixer Jeff Hornacek in 2018, the Knicks were interested in interviewing Wright, but the Wildcats head coach turned them down. He was also reportedly on the Phoenix Suns’ radar four years ago. Way back in 2009, he spoke with the Sixers about the job that eventually went to Doug Collins.

The interest from NBA teams likely won’t go away any time soon for Wright. He’s won two national championships and his current team is ranked No. 15 in the country. He’s likely destined for the Basketball Hall of Fame and seems to have the personality and demeanor to coach at the next level.

Up until now though, Wright has been inclined to stay at Villanova.

“I’m staying. I love it here,” Jay Wright said to The Athletic in 2018. “I love what we’re doing. I’m just really happy. I said when I was at Hofstra and I didn’t take other jobs, I used that old Jim Valvano line, ‘Don’t mess with happy.’ That seemed appropriate at Hofstra until this job opened. It’s still really appropriate. I’m very happy here. I don’t need another challenge. I like happy better than a new challenge.

“The NBA does intrigue me. That challenge is appealing, but it’s not worth giving up working with these guys.”

Wright recently put his home in Berwyn up for sale, but his broker said that Wright and his wife Patricia are looking to downsize with their kids getting older. It could just be a coincidence, but the timing is a little peculiar.

It does seem like Wright is open to the possibility of coaching in the NBA if the ideal opportunity presented itself.

The Knicks have cleaned house, firing head coach David Fizdale and team president Steve Mills. They’re still owned by the mercurial James Dolan and have an oddly constructed roster. 

Is that the type of job Wright would give up his comfortable position at Villanova for? Does what John Beilein is encountering in Cleveland give him pause? Could the Bucks County native hold out to see if the Sixers’ job becomes available if Brett Brown fails to get the team past the second round again?

There will be NBA jobs out there — if Wright ever wants one.

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