Tag Archives: Sixers

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.

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.

Holiday Comes Up Big For Sixers in Win over Phoenix

26 Nov

Sixers Point Guard scores a career-high 33 points with 13 Assists

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

Jrue Holiday gets to throw down a slam-dunk on Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic for two of his career-high 33 points. He also had 13 assists.

If there has been a consistent element to the Philadelphia 76ers offensive attack in this young season, it has been that point guard Jrue Holiday has been the straw that has stirred the drink.

In the Sixers 104-101 win over the Phoenix Suns Sunday night at the Wells Fargo Center, Holiday scored a career-high 33 points and dished out 13 assists to help his squad bounce back from a tough overtime loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder Saturday Night.

On a night when the Sixers had trouble stopping an offensive-minded Suns squad on defense, Holiday made plays on the offensive end in the fourth quarter that kept his team on top. He led all scorers for that quarter with nine points.

“Thank God, Jrue was on today,” said Sixers head coach Doug Collins. “He was fantastic with big plays—33 (points) and 13 (assists) with only two turnovers.  When he’s on the floor, we have the ball in his hands.”

One of Holiday’s biggest plays in the game was in the fourth quarter. With his team holding a four-point lead with the ball with 3:47 left, he secured the rebound from a missed three-pointer by Jason Richardson and then scored an old-school three-point play by making a layup and hitting the free-throw earned when he was fouled by Phoenix forward Jared Dudley.

“I just kind of went for it. Those are the times you see guys like (Russell) Westbrook and (Rajon) Rondo make plays in big moments. I felt like it was an opportunity to get a rebound that we needed,” Holiday said. “I like having the pressure of having the game in my hands, especially in games that come down to crunch time. I think I can make the right plays like we did tonight,”

Holiday’s free throw gave the Sixers a 98-91 lead that kept the Suns at arm’s length during a critical stretch of the fourth quarter.

“He got that great offensive rebound and that three-point play that pushed us back up by seven,” Collins said.

Holiday also got the Sixers big men involved in the offense. Forward Thaddeus Young scored 10 points while center Lavoy Allen dropped 11. While neither player is your typical big man, they are both capable scorers who can hit that 15-foot jump shot.

“We’ve got to continue to look for that punch-in guy because our guys are really not one that you’re going to throw it to them in the post and they’re going to make a lot of post moves. We just don’t have those kind of players,” Collins said. “Our guys are better at punching it and catching it with a quick shot.  I thought Young and Lavoy did a better job.”

But Allen and Young admit that they have to be more physical on both ends of the court in terms of scoring, playing defense and getting rebounds.

“I think it helps when we touch the ball even if we don’t shoot it,” Allen said. “Playing that inside-out game and finding the open shooter, helps us look for other guys,” Allen said.

Young said it’s important for he and Allen to be able to fill the void in the Sixers inside offense, especially since center Andrew Bynum is out indefinitely with a pair of injured knees.

“We have to because they’re going to chop our guards and they’re going to do certain things to take Jrue and Evan (Turner) out of the game,” Young said. “We have to step in fill those spots.”

Sixers Bounce Back from Two-Game Skid with a Win over the Jazz

17 Nov

Jrue Holiday led the 76ers with 26 points and seven assists in the Sixers win over the Utah Jazz. Photo by Webster Riddick.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

After Wednesday ’s horrendous loss to the previously winless Detroit Pistons, the Philadelphia 76ers were determined to get back out on the floor against the Utah Jazz to get their groove back from a two-game losing streak.

The Sixers attacked Utah early and held off just about every charge the Jazz made at them in a 99-93 win in front of 15, 851 fans at the Wells Fargo Center.

“It was huge and it showed that we’re going to continue to go out there and fight until the end and we did a good job at holding our composure and going out there to get a win,” said shooting guard Jason Richardson.

Perhaps the key moment in a game for a Sixers team looking to get their swagger back was when the game was tied at 71-71  with 10:20 left in the game after a 7-0 scoring spurt by the Jazz open the fourth quarter. The Sixers outscored Utah 13-2 and kept them coming any closer than four points the rest of the way.

“You let that game slip away from you and stuff, it’s got a lot of repercussions,” Collins said. “Not only was it a game, it was a confidence builder. We still got a lot of new guys. I looked out on that floor at the end of that game, Richardson was out there, (Nick Young), we had guys never played with at that point in time (fourth quarter) in the season in a game that was on the line.”

