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The Dilemma: Should the 76ers Sit Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons for the Rest of the Season?

16 Feb
embiid-and-simmons

Sixers Joel Embiid and first round draft pick Ben Simmons share a moment on the bench. Will 76ers see the two starting games near the end of the season? Photo courtesy CSNPhilly.com

Unlike years past, the Philadelphia 76ers have a decision to make that doesn’t involve ping-pong balls.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Right now, the Philadelphia 76ers find themselves in the horns of a dilemma.

That dilemma? Do they let potential stars Joel  Embiid and Ben Simmons play after the All-Star break if they recover from their injuries, or should the team think about the future and shelve their young phenoms in anticipation of future greatness?

With the team still dealing with the fallout of not being on the level with the public about the torn meniscus in  Embiid’s left knee, the big talk around town is whether or not the team should shut down the former Kansas star for the rest of the season.

Because Embiid’s injury won’t require surgery, he could theoretically be back before the end of the season.  There’s also the possibility that rookie Simmons, who is recovering from a foot injury, could be ready late in the season.

But given Embiid’s history with injuries, especially the foot injury that sidelined him for the first two years of his career, and the fact that the team isn’t within striking distance of the NBA playoffs, it wouldn’t seem illogical for the Sixers to put both players on ice until next season to give them the chance to get completely healthy for next season.

But Sixers head coach Brett Brown wouldn’t necessarily agree with that line of thinking.

Since Dec. 30, the 76ers have a 14-11 record. During that time, they’ve been fun to watch as the team, led by Embid, has started to show flashes of what could be.

Brown even appears to be having fun coaching the team despite a 21-34 record. He believes that the team is finally buying into his defensive philosophy and has been making progress.

During a gathering of reporters earlier this week, Brown said he was more concerned about keeping the team focused for the rest of the season and getting better.

He’d like to see them end the season on a high note.

“We want to take this final third [of the season], move the program forward, and try to set the stage for a great summer,” Brown said on Sixers.com  “I’m excited for that final third, and so is my staff. This All-Star break will be dealt with on those terms.”

It’s safe to assume that Brown would love to see what the team would look like with both Embiid and Simmons on the floor. He wants to build some momentum and perhaps create some buzz for next season. After stinking up the joint the last few years in the name of getting a lottery pick, Brown wants to show fans a glimpse of what could be a promising future.

But for Sixers fans still smarting from the Andrew Bynum debacle, seeing Embid dancing on stage at a Meek Mill concert caused flashbacks of a Bynum too injured to play taking to the bowling lanes.

While I can see both sides of the argument, the outstanding play of Dario Saric and Nerlens Noel in the absence of Embiid and Simmons makes me lean toward shutting both of them down for the season so that they can get healthy and tear through the NBA next year.

Considering the dilemma that the Philadelphia 76ers usually face at this point in the NBA’s regular season, that’s an improvement.

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Black Girl Magic, LeBron James, Deaths of Sports Icons Defined 2016 Sports Year

30 Dec
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Simon Biles won gold medals at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The Last Hurrah for Ryan Howard and Bernard Hopkins, LeBron James-Male Athlete of the Year 

By Chris Murray                                                                                                                 

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

If there’s one thing that everyone can agree on about 2016, it was a year where the one constant was death.

While the pop culture world got hit the hardest with the losses of such icons as Prince and David Bowie, the Sporting World got knocked around a bit as well. We lost boxing icon

ImustbetheGreatest

Muhammad Ali Shook up the world with his stunning upset of Sonny Liston in 1964. His death in 2016 highlighted was the most visible in  year when a number icons in sports and entertainment passed away.

Muhammad Ali this year. The General of Arnie’s Army, golf legend Arnold Palmer, also left us. So did basketball coach extraordinaire Pat Summit and former Philadelphia Eagles coach Buddy Ryan.

Even sports media felt the sting with the losses of John Saunders, host of ESPN’s “The Sports Reporters” and Craig Sager, easily the most colorful man in the NBA.

Although we’re still in mourning over the loss of these shining stars, and cherishing the memories of their brilliance, the Sporting World gave us more than a few reasons to cheer in 2016. It was an up year for some and a down year for others, but one thing it wasn’t was boring.

Here’s a look at 2016 in Sports…

One Last Hurrah for the Big Piece: Ryan Howard

Ryan Howard

Ryan Howard played his last season in a Phillies uniform in 2016. Photo by Webster Riddick.

