Tag Archives: NBA

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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Light at the End of The Tunnel: Young Sixers Showing Promise

21 Jan
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Rookie Joel Embiid is giving Sixers fans hope that better days are ahead in the City of Brotherly Love.

Now that the team appears to be making progress, the phrase “trust the process” is no longer a laughing matter for the Philadelphia 76ers.

By Chris Murray  

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

When Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown visited the Philadelphia Eagles training camp at Nova Care, he told reporters that he could see the light at the end of a long tunnel with his young team, expressing some cautious optimism with the pending debut of Joel Embiid and No. 1 draft choice Ben Simmons.

So far this season, Brown has a reason to believe that this light at the end of the tunnel is no longer an oncoming train.

Fans are starting to see some semblance of progress thanks to the way that the Sixers (14-26) are playing. While that probably won’t lead to a playoff spot this year, you get the feeling that a playoff game at the Wells Fargo Center isn’t beyond the realm of possibility.

“We’re all starving for some success, we’re starving for some good feelings and some wins,” Brown said. “Fans are dying for us to get this right and pull this off.  This city and these fans deserve it.”

The Sixers have won seven of their last 10, three of which came against playoff teams, the most recent being a 94–89 win over the Toronto Raptors (28-14).

The Raptors took the NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers to seven games in last year’s Eastern Conference finals and currently have the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.

His team’s effort on defense over these last 10 games is something that Brown can be proud of. The Sixers held a Raptors squad that averages about 111 points per game to just 89 points.

“We’re playing with a defensive mindset,” Brown said. “There is a belief in each other amongst the team that it’s the best that it has been since I’ve been here. There’s a rhythm to what we’re doing, there’s a beat to what we’re doing.”

One of the obvious reasons for the Sixers current run of success has been Embiid, who despite being limited in terms of minutes has proven that quality is far more important than quantity. He has scored at least 20 points in his last 10 games.

In the win over the Raptors, Embiid scored 26 points and pulled down nine rebounds.  It was his defense and clutch free-throw shooting in the last 30 seconds that enabled the 76ers to come away with the victory.  On the defensive end, Embiid came up with a huge block and rebound of a shot by Raptors guard Kyle Lowry. He sank four free throws.

“When you have a five man that can make free throws … if you can find a five man that has the defensive presence that Joel has and isn’t a liability on offense when they start fouling. … If they wrap him up and he’s a 40 percent free-throw shooter, you’ll have problems,” Brown said. “[Embiid] shot 32 free throws in the last two games. So apart from the percentage, the volume that he gets there (free-throw line) makes it a luxury, too.”

Embiid said the biggest takeaway from beating Toronto was the confidence they gained from beating a playoff contender like the Raptors.

“Winning against the second-best team in the Eastern Conference is just amazing and we’re going to keep on working,” he said. “Everybody is buying into the system and coaches are doing a great job of preparing us and everybody has bought in and we’re playing good basketball.”

Brown said he was really impressed with Dario Saric’s commitment to contribute on the defensive end. In the second half of the Raptors game, Saric had two consecutive blocked shots including one against Raptors power forward Jared Sullinger.

Known as a guy who likes to hit the outside shot, Saric has really made a commitment to playing defense.

“I try to bring the teams some kind of energy,” Saric. “I just want to be in the game.”

The Sixers aren’t ready to be a playoff team just yet, they’re still are a work in progress and that’s what the fans want to see. They want to root for a team that’s moving in the right direction.

Finally, fans have a reason to trust the process.

 

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.

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.

23 /23 Hype-sight: Comparing LeBron James to Michael Jordan Has Become a Tired Conversation

4 Jun
NBA fans enjoy comparing LeBron James to Michael Jordan.

NBA fans enjoy comparing LeBron James to Michael Jordan.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

As the 2015 NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors continues this weekend, conversations at a sports bars, man caves and your local sports talk station will undoubtedly turn to the subject of LeBron James, his place among the NBA’s greats, and whether or not a series loss from the Cavaliers changes things.

But there’s one name that I’m tired of hearing as a part of that discussion.

Michael Jordan.

Jordan vs. LeBron is one of those discussions that I try to avoid because it’s one that really makes no sense. It often disintegrates into a bizarre intergenerational fight between two cults of personality that has nothing to do with basketball.

Because James was seen as the “NBA’s Golden Child, “The Chosen One, the ”Messiah” or the “Son of Basketball” and a bunch of other goofy names when he came to the NBA, Jordan partisans show James no love despite his numerous accomplishments. To suggest that James’s name should be spoken in the same breath with their basketball immortal is heresy to them.

For example, Jordan partisans are always quick to point out that because James has only two rings to Jordan’s six, he will never be as great. Of course, Jordan didn’t play all five positions on the court to get those rings, but that logic always seems to get lost in these discussions.

(Now I could point out that if greatness is measured by NBA Championship rings, Jordan needs to bow down at the feet of Hall-of-Famer Bill Russell. Russell led the Boston Celtics to 11 NBA titles, something that neither James nor Jordan could ever accomplish. But did I mention that most of the folks having this particular argument have any knowledge of basketball history, and thus have never heard of Bill Russell?)

I was just on Facebook and someone posted a stat that compared Jordan and James scoring averages after the first 141 playoff games in their careers. Jordan had the better scoring average which reassured his followers.

Then someone posted Jordan’s and James record in the NBA Finals—which was …you guessed it advantage Jordan. Of course, everything I’m saying I’ve seen LBJ parishioners do the same thing with their man coming out on top.

To be honest, I don’t care either way. But the comparisons between the two are totally and utterly ridiculous, especially considering that they play different positions and have their own unique qualities that make them great players.

Jordan was a great clutch scorer who made his teammates better and played defense. James is a versatile player who can score, rebound and share the ball. He’s taken three different teams to the NBA Finals and has made other guys around him even better by his leadership and will to win.

Both James and Jordan were the best of their time.

So do me a favor okay?

Let’s keep this in perspective. We got to enjoy the ups and downs of Michael Jordan’s career and the championship years, not-so-championship years and everything in between.

How about letting the LeBron James Era unfold the same way?