Point guard Jrue Holiday had a stellar performance for the Sixers leading way with 26 points and seven assists. He said it was important for him to come out and shoot the ball well to get his teammates going. He scored 10 of his team’s of 30 points in the first quarter.

“I think had to come out aggressive, especially offensively,” Holiday. “We haven’t been scoring that well and picking up on defense. We were trying to get stops and get out on transition and did help early.”

Holiday said he liked the way his team didn’t wilt under the pressure of several Utah scoring spurts to get back in the game. After a week of tough losses, it was certainly a shot in the arm when they needed it.

“We had such a good lead that once they made their runs, they had to do a lot to get back even,” Holiday said. “Once they had their push, we pushed back.”

Before the game, Collins said the Sixers had to win the battle of the paint in both points and rebounding against a bigger athletic Utah squad. The 76ers scored the Jazz 42-38 in the paint, they outrebounded them (43-40) and they won the battle in second chance points (23-6).

Out of all the players who contributed to the Sixers both Lavoy Allen, who scored 10 points and pulled down eight rebounds, and veteran center Kwame Brown, who scored just two points and six rebounds in 23 minutes.

Collins said he was especially pleased with Brown’s defensive presence in the middle, especially down the stretch when the Jazz were trying to get back in the game.

“That’s why we got him,” Collins said. “I don’t care if he scores a basket. Kwame’s physical presence and what meant to us tonight. We don’t win this game without him tonight. There’s no way because we had to have two big strong guys (Allen) play a lot of minutes.”

Sixers 2012 Draft Picks Have Plenty of Upside

3 Jul

Both Arnett Moultrie (left) and Maurice Harkless (right) hope to crack the Sixers rotation as rookies during the 2012-13 season. Photo by Chris Murray

By Chris Murray

For the Sunday Sun and the Chris Murray Report

I’m not going to say the Sixers 2012 NBA Draft was the greatest thing since drafting Allen Iverson, but it wasn’t as bad as you would think.

But No. 1 pick Maurice “Mo” Harkless and No. 2 pick (obtained in a trade with the Miami Heat) Arnett Moultrie are far from the bottom of the barrel and appear to have plenty of upside.

Okay, I know you’re somewhat weary of 6-foot-6 to 6-8 tweener, slasher guard/forwards who can go the to the basket and can’t shoot a jump shot on a consistent basis—which includes guys like Andre Iguodala and Evan Turner, etc.

When I spoke to Doug Collins a day after the draft, I asked him about Harkless and his shooting ability. He told me that he has no doubt about his ability to hit the outside shot on a consistent basis.

“When you watch him shoot, his shot is not broken. That’s what you look for. Is he a guy who’s going to be able to make shots? “ Collins said. “At the end of the day, we think he’s going to be able to make shots. He didn’t shoot a lot of perimeter jump shots at the position he had to play.”

I’ll take Collins word for now only because I think he’s been around the game long enough to know his stuff and because Harkless did play at the power forward position at St. John’s where he was burdened with having to play at power forward potion against more physical players.

If Harkless is who Collins says he is, he could develop into that player. As a freshman, he did average 15 points per game and had a monster game at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium, a tough place to play. Harkless, who was the Big East Rookie of the Year, scored 30 points in that game.

Meanwhile, the Sixers were also in desperate need of a young big man, an enforcer in the middle to play behind and eventually start ahead of an aging Elton Brand.

At 6-10 and 230 pounds, Moultrie might give the Sixers something they haven’t had in quite some time. A big man who can score and rebound in the paint while giving some space to their shooters to shoot or drive to the basket. With talk of Brand getting the amnesty tag, you may end seeing Moultrie a lot sooner than later.

At the collegiate level, Moultrie averaged 16.4 points and 10.4 rebounds per game in his last year at Mississippi State. Here’s a guy who doesn’t mind doing the hard work to get rebounds and mix it up in the paint on the offensive end. He can also run the floor as well..

Watching film on him, Moultrie looks like he has good range as a shooter. He shot 44 percent from three-point range (8-of-18), but didn’t take that many shots from out there. He also showed that he can maneuver in the low post, but will probably need to learn even more moves when goes up against even stronger forwards in the league.

Just like Lavoy Allen last season, Collins said both Harkless and Moultrie will have an opportunity to crack the rotation and get some minutes on the floor if they come in and work hard. In the Sixers playoff series against the Celtics, Allen was a thorn in the side of future-Hall of-Famer Kevin Garnett.

