76ers

Jerry Colangelo talks Joel Embiid's progress, 'guarded optimism' for Sixers

Jerry Colangelo talks Joel Embiid's progress, 'guarded optimism' for Sixers

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Jerry Colangelo is no stranger to the most elite NBA talent. With roles including chairman of the board for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and USA Basketball Board of Directors Chairman, he is around the best in the game, past and present.

Colangelo has the same objective of success in his position as a special advisor for the Sixers. Following a disappointing 10-win season, the Sixers looked to change directions by landing Ben Simmons with the first overall pick and signing experienced veterans in free agency. They also are anticipating the long-awaited debut of Joel Embiid. 

Rather than making a complete overhaul and throwing mega-dollars at star free agents like Kevin Durant, the Sixers took a step-by-step approach this offseason in building a foundation for their young, developing players. It is a method that can take time, but it's designed with long-term goals for winning. 

"I'm sure that everyone should have optimism," Colangelo told CSNPhilly.com at the Basketball Hall of Fame. "But there's a word I've always used over the years about optimism. It should be guarded optimism because things take time. When you're building teams — and I've had the privilege of doing that quite a few times in my career — you're adding pieces here and there, and then once in a while you strike out and get that last piece. I think where the Sixers are today is, this is the beginning of that particular process, and that is building what everyone would hope to be a championship team."

Two focal points of the Sixers' future are Simmons and Embiid. Simmons, a 6-foot-10 point-forward, is ready to make an impact as a rookie. Embiid, on the other hand, has been waiting two years to play following foot surgeries. Last month Embiid said he feels "100 percent" and plans to participate in training camp. 

"With all of the reports that I've seen and all the footage I've seen in terms of video, it appears that he's headed in the right direction," Colangelo said of Embiid. "I know that everyone's excited about training camp because of all of the new faces. ... The fortunate ability to have the first pick and select Ben Simmons, you put all those new players on paper and to add that to a roster, it's going to be really interesting, exciting to see how it all plays out."

When it comes to incoming international players, Colangelo's involvement with Team USA gave him the opportunity to meet with Dario Saric and Sergio Rodriguez in Rio during the Olympics. Saric, who signed with the Sixers two years after being drafted, had a solid showing for Croatia, while Rodriguez helped Spain win bronze. 

"I thought [Saric] played very well and I complimented him on his performances," Colangelo said. "Both of them showed great enthusiasm about coming to training camp. I think it's going to be exciting to have them in Sixers uniforms very shortly."

In building a roster, teams hope they have a star (or stars) in the making in their organization. The Sixers had just that for over 10 seasons with Allen Iverson, one of the inductees in this year's Hall of Fame class. 

"What sets him apart from so many is that he did it his way," Colangelo said. "It may have been a little counter to what other people would have expected, but give him credit for being a big man as a little man in a big man's game. He made himself known. His presence was felt by anyone on the court, and his numbers speak for themselves. They're off the charts. A long career, a very successful career, and someone who justifiably deserves to be in."

Sixers know Blazers 'beat our a--' but team needs to move on quickly

Sixers know Blazers 'beat our a--' but team needs to move on quickly

Well, that wasn’t pretty.

Without Joel Embiid, the Sixers were beat up on the boards, 53-33, with 19 of those 53 coming on the offensive glass. They were yet again exposed defensively in the pick-and-roll, allowing a 41-point third quarter. 

It all added up to a 130-115 beatdown by the Blazers at the Wells Fargo Center Saturday afternoon (see observations).

Missing the league’s third-leading rebounder against the league’s second-best rebounding team isn’t ideal, but the Sixers weren’t prepared to use that excuse.

“I think as a team collectively we just didn’t rebound good enough against a team like this,” Ben Simmons said. “It’s a group effort, rebounding, and I think just all of us combined, I don’t think we did enough. Obviously we didn’t do enough.”

The shame of such a dreadful effort is that it took away from one of the best performances of Simmons’ young NBA career. The All-Star made a concerted effort to attack the basket early, posting up on some of Portland’s smaller defenders.

The results were impressive: a season-high 29 points on 11 of 17 shooting, 10 assists and seven rebounds. And those numbers weren’t hollow in the sense that he was excellent from the opening tip. 

Tobias Harris (20 points) and Jimmy Butler (15 points) were also solid. It was the play of the supporting cast that hurt.

JJ Redick made just one field goal on 10 shots. The seven-point performance ended his career-high 64-game double-figure point streak.

After a fantastic game against Miami on Thursday, Boban Marjanovic was exposed mightily against the Blazers. Portland was able to pick on Marjanovic in pick-and-rolls with All-Star guard Damian Lillard and center Jusuf Nurkic. 

Whether it was Marjanovic, Amir Johnson — who oddly supplanted Jonah Bolden in the second half — or Mike Scott when the Sixers went small, it didn’t matter. Nurkic and new backup center Enes Kanter killed the Sixers, combining for 40 points and 18 rebounds.