This year, we said goodbye to a man who played a big part in breaking Philadelphia’s longtime championship drought, Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard.

Because 2016 marked the end of his contract, Howard will be a free agent and will most likely leave the team that he led with his bat from 2005 to 2016.

During his tenure with the Phillies, Howard’s ability to hit towering home runs and drive in runs helped lead the team to the 2008 World Series title, two National League pennants, and five consecutive National League East titles.  Howard was the Most Valuable Player of the 2009 National League Championship Series and was also winner of the National League Rookie of the Year, and National League MVP awards.

Unfortunately, a combination of age, injuries and a team in rebuilding mode mandated that Howard and the Phillies part ways. Howard will most likely play for someone else and while it’s a shame that he won’t be allowed to retire here, Phillies fans will always appreciate the Glory Days he brought to the franchise.

The Year of Black Girl Magic

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Claire Smith is the first woman to receive the Baseball Hall of Fame’s A.G. Spink Award and will be honored during in Hall of Fame weekend in July. Photo courtesy ESPN.com

In December, former Philadelphia Inquirer baseball columnist Claire Smith became the first woman to win the prestigious J.G. Taylor Spink Award from Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. She was honored for her pioneering work, which included paving the way for women to enter MLB locker rooms to do interviews, just like their male counterparts.

That Smith received the award this year makes perfect sense because 2016 was the year that the Sporting World was hit with all kinds of Black Girl Magic.

Black female athletes from Africa and the African Diaspora (which includes the United States and the Caribbean), served notice to the world that they were a force to be reckoned with, most prominently during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.

There, Black women excelled in everything. And I do mean everything.

Gymnast Simone Biles was named the Associated Press’s Female Athlete of the Year.

If you watched one minute of her gymnastic performances during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, the reason she won this award became obvious.

The diminutive Texan was the darling of the games, leading the Final Five—Biles, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian, Aly Reisman, and 2012 Individual all-around Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas—to a team Gold Medal and also winning three individual gold medals including the individual all-around. Biles stunning performances in the floor exercise dazzled audiences around the world and her grace and athleticism were definitely a joy to watch.

But while she responsible for a nice chunk of the Black Girl Magic on display in Rio, Biles was only the beginning. Black women also showed that they could excel in places they’re not normally associated with like the swimming pool and fencing ring.

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Simone Manuel became the first Black American woman to win a gold medal in swimming at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro,

Stanford University’s Simone Manuel became the first Black woman to win a gold medal in swimming when she tied with Canada’s Penny Oleksiak to win the 100-meter freestyle, setting Olympic and American records in the process. She also helped the 4X100 meter medley relay team take home a gold medal and won silver medals in the 50-meter freestyle and the 4X100 meter freestyle relay.

Elsewhere in the water, Ashleigh Johnson, the first Black woman to make the U.S. Water Polo team, helped lead the team to a gold medal. In the gold medal game against Italy, Johnson, the team’s goalie, had eight saves.

Ibtihaj Muhammad made news when she competed with the U.S. Sabre Fencing team while wearing the hijab of her Muslim faith. The team took home a bronze medal and Muhammad’s performance showed that you can be an observant Muslim and an athlete simultaneously.

But while Black women in non-traditional sports took center stage, that didn’t mean that Black women didn’t continue to excel in places where they’ve traditionally ruled, such as in track and field. Led by the United States, the Bahamas, Colombia, Jamaica and the African continent, Black women won gold medals in all but three track and field events at the Olympics.

From Michelle Carter’s gold in the shot put to Brianna Rollins, Kristi Castlin and Philadelphia’s own Nia Ali sweeping the 100-meter hurdles to the exploits of the Jamaican track team, Black women showed, to paraphrase Emmy-award winning actress Viola Davis, that all that’s needed for them to excel is opportunity. They made the most of it…and then some.

All Hail The King (James)

LeBron James

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, center, celebrates with teammates after Game 7 of basketball’s NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, June 19, 2016. The Cavaliers won 93-89. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

With the Cleveland Cavaliers went down 3-1 in the NBA Finals to the defending champion Golden State Warriors, LeBron James put his Cleveland Cavaliers on his back and helped them win three-straight elimination games to give the City of Cleveland its first pro sports title since 1964.

