- Zhaire Smith‘s latest injury is another example of how the Sixers’ decision to acquire him during the 2018 draft hasn’t panned out, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Smith will sit out the remainder of the season with a bone bruise in his left knee. He has appeared in just 13 games during the first two seasons of his career and the club unsuccessfully tried to deal him in Feburary, Pompey adds.
The Sixers may arrive in Orlando with more lineup questions than any other contender. The most significant involves what to do with Al Horford, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The veteran big man was pulled from the starting lineup Feburary 11, but was reinserted three games later after Ben Simmons suffered a back injury.
Horford looked good in eight straight starts before the hiatus, but may be headed back to the bench now that Simmons is fully recovered. Horford seemed like a valuable addition when he left the Celtics for the Sixers last summer. But he hasn’t found a way to be effective playing alongside center Joel Embiid, particularly when Simmons is on the floor at the same time, which results in spacing issues.
“I just want us to be playing well and to be playing at a high level,” Horford said. “I’m going to continue to work and be an assistance to a team any way I can. I do know for us to be successful I have to play with different lineups. I have to play with Joel sometimes. I have to play with different people. It really doesn’t matter.”
There’s more from Philadelphia:
- Coach Brett Brown wants to use Simmons in more of an off-the-ball role, which could mean additional playing time for Shake Milton, according to Derek Bodner of The Athletic. Milton averaged 17.8 points and 4.1 assists in the last nine games before the break and moved into the starting lineup after Simmons’ injury. However, Brown is wary about expecting too much from the 23-year-old in the postseason. “I always get nervous about relying on young guys for the NBA playoffs. Shake is no different,” Brown said. “… But I’m going into this excited. I think some of the performances that he had on a consistent basis (earlier in the season) can’t be that far out of reach where maybe he can produce a large portion of that again.”
- In the same piece, Bodner examines which role players the team can count on when the season resumes. He suggests Glenn Robinson III, who was acquired from the Warriors at the trade deadline, may move up in the rotation.
- Rookie Matisse Thybulle has embraced Brown’s message for players to keep their conditioning at a B level and raise it to an A in Orlando, writes Lauren Rosen of NBA.com. “In a matter of two weeks, I feel like I’ve gotten back into really good shape,” Thybulle said. “I think it’s going to be easier to build on after this. Like Coach said, being at a B, I feel like I’m definitely there, and once we start playing, it’s going to fall into place.”
Ben Simmons had missed the Sixers‘ last eight games due to a back injury and was projected to be sidelined indefinitely when the NBA suspended its season in March. However, the four-month layoff has paid off the former No. 1 pick, who confirmed this week that he’s fully healthy and ready to participate in the NBA’s restart, as Tim Bontemps of ESPN writes.
“I’m feeling better than I was when I started the season,” Simmons told reporters on Thursday. “But I’ve been working since I had the injury, working ’til now to prepare for whatever happens, wherever we go. So I’m feeling great, I’ve been rehabbing this whole time, so I’m feeling ready. And I’m feeling very comfortable.”
Some players, especially those with a history of injuries, have been apprehensive about participating in the NBA’s restart, given the brief ramp-up period to the eight seeding games and the playoffs. However, Simmons didn’t express any reservations about the league’s plan.
“Wherever my team is, I feel like it’s my responsibility to go down there and represent Philadelphia in the highest way possible, and I think this is the right way to do it,” Simmons said, per Bontemps. “If we’re safe down there, and I trust in what the NBA is doing, and they’re taking extreme precautions with this. So I feel like if we’re all going, I’m in. I’m with my teammates and I never would want them to go down and not expect to see me there. So I’m all-in with my team.”
Here’s more on the 76ers:
- Head coach Brett Brown acknowledged on Wednesday that the offensive fit of his starting lineup – especially when Al Horford has been part of that group – has been “clunky.” However, as Paul Hudrick of NBC Sports Philadelphia details, Brown believes the group is “built for the playoffs” and will weigh potential roles for Horford and Shake Milton during the training camp period. “In a perfect world, you’d like to go into those eight (seeding) games and have some minor tweak and rotation changes as opposed to Game 5 and, ‘Oh, crap, we’ve got something that’s a little bit funky here,'” Brown said.