“We’ve got six bigs. Well, there’s 96 minutes,” Collins said. “The one thing that I promised them that I said to Lavoy and Nick (Vucevic) last year is that I have an organization here …that give me the freedom to play who I think needs to be out there to win a game and I told them that Lavoy was out there as the 50th pick to finish games for us.”

The Sixers, in my mind, did address some need with the draft, their next mission is free agency where I think they need a veteran shooter, but also a guy at the point guard spot that can show Jrue Holiday how that position is played.

“We’d like to add someone who can add some shooting to our team because we’re very young,” Collins said. “Could we add a veteran that is a good locker room guy that’s going to come in and be a mentor, not only can he play, can he mentor them and so those guys can be very invaluable.”

I know one off the top of my head that would be perfect for that role …Can you say Jameer Nelson? More on that later.

Another 6-8 Tweener? Sixers Say First Round Pick Harkless Will be a Good Shooter

29 Jun

Sixers present their 2012 draft picks. From left to right: Sixers President Rod Thorn, second-round pick Arnett Moultrie, first-round pick Maurice Harkless, and head coach Doug Collins. Photo by Chris Murray

The Chris Murray Report/The Philadelphia Sunday Sun

The Philadelphia 76ers have drafted as the 15th pick in the NBA another 6-foot-8 tweener forward who can slash and go to the basket, but doesn’t have a much of an outside shot. That has a familiar ring to if you’re a Sixers fan.

St. John’s Maurice “Mo” Harkless (6-8, 208 pounds) has the ability, according to Sixers vice president Rod Thorn, to play both power forward and small forward. In his only season at St. John’s, Harkless averaged 15.3 point per game and 8.6 rebounds per game.

But, of course, the big knock on this young man is the ability to hit the outside shot on a consistent basis. In a spirit of sheer sarcasm, Harkless would seem to fit in quite well with the current version of the 76ers including guys like Andre Iguodala, who is 6-6 and seriously lacking a jump shot. Harkless should feel right at home.

While he shot 45 percent from floor, Harkless was 17-for-79 from three-point range and he shot just 67 percent from the free-throw line. Because he was the tallest and most athletic player on his team, Harkless played at the power forward position at St. John’s against a lot of bigger, stronger players.

“It takes a toll on you having bang down there all the time with guys a lot heavier than you. I think I handled it well,” Harkless said.

The 19-year-old Harkless said he will be working on his free-throw shooting and jump shot during the NBA summer leagues in Orlando.

“I think it’s just about getting a lot of reps up. Like coach Collins said my form is nice. It’s really about getting more reps and being more confident in my shot,” Harkless said. “I really changed my whole technique since the season was over. Now I’m more relaxed and more comfortable. I think it was about being more relaxed and comfortable. I was more tense a lot during the season at the free-throw line during the season.”

Sixers president Rod Thorn said Harkless has a tremendous upside and believe that physically they have player who is still growing in size and has the ability to play both small and power forward.

“We think he’s a great athlete that’s fits in with what we have,” Thorn said. “He’s very young, the growth plates are still open, we think he’s going to get bigger. Eventually, he’ll be able to play two positions and our feeling was, with his potential, with his athletic ability, that he was too good a player to pass up.”

Last season and during the playoffs, the Sixers lacked a consistent outside shooter, especially in the fourth quarter. Some of this will no doubt lead fans to ask the question how is Harkless different from what they have now?

Thorn said the Sixers believe that Harkless will eventually develop into a good jump shooter and seemed to be encouraged by what he did during shooting drills while working out with the Sixers last month.

“When he worked out for us, he made 37 out of 50 3-pointers,” Thorn said. “He’s obviously working on his shot. His shot, as you will see when you watch him play, his shot is fine. He just needs repetition and we think he’s going to be a very good shooter.”

I really don’t know how good Harkless is going to be just yet, but I get the feeling that Sixers fans are growing a bit weary of 6-8 slasher, tweener forwards who can’t hit the broad side of barn with his jump shot, but have lots of potential to get better at it.

“We feel the player in the long range scheme of things, we’ll feel this kid has a chance to be an outstanding player, not just another player,” Thorn said. “From our perspective this was the best player for us.”

I think this pick at the very least is one of those times when people will say to the team, really

that guy? That’s because this team, even under new ownership, seems to always pick up these 6-8 tweener forwards/ who have a ton of athletic ability that can jump out of the gym, but can’t shoot the ball.

Let’s face it that’s the Sixers with Iguodala or Thad Young can take it to the bucket, but they’re not consistent shooters. That’s who they are now.