James, the Associated Press’s Male Athlete of the Year, became the Finals Most Valuable Player by performing the historical feat of leading in scoring, rebounding, steals, blocked shots, and assists. What makes this feat even more remarkable is that it’s something that neither Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson nor the athlete James compared to most often, Michael Jordan, was able to do.

They’re all Hall of Famers. This year, his achievements put LeBron James in the same rarefied air.

No Joy In Mudville

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Can Ben Simmons lead the 76ers back to glory? He was the Sixers No. 1 draft pick in 2016.

Because the Philadelphia Eagles, the Phillies, the 76ers, and the Philadelphia Flyers are all in some form of rebuilding mode, the closest that Philadelphia sports fans got to the World Series, the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup was the couch in front of their television sets.

While the Eagles, who will miss the NFL playoffs for the third straight year, made some noise when rookie Carson Wentz went undefeated in his first three starts, they came back to earth with a deafening thud after the bye week. Coming into the season finale against the Dallas Cowboys, Wentz has completed 62 percent of his passes for 3, 537 yards with 14 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

The Sixers also gave their fans hope by picking LSU’s Ben Simmons with their first-round lottery pick. The good news is, Simmons can handle and pass the ball like Magic Johnson.

The bad news is, and this should be no surprise to Sixers fans, he’s injured. And as if often is in Sixers World, it’s a foot injury.

But there is some hope for optimism now that Joel Embiid has finally recovered from his foot injury and has emerged as the team’s best big man.

Villanova Wins the National Championship, Penn Wins Ivy League Crown, Penn State Temple Football Bowl Bound Again

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Villanova won its first national championship since 1985 with a buzzer-beater win over North Carolina.

In one of the most exciting games in the history of the NCAA Tournament, the Villanova Wildcats won the men’s basketball national championship on a last-second three-point shot by Kris Jenkins.  It was probably the greatest championship game of all time and they were honored by the city with a parade down Broad Street. Although I know one Philly sports fan who thinks that parade should have gone to an actual Philly team, but the Wildcats do play some of  their games at the Wells Fargo Center and they were embraced by the entire Delaware Valley during their run to the title.

Like, for example the University of Pennsylvania Quakers and the Temple University Owls.

For the second straight season, the Quakers won a share of the Ivy League football title. They became league co-champs with Princeton by defeating Cornell University 42-40. Junior running back Tre Solomon gained 173 yards to lead the 7-3 (6-1 in the Ivy League) Quakers.

The Owls proved that the team’s 2015 football season was no fluke by winning the American Athletic Conference championship with a 34-10 win over Navy and notching it’s second straight 10-win season. The effort was enough to get head coach Matt Rhule noticed by the Big 12’s Baylor University, and he left to try and salvage a program that’s been in the news for all the wrong reasons over the last couple of years. The Owls also lost the Military Bowl to Wake Forest when the comeback they were mounting fell short.

But this doesn’t take anything away from an outstanding year for the Owls. If anything, it gives new Temple head coach Geoff Collins something to shoot for.

The much-maligned James Franklin became the Big Ten’s Coach of the Year by leading the Nittany Lions of Penn State to the Big Ten Football Championship. The team scored a come from behind win against Wisconsin thanks to the performance of running back Saquon Barkley and a stout defense. While many thought that Penn State should have gotten into the College  Football Playoff thanks to its victory over Ohio State, the teams two losses mean they’ll be going to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California on New Year’s Day against the University of Southern California.

Bernard Hopkins Falls to Father Time

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Bernard Hopkins looked as old as the 51-year-old man he is in his loss to Joe Smith Jr. Photo courtesy of sportingnews.com

After getting literally knocked out of the ring by Joe Smith Jr. in his most recent fight, some say it should be.

From the moment he turned 40, Hopkins has waged a valiant and sometimes successful against Father Time.  But in the end, the 51-year-old Hopkins found out what every athlete eventually does: time is undefeated.

While Hopkins hasn’t said whether or not he’ll retire, the prevailing hope is that he will. To do otherwise will probably do him more harm than good long term.

Like I said, 2016 has been an up and down year. But now that it’s over, it’ll be interesting to see what 2017 will bring to the Sporting World.

No matter what it is, I’ll have it for you.

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

One Last Answer: AI Lifted A Generation

18 Sep
Allen Iverson

Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Allen Iverson speaks during induction ceremonies at Symphony Hall, Friday, Sept. 9, 2016, in Springfield, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola). Originally appeared in the Philadelphia Sunday Sun.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Allen Iverson’s induction into the National Basketball Hall of Fame last week was the culmination of the hopes and dreams of a generation of young people whose aspirations were often snuffed out before it had a chance to really to blossom into anything special.