Despite a significant offensive rebounding gap, the Sixers found themselves down by just three at halftime. Then they allowed the Blazers to shoot 63 percent in a 41-point third period.

Embiid’s absence hurts, but the Sixers had enough talent on the floor to not turn in such a poor defensive effort.

 “Clearly we miss Joel,” Harris said. “There’s no getting around that. He’s a big piece to our team, but we don’t have him right now and we have to be able to get efforts from everybody else on the team.”

In two games against Portland without Embiid, the Sixers have lost by a combined 49 points. 

What can the Sixers take away from a drubbing by the Blazers without Embiid? Not much. They're neck-and-neck with the Celtics and just behind the Pacers for the third seed in the East. 

The only thing they can really do is move on to the Pelicans — who may or may not have All-NBA big Anthony Davis in the lineup — in a road matchup on Monday night. Their focus should be there, not on Portland.

“Learn and get better from it,” Butler said. “Put it behind us. What else can you do? They beat our a-- twice.”

Butler, who was as somber as we’ve seen after a loss, was asked why this lost seemed to sting so much.

“Because they beat our a-- twice. Easily, too.”

On to New Orleans.

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Blazers 130, Sixers 115: Without Joel Embiid, Sixers beat up on glass, scoreboard

Blazers 130, Sixers 115: Without Joel Embiid, Sixers beat up on glass, scoreboard

BOX SCORE

Joel Embiid's absence was certainly felt on Saturday.

Without the All-Star center, the Sixers were beat up on the glass and on the scoreboard in a 130-115 loss to the Blazers in a matinee at the Wells Fargo Center.

This one wasn't pretty. The sold out crowd started clearing their seats with a little over five minutes left in the third.

The loss drops the Sixers to 24-8 at home and 38-22 overall.

Here are observations from the loss.

• Defense — especially from a communication standpoint with new pieces — continues to be an issue at times, but in the first half, the Sixers were solid in this one, holding Portland to 41 percent shooting. In the second half, Blazers coach Terry Stotts exposed more mismatches and the Sixers didn't have answers, letting Portland shoot 63 percent in a 41-point third quarter.

• What hurt most in the first half was the Blazers hitting the offensive glass. Portland grabbed an incredible 14 offensive rebounds before halftime. Overall, the Blazers outrebounded the Sixers, 53-33. Boban Marjanovic seems to struggle in controlling rebounds. What also hurt was when Marjanovic got in pick-and-roll situations with Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic. On those plays, Marjanovic is scrambling defensively, which hurts him on the boards.

• In general, Nurkic gave Marjanovic a hard time. Brett Brown actually went to Amir Johnson, fresh off his stint with the Delaware Blue Coats on Friday night, early in the third quarter to try to mitigate some of the defensive issues … it did not help. Brown also tried tried to go small, going with Mike Scott at the five, also with poor results. It was odd that Brown didn't go back to Jonah Bolden, who was solid defensively in the first half.

Nurkic went for 24 points and 10 rebounds and new backup Enes Kanter went for 16 points and eight rebounds.

• Things normally go well for Ben Simmons when he’s aggressive and looking for his shot early. He did so in this one and picked up where he left off against the Heat, where he punished them in the post.

He attacked Portland’s smaller guards early and often and it seemed to help him get into the flow of the game.

He also took another mid-range jumper from the left wing that was in and out. It looked like he thought about pulling up from three, but took a couple dribbles in and pulled up. In that situation, he’s probably better off taking the three and looking to get the extra point on a low-percentage shot.

Despite the loss, Simmons was good in this one, finishing with 29 points (11 of 17), 10 assists and seven rebounds. It's a shame one of his better NBA performances was wasted in a blowout.

• During the All-Star break, Simmons referred to Tobias Harris as a “silent assassin" while on ESPN’s The Jump. It’s such a perfect way to put it. There’s nothing flashy to Harris’ game, he’s just really, really good.

As much as having an experienced backup five like Boban Marjanovic can help mitigate the absence of Embiid — obviously not on Saturday — it’s even more crucial that the Sixers have another elite scorer like Harris. He’s stepped up with the All-Star center out the last two games. It wasn't enough, but he was also big, recording 20 points (8 of 14, 3 of 7 from three) and eight rebounds.

• Jimmy Butler’s aggressiveness offensively is certainly a good sign for the Sixers. He scored the first two buckets of the game for the Sixers and looked to get to the basket frequently.

The amount of body control he has in the air is insane. On one play, T.J. McConnell attempted an alley-oop but the pass was a little too high for Butler to finish. Butler was able to gather it, come down with it, dribble from underneath the basket and get an easy basket on the other side of the rim.

Butler had 15 points (5 of 9). The Sixers' three stars were all good in this one. Everyone else ... not so much.

• JJ Redick went to the All-Star break playing some of his best basketball, shooting 48 percent from three over the 11 games prior to the break. In his first two after the break, he's really struggled. He was just 4 for 12 (3 of 10 from three) on Thursday vs. Miami. Those struggles continued Saturday as Redick scored just seven points on 1 of 10 (1 of 5 from three).

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