But Collins said Harkless is not carbon-copy of Young and will be an outstanding wing player with the ability to put the ball in the bucket on a consistent basis.

“Sometimes it gets lost because plays a power forward, but he’s not a power forward,” Collins said. “He’s not like Thad (Young). I think there’s this thing that he’s a duplicate. He’s not like that at all. He’s a wing player, who can handle the ball and can run on the break.

“When you watch him shoot, his sbot is not broken. That’s what you look for. Is he a guy who’s going to be able to make shots? At the end of the day, we think he’s going to be able to make shots. He didn’t shoot a lot of perimeter jump shots at the position he had to play.”

Only time will tell if Collins is right, but he has to understand the cyncism of the fans when it comes to the pick because we’ve all been here before.

No Moral Victories: Confident Sixers Are Coming into Game 7 Expecting to Beat Boston

24 May

By Chris Murray

For the Sunday Sun

Now that the Philadelphia 76ers are preparing for Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup with the Boston Celtics, head coach Doug Collins doesn’t want to hear anything about playing with “house” money or anything about a moral victory for getting this far in the playoffs.

Collins, who played in these kinds of games in his own playing career, wants more than just take home the consolation prize for merely showing up. After watching his team force a Game  7 with a tenacious performance on both ends of the floor in their 82-75  win over Boston, he believes his team is ready to take the next step.

“I want more, I’m willing to get greedy and we want more,” Collins said. “We’ve fought, we’ve worked and we’ve gone through a lot as a team. We’ve grown. … Our mindset is I don’t want to go into that game with no matter what happens, everything’s okay. I want to go into the game with the idea of let’s see what we can do, let’s see if we can get us a win.”

Andre Iguodala certainly shares Collin’s view of playing Boston in Game 7. He scored  13 points including a thunderous slam dunk that seemed to energize the Sixers players and the crowd  in the third quarter. Iguodala also hit a pair of clutch free-throws late in the game that kept the Sixers in the lead.

“If we were just happy to be here, then we could have just given up (Wednesday night) and saved ourselves a trip to Boston,” Iguodala said. “That’s one thing about our team is that we believe in ourselves. Each game from here on out is only going to enhance our careers, knowing what it takes to get to each different level. We’re taking it one game at a time and we’re playing confident.”

The Sixers will play the Celtics in Boston Saturday night in the decisive Game 7 to see which teams will go to the Eastern Conference Finals to play the winner of the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers.

If the Sixers can keep taking the ball to the basket the way they did against the Celtics in Game 6, they will certainly have more than a puncher’s chance of advancing to the next round. Point guard Jrue Holiday played arguably his best game of the series.

He scored 20 points including a huge basket that put the 76ers up by 11 with 3:15 left and hitting two free-throws late in the game to put the final nail in the Celtics coffin for game 6. He also dished out six assists.

“I was very proud of Jrue Holiday (Wednesday),” said Collins, who showed his team clips of the Sixers Game 7 road win over the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals back in 1982 the day before Game 6. “He stayed in attack mode. He knows what he needs to score for us. He did a great job of that.”

Another player the player the Sixers will be counting on Game 7 will be power forward Elton Brand, who played 34 minutes in Game 6 and scored 13 points while pulling down 10 rebounds. He did yeoman’s work helping to defend Boston’s Kevin Garnett.Brand also did some scoring inside the paint as well.

“Everything’s a learning process and we’re seeing how imperative it is to have home court advantage,” Brand said. “Now we’re going on the road. It’s going to be tough. We know we have to battle, but we’re going to have to find a way.”

One of those ways is trying to stop Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo. The Sixers kept Rondo from penetrating in the low post and held him to nine points and six assists in Game 6.

“Our communication was a lot better,”Iguodala said. “They’ve been sending their pick and rolls deeper. Our bigs ended up doing a better job of communicating what they want to do defensively.”

After six tough games with the up and coming Sixers, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said the most difficult thing about playing the 76ers is having to deal with the youth and their speed.

“Well, they’re athletic,” Rivers said. “They play with a lot of energy and it’s very difficult for our guy. We knew this matchup coming in would be hard because they have a quickness advantage and we understand that.”

The Sixers are hoping to use any advantage get for Game 7.

Notes—Former Sixers guard Allen Iverson carried the ceremonial game ball for Game 6 into the Wells Fargo Center. He was given a thunderous standing ovation by the sellout crowd of 20, 402 fans who showered him with chants of “MVP.”