76ers

Sixers rally past Suns for upset to advance in MGM Resorts NBA Summer League

Sixers rally past Suns for upset to advance in MGM Resorts NBA Summer League

After finishing up pool play in the MGM Resorts NBA Summer League earlier this week, the Sixers opened the tournament portion of their slate on Thursday still looking for their first win in Las Vegas.

They won't have to wait any longer as the 30th-seeded Sixers battled back in the second half for an 88-86 win over the third-seeded Phoenix Suns at the Thomas & Mack Center. The Sixers (1-3) will next play on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. when they face the No. 14 seed Milwaukee Bucks, who knocked off the No. 19 seed San Antonio Spurs in overtime.

The Suns, who suffered their first defeat after winning their first three matchups, will play a consolation game before wrapping things up for the summer.

Now let’s dive into some observations from Thursday’s action:

1. Zhaire Smith and Mikal Bridges will likely be linked together for the rest of their NBA careers and the pair shared a court for the first time as professionals in this one.

Of course, Villanova product Bridges was drafted by the Sixers with the 10th overall pick in the 2018 draft before being dealt a short time later to the Suns for No. 16 selection Smith and Miami’s unprotected 2021 first-rounder.

The Sixers made the move knowing Bridges was the better player at the moment but with an eye toward Smith’s immense potential. However, both players looked every bit the part of rookie on Thursday with some bright spots and some negatives.

In 21 minutes of play, Smith had eight points on 2 of 5 shooting to go along with two assists. That included this one three-pointer right in Bridges' face.

Bridges contributed seven points and was also 2 of 5 from the field in addition to four steals and two blocks in 27 minutes. The thing that may stick with the former Wildcat is he couldn't get a handle on the ball under the rim in the final seconds for a potential game-tying shot.

2. Isaiah Miles has never received serious attention for an NBA roster to this point in his career but that should change in the near future.

The former St. Joe’s standout is a prototypical stretch four in today’s game and he showed exactly why against the Suns.

Miles poured in a team-high 20 points on 7 of 10 shooting, including 6 of 8 from three-point range. He also battled inside to pull down six rebounds and put his body on the line to take a charge in the second half when the Sixers were making their push.

“We started 0-3. We had a 30 next to our name as a seed, and we kind of took that as disrespect,” Miles said, per the Sixers' website. “We had to make a stamp on this tournament, so we wanted to come out and show that, and work hard. I’m proud of these guys. We worked hard against a really good Phoenix Suns team. We live to fight another day.”

The 24-year-old has played in France and Turkey since leaving Hawk Hill, but his skill set says he deserves a shot back in the United States.

3. Jonah Bolden made some pretty bold claims about being determined to come from overseas and join the Sixers for the 2018-19 season. His performance in Sin City has suggested otherwise, but that doesn’t mean things have been all bad for the big man.

Bolden has played some solid defense throughout the Sixers' summer league stint and the Australian took things up a notch in Thursday’s victory as he locked down No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton.

Ayton entered the contest averaging 16.0 points (67.0 percent shooting) and 11.0 rebounds. Bolden limited the center to 10 points on 4 for 10 shooting and nine boards with six turnovers.

Bolden’s own offense was nothing to write home about as he was held scoreless and had four turnovers. However, he should still be able to put on the tape and feel pretty good about his effort.

4. Things are so much easier for summer league teams just thrown together with random guys when they have strong play from their lead guards. Thankfully for the Sixers, both Furkan Korkmaz and Demetrius Jackson finally found a rhythm on the same night.

Korkmaz, who had been virtually nonexistent since his 40-point explosion in the opener, bounced back with 18 points, five rebounds and three assists in 28 minutes.

Jackson was a main reason the Sixers battled back after intermission. He found his way to the rim consistently as he contributed 10 points, five dimes and three boards.

5. Nevada product Cameron Oliver has felt right at home during the Sixers’ MGM Resorts NBA Summer League run in Las Vegas.

The forward has made some good plays and even better celebrations. He continued that trend on Thursday.

Oliver came off the bench to finish with 10 points and four boards. Reserve guard Askia Booker also tacked on 11 points and six assists for the Sixers.

Shaquille Harrison led the Suns with 17 points while New Jersey native Davon Reed put up 16.

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Sixers will begin phased reopening of practice facility Wednesday

Sixers will begin phased reopening of practice facility Wednesday

The Sixers will begin a phased reopening of their practice facility in Camden, New Jersey, on Wednesday for voluntary, individual workouts, the team announced.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced Tuesday that professional sports teams in New Jersey are now permitted to resume training and competition, which opened the door for the Sixers.

NBA teams had been allowed to hold individual workouts for players beginning on May 8 with strict restrictions in place. Because of coronavirus-related restrictions imposed in New Jersey, the Sixers hadn’t been among the teams holding workouts. However, general manager Elton Brand did say that Ben Simmons had been allowed to use the team’s practice facility to do rehab work for a nerve impingement in his lower back.

“Ben and others have been given permission to use our facility,” Brand said on May 5. “It’s essential that they have the proper equipment to workout and rehab, so he’s been doing that ever since the first week. We were able to get him access there. Joel Embiid’s been working out. He’s conditioning, he’s focused, he’s asking about when his trainer can come in, when he can get on the court.

