Philadelphia Sixers

Charles Barkley sure had a lot to say about the Sixers

Charles Barkley sure had a lot to say about the Sixers

Charles Barkley sure had a lot to say about the Sixers in the last 24 hours.

With the team on national television against the Pacers Thursday, Barkley had some poignant comments about the team’s usage of Joel Embiid. Embiid was questionable prior to the game with back tightness, but played through it despite looking visibly uncomfortable. 

During TNT’s halftime show, Barkley went in on the Sixers for allowing Embiid to play:

Let me just say this about the Philadelphia 76ers: they’ve got to be the stupidest organization in the history of sports. You’ve got a franchise player who’s got a bad back, who’s injury-prone. He can barely walk and you’ve got him out there playing in a regular-season game. You have to be the stupidest organization.

(h/t Deadspin)

Then, less than 24 hours later as a guest on the Mike Missanelli Show, Barkley had some high praise for “the stupidest organization in the history of sports,” saying that he’d “take my chances right now with the 76ers winning the Eastern Conference.”

You can understand Barkley’s perspective considering Embiid’s injury history and his effusive praise for the Sixers’ big man.

For what it’s worth, Embiid downplayed the injury postgame, saying it’s something he’s gone through before and that he knew how to handle it. He also looked much better in the second half Thursday as he began to loosen up, helping lead the Sixers to arguably their best win of the season.

As for the Sixers' standing in the East, the team does appear to be clicking as it embarks on a brutal stretch of the schedule.

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NBA Eastern Conference power rankings: Sixers look ready to climb

NBA Eastern Conference power rankings: Sixers look ready to climb

In our Eastern Conference power rankings this week, the Sixers may be ready to start climbing. 

1. Raptors (34-13) Last week: 1
Despite Wednesday’s loss to the Celtics, it’s hard to take the Raptors off the top spot. Kawhi Leonard continues to play at an MVP level and Pascal Siakam is one of the most unique players in the league. Kyle Lowry hasn’t quite rounded into form since returning to the lineup, but expect him to soon.

2. Bucks (32-12) Last week: 2
If it wasn’t for James Harden going bonkers recently, Giannis Antetokounmpo would easily be the MVP favorite. Milwaukee has won 14 of its last 17. While there’s no star complementing the "Greek Freak," the Bucks’ depth is serious. 

3. Celtics (26-18) Last week: 3
The Celtics may be the most confounding team in the NBA. In between crushing the Pacers and a dramatic win over the Raptors, they lost three straight to the Heat, Magic and Nets, respectively. Gordon Hayward seems to be a big part of the equation. Still not all the way back from a gruesome leg injury, Hayward is shooting 48 percent in wins and just 34 percent in losses.

4. Sixers (30-16) Last week: 4 
Speaking of confounding teams … the Sixers followed up what might have been their worst week of the season with arguably their best. After demolishing the Timberwolves, they took care of the Pacers in convincing fashion. The Sixers have hit a brutal stretch in their schedule, but they’re currently playing their best basketball. They stay at No. 4, but if they keep playing like this, look out.

5. Pacers (29-15) Last week: 5
The Pacers are just clearly a tier below in the East. They’re deep, but what they really need is another star to complement Victor Oladipo and take up some of the offensive load.

6. Nets (23-23) Last week: 7
When Brooklyn was on the outside looking in, I said in this space that it would be a playoff team. That prediction is looking pretty good right now. While the Nets have been led by their scoring guards, D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie, second-year center Jarrett Allen really looks like a player.

7. Miami (21-21) Last week: 6 
Turns out an injury to Goran Dragic may have been a blessing in disguise for the Heat. Justise Winslow has stepped into Dragic's spot in the starting lineup and been a revelation. Over his last 12 games, Winslow is averaging 15.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.7 assists while shooting 40 percent from three and 49 percent overall.

8. Hornets (21-23) Last week: 8
Since they appear dead set on re-signing Kemba Walker, you have to get the man some help. If they do, they should be able to hold onto this spot.

9. Pistons (19-24) Last week: 9
It was super fun watching Blake Griffin go for 44 against the Clippers and also telling owner Steve Ballmer to go somewhere with his handshake offer. Other than that? The Pistons just aren’t good.

10. Wizards (19-26) Last week: 10
Bradley Beal has been fantastic since the calendar turned to 2019, posting 30.6 points per game since Jan. 1. Too bad he’s stuck in D.C. as the Wizards refuse to “Trust the Process.” Bold strategy, Cotton. 

11. Magic (19-25) Last week: 11
It appears Orlando will value trying to get the eighth seed in the East over getting value for the expiring contracts of Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross.

12. Hawks (14-30) Last week: 12
Atlanta might be playing a little too well. Kevin Huerter is one of the culprits as the rookie is averaging 15.6 points and shooting 42 percent from three over his last eight. With John Collins, Trae Young and Huerter, the Hawks have a few intriguing pieces.

13. Knicks (10-34) Last week: 13
Tank …

14. Bulls (10-35) Last week: 15
… for …

15. Cavs (9-36) Last week: 14
… Zion.

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Get to know Sixers rookie Haywood Highsmith

AP Images

Get to know Sixers rookie Haywood Highsmith

On Tuesday night, Haywood Highsmith became just the second active Division II basketball player to receive an NBA call-up. Hours before the Sixers tipped off, Highsmith had just finished playing in a game for the Delaware Blue Coats, before driving to the Sixers practice facility in Camden, New Jersey, to sign his two-way contract.

Before the game, even head coach Brett Brown said he likely wouldn’t see any time for quite a while.