As a basketball star and cultural icon, AI was “The Answer” in more ways than one. 

Iverson’s road to the Hall of Fame, to be sure, came from his dynamic basketball prowess. Yes, pound-for-pound he was one of the greatest little men, if not the greatest to ever lace up a pair of sneakers. Iverson’s blinding ferocity on the court against the likes of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal made him popular players in the sport. His jersey sales rivaled that of his aforementioned contemporaries.

Between the 2001 NBA MVP Award, the scoring titles, the All-Star appearances including two MVP Awards in that game and leading an unlikely Philadelphia 76ers team on an improbable run to the 2001 NBA Finals, Iverson deserved to be in the company of the game’s legends. What he did on the court in his career was truly unforgettable.

Along with his legendary skills as a basketball, Iverson was a transcendent icon of an often misunderstood group of young people. Iverson defiantly wore his braids and tattoos much to the chagrin and distaste of the media that covered him. 

To a maligned group of young people who listened to Tupac, Biggie Smalls and Nas while they were being chastised by overly sanctimonious old heads, Iverson was their “folk” hero.  Iverson truly kept it real through the times he was right and through the times he was wrong.  To me, Iverson was the rebel that the late James Dean was to teenagers and young people of the 1950s.

Sometimes words like loyalty to the hood and never forgetting the brothers you met on the way up are not often meant or are thrown around like a punch line from a hood movie or a lyric in a rap song.

Throughout his career, Iverson took those who loved and nurtured him before he became a household name with him on his journey. Iverson was truly loyal to his friends and relatives from the Norfolk,Va.-Hampton roads area — sometimes to a fault.

During his Hall of Fame speech in Springfield, Mass., Iverson mentioned the names of all those friends and family members that put a few dollars in his pocket when he or his mom didn’t have it. That’s true loyalty and true love. That’s not just talking, that’s truly keeping it real.

For those of us here in Philly, Iverson now breathes the same air as the great basketball legends whose statures overshadow the city. As I have always said if you had to build a Mount Rushmore of Philadelphia basketball icons, you would include AI, Julius Erving, Wilt Chamberlain, Earl Monroe and John Chaney.

The memories of Iverson crossing Jordan, scoring and stepping over Tyronn Lue in the NBA Finals, outdueling Vince Carter in Game 7 of the 2001 East Conference finals will be stamped indelibly on the hearts and minds of Sixers fans everywhere.

For the young people who grew up in the midst of the crack epidemic and mass incarceration, Iverson was the Answer those who hoped to make out of their predicament whether it was jail or just the devastation of poverty.

Like Tupac and Biggie, Iverson wasn’t afraid to keep it real and tell his truth for a misrepresented generation of young people.  And so now the final Answer is … a Hall of Famer.

A Glimmer of Hope for the Sixers? Brett Brown Excited About Upcoming Season

21 Aug
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Sixers head coach Brett Brown can’t wait for the season to start. Photo courtesy of Philly.com

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Because he hasn’t had much of a team to work with, Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown hasn’t had a lot of reasons to feel optimistic about an upcoming season.

In fact, the Sixers have been so bad that the only thing they’ve had to look forward to is possibly getting enough ping-pong balls to get the No. 1 draft pick.

But if you bump into Brown these days, there seems to be a little bit of pep in his step.

About two weeks ago, Brown shared his enthusiasm about the Sixers upcoming season with reporters while hanging out at Philadelphia Eagles’ training camp.

And much of that enthusiasm is spelled B-E-N  S-I-M-M-O-N-S

“Just that there’s a real delineated feeling of hope,” Brown said. “I feel that we all ought to look at people and players that we believe can be with this organization and in this city for a long time.  That although they are young and they are still 20-years-old, they’re talented.”

Simmons, the team’s No. 1 draft choice, showed glimpses of his tremendous potential during the games he played in the NBA’s summer league. If you got a chance to watch Simmons play, you saw a kid who made his teammates better by his court vision and passing ability.

When Simmons did score, he proved that he could use his athleticism to take the ball to the bucket, but he still needs to work on his jump shot.

With center Joel Embiid apparently 100 percent after his longtime foot injury and the recent addition of Dario Saric, who shot 40 percent from three-point range, and the team’s big men, including Jahlil Okafor and Nerlins Noel, the Sixers are looking like they have the beginnings of what could be a decent team.

