Shake Milton

Sixers Notes: Embiid, Milton, Simmons, Curry

Joel Embiid didn’t get the MVP trophy he thought he deserved, so he turned his attention back to the pursuit of an NBA title, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Shortly before the start of Tuesday’s game, Denver’s Nikola Jokic was announced as this year’s MVP, with Embiid finishing a distant second. The Sixers center responded to the news with 40 points and 13 rebounds in a Game 2 win over Atlanta.

“It’s disappointing because as a player, you work hard for moments like this,” Embiid said. “But then again, it’s out of my control. There’s nothing I can do about it. You just got to come out every year and just be ready and do my job. But I’m focused on the playoffs, I’m focused on winning the championship. … So I’m not worried about those awards and stuff. If and when I’m holding that (Larry O’Brien) Trophy, anything else won’t matter.”

Embiid has been dominant in the first two games against the Hawks, averaging 39.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.0 blocks per game despite dealing with a small meniscus tear in his right knee that he suffered in round one. He admits having “limited mobility,” but said he’s found ways to adjust his game to still be effective.

“No excuses,” teammate Tobias Harris said. “He understands that. This is the playoffs. The way the NBA season was, I don’t think anybody is 100%. So when he steps on the floor, he has that attitude and that mentality that it’s, ‘win.'”

There’s more on the Sixers:

  • After playing just 38 seconds in the series opener, Shake Milton became a difference maker in Game 2, notes John Schuhmann of NBA.com. The third-year guard came off the bench to score 14 points and help Philadelphia break open a close game.
  • Another low-scoring performance by Ben Simmons is reviving questions about how far the Sixers can advance in the playoffs with minimal production from their second-best player, points out Brad Botkin of CBS Sports. Simmons finished with four points and only took three shots from the field in Game 2.
  • Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic looks at how Seth Curry has been able to rise from his early days in the G League to be an important contributor on a playoff team. Curry, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the Mavericks, is averaging 24.0 PPG in his last three games.

Atlantic Notes: Green, Nets, Milton, Boucher, Raptors

Warriors forward Draymond Green said he believes the Nets are “the team to beat” in the East after losing a 134-117 game to Brooklyn on Saturday night, as relayed by Peter Botte of The New York Post.

Green tallied six points, seven rebounds, and eight assists in the contest, playing against former teammate Kevin Durant for the first time since Durant left Golden State in the summer of 2019.

“They’ll be really dangerous in the East. I think there are some other good teams in the East that pose a threat to them, but they’re the team to beat in the East, if you ask me,” Green said. “It’s my opinion. That doesn’t mean anything, but that’s my opinion, they’re definitely the team to beat in the East.”

As it stands, the Nets hold the third-best record in the East at 16-12, trailing only Milwaukee (16-10) and Philadelphia (18-9) in the conference standings.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • Sixers guard Shake Milton will miss Monday’s game against the Jazz due to an ankle injury suffered last week, head coach Doc Rivers said, per Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link). Rivers didn’t offer a specific return timetable for Milton, who has already missed the last two games.
  • Raptors big man Chris Boucher has been the team’s most improbable success story, Michael Grange of Sportsnet writes. Boucher has proven to be effective on both ends of the floor this season, averaging 13.8 points and 6.9 rebounds in 23.3 minutes per game.
  • The Raptors are striving to maximize their practice time as the season progresses, Doug Smith of The Toronto Star writes. Naturally, Toronto is also concerned with maintaining a balance and ensuring its players don’t get injured by increasing the workload too much, as guard Fred VanVleet explained. “It’s a fine line, because we have a very inexperienced team in some regards,” VanVleet said. “We’re not the sharpest team at times this year, so it feels like we need those reps. But at the same time it’s been a grind and we need to manage the schedule, manage guys’ bodies.”

Atlantic Notes: Harden, D’Antoni, Milton, Baynes

James Harden looked like the star the Nets were expecting as he made his debut with the team Saturday night, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Harden didn’t get to practice with his new Brooklyn teammates because the four-team trade wasn’t finalized until shortly before game time, but he still posted a 32-point triple-double in a win over Orlando.

A number of teams were rumored to be pursuing Harden, but the Nets were his first choice when he made a trade request to Rockets management. Reuniting with Kevin Durant was part of the reason, but he also wanted to rejoin former Houston coach Mike D’Antoni, who is now an assistant in Brooklyn.

“When (ex-Rockets general manager Daryl Morey) and Mike left, I sat back and reevaluated everything. Those are two guys I was very comfortable with and the decision-making for the organization,” Harden said. “Once they left, I had to figure out is this organization going into a rebuilt stage or were they still trying to compete at the highest level.

