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

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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

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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

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

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

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

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

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.”

After Last Second Loss to Clippers, the Sixers are Bloodied, but Unbowed

With Andre Iguodala all over him, Clippers guard Chris Paul hits the game-winning basket to beat Philly.

By Chris Murray

For the Sunday Sun and Chris Murray Report

Sixers head coach Doug Collins prides himself on being a teacher and relishes opportunities during the season to give his young players an opportunity to learn new plays as well as refreshing their minds on the fundamentals of the game.

In what has been the most difficult stretch of the season for his young team, Collins has had little time for chalk talk or rest  because the best classroom for his team during the last two weeks has been going up against the likes of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard Tony Parker.

“The most fun part of coaching  is teaching,” Collins said. “It’s being on the floor with our guys and walking through stuff and having practices, putting in a new play.  We haven’t been able to do that.”

And maybe that lack of practice time caught up to the Sixers in a heartbreaking 78-77 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers in front of a sell-out crowd of 20, 539  fans at the Wells Fargo Center Friday. It was the first time the Sixers have lost back-to-back games this season.

Clippers point-guard Chris Paul, with Sixers forward Andre Iguodala in his face, sank a 16-foot fade away jumper at the foul line with 3.2 seconds left put the Clippers ahead. Paul scored a game-high 24 points while Blake Griffin added 16 points.

“(Paul) does a good job of using his body,” Iguodala said of defending the game-winning shot. “He just got that extra inch, I almost blocked it actually. He did a good job of getting the shot off.”

On the Sixers final possession, Lou Williams couldn’t get off a final shot as he was surrounded by Paul and forward Kenyon Martin.  Collins put the team’s lack of execution on the game’s final play on his shoulders.

“Whatever it was, it did not work,” Collins said during his postgame press conference. “It was terrible on my part. Put that down—terrible on my part.”

Added Williams: “I caught it and they trapped right away and when you got three seconds, you really can’t get a look at the rim.”

With tonight’s loss to the Clippers, the 76ers have won four of the seven games against teams with winning records and have built a solid 18-9 record and are currently the No. 3 seed in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. They have beaten the Los Angeles Lakers, the Orlando Magic, the Atlanta Hawks and the Chicago Bulls.

“We haven’t gotten killed just yet,” said Williams, who scored 11 points in the loss to the Clippers. “All of these games are learning experiences. One comes down to us trying to make a shot at the end of the game. One comes down to other teams making shots. Nobody’s manhandled us in our building and so obviously we learned something from that.”

In their losses to Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs, the Sixers were gnawing at the heels of those teams for about three quarters. Both teams needed a big scoring spurt to finish the Sixers off. In the loss to the Clippers, it took an incredible shot by Paul to beat the Sixers. Collins said his team played well during this stretch, especially with center Spencer Hawes out with a left Achilles injury.

“I’m absolutely thrilled,” Collins said. “If you had told me that we would be sitting here at 18-9 with the way we’ve handled ourselves at home and the teams that we’ve had to play, the fact that like a lot of other teams we’ve been short-handed, especially along the front line.

“I’ve said before I thought that Tony Battie and Lavoy Allen came in and rescued us and saved us a couple of home games.”

Iguodala said he thinks the Sixers have become a mentally tougher team over the last seven games.

“It usually runs with you, it carries over for a week or two,” said Igoudala. “Hopefully, it continues with the high level we’ve been playing because we’ve been getting wins against these good teams. I think that part of the stretch is over. Now it’s time for us to continuing playing high level basketball and get wins.”

The Sixers will embark on a three-game road trip, starting Saturday, that will take them to Cleveland, Charlotte (Monday, Feb. 13) and Orlando (Wednesday, Feb. 15). They will be back at the Wells Fargo Center for a game against the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks.

“It was a good week for us, all is not lost, but it would be good to get away and have a change of scenery,” Williams said. “We’ve always played well on the road and so we’ll see what happens.”

Coming of Age: Young Sixers Are Finding Themselves in Tough Stretch of Games

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http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/recap?gameId=320209002

 

 

By Chris Murray

Could Lou Williams be the go-to guy for Sixers?

For the Sunday Sun and the Chris Murray Report

After playing in six of seven games against some of the league best teams, the 76ers, the No. 3  Seed in the Eastern Conference, have won four out of six of those games coming into Friday night’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers at the Wells Fargo Center.

It’s safe to say that the Atlantic Division-leading Sixers are one of the better teams in the league, but they still have plenty of room to grow as losses to teams like the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs would indicate. Sixers guard Lou Williams said his team is not only good enough to hang with some of the league’s elite teams, but they are becoming good enough to beat them.

“We’re just fighting every night,” Williams said. “I think we’re right on the brink of being the team we want to be. At this point, I don’t think we’re using teams as measuring sticks because we feel like we can beat a lot of these teams. Now, it’s just going out and winning games.”

The Sixers, with their unselfish play on offense and a tenacious defense, have managed to win these games despite injuries to their big men like seven-foot-one-inch center Spencer Hawes who has been battling sore left Achilles and a bad back. Power forward Elton Brand has also missed some time with a sore thumb.

