76ers

Sixers’ situation becomes bleaker with injury to Joel Embiid, loss to Cavaliers

Sixers’ situation becomes bleaker with injury to Joel Embiid, loss to Cavaliers

Updated: 10:16 p.m. 

The Sixers haven’t won a road game since Jan. 20, both of their All-Stars are injured and, if the playoffs started tonight, they would not have home court advantage. In short, things could be going much better.

Joel Embiid sustained a left shoulder sprain Wednesday night and the Sixers dropped to 36-23 with a 108-94 loss to the Cavaliers. They play the Knicks tomorrow night at Wells Fargo Center.

Here are observations on the loss: 

First Simmons, now Embiid 

Embiid grimaced after a collision off the ball with Ante Zizic late in the first quarter, feeling at the area around his left shoulder. He took and missed both free throws after the foul call, seemingly in significant pain, then left the game and went back to the locker room. 

Early in the second quarter, Embiid briefly returned to the bench before again heading to the locker room. After a short conversation with head athletic trainer Kevin Johnson, he appeared to have a discussion in the tunnel with GM Elton Brand, who said before the season that he’d “be more a part of it with the players in a partnership for their care.”

The team announced at halftime that Embiid was out for the game. 

Embiid’s injury is bad news for the Sixers regardless of the circumstances, but it’s obviously even worse in the context of Ben Simmons being sidelined with a nerve impingement in his lower back. 

It was certainly possible to picture an Embiid-centric team thriving without Simmons, especially given that the Sixers have the third-easiest remaining schedule in the league. If both their All-Stars are out for an extended period of time, though, it would be a massive hit.

There are a heap of fair criticisms one can have about the Sixers this season — Brand’s decision to spend as much money as he did on Horford and Harris, other complementary pieces not doing enough, abysmal efforts on the road, you name it. However, having your second All-Star get hurt two days after he scored a career-high 49 points and the day after announcing the diagnosis of your other All-Star’s injury is just very bad luck. 

After the game, Embiid told The Inquirer's Keith Pompey that he will have an MRI tomorrow. 

Secondary options not close to good enough 

With Embiid out, the Sixers needed Harris and Horford to carry a bigger load.

Neither player was up for the task. 

Harris, whose status changed from doubtful to questionable to available for Monday’s game with a right knee contusion, did not look explosive and shot 4 of 13.

Horford made a few nice passes, had three steals and hit two threes, but he wasn’t nearly as good as the Sixers needed him to be, with 10 points in 34 minutes. 

It wasn’t a strong night for Josh Richardson (nine points on 4 of 12 shooting), either.

Norvel Pelle was out for a second straight game with an upper respiratory illness, which led the Sixers to play Kyle O’Quinn as their backup center. In his first action during a close game since Jan. 20, Quinn had six points, four blocks and two rebounds. 

O’Quinn reportedly wanted to be waived, but perhaps Embiid’s injury will shift his thinking. Players must be waived by March 1 in order to retain playoff eligibility in the event they’re picked up by another team that season. We looked at available guards that might be interest the Sixers today (see story).

Milton starts again 

Shake Milton was the Sixers’ starting point guard, as he had been Monday vs. the Hawks.

The 23-year-old didn’t start the game well, allowing Darius Garland to hit his first three shots. Though the defensive drop-off from Simmons to Milton is substantial, Milton was a bright spot offensively, picking the right spots to attack and knocking down 4 of 6 threes. 

He finished with 20 points, four rebounds, four assists and no turnovers. If you’d like a positive in a situation that currently looks rather bleak, Milton is a good choice. 

Richardson and Alec Burks (13 points on 6 of 12 shooting) split up backup ball handling duties. 

A terrible 1st half 

The Cavs scored 30 of the game’s first 36 points in the paint. The Sixers missed a handful of open looks inside early, including a very easy fast break Horford layup attempt off a long pass from Milton. They made just 11 of their first 36 field goals and 2 of their first 12 threes. 

No Sixer played especially well in the first half, and yet the team only trailed by 11 points. With all due respect to the 17-win Cavs, who did beat the Heat on Monday, the deficit would surely have been worse if the Sixers were playing a decent opponent. 