“(D’Antoni) was a part of it. Mike’s an unbelievable coach. He’s been doing it for a very, very long time. Obviously Mike is a factor. Being comfortable with him being comfortable with Kevin, knowing (Kyrie Irving), just those four pieces right there made it easy. Obviously them being in Brooklyn, for me it was a no-brainer.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Sixers were also in the running for Harden, and they believed they were so close to a deal that the agents for Ben Simmons and Matisse Thybulle informed them of the pending trade, Lewis adds in the same story. But the Rockets never called the Sixers back after getting the offer from the Nets, reportedly because Houston owner Tilman Fertitta was determined not to send his star player to Morey.
  • Sixers guard Shake Milton started the final 32 games of last season, including the playoffs, but he seems better suited to provide instant offense as a sixth man, which is his role under new coach Doc Rivers, according to Keith Pompey of The Phildelphia Inquirer“I just want to do whatever is best for the team,” Milton said. “Whatever helps the team win, it really doesn’t matter if I’m starting or not. It’s an opportunity. I have a really good opportunity coming off the bench right now.”
  • Free agent addition Aron Baynes is only seeing about 16 minutes per night for the Raptors, but coach Nick Nurse plans to expand his role, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN.” We’re gonna play Aron, we’re gonna try to get some extended minutes out of him,” Nurse said. “I know we’re not getting very much out of him at this point. We read the game … and his stint is gonna last as long as things are going well or he’s impacting well.”

Community Shootaround: Should The NBA Go Back To A “Bubble”?

The NBA’s closed-campus experiment at Disney World was hailed as a huge success that enabled to league to complete its 2019/20 season and crown a champion without any interruptions from COVID-19. However, there was no desire to repeat the experience for an entire season as teams preferred to play in their home arenas, even if no fans were allowed.

But that decision carried risks, which are already beginning to overwhelm the new season. Only one game has been canceled so far — a season-opener between the Rockets and Thunder because Houston didn’t have enough eligible players — but several teams are operating with depleted rosters due to positive coronavirus tests and contact tracing mandated by the league’s health and safety protocols.

The Sixers had just eight eligible players this afternoon as they lost at home to Denver. Danny Green was the only Philadelphia starter to suit up for the game, while Dwight Howard and Tyrese Maxey were the only other members of the rotation who played.

The team’s predicament began Thursday when Seth Curry learned that he had tested positive for the virus. Tobias Harris, Shake MiltonMatisse Thybulle and Vincent Poirier shared a table with Curry at a team meeting that day, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer, so they are required to quarantine for contact tracing. They will likely be unavailable for an entire week, which means three more missed games.

“We don’t know,” said coach Doc Rivers, whose season may be derailed after a 7-2 start. “We don’t know anything. We have to make that assumption, I guess. I mean, they were at a table. So it wasn’t like close contact. So maybe that will shorten their days. I don’t know that. But I guess even that’s too close. I mean, I don’t know. I don’t get that whole (thing).”

The 7-3 Celtics may be headed for the same situation. Star forward Jayson Tatum has reportedly tested positive for COVID-19, joining Robert Williams, Grant Williams and Tristan Thompson in quarantine. Boston’s injury report for tomorrow’s game mentions all but eight players, which is the minimum needed for the game to be played.

Tatum’s test has also affected the Wizards because he talked after the game to Bradley Beal, who is now subject to health and safety protocols for contact tracing. The Nets, Nuggets, Spurs, Grizzlies and Mavericks are also short on players because of quarantine issues.

Kendra Andrews of The Athletic believes the NBA is making a mistake by forcing games like the one today in Philadelphia to be played. She notes that virus rates are higher now in many places than they were when the league suspended play in March, and basketball is an easy way for germs to spread because of close contact and shared equipment.

The league isn’t at a crisis situation yet, but it’s headed in that direction. Without the controlled environment that was in place at Disney World, the athletes face a lot more potential exposure to COVID-19, and just one case can change the course of a season.

We want to get your opinion. Do you believe the NBA can play an entire season under the current conditions or will it need to revert to a “bubble” alternative at some point? Please leave your responses in the comments section.

Atlantic Notes: Howard, Milton, Raptors, Konate

Dwight Howard took a major step toward repairing his reputation last season with the Lakers, and now the Sixers are giving him a chance to move even further in that direction, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. After a brilliant start to his career that included eight consecutive All-Star appearances, Howard devolved into a journeyman who is now on his sixth team in six years.

He became known as a player who was more interested in joking around than winning and had disputes with teammates and coaches along the way. But Howard showed he could still be serious by earning a roster spot after signing a non-guaranteed deal with L.A. and contributing to the team’s title run as a big man off the bench. Philadelphia is counting on a similar performance as he becomes a back-up and mentor to Joel Embiid.