Sixers head coach Doug Collins said he has been impressed with the play of his younger backup players like rookies Lavoy Allen, Nikola Vucevic and veteran Tony Battie. During this current run of games these players have contributed through scoring and doing things like playing defense and pulling down rebounds.

“I think the fact that we have some younger guys helps us,” Collins said. “If you look at it around the league, a lot of the guy who’ve played a lot of years that are getting nicked up. What we’ve been able to do is find ways to to win when you have key guys out and you have to be able to do that. The only way to do that is to have depth and then have the guys you bring in do a good job for you.

“I thought that Vucevic and Tony Battie really help save us from disastrous results with all those home games.”

Collins said keeping his team fresh and making sure that they get adequate rest during their off days has helped the Sixers stay sharp during this difficult stretch of games.

“The thing that I’m happy about is the maturity of our team,”Collins said. “I think they’ve responded well to the time off and to utilize the rest time to be sharp in games.”

Another sure sign that the Sixers are evolving into of those good teams in the NBA is their ability to bounce back from tough losses and to stay focused after big wins. After a tough loss to the Miami Heat, the Sixers went on the road and came away with a convincing win over the Atlanta Hawks and followed that win up by beating Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers in what was a close contest throughout the game.

“I think we’ve realized that we can beat anybody in the league, we’ve shown that,” said Andre Iguodala. “After a win, we’ve got to look forward to the next game. The games keep coming behind each other, so you got to prepared if you win or lose one you’re diving right back into the next game.”

Even in the midst of their current run of games, there is still talk about among fans and local media pundits about the Sixers needing that “go-to guy” in the fourth quarter. Could Lou Williams be that guy for the Sixers?

In Monday’s win over the Lakers, Williams came off the bench and scored 14 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, 13 came in the last 3:48 of the period including the go-ahead three with 2:06 left that put the Sixers up for good.

“The one thing about Lou is that he’ll be 1-for-15 and he’ll shoot the 16th,” Collins said. “You’ve got to have that kind of attitude if you’re going to be that guy coming off the bench on a nightly basis.”

 

Bulls Players Say Sixers Are For Real

Thaddeus Young scored 19 points in Sixers win over the Chicago Bulls. Photo by Webster Riddick.

By Chris Murray

For the Sunday Sun and the Chris Murray Report

If you’re still thinking that the Philadelphia 76ers 16-6 record is all just smoke and mirrors against the NBA’s worst teams, the Chicago Bulls, the team that has the best record in the Eastern Conference, would beg to differ with local cynics and skeptics.

“They’re well balanced, There’s not one aspect of the game that they don’t have well covered,” said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. “They can break you down off the dribble. They’re great in transition, they’re great defensively. They’re right there with everyone else. It’s going to be who can continue to build as the season goes along. … Philly is certainly very, very impressive.”

In front of 18,325 screaming fans at the Wells Fargo Center Wednesday, the Sixers easily came away with a 98-82 victory over a Bulls squad that was without Rick Hamilton and Luol Deng.

But if you’re still not convinced the 76ers are really that good of the players that weren’t on the floor for the Bulls, point guard Derrick Rose said the Sixers are getting their fair share of respect around the league.

“They’re a good team,” said Rose, who scored 18 points on 8-of-17 shooting. “I think everyone knows that when you play them, you know they’re definitely going to play hard. It’s no surprise that the way that they’re playing, the way that they’re winning, that people around the NBA know that they have great athletic players that play good together.”

In an NBA that is driven by star power, the Sixers are proving that anybody can be a star on a given night whether it’s rookie and former Temple star Lavoy Allen, who had 15 points and six rebounds off the bench or Andre Iguodala electrifying the crowd with his emphatic dunks. He scored 19 points with nine rebounds.

“I think that everyone gets caught up in the superstar and stats and all that,” said former Sixers and current Bulls small forward Kyle Korver. “There’s a lot to be said about a coach who has control of the team and really good chemistry. That’s something that’s not talked about enough.”

Iguodala said the Sixers are just as good and individually talented as any other team. The thing that’s made a difference is the team’s unselfishness.

“We have guys who can go on other teams and put up big numbers,” Iguodala said. “But I think it’s good that we’re sacrificing for one another. We understand what helps us win. The formula is working. We just have to continue to feed off each and defensively continue to be on point.”

The Sixers still have a game Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center against LeBron James and the Miami Heat, who gave the head coach Doug Collins team a pretty good thrashing down in South Florida.

Collins said that his team has grown up to the point to where they collectively believe they are as good as anyone that lines up with them on the floor. He said his team is taking this murderous stretch of games that includes the Hawks on the road, the L.A. Lakers, Clippers, and San Antonio Spurs as a challenge, especially from the team’s critics who say they haven’t beaten some of the better teams in the league.

“I don’t think you guys know how grueling it gets in this league when you have to play five games in seven nights and the demands that come with that,” Collins said. “You have to defend and play hard on every possession because our guys do that every night. Maybe we’ll find ways to beat teams that are better than us and that’s what you have to do in this league.”

Beating teams like the Heat and the Lakers maybe more than a monumental task and with the way the Sixers are playing right now, they’re not going to be under the radar for too long.

  1. “They’re for real,” said Bulls forward Joakim Noah. “They’re playing with a lot of passion and they’re playing hungry.”