Embiid’s injury played a part in these particular early road struggles, but a team that is 27-2 at home should simply not be 9-21 on the road.

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Jerry Stackhouse tries to set record straight on scrimmages with 17-year-old Kobe Bryant

Jerry Stackhouse tries to set record straight on scrimmages with 17-year-old Kobe Bryant

At 17 years old, Kobe Bryant was scrimmaging against professional athletes and Philadelphia college stars, about to embark on a 20-year NBA career.

He impressed in those scrimmages with his skill and bravado. But, according to Jerry Stackhouse, Bryant wasn’t big on passing. 

Stackhouse, now the head coach at Vanderbilt, spent the first two-plus years of his career with the Sixers before being traded to the Pistons and matched up with Bryant in those scrimmages.

What happened with Kobe was nobody really wanted to play with Kobe,” he said on The Woj Pod. “[Former La Salle star and NBA player] Lionel Simmons, you used to always see him pulling Kobe to the side, like, ‘Man, you gotta pass the ball! You gotta learn how to do this!' Because the older guys were from Philly. … These stories kind of take on a life of their own. And yes, Kobe had some good days scoring the ball, because he could handle it so well. But he had tunnel vision at that point. You had pickup games, sometimes he didn’t even get picked up. 

“But again, because he’s so been great since this, these stories go back of ‘Oh, he beat Stackhouse one-on-one.’ Come on, man. Me at 20 years old, can you imagine a 17-year-old beating me consistently? I’d have hurt him first, real talk. Just physically, that could never happen to me. Did we play one-on-one? Yes. Did he beat me, did he maybe win a game? Yes. Did he consistently beat Jerry Stackhouse at 20 years old when he was 17? Hell no. I’m putting an end to that story. … Was he super talented and everyone saw great potential in him? Yes, but those scenarios … of Kobe Bryant, they’re a little bit of a different story when you go talk to people that were actually in the gym. 

Stackhouse noted that it took a little time for Bryant to adjust to the NBA game, which is true. The Lower Merion High School graduate played only 15.5 minutes per game as a rookie. Of course, he went on to make 18 All-Star Games, win five NBA championships and become one of the best players of his era. 

Though Stackhouse wanted to set the record straight on those one-on-one games with Bryant, he was still amazed by his ability at such a young age.

“This kid was unbelievable,” he said. “Just his ball handling ability … he grew up, obviously, emulating Michael Jordan.”

However, the members of the Philadelphia basketball community who were in the gym for those scrimmages were apparently ruthless in their critiques.

“I vividly remember the old heads from Philadelphia,” Stackhouse said, “[they're] like, ‘Come on, man, you gotta pass the ball! That ain’t how you gotta play!’” 

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Sixers fans can't stop laughing at Bulls for interviewing Bryan Colangelo

Sixers fans can't stop laughing at Bulls for interviewing Bryan Colangelo

Sixers fans, grasping at any semblance of basketball news, received a cruise ship-sized life line on Wednesday.

The Athletic's Shams Charania reported the Bulls have interviewed former 76ers president Bryan Colangelo for their top basketball ops position:

This is, of course, kind of a mind-boggling decision from the Bulls, considering the way Colangelo's bumpy tenure in Philly ended. 

You know, Burner-gate. Remember that insanity? Remember when the active general manager of the 76ers was linked to Twitter accounts actively disparaging his own players? That really happened!

And yet, despite the public unraveling of his time with the Sixers, and the unsavory nature of his resignation, the Bulls somehow deemed Colangelo worthy of an interview for this position as they try to kickstart their floundering franchise.

Sixers fans couldn't believe it:

Some laughed, and laughed, and laughed:

Some encouraged the insanity, because there's nothing Sixers fans love more than watching a tire fire form in real time:

And then, of course, Sixers Twitter came with the jokes, because they are ruthless and unceasing:

Colangelo actually landing the job is, admittedly, probably a long shot. But the fact that he could even garner an interview at this point in his career, and after his last stop, is both hilarious and confounding.

And Sixers fans are here for it, entirely.

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