New Sixers forward Ersan Ilyasova's marathon day ends with loss

New Sixers forward Ersan Ilyasova's marathon day ends with loss


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ersan Ilyasova looked worn down Wednesday night, sitting in front of his locker with his feet in a bucket of ice and ice packs wrapped around his knees.

That’s no surprise, considering what Ilyasova had gone through in the past 24 hours.

But the 6-foot-10 forward dug in deep when the Sixers needed him to, scoring 14 points in 24 minutes off the bench in Wednesday’s 109-93 loss to the Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum Center (see Instant Replay).

Ilyasova made 5 of 12 from the field (including 2 of 6 on three-pointers), pulled down three rebounds and added three assists for the Sixers — all coming after joining his new team less than 18 hours earlier.

“It is what it is, man,” said Ilyasova, now with his fifth NBA team since being selected as the 36th overall pick in the 2005 draft by the Milwaukee Bucks. “That’s the NBA. You have to be professional no matter what. Obviously, the trade happened and everything kind of fell in one day.

“We have a good group of guys, we played well as far as sharing the ball. I just tried to help as far as just being in the right place offensively.”

Ilyasova’s day began with a flight from Oklahoma City to Charlotte, arriving in the city around 1 a.m. Wednesday. He underwent a physical exam at 8 a.m. to finalize the trade, then met with Sixers coach Brett Brown and other team officials over breakfast.

By noon, Ilyasova was preparing for Wednesday night’s game, watching game tape of the Hornets and even earlier Sixers games. At 4 p.m., three hours before tipoff, he was at the Spectrum Center, working out with coaches and some of his new teammates.

“Obviously, there were a lot of things to learn offensively,” Ilyasova said. 

While Brown admitted during his pregame meeting with the media that he planned on playing Ilyasova against the Hornets, he was forced to go to the Sixers’ new acquisition earlier than planned after Jahlil Okafor picked up two fouls in a 30-second span early in the first quarter.

“At the beginning of the game, we got in foul trouble, so I was kinda preparing myself,” Ilyasova said. “When I got the opportunities, I stepped up out on the floor.”

Ilyasova’s first shot led to his first points — a three-pointer with 7:23 remaining in the first quarter. But his biggest contribution came in the second quarter, as the Sixers turned a 26-26 tie at the end of the first period into a 53-46 halftime lead.

Ilyasova tipped in a Okafor miss with 4:28 left to put the Sixers up 46-36, their first double-digit lead, then followed that with a layup 27 seconds later. He went on to score six points in the period, the last on a pair of free throws with 1:34 left that were the Sixers’ final points of the half.

“I think we did a really good job as far as just continuing to stay in the game in the first half,” Ilyasova said.

But things began falling apart for the Sixers in the second half. Led by Nicolas Batum’s 17 third-quarter points, the Hornets outscored the Sixers 39-20 in the period, turning what had been a seven-point Sixers lead into a 85-73 Charlotte lead.

The Hornets’ biggest lead came midway through the fourth quarter — 18 points, at 102-84, on Marvin Williams’ layup with 6:17 remaining.

“We couldn’t score at the beginning of the second [half], and it was a huge key to losing the game for us,” Ilyasova said. “We have to come out more ready right out of the gates at halftime and prepare ourselves. Those things are going to cost us moving forward.”

Ilyasova has a little more time to get used to his new teammates before the Sixers’ next game — Saturday night against the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

“We’ve got some really good potential here,” Ilyasova said. “But we have to stick together, no matter what. Obviously, this was a tough loss. We’re 0-4, but I think we can find ourselves and get in a good position.”

Brown can already see the potential of what the Sixers' newest acquisition can provide.

“I thought Ersan was good,” Brown said. “For just walking into a breakfast room this morning and coming onto the court and playing with our guys, you can see why we were attracted to him. I think he’s going to be an excellent complement to what we have.”

Sixers reportedly rebuffed in attempt to hire Rockets GM Daryl Morey

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Sixers reportedly rebuffed in attempt to hire Rockets GM Daryl Morey

Well, you can’t say the Sixers aren’t aiming high.

According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, the Sixers “have been rebuffed in their attempt to hire away Houston's Daryl Morey to take over as their new general manager.” Stein added that the team had great interest in Morey, but he couldn’t be lured away from the Rockets.

Morey, who has served as the Rockets’ general manager since 2007, was named the NBA’s Executive of the Year after Houston secured the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference with a franchise-best 65-17 record during the 2017-18 regular season.

Morey obviously fits the Sixers from a surface standpoint with his analytics background, commitment to building a pace-and-space roster and desire to chase stars. However, what makes the Sixers’ desire in him really interesting is that Morey is the mentor of former Sixers front office executive Sam Hinkie.

Bryan Colangelo, the man who replaced Hinkie in the Sixers’ front office, resigned in June after a scandal involving multiple secret Twitter accounts rocked the franchise. Head coach Brett Brown took over as interim general manager following Colangelo's resignation.

The Sixers have been patient throughout their search as managing owner Josh Harris recently said there is no timetable to select a candidate.

“We’re just getting focused on it now, given everything with free agency and the draft, and also the other GMs are in the same place. We’re looking for the right person,” Harris told NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Amy Fadool last week (see story). “One of the things that Bryan Colangelo did really well was we built a great staff, whether it be (vice president of basketball operations and chief of staff) Ned Cohen or (vice president of analytics and strategy) Alex Rucker or (vice president of player personnel) Marc Eversley or (Delaware Blue Coats general manger) Elton Brand, we have a lot of great people. It’s very consensus-oriented, there’s a lot of people in the dialogue, and we want to make sure we find the right fit for that. 

“It’s not going to be easy. My guess is it’s going to take awhile. And we’re obviously focused on doing it as quickly as possible, but at the same time I don’t want to set unrealistic expectations — it could take a little while. So we’re just starting that.”

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Sixers officially bring back Amir Johnson on 1-year contract

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Sixers officially bring back Amir Johnson on 1-year contract

The band is back together.

The Sixers are still making their offseason moves official, which is what happened on Monday when the team officially announced a one-year deal to bring back Amir Johnson. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it is reportedly worth the veteran’s minimum, which would be $2.39 million for the center.

“Our experience with Amir last year confirms to us, on so many levels, that he is a perfect fit for our young and developing team,” Brett Brown said in a statement. “His work ethic, leadership and buy-in to team-first basketball all comes to mind when I think of his value to our ball club and his acceptance of a backup role to All-Star Joel Embiid is priceless. We are thrilled to have Amir and his family back in our program and I know this feeling is a shared by all of his teammates.”

Johnson, the last player drafted into the NBA straight from high school, spent his 13th professional season with the Sixers in 2017-18. The 31-year-old averaged 4.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 15.8 minutes a night.

However, it was the little things Johnson did that really added up for the Sixers. The big man had the highest aggregate hustle score, which measures screen assists, deflections, loose balls recovered, charges drawn and contested shots per contest, to win the league’s second-ever Hustle Award. 

“This is definitely an honor,” Johnson said after receiving the award. “I pride myself on doing the little things on the court and I just want to say thank you to my teammates and coaches. This award means a lot.”

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