- In a separate story for NBC Sports Philadelphia, Hudrick profiles DePaul forward Paul Reed, suggesting that he’s the sort of versatile prospect the Sixers should target with one of their second-round picks.
- Ryan Broekhoff‘s wife has an auto-immune disease and the couple has a one-year-old son, but the veteran sharpshooter ultimately decided to join the Sixers for the NBA’s restart, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “We spoke to (76ers GM) Elton (Brand) and spoke to (Brown) and just wanted to get some more information of how the bubble would be down in Orlando, and if anything happens at home, what are my options to get back and take care of my family,” Broekhoff said. “… I think the opportunity in the end was too hard to pass up.”
Sixers wing Zhaire Smith has suffered a bone bruise in his left knee, per Derek Bodner of The Athletic (Twitter link). He will skip the NBA’s season restart, which kicks off on July 30 in Orlando. Bodner also notes that Smith should make a full recovery by the start of the 2020/21 NBA season.
According to Bodner (Twitter link), Smith began feeling pain in the knee ahead of the team’s restart training camp last week. The Sixers won’t be able to sign a substitute player, since injured players aren’t eligible to be replaced. After adding shooting guard Ryan Broekhoff, the team is currently carrying 17 players.
Smith, the No. 16 pick by the Sixers in the 2018 draft out of Texas Tech, has been hampered by lower-extremity injuries since entering the league. The 6’3″ shooting guard has played in just 13 of a possible 147 games.
Though Smith’s injury should not greatly affect the current Sixers roster’s depth in a season restart, the fact that he has suffered another season-ending malady after sporadic play in his sophomore campaign cannot be comforting to the Philadelphia front office.
JUNE 27: The signing is official, the Sixers announced on Twitter.
Broekhoff, who will turn 30 in August, signed with the Mavericks in the summer of 2018 and spent a season-and-a-half with the club, averaging 4.0 PPG and 1.8 RPG with a strong .403 3PT% in 59 total games (10.7 MPG). He was waived in February when Dallas signed Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Since becoming a free agent, Broekhoff – who spent the first few years of his career with Besiktas in Turkey and Lokomotiv Kuban in Russia – has drawn interest from multiple international teams, including Anadolu Efes. However, it appears the veteran sharpshooter was prioritizing a potential return to the NBA, and now has the opportunity to join a playoff team for the summer restart.
The 76ers currently have 15 players on standard contracts and one on a two-way deal. Because Broekhoff has just two years of NBA experience, he can be signed into the team’s empty two-way slot, as noted by Rich Hofmann of The Athletic and Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter links)
Sixers forward Tobias Harris admits chemistry issues have held the team back, relays Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia. Harris made the comments in an interview Friday with ESPN’s “First Take,” suggesting that injuries have played a role in a disappointing 39-26 record.
“I’ll just say, and I’ll keep it real, we haven’t had the best chemistry throughout the whole year,” Harris said. “It took us a while to kind of get everyone together, we battled injuries from the start to the end. And right now, if we’re the sleeper, then we’re the sleeper. Truth be told, how we’re viewed, that’s someone else’s opinion, but I know when I look my guys in the eye and we have conversations, we have one goal in mind, and that’s to go out there and play and win a championship. That’s the only view that matters to me. What people have to say about our team, I get it, because we haven’t met our expectations so far this year. But we have a new opportunity in Orlando to go out and just play ball, and really scratch a new surface of what we can accomplish.”
Harris also addressed the decision to restart the season in Orlando, saying he’s concerned about the rising coronavirus rate but is ready to join his teammates if the NBA can provide a safe environment.
There’s more from the Atlantic Division:
- Knicks president of basketball operations Leon Rose tells Mike Breen of MSG Network (video link) that he understands the long-suffering nature of his fan base. “No one deserves a winner more than Knicks fans,” Rose said. “I know it’s been tough but my pledge is — we’re going to work tirelessly, we’re going to do business, we’re going to be prudent and we’re going to be in play in every aspect — the draft, trades, free agency. And we’re going to build this the right way to bring you a winner.” Rose also commented on the team’s head coaching search, saying he wants to find someone who can develop young talent and will work closely with the front office.
- Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston looks at whether the Celtics‘ schedule for the eight games in Orlando will help them move up to the second spot in the East and questions how much it matters with all games being played at a neutral site.
