76ers

Sixers think it's time to talk about 'accountability' and to 'look in the mirror'

Sixers think it's time to talk about 'accountability' and to 'look in the mirror'

The Sixers’ three-game losing streak from Dec. 15 to Dec. 20 led players to remark the team was “playing scared,” and to comment on “blown coverages” and unacceptable effort.

Their current three-game skid, with a 115-97 loss Tuesday in Indiana the latest defeat, escalated things. Joel Embiid missed the game because of left knee soreness.

"I don’t think that there’s enough accountability in the locker room right now, honestly,” Josh Richardson told reporters in Indiana. “I think we got some new guys who don’t want to step on toes — including myself. I feel like we just kind of go play and don’t compete as much. There have been games where we have and it’s been great, but when it’s not going good we got to hold each other accountable, so I think that’s where a lot of our problems start.”

Richardson wasn’t the only player to touch on that particular issue following a game in which the Sixers wilted in the second quarter. They were outscored 38-16 in the period, looking lifeless without Embiid.

“We just need to come together, really sit down and talk about it — defense and the offense,” Ben Simmons said. “There are times we look like a championship team and there are nights like this where we don’t even look like we should be here. We gotta take ownership of that, look in the mirror and say what we want out of this team.”

Like Simmons, Richardson believes blunt discussions are necessary. 

“A couple of us talked about it so I know who said it, but going forward we got to talk to some people about it and we got to do it,” he said. “We talk about playing hard every day, we break the huddle down with 'chip' every day, and we got a long way to go before we actually start competing for that. I just think our locker room has some growing to do.”

The Sixers now sit at 23-13, sixth in the Eastern Conference and just behind the 22-12 Pacers. In September, head coach Brett Brown had said, “I want the No. 1 seed.” Though the Sixers beat the NBA-best Bucks in an impressive Christmas performance, they trail Milwaukee by 7.5 games. 

Before that Christmas showcase, general manager Elton Brand kept returning to the word “encouraged” when discussing the state of his team.

Tuesday, Brown leaned on “disappointing.”

“To lose two games and to come in here and not have that same maniacal competitiveness and try to end the year with a competitive performance that you wish would translate to a win is very disappointing,” he said.

The team’s issues don’t appear to be hopelessly beyond repair, at least from outside of the locker room. They’ve beaten elite opponents, showed glimpses of defensive potential and talked openly about being constructed with the playoffs in mind.

But, judging by what they had to say Tuesday, it sounds like they collectively see fundamental issues that warrant serious concern and reflection. Tobias Harris didn’t think the right approach would be to brush the loss off, attribute it to Embiid’s absence, and move on to Friday night’s game against the Houston Rockets. 

In all honesty, I think what we have to do is look one another in the eye, look ourselves in the mirror and kind of evaluate and take ownership on our own individual play,” Harris said. “And then figure out where individually we can be better, 1-on-1, as a man, and come to the table to try to mesh that together as a team. It’s easy to say, ‘Hey, we didn’t play defense’ or 'We didn’t get out in transition.’ It’s easy to say that but it’s hard to say, ‘I didn’t bring enough energy for the group tonight. I need to do a better job — me, myself, personally — when we’re in these type of ruts, picking us up and doing the utmost to figure out how we can get up out of a deep run like they had today.’ 

“… A loss like today — it’s easy to just say, oh, we need to switch it up. Switch up to what? What we did three games ago when we beat the Bucks? This is the league. One game after another, obviously we need to build consistency — that’s the big thing. But I think as an individual, 1-on-1, man to man, we need to look ourselves in the eye and come to the table on what we can individually do better, and bring that as a collective group.

Al Horford, who’s in the midst of a poor stretch and shot 2 of 12 Tuesday, had similar sentiments to Richardson, Simmons and Harris when asked what the Sixers need to fix. 

“Just more of a sense of urgency, starting on the defensive end,” he said. “We need to be better. We’ve been talking — Coach has told us the things that we need to do and we’re still making a lot of those mistakes. A lot of these things are on us and we need to be better.”

 

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NBA Rumors: Buddy Hield's comments should have Sixers fans intrigued

NBA Rumors: Buddy Hield's comments should have Sixers fans intrigued

The Sixers haven't even started the playoffs, but a potential offseason storyline is already bubbling up.