"So I wouldn’t bet against him. He’s going to be ready and ramped up. Tobias [Harris] is a similar situation. He’s been getting treatment on and off. Most of our players are in market, by the way. Tobias is in market and he’s been getting treatment also.”

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe reported last week that teams expect the league to issue guidelines around June 1 on recalling players who have left their markets, and for workouts to expand around the same time.

The NBA announced Saturday that it is engaged in “exploratory conversations” about resuming the 2019-20 season at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, in late July. The season has been suspended since March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

On May 15, head coach Brett Brown said he thought a three-week ramp-up period would likely be sufficient before returning to play. 

“The notion of how the players come in influences kind of everything,” Brown said. “The three-week thing I think can be achieved as long as the fitness base of the players coming in is at the standard that I’m saying,” he said. “With that … I feel comfortable that we could go play basketball again.”

Though the team's facility reopening for individual workouts is not a massive step, it does appear that the NBA is moving toward a resumption. Wojnarowski has reported that, "barring something unforeseen," the widespread expectation is that commissioner Adam Silver will clear a return in June. 

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2020 NBA free agency: 6 bigs the Sixers could target this offseason

2020 NBA free agency: 6 bigs the Sixers could target this offseason

Another big man may not be high on the priority list for the Sixers this offseason, but a lot can change between when/if the season resumes and when next season starts.

Will the Sixers try to move Al Horford’s contract? Does the team trust Norvel Pelle to take on a bigger role next season? Would Kyle O’Quinn consider returning after he reportedly asked to be waived?

Here are six bigs that could fit the Sixers in free agency depending on how everything shakes out.

Marc Gasol

Gasol is most known around these parts for being a thorn in Joel Embiid’s side. A former Defensive Player of the Year, Gasol is big, smart and physical — a combination that has caused Embiid serious difficulty. He’s not the offensive player he was in his prime, but he can still shoot it (40.2 percent from three), pass it (3.4 assists) and is an excellent screen setter.

At 35, it will be interesting see what kind of offers Gasol will get. The only scenario in which the Sixers would likely be able to make it work is if they successfully trade Horford and his massive contract. Is it worth taking a shot on Gasol with the team’s mid-level exception? With the Sixers having other pressing needs, it’s a tough call. Gasol would make an excellent Embiid backup and mentor.

Aron Baynes

Baynes had a solid run in Boston and was having a strong season in Monty Williams’ system in Phoenix. The Sixers were the first team to experience Baynes’ evolution as a three-point shooter in the 2018 playoffs. He was hitting 35 percent on over four attempts a game before the 2019-20 season was suspended. He also has proven to be a solid post defender and screen setter.

This is going to be all about what Baynes’ preferences are. If he wants to get paid like a starting center, the Sixers aren’t the team for him. If he’s willing to accept a backup role to Embiid on a lesser deal, there’s a possibility. It seems more likely Baynes could find a better situation, but he’d be a solid option for the Sixers if he can’t.

Alex Len

Len hasn’t lived up to the status of being the fifth overall pick, but he’s become a solid rotational NBA big. His career numbers per 36 minutes are solid: 14.6 points, 11.5 rebounds, 1.8 blocks. Though he struggled to hit threes this season, he’s had some success for a big (33 percent for his career).

Still just 26, there could be a team that views Len as having a higher ceiling. Being so young, he also could value playing time and money over being a reserve on a contender. Like Baynes, if he can’t find a better situation, the Sixers could do worse in a backup center.

Noah Vonleh

Vonleh is another top-10 pick that hasn’t quite panned out but has shown he can be a serviceable NBA player. After a strong campaign for the Knicks in 2018-19, Vonleh had a tough year for the Timberwolves. He was eventually shipped to the Nuggets in that crazy four-team deal ahead of the trade deadline.

Signing Vonleh would be similar to when the Sixers signed O’Quinn this past offseason. He won’t have a definitive role but could be a nice insurance policy if there are injuries and Pelle struggles. Though he’s only 24, the price shouldn’t be high given his struggles in Minnesota this season.

Dario Saric

If you’re reading this, you should know all about this guy. Saric hasn’t been the same player since he was dealt to the Timberwolves in the Jimmy Butler trade. Still, he’s played a solid role for Williams in Phoenix. Saric has flashed the combination of skill and grit he did here, but his lack of athleticism has limited him.

Saric is a true four. Though you could get away with using Saric as a small-ball five in certain lineups, you wouldn’t want him back there for an extended period of time with a true NBA center. Saric did love his time here and played the best basketball of his NBA career. He's a restricted free agent so the Suns would likely have to rescind his rights for the Sixers to have a chance. If the price is right, you can’t rule out a reunion.

Markieff Morris

The Philly native was having a good year in Detroit before being bought out and signing with the Lakers. He’s struggled with his shot during his eight-game stint in L.A. but was hitting just below 40 percent of his threes with the Pistons. Morris plays with an edge and could bring that physical style and attitude back home.

Morris could be repetitive with Mike Scott already signed for next season. Though Scott struggled this year, he’d come on a bit before the season was suspended and looked more like the player we saw during last year's playoff run.

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