- With their signing of Tyler Johnson this week, the Nets finally got their hands on a player that they offered $50MM over four years in 2016. Billy Reinhardt of NetsDaily examines what has gone wrong for Johnson since the Heat elected to match that offer sheet.
Ryan Broekhoff gives the Sixers an extra shooter at their disposal, Derek Bodner of The Athletic notes. Philadelphia reached an agreement with Broekhoff to fill out its roster in Orlando. Broekhoff averaged 40.3% on 3-point attempts while playing for the Mavericks, who waived him in February. However, Broekhoff’s one-dimensional game and defensive limitations make it unlikely he will play significant minutes, Bodner adds.
- Joel Embiid‘s contract is now fully guaranteed, but there was very little chance it wouldn’t have happened anyway, as Derek Bodner of The Athletic explains. Embiid’s salaries for the next three years were previously conditionally guaranteed, but the NBA’s recent agreement to prorate bonus clauses and performance incentives this season impacted his max contract. Even if the Sixers had wanted in the future to recoup some of the non-guaranteed money in Embiid’s contract, he not only needed to miss time with ailments related to prior injuries, but the team would have had to waive him. In that scenario, the Sixers would have still been on the hook cap-wise for the guaranteed portion of his salary.
Alec Burks, who was traded to the Sixers at the trade deadline, could find himself out of the team’s playoff rotation if Brett Brown decides to go with a nine-man rotation, Derek Bodner of The Athletic argues in his latest mailbag. Bodner trusts Glenn Robinson III‘s shot more than Burks’ and cites Robinson’s comfort level playing off the ball as reasons for the choice.
Shake Milton, Josh Richardson, and Tobias Harris would likely start alongside Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Al Horford and Matisse Thybulle are strong candidates for major minutes and Bodner see Mike Scott getting considerable run, though Brown could mix things up depending on the opponent, with Furkan Korkmaz also an option.
Here’s more from Philadelphia:
- Richardson could wind up being a trade chip if the salary cap decreases and ownership doesn’t want to pay a massive luxury tax bill, Bodner writes in the same piece. The scribe adds that from an on-court standpoint, the 26-year-old shooting guard can be a valuable long-term piece for the franchise.
- The challenges of putting together a playoff rotation this season are different than last year for the Sixers, Rich Hofmann of The Athletic explains. The team had a statically superior starting five last season and just had to configure the bench, which was a tough ask. This season, there’s no clear dominant five. And while there are more options on the bench, Brown won’t be able to make decisions based on a large sample size due to the suspended season.
- Chris Mannix is optimistic about the Sixers’ chances once play resumes, as he writes for Sports Illustrated. With every team out of tune, Mannix believes low-post play could become more important than shooting, and Philadelphia has the most dominant big man in the Eastern Conference.
4:58pm: The Knicks are also expected to interview Bulls assistant Chris Fleming, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv, who hears that the club will likely meet with about eight-to-10 candidates in total. Steve Popper of Newsday (Twitter link) hears that Spurs assistant Becky Hammon is among those who could interview with the Knicks too, though that’s not yet confirmed.
3:54pm: In addition to meeting with Udoka, the Knicks also plan to interview Magic assistant Pat Delany, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). A former G League head coach for Miami’s affiliate, Delany has spent six years as an assistant coach under Steve Clifford, first in Charlotte and now in Orlando.
3:39pm: The Knicks intend to interview Sixers assistant Ime Udoka for their head coaching vacancy, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter).
Udoka joins a list of candidates that includes Tom Thibodeau, Kenny Atkinson, Mike Woodson, and Mike Miller. Atkinson reportedly has some support within the Knicks’ organization, though Thibodeau is considered the frontrunner. Woodson and Miller are also expected to interview — if they haven’t already.
Udoka, 42, enjoyed a seven-year playing career that ended in 2011 after suiting up for the Spurs, Trail Blazers, Kings, Knicks and Lakers. He was part of Gregg Popovich‘s staff in San Antonio for seven seasons before joining the 76ers last spring. Udoka also interviewed for the Cavaliers’ head coaching job last year before the team hired John Beilen.
Interestingly, Udoka was recently reported to be a leading candidate for the Bulls’ head coaching job in the event that they move on from Jim Boylen. It’s not clear whether New York’s apparent interest in Udoka will prompt Chicago to accelerate its evaluation process with Boylen at all.