Kings guard Buddy Hield has been long tied to the Sixers as a potential trade target, from insider chatter to fan speculation, to his accidental (?) fueling of those rumors when he liked an Instagram post earlier this year with a hypothetical trade moving him to Philly.

So when the Kings' season ended Thursday, and Hield was asked if he's comfortable with his role off the bench in Sacramento heading into next season, his answer raised some eyebrows.

Including, I'd imagine, some in Philadelphia.

Here's what Hield had to say:

[Hield] provided a series of short answers during a Zoom session with reporters and offered a cryptic response when asked if he could be content with his role going into next season.

"Y'all know me," Hield said. "Y'all know how I talk. Y'all know how I feel. Y'all can read me well, so I'll let y'all answer that yourselves."

Pretty spicy. That doesn't sound like someone who wants to stay where he is!

Hield signed a four-year extension with Sacramento last October, but the Kings regressed in their first year under head coach Luke Walton, and The Athletic reported in February that Hield, unhappy with his role, might be eyeing a move elsewhere.

It doesn't sound like Hield's concerns about his role have changed much since then. If he's unhappy, he could theoretically ask for a trade - or Sacramento could pre-emptively try to get something for the still-young shooter.

I examined the potential fit back in April, including the hypothetical Hield-for-Horford deal from that fateful Instagram post:

In terms of contract length and salary hit, the Hield and Horford deals are strikingly similar, and Hield's game would be an instant improvement for the Sixers' offensive spacing: he's a two-guard who shoots a career 41.1 percent from deep, and can create his own shot. Plus, he's substantially younger than Horford.

Will the move happen? If the Kings deem their relationship with Hield unfixable, it's possible. Horford hasn't fit well in Philly, but he's still a savvy veteran with a good track record. And Hield would certainly check the boxes for the Sixers' front office.

Hield shot 39% from deep this year on 9.5 (!) three-point attempts per game, is a career 41% three-point shooter over 315 games, and would be a perfect match for the Sixers. 

We'll see.

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2020 NBA playoffs: Schedule for Sixers-Celtics series is set

2020 NBA playoffs: Schedule for Sixers-Celtics series is set

The Sixers’ second playoff series against the Celtics in three seasons is on the horizon, and we now know exactly when it will begin.

The series will kick off Monday at 6:30 p.m., the Sixers’ first postseason game since Kawhi Leonard’s indelible buzzer-beater in Game 7 of the second round on May 12, 2019. 

Below is the full schedule, with all times Eastern Standard Time:

Game 1: Monday, Aug. 17 — Sixers at Celtics, 6:30 p.m. 
Game 2: Wednesday, Aug. 19 — Sixers at Celtics, 6:30 p.m. 
Game 3: Friday, Aug. 21 — Sixers vs. Celtics, 6:30 p.m. 
Game 4: Sunday, Aug. 23 — Sixers vs. Celtics, 1 p.m. 
Game 5: Tuesday, Aug. 25 — Sixers at Celtics, TBD
Game 6: Thursday, Aug. 27 — Sixers vs. Celtics, TBD 
Game 7: Saturday, Aug. 29 — Sixers at Celtics, TBD

Of course, Games 5 through 7 will only be played if necessary, and there’s no such thing as a true home game when the teams are playing at Disney World during a pandemic. The Sixers do have PA announcer Matt Cord virtually handling starting lineup introductions, plus the Wendy’s Frosty Freeze-out and other trademarks of a usual home game. They were 29-2 at Wells Fargo Center this season before the NBA’s hiatus, the best home mark in the league. 

Led by All-Stars Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum, Boston should be favored in this series against a Sixers team missing Ben Simmons. The 24-year-old had surgery Monday to remove a loose body from his left knee, leaving the Sixers reliant on Joel Embiid and complementary pieces like Josh Richardson and Al Horford. Tobias Harris, who has averaged 22.3 points and 8.0 rebounds in the Sixers’ seeding games, will also likely need to elevate his game. 

Embiid is listed as questionable because of left ankle soreness for the team’s final seeding game Friday night at 9 p.m. against the Rockets. He had a short night Wednesday vs. the Raptors after being hit on the right wrist and had negative X-rays on his hand.

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