Granted, no one is expecting to see the Sixers in the NBA Finals or even the playoffs, but there are some good young pieces that could really make some noise if a veteran is added through a trade or via free agency or another strong player can be added through next year’s draft.

At the very least, the motor is running for the Sixers, but how fast this car will go is anybody’s guess at this point.

“We’ve got a team that we’re excited about, that we think can put more wins on the board,” Brown said. “We understand that’s become more a part of our blueprint in our judgment day and it should.”

During his impromptu confab with reporters, Brown talked about the potential of Embiid despite not yet taking the floor in an NBA game. The former Kansas star is on pace to play this season even though he did not participate in summer league competition, Brown said.

“(Embiid’s) summer is going to the way we hoped,” Brown said. “We’ve crafted a plan, we’ve scripted a plan from him that he is following religiously. When we start talking about all these different pieces, the city is going to see something very unique in a seven-foot-two that has a skill package that is exceptional.”

Brown’s excitement about the upcoming season is about the potential of Simmons with his size and the playmaking ability of a point guard.  He said how Simmons plays on the court will determine what position he will play with the team.

“(Simmons) is going to have some taste of that for sure. You know he will dictate that himself when he rebounds and leads the break,” Brown said. “The NBA point guard is the hardest position in the NBA. He’s never played a point guard, let alone an NBA point guard. … Initially, we’re going to play him in different positions and (point guard) will be one of them.”

With his 6-10 and 240-pound frame, Simmons can play multiple positions to help the Sixers, Brown said.

The Sixers will need to add some additional pieces and if they win more than 10 games next season, it will be seen as progress, especially considering how badly this team has been for the last few years. Any movement upward for the 76ers should be considered a step in the right direction.

LeBron James: Once Upon a Time Called Right Now

24 Jun
LeBron James

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, center, celebrates with teammates after Game 7 of basketball’s NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, June 19, 2016. The Cavaliers won 93-89. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Instead of spending so much time in the NBA’s past with Michael Jordan, fans should allow themselves to witness the greatness that is LeBron James right now.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

The seven-game epic that was the 2016 NBA Finals provided a kaleidoscope of highlights and tremendous plays.

But when the dust settled in Oakland on Sunday night, LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers was not only bringing the NBA Championship to a long-suffering, blue collar town used to being victimized by “The Drive” (John Elway, 1987 AFC Championship), “The Shot” (Michael Jordan, 1989 Eastern Conference Championship) and “The Fumble”(1988 AFC Championship), he was solidifying his lofty status as the best basketball player in the world.

Now, don’t get it twisted, James didn’t do it all by himself. That clutch three-point bucket by Kyrie Irving with under a minute left put the Cavaliers in the lead for good. Throughout the series, Irving played well enough to make an argument for himself as the Finals MVP. Forward/center Tristan Thompson did yeoman’s work in the low post.  Even Kevin Love played defense well enough to faze Steph Curry at the three-point line late in the game.

And for those who keep saying that James doesn’t have the “clutch gene”, you might want to pay attention to the last three games of the series. Or the last six seasons for that matter. 

Or have you not noticed that there hasn’t been an NBA Finals in the last six years in which LeBron James wasn’t a participant?

Of course, there are going to be some folks on social media who will continue to belittle James because he will never be as great as Michael Jordan, who won six NBA championships. Thanks to the cult-like deification of Jordan, people tend to forget that he didn’t do without Scottie Pippin, Dennis Rodman, Horace Grant, Steve Kerr et al.

But because I’m an irreverent knucklehead, I do have an answer to those of you who still worship at the feet of his Royal Airness because there are a few things you don’t understand when making such silly comparisons.

Basketball is still a team game. That’s a concept that seems too hard to grasp for young fans that think Jordan actually invented the game and a few older fans who are probably waiting for him to be canonized by the Vatican.

Yes, Jordan was a great clutch scorer in the Finals who knew how to close the deal. But he wouldn’t have gotten into position to make those great plays without fellow Hall-of-Famers Scottie Pippin, a great scorer in his own right, Dennis Rodman, and swingman Horace Grant.

Praising Jordan’s solid supporting cast shouldn’t be used as an attempt to diminish his greatness in the same way that Jordan’s six rings shouldn’t be used to beat James over the head. If he never wins another ring, the fact that James has led two different teams to three of the last six NBA titles is truly remarkable.

