76ers

Sixers-Jazz observations: A rare sweep of Utah

Sixers-Jazz observations: A rare sweep of Utah

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It wasn’t a high-scoring performance like Saturday’s game against the Warriors, but the Sixers got the job done with a 107-86 win on Monday over the Jazz.

The Sixers improved to 9-7 as they swept the season series and beat the Jazz at home for the first time since Nov. 16, 2012. 

• Let’s go to the end of the game and start with the push. 

With four minutes to go, Joel Embiid swatted Donovan Mitchell’s drive and then yelled to the rookie as the Utah guard was on the ground. Mitchell bounced up and shoved Embiid, who fell as they started to run back down the court. Was Embiid fazed? Not at all. He made the “T” motion from the floor as Mitchell was whistled for a tech. The crowd broke out in a “Trust the Process” chant and Embiid smiled and waved his arms. Yes, Embiid was in his element. 

• Embiid, who was a game-time decision because of left knee soreness, played 27 minutes. He posted 15 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Embiid started to hit his stride in the second quarter (seven points, four rebounds in 6:22). The big man, who wants to live at the foul line, didn’t attempt his first free throw until three minutes into the quarter.

• Ben Simmons broke out of a quiet first half in which he shot 2 for 9 from the field (five points). He scored 14 points in the third and finished with a career-high 27 (13 for 24 from the field, 1 for 4 from the line). Simmons had his 11th double-double with 10 rebounds. He had a season-low two dimes. The rookie point guard (four steals) joined Paul George, Steph Curry and Kent Bazemore as the only players with 30 steals so far this season. 

• JJ Redick scored all 20 of his points in the second half. After going 0 for 3 from the field through two quarters, he wrapped up the game by going 6 for 10 from the field (2 for 2 from three).

• The game was in the Sixers’ control the entire way. They held the Jazz to 15 points in the first quarter, the least amount of points scored by a Sixers’ opponent in any quarter this season. That’s what shooting 25 percent from the field will do. The Jazz have had trouble keeping up with the Sixers early on. They actually held the mark for fewest first-quarter points (21) by a Sixers’ opponent in their first matchup on Nov. 7. 

• The starters combined for just nine of the Sixers’ 25 first-quarter points. Robert Covington and Redick were scoreless while T.J. McConnell led all players after one frame with eight points. 

• Amir Johnson impressed with 8 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks.

• Two-way contract player Jacob Pullen made his NBA debut in the final minute of the game.

• Injury updates: The Sixers’ Justin Anderson (left leg), Markelle Fultz (right shoulder) and Nik Stauskas (right ankle) were sidelined. Dante Exum (left shoulder), Rudy Gobert (right leg) and Joe Johnson (right wrist) were out for the Jazz. 

• Eagles running back LeGarrette Blount and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery were in attendance. You can imagine what happened.

• The Sixers had a very special guest as the ceremonial bell ringer. Seventeen-year-old Mike Shelly won the Chick-fil-A half-court shot contest on Saturday with a jaw-dropping basket. When the Sixers later learned his story of battling Stage 4 Lymphoma and losing his brother in a motor vehicle accident, they decided to bring him back for a memorable night (see video). In addition to the pregame ceremony, Shelly also will fly with the Sixers to Atlanta in March and tour the Chick-fil-A facility. 

• The Sixers served up Four’N Twenty beef pies at halftime in honor of their first international partnership with the Australian company. My verdict: not bad. NBC Sports Philadelphia video producer Christina Betz has an in-depth review here

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 LA, 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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