“Showing him some of the things that I learned over the years, the pitfalls, the things that bring you down,” Howard said of his expected relationship with Embiid, “and also that really (elevate) you up. Not just doing that through words, really through my actions.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:
  • The Sixers have high expectations for Shake Milton, who moved into the starting lineup midway through last season. During a Reddit chat with fans Friday night, new team president Daryl Morey talked about the potential of the second-year guard (Twitter link from Ky Carlin of Sixers Wire). “I think the league hasn’t caught up to how good Shake can be,” Morey said. “It was one of the first things (new head coach Doc Rivers) and I spoke about after I joined — we are excited to see what he can do this year.”
  • The signing of Aron Baynes should improve the Raptors’ defensive rebounding, states Blake Murphy of The Athletic. Assessing areas where the team got better and worse during the offseason, Murphy notes that Baynes has the greatest defensive rebounding impact in the league since the 2015/16 season. Alex Len, another free agent addition, grabbed 25.2% of defensive rebounds last year, which would have been the best rate on the Raptors.
  • Sagaba Konate, who played for the Raptors‘ G League affiliate last year, has signed with PAOK Thessaloniki of the Greek A1 league for the rest of the season, according to Nicola Lupo of Sportando. Konate began the season with Casademont Zaragoza in Spain.

Atlantic Notes: Kemba, Martin, Thibodeau, Milton

Following individual workouts in Boston ahead of traveling to the Orlando campus for the NBA’s season restart, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens noted that All-Star point guard Kemba Walker‘s knee gave him “a little discomfort” and he was subsequently held out of practice Monday, per Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston.

Though Walker is expected to have an increased role in practice tomorrow, these early reports on the 30-year-old ahead of the season restart on July 30 in Orlando raise obvious red flags. Restrictions will be placed on Walker’s minutes in team scrimmages and any upcoming seeding games ahead of the NBA playoffs in mid-August.

Losing Walker for any amount of time would be a huge blow for Boston’s playoff hopes. Superstar forward Jayson Tatum and two-way force Jaylen Brown have clearly benefitted from Walker’s veteran leadership. In 50 games for the Celtics during the 2019/20 season, Walker is averaging 21.2 PPG, 4.9 APG, and 4.1 RPG, while shooting 37.7% from three-point range and 86.7% from the free throw line. The 43-21 Celtics are the No. 3 seed in the East.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Rookie Nets point guard Jeremiah Martin, who went undrafted out of Memphis in 2019, has been proving himself a valuable asset to the team, per Brian Lewis of the New York Post“I’d say Jeremiah Martin has been a surprise for us, his ability to compete,” interim head coach Jacque Vaughn. “That’s all we ask at this beginning stage, is to compete. Whether that’s knowing the plays, knowing different implementation, or having yourself ready every day.”
  • Head coach interviews for the Knicks are heating up, according to The New York Post’s Marc Berman. Tom Thibodeau remains the leader in the clubhouse for the gig, though Jason Kidd is nipping at his heels following a strong second interview. Kenny Atkinson also remains in the running for the position. The team conducted at least 11 three-hour second interviews that wrapped up yesterday.
  • Second-year Sixers guard Shake Milton has taken over starting point guard duties in team practices, moving All-Star Ben Simmons to the power forward slot and big man Al Horford to the bench, the significance of which has been unpacked by The Athletic’s Derek Bodner. Horford, 34, signed a splashy four-year, $97MM contract (worth up to $109MM with incentives) in 2019 free agency, but has underwhelmed during his first season of that deal. “I think [Milton] has a huge opportunity to help us accomplish what we believe we can, and he’s been doing an amazing job just running the team,” All-Star center Joel Embiid said of the move.

 

Sixers Notes: Broekhoff, Simmons, Robinson

After signing with the Sixers during the last week of June, sharpshooter Ryan Broekhoff has yet to report to the NBA’s campus at Walt Disney World. In a Twitter statement on Sunday, Broekhoff explained the delay.

“I am not with the 76ers right now in Orlando because my wife who is high risk tested positive for COVID,” he wrote. “We have a young son and my focus needs to be with my family at this time. I appreciate the 76ers for their support.”

As the team waits to see whether Broekhoff will be able to report to Orlando, here’s more on the Sixers:

  • Speaking to reporters on Monday, 76ers head coach Brett Brown said he has been playing Ben Simmons “exclusively” at power forward during the first few Florida practices and has been impressed by what he has seen. “He’s so dynamic,” Brown said, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “Let’s just talk about running. There’s nobody faster in the NBA. So to always have the ball and dribble it up against five guys … to do that dilutes some of his potent weapons. So, watching him fly up the floor, watching him and Joel (Embiid) play off each other, has been a really good look. I think they’ve been fantastic together.” As Bontemps notes, if Brown intends to play Simmons at the four, it would likely mean having Shake Milton in the starting five, with Al Horford coming off the bench.
  • Sixers forward Glenn Robinson III is experiencing some upper back discomfort and received treatment today, but was still able to participate fully in practice, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The club doesn’t consider it a serious issue, Pompey adds.
  • In case you missed it, we also rounded up a series of Sixers-related notes on Saturday.