In the last two years, James has taken a Cleveland team that was in last place in 2014 to two straight NBA Finals before winning the championship this year.  His mere presence made them a contender along with good players like Irving, Love and J.R. Smith.

Like Jordan, James definitely makes good players around him better. That’s the mark of a great player.

What James did in this year’s Finals was something that even Jordan didn’t accomplish in his storied career.  When the Cavaliers were down 3-1 and teetering on the verge of elimination, James put the team on his back with three straight wins. 

In that stretch of games, he scored 109 points—including two straight 40-point games, 29 assists, and 35 rebounds.

In Game 7, Not only did James have a triple-double with 27 points, 11 assists, and 11 rebounds—He accounted for 52 of the Cavaliers 93 points with a score or an assist. He scored seven of Cleveland’s last 10 points and he had a key shot block against former Philadelphia 76er Andre Iguodala with under two minutes left.

In the Finals, James supplied 52 percent of the Cavs offense with a bucket or an assist.  In last year’s Finals, James was responsible for 62 percent of his team’s points.

When the series ended, James led in every statistical category, points, assists, rebounds, steals and blocked shots.  No one in the history of the NBA Finals, not Jordan, Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West or Larry Bird has ever done that.

That’s a clutch performance for the ages from one of the greatest all-around athletes to play the game.

Now I’m not going to say that James is greater than Jordan or vice-versa.

But I will say that you should appreciate the greatness that’s in front of you because living in the past gets old after awhile.

Time for the 76ers to Stop Talking Process and Start Showing Progress

20 May

The Philadelphia 76ers won the 2016 NBA Draft Lottery and Will Get the No. 1 Pick. It’s Time to Stop Tanking and Starting Building a Contender. 

Ben Simmons

The Philadelphia 76ers have the top pick in 2016 NBA Draft. Will they pick LSU’s Ben Simmons? Photo by NBA.com.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

After several years of tanking, the Philadelphia 76ers efforts at being really bad have finally yielded something good.

On Tuesday night, the Sixers won the NBA Draft Lottery and got the number one pick in the 2016 NBA draft. That means that either LSU’s Ben Simmons or Duke’s Brandon Ingram is going to hold up a white 76ers jersey after their names are called.

Add this to the other two picks the Sixers will have in the first round and you get a team that has the opportunity to get some exciting young players that have the potential to point a Sixers team that badly needs it in the right direction.

If you saw 76ers head coach Brett Brown during the NBA Lottery broadcast on ESPN, he was like a kid at Christmas when he saw his team logo in the No. 1 slot. He seemed like a guy who’s looking forward to coaching a team capable of winning more than 10 games.

“We’ve taken hits for three seasons,” Brown told ESPN. “We’re excited with the position that we’re now in. I love some of my current players. We think we can grow them. I’ve got a real belief in Joe Embiid and I have faith in Dario Saric. I’m thrilled for our city.”

We have to take a moment to acknowledge former General Manager Sam Hinkie and the “process” of serial tanking that brought the Sixers to this moment.

But now that we’ve done that, it’s time to talk about winning. It’s time to stop having prolonged losing streaks. It’s time to stop tanking.

It’s time to start moving forward.

The last time the Sixers got the number one overall pick, it was 1996 and the team used it to draft Allen Iverson. Five years later, the 76ers became a perennial playoff team, made it to the NBA Finals in 2001, and Iverson went on to become a Hall of Famer. While nobody is expecting the Sixers to improve immediately, we’d like to be able to see some light at the end of the tunnel.

Shucks, I’m willing to accept five to 10 games below .500 as a show of progress.

The Sixers will also have a heckuva choice between Simmons and Ingram.

The 6-foot-10 Simmons averaged 19 points and 11 rebounds per game. He’s a good ball-handler for a big man, has point-guard-like court vision and averaged 4.8 assists per game. From what I’ve seen, he has an NBA body and reminds me of Magic Johnson with his ability to handle the ball for a big man. But in a game where the three-point shot has become king, his suspect jump shot might give the team pause.

At 6-foot-9, Ingram is a good scorer and can hit the outside shot. He was 41 percent from three-point range, but needs to work on being a ball-handler as a playmaking guard. He scored 17 points per game and pulled down six rebounds and averaged two assists per game.

And the team will also have to figure out how to work with what it already has…and what shape it’s actually in.

