76ers

In long search for shot, Nik Stauskas finally starts to find rhythm

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In long search for shot, Nik Stauskas finally starts to find rhythm

Sixers coach Brett Brown believes he has the remedy for Nik Stauskas’ shooting slump and it’s not what anyone would expect.

“Guard,” Brown said. “We have to play defense.”

In a season in which the Sixers’ newcomer has struggled to find any kind of rhythm on the court between nagging injuries and roster changes, Stauskas has been used like a yo-yo. Some games he starts, but in others he is on the back end of the rotation, clocking minutes at the end of the quarter.

Stauskas says there is something to Brown’s notion that his defense can make his offense better.

“If you’re knocking down shots and feeling good about yourself, it’s easier to put your mindset on defense,” Stauskas said. “I look at it the other way around: if I work really hard on defense, then that gets me involved in the game and I don’t think as much about my offense. The offense just comes.”

It hasn’t come with much consistency this season for Stauskas. Whether it’s because of the nagging injuries or simply a matter of inconsistent play, the second-year guard is trying to get something going in the second half of the season.

Brown is still optimistic Stauskas can do it.

“His shot will fall and he will run his lanes and get kick-aheads from a willing point guard and he dunks it and plays with a bounce and a cocky side he has,” Brown said. “But it all has to be delivered from our defense and let’s run out of it.”

In Tuesday night’s 113-103 victory over the Phoenix Suns at the Wells Fargo Center, Stauskas got his offensive game going by logging a game-high 38 minutes to go with 15 points on 4 for 7 shooting, including 6 for 7 from the line with a three-pointer (see Instant Replay). After sitting out three of the last four games with an injured shoulder, Stauskas took baby steps in reassembling his scoring.

Stauskas had a bounce and swagger in Tuesday’s game even though he attempted just two shots beyond the paint. In fact, the three-point shot is an aspect of Stauskas’ game he uses discriminately these days. After jacking up 42 three-point attempts in his first four games of the season, Stauskas averages just 3.9 three-point attempts per game, though a healthy 63 percent of all his shots have been from beyond the arc.

Maybe Stauskas’ game would be better served without relying so much on the three-pointer?

“When people think of my game they think of me as a shooter and someone who needs to get open threes,” Stauskas said. “I don’t necessarily need to get open threes to get myself involved in the game. I can get in the paint, I can make plays for the other guys on the team, I can tough it out on defense, I can rebound and all of those things can help us win games. It doesn’t have to be just shooting threes.”

He did just that on Tuesday night, getting to the line for a career-high seven free throws. However, Stauskas is an unimpressive 15 for 43 on shots longer between three and 24 feet this season.

Plus, 51 of his 56 three-pointers this season have come on catch-and-shoot plays.

With Jahlil Okafor and JaKarr Sampson out with an illness and Isaiah Canaan’s and Jerami Grant’s minutes limited because of colds, Stauskas had the opportunity to show off other dimensions of his game and he didn’t squander it.

“He had a bounce to his game,” Brown said. “He had a bit of a swagger.”

Time will tell if his workmanlike effort on Tuesday night will open up the rest of his offense and get those shots to fall from long range. Either way, Stauskas says he’s going to keep firing up open shots and looking for chances to get points for his teammates.

“The way I like to think of it is if I went into the gym right now and took shots by myself and I missed four in a row, would I think about it at all?” Stauskas said. “But if you go into a game and miss four shots in a row, you think, ‘Oh my God! What’s going on!’ It shouldn’t work like that. Those are just four shots and I’ve shot a million in my life and that’s the mindset I’ve tried to adapt.”

Sixers Talk podcast: New-look starting 5; What food would you break quarantine for?

Sixers Talk podcast: New-look starting 5; What food would you break quarantine for?

On this edition of Sixers Talk, we discuss which food we'd break quarantine for, the Sixers' new-look starting five and much more.

(2:16) — Richaun Holmes forced to quarantine after leaving the bubble for food.
(10:28) — Two players test positive for COVID-19 while inside the bubble.
(15:54) — With Shake Milton at point guard, it sounds like Sixers are leaning toward a new starting five.

Subscribe and rate Sixers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube



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Why Shake Milton could thrive in strange NBA playoffs this year

Why Shake Milton could thrive in strange NBA playoffs this year

On March 1, Shake Milton introduced himself to the NBA world by dropping 39 points on the Clippers in L.A on national TV.

Not bad for a guy that was told he was out of the rotation before an injury to Ben Simmons thrust him into the starting lineup.

But that seems to be the story of Milton. He’s unflappable. Whatever his life or career presents him, he keeps moving forward.

As the Sixers continue their training camp at Disney World to prepare for the resumed NBA season, Brett Brown has been using Milton as his starting point guard, moving Simmons to the four. That means the 23-year-old that’s played 52 career NBA games appears to have the inside track on a starting job for a team looking to go on a deep playoff run.

No pressure or anything there.

There are people that just thrive in these circumstances. You can throw them in intense situations, and they act so calm you have to wonder if they even have a pulse. Milton’s imperturbable demeanor has likely helped him get to where he is. 

He was a freshman in high school when he lost his father. Myron Milton was just 43 when he passed away suddenly. The two were close and basketball was a big part of their bond. His dad told him to “just go out there and play like you’re the best player on the floor,” Shake said to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Serena Winters.

The Oklahoma native was recruited to play at SMU by former Sixers coach and Hall of Famer Larry Brown, who said he “got lucky” in landing Milton over the likes of the University of Oklahoma and Indiana. Milton had a strong college career but that’s also where injuries became an unfortunate part of his story.

Milton suffered a hand injury that limited him to 22 games his junior year and final season for the Mustangs. A back injury presumably caused him to slip to the back end of the draft. After making strides at the NBA level his rookie season, he suffered another hand injury. Just three games into the 2019-20 season — and when it appeared he had a legitimate chance at a spot in the rotation — a knee injury sidelined him.

Ironically, injuries are what led to his next prolonged NBA opportunity. When Simmons went down, Milton stepped in and produced in a big way, averaging 17.8 points and shooting 60.4 percent from three over his last nine games before play was suspended.

All the injuries and time spent with the Delaware Blue Coats has led to this moment, where he could potentially be the team's starting point guard in the postseason.

“You won’t find a better kid than him, and somebody that really trusts the process,” Larry Brown said as a guest on the Sixers Talk podcast in May. “And Philly did a remarkable job with him. Playing in the G League in Delaware, Shake told me was huge. …

“The greatest thing is they had patience with him. They had some injuries and you never know when the opportunity is going to be there for you to show you can play.”

Milton has rewarded that patience already. Now, he’ll have to try to carry the momentum he built before the season was suspended onto one of the biggest NBA stages.

But it’s all part of Milton’s story and why if anyone can do this at a young age and with so little NBA experience, it could be him.

“There’s a poise that he has as a person that I’m assuming everybody on this call that has interviewed him feels,” Brett Brown said in a video conference call with reporters Tuesday. “And I think that can help him navigate through a pressure situation of the NBA playoffs. I do believe how he’s wired from a human perspective can help him deal with that environment I think in a more calm way.”

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More on the Sixers