But Highsmith’s story has been everything but predictable, so when Brown called his number with 5:14 left in the fourth quarter in Tuesday night’s win over the Wizards, he once again defied the odds.

From Baltimore, Maryland, to Wheeling Jesuit University, to getting cut from the Sixers' summer league roster to being signed in the G-League, to stepping up on the NBA stage for the first time in his life, it’s been quite the ride for the Sixers rookie.

We wanted to get know a little bit more about the newest addition to the Sixers' roster.

Let’s starts with basketball as a kid … who introduced you to the game, when did you first pick up a basketball and what was your relationship like with the sport growing up?

My father really introduced me to the game, because he played basketball until his college years. We’ve really bonded over it. I probably started playing around the age of two or three but started shooting on a regular hoop at like four or five.

Can you remember the first time that you beat your dad on the court?

I think I was like 13 and I went up for a dunk and almost made it. So after that, he's like, okay. I think I'm getting too old for this. This is crazy.

After playing four years at small school Wheeling Jesuit, Division II player of the year, you’re having trouble getting any NBA teams to meet with you … Are you still thinking that you'll be able to make basketball a career? Or is that when doubt starts to creep in?

Yeah. I didn't know what path I was going to take, whether I was going to go overseas or try to play in the G-League, but I talked with my family and got an agent who definitely thought that I was an NBA-caliber player, and we stuck with a good plan. There were definitely some ups and downs throughout the path, to where I am now, but this was one of the organizations that gave me an opportunity and it was really inspiring for me to just get an opportunity like that. Some doubt definitely came in every now and then, but I always felt like I could play overseas somewhere. The question to me was if I could play in the-G League or the NBA.

Take me through some of those ups and downs…

You definitely have to have mental toughness as a person to go through stuff like that. I got cut from the Sixers' summer league team, a day before they left for Las Vegas, which was kind of hard to swallow as a person, as a basketball player. But, when you have a family support system like I do, they always encouraged me and kept making me feel positive. We just stuck to a path and stayed patient and like people said, good things come to those who wait, and a good thing came with the G-League team.  

So when you got the call-up, and after your Blue Coats game that you played in earlier that day, that you’re going to be with the Sixers, what’s going through your mind?

My mind was just going a lot of places. Was this really happening? Was I dreaming?

And then, I had to go straight from my game against Raptors 905 to Camden (where the Sixers' facility is) to sign, and then straight from signing to the arena to play for the Sixers.

And then, not even a practice and probably don’t expect to get time, but you score your first NBA bucket, and it so happens to come from your Blue Coats teammate, Shake Milton.  What do you think you'll remember most from that night?

I'll probably consider that like one of the greatest days of my life right now. A lot of memories, putting that jersey on and walking out to the crowd in probably the biggest arena I've played in since I played basketball, just joyful. From where I came from, and just to be a part of something like that. It's just crazy to see how that happens and my family was there. One of the greatest days of my life definitely.

Time for some fan questions …

How did you come to get arguably the best basketball name ever?

Me and my father actually share the same name. He's a senior and I'm a junior. I've heard that a lot that I've had a great basketball name. Every time I was in school and my teacher announced my name on the first day, they would always say, ‘Wow that's a great name.' So I'm used to it.

Do you have any nicknames?

Some people call me Hay. Some people call me Wood. Some people call me Haywood. My coach one time called me H squared cause I have two HH's, double H, H squared, I don't really like that one though.

So it sounds like fans need to come up with a new nickname?

Yes, definitely.

How do you like your cheesesteak?

I'm a big cheesesteak guy but I've tried to stop eating them because they're not healthy for a guy like me. But provolone cheese, no tomatoes, no ketchup, salt and pepper on a nice roll. 

What current player you looked up to and why?

Definitely a big Kevin Durant fan, just a humble person like I am, so one of my favorite players I've ever watched. He's from the D.C. area, which is not too far from me, where I'm from, so I look up to him. I like watching Paul George as well, who does a lot of everything. A two-way player, superstar type of player. Those two I definitely watched a lot of growing up, trying to play like them. 

What current Sixer has the capability to help out your development the most?

A lot of them. But Jimmy Butler, someone who has been in the league for awhile and been in big games, and just been a great player in the league, and another guy that came from a later pick (30th), and an All-Star type of player. His toughness, his grittiness, I can definitely learn a lot from him

What's something you've learned about Philly that you didn't know before?

They call this city the City of Brotherly Love, but you don't actually know that until you get in the city and see how it is, see the vibe of the city. The city of Philly is amazing. I've even gained like 3,000 followers since I've been here!

Do you have a favorite quote/saying?

Good things come to those who wait. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard. 

Interests outside of basketball?

I definitely love food. My aunt makes tremendous salmon cake. I like seafood, being from Maryland. I'm a big animal guy too. I like tigers and lions. I used to watch Animal Planet back in the day, they had something called Big Cat Diary that I used to watch with my father, it was a show on big cats, lions, leopards, stuff like that. And I play Madden and 2K.

What advice would you give to other non-D-I athletes?

At the end of the day, if you are talented you are going to get your shot somewhere. Just because you don't go D-I, doesn't mean your opportunity with the NBA or G-League is over. I am living proof that if you have a goal, and you stick to a path, and you have support around you that you can get there. It might take time, but you just have to be patient. A lot of people don't understand that patience is a good trait to have as a person because a lot of people aren't patient, can't wait and just want to get there without putting all the hard work in. It takes a lot of hard work to get here, but once you get here, it feels amazing, and my message would be, keep grinding. You can get here from anywhere.

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