Speaking of the 7-2 Embiid, he was reportedly seen at the team’s practice facility at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine working out in the gym, taking some shots and throwing down a few slam dunks.

Embiid is coming off of a couple of surgeries to repair his right foot, and can either be the player that he was projected to be coming out of Kansas and the big man the Sixers need to anchor the low post or the second coming of Greg Oden or Sam Bowie, both of whom had chronic foot or leg problems that stunted their careers. It’s anybody’s guess.

Meanwhile, the 6-9 Saric has let it be known that he is going to be leaving the Turkish team, Anadolu Efes, to play for the Sixers in the 2016-2017 season. He averaged 11 points and five rebounds per game. According to several scouting reports, Saric has become a better at hitting the three-pointer and is shooting 37 percent from behind the arc.

And don’t forget about young guys like Jahlil Okafor, who averaged 17.5 points per game last season, and Nerlens Noel, who averaged 11 points and eight rebounds per game and is a solid defensive presence.

The Sixers have a lot of pieces that could become an interesting puzzle when you add the three new first-round picks they’re going to get this year.

Whether the puzzle is going to look like a lush landscape or a haunted house will determine how many people come to the Wells Fargo Center to see them.

 

 

 

 

Allen Iverson Deserves to be a First Ballot Hall of Famer

19 Feb
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Former Philadelphia 76ers star Allen Iverson is a finalist for the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. Photo by Webster Riddick.

It’s a surprise to no one in this town that former 76ers guard Allen Iverson is a finalist for enshrinement in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in
Springfield, Mass.

Throughout what was a tumultuous career in Philadelphia, Iverson was nothing short of brilliant on the court and deserves to be a first ballot Hall of Famer. Despite being just under 6 feet tall, he was a four-time scoring champ and often scored over men much bigger than him.

He was an `11-time NBA All-Star, led the league in steals three times in his career and was MVP of the NBA All-Star game twice.

Sixers fans will always remember the incredible ride to the 2001 NBA Finals where he played the role of Superman and put a team of role players on his back. Even though the Sixers lost that series, people still talk about the win in Game One where Iverson hit a jumper over a falling Tyronn Lue and then casually walked over the Lakers guard.

I just hope that Hall of Fame voters will base their decision on Iverson’s Hall of Fame admission on his on the court play and not his off the court issues. As I say when it comes to the Hall of Fame of any sport, players should be judged strictly on what they’ve done in their careers during game time, and that alone.

But there’s always a tendency for more than a few voters to look at how a potential Hall of Famer got along with the media or if they were paragons of high moral virtue.  When you consider that KuKlux Klan members, pedophiles and even murderers are in the Halls of Fame of several sports, the irony of Iverson facing judgmental sportswriters is glaring.

Recently, former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens, was denied entrance into the Pro Football Hall of Fame not because he didn’t have the stats—he ranks in top 10 all-time in receiving yardage, touchdowns and receptions—but because of his perceived diva-like behavior that rankled coaches and teammates.

ESPN columnist Skip Bayless on several occasions called him, “Team Obliterator.”

Now I’m not going to lie. Owens had issues with teammates and coaches. When he was here in Philly, he did play a role in his own demise with the Eagles by taking shots at quarterback Donovan McNabb, something that you just don’t do.

But that said, you can’t deny that Owens played like a champion, even if, as his critics put it, he wasn’t necessarily doing it for the team. Playing in a Super Bowl on a broken leg and gaining 100 yards receiving was a remarkable achievement.  You also can’t argue with his numbers. In most cases, ranking in the Top 10 all-time in three different categories at your position makes you a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.

I think Owens will eventually get into the Hall of Fame just like a number of players who were perceived as troubled during their playing days.

But what he did on the field should have been good enough to get him in this year.

And that’s why I’m concerned that Allen Iverson might meet the same fate.

During his time in Philly, Iverson left it all on the floor. Playing hurt was no big deal to him. He maxed out his talent.

But he did have more of his share of off-the court issues. He didn’t keep himself in as good of shape as he could have, something that might have kept his injuries to a minimum.

And then there was the infamous “We talking ‘bout practice,” speech. While it continues to live as a meme and occasionally shows up on social media thanks to YouTube, it didn’t endear Iverson to the local media.

Iverson was true to himself and truly kept it real. He was a great player on the court and his own man off of it.

So in his case, we need to be talking about first ballot Hall of Famer.