Sixers Notes: Milton, Broekhoff, Simmons, Harris

One of the Sixers‘ priorities will be deciding what role Shake Milton will play, writes Derek Bodner of The Athletic. The second-year guard hadn’t seen much playing time before injuries to teammates gave him an opportunity shortly before the hiatus. In the final nine games before the break, Milton averaged 17.8 points and 4.1 assists while shooting 57.4% from the field and 60.4% beyond the arc.

Most of that production came after Ben Simmons was sidelined with a back injury. Now that Simmons has recovered, coach Brett Brown will have to take a fresh look at how all the pieces fit together and determine whether both guards will be in the starting lineup.

“Ben’s an amazing player,” Milton said. “He’s very unselfish. I mean, I’m unselfish too. I feel like we could definitely feed off each other. His ability to pass, his ability to see the court, his ability to play defense … I don’t see it being a problem at all.”

There’s more Sixers news to pass along:

  • Newly signed Ryan Broekhoff wasn’t part of the Sixers’ traveling party to Orlando, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The team didn’t offer any other information before this morning’s practice session, and a spokesman said updates will be provided when appropriate. The former Mavericks shooting guard signed with Philadelphia in late June.
  • Even though Simmons has proclaimed himself fully healthy, Brown intends to bring him along slowly until the actual games begin, Pompey tweets“I think in general when you look at the scrimmage situations, you’re going to see something that’s quite frugal,” Brown said. “I believe when it gets in the regular-season games, you are going to see normal numbers that I played him. That answer isn’t delivered because of anything to do with health. It’s delivered because I think that’s the way I want to do it, and the way that I will do it with (Joel Embiid) and Tobias (Harris) as examples, because of their stature more than anything to do with health.”
  • After acknowledging chemistry has been an issue with the Sixers this season, Harris became a leader in maintaining communication with teammates during the break, writes Paul Hudrick of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I think it’s always important to make sure guys mentally are in the right space,” Harris said. “Just being a teammate or brother. We were around each other for so long, so when we go into quarantine with the pandemic we have, I just thought it was really important to keep us in the loop with one another with what we’re doing.”

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, Tatum, Nets, Thomas, Knicks, Kidd

Sixers center Joel Embiid and guard Shake Milton are among those who have expressed some reservations about the NBA’s restart plan, though both players will participate this summer, writes Derek Bodner of The Athletic. Embiid’s concerns stem from a suspicion that not all of his fellow players will follow the restrictions and protocols put in place by the league.

“There’s some guys that like to go out, there’s some guys that like to do stuff, there’s some guys that like adventure,” Embiid said. “I know myself. I know I’m not gonna put everybody else at risk. But the question is, is everybody else gonna do the same? Just being around this business, I surely don’t think so.”

Milton, meanwhile, was less concerned about the health and safety guidelines in place than about his belief that the resumption of the NBA might draw attention away from the ongoing fight for social justice reforms.

“I don’t really think we should be playing,” Milton said, per Bodner. “I feel like… there’s an issue going on right now in the world that is way bigger than the sport, way bigger than the game of basketball, and I feel like we’re on the cusp of finally having people tune in and really try to listen and try to understand more about the things that are happening in our country. I feel like the moment is too big right now, and I don’t want the game of basketball to overshadow it.”

Despite their apprehensions, both Embiid and Milton stressed they’re committed to helping the 76ers compete for a championship in Orlando this summer.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Celtics forward Jayson Tatum isn’t overly enthusiastic about restarting the season at the Walt Disney World campus and only recently finalized his decision to play, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “There’s a multitude of reasons why I wasn’t comfortable,” Tatum said. “… (I’m) still not excited about it, not thrilled. Obviously, what we’re fighting for (in society), against racism and social injustice and (for) equality. Obviously the virus is still very well and alive and continues to rise in Florida. For me, just being away from my son for two or three months, that’s what’s really bothering me. … Especially when they’re that young — their growth, they change every week. Just knowing I’m going to miss out on that.”
  • Veteran forward Lance Thomas, who was with the Nets last fall, is among the veteran free agents receiving interest from the team, league sources tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv (Twitter link). Brooklyn is eligible to sign three substitute players to replace DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Taurean Prince, who all contracted COVID-19. The club is also said to be eyeing Amir Johnson.
  • Marc Berman of The New York Post explores Jason Kidd‘s candidacy for the Knicks‘ head coaching vacancy, noting that some insiders believe he’s the best “long-shot threat” to presumed frontrunner Tom Thibodeau. However, opinions on Kidd are mixed. “I wouldn’t hire Jason Kidd if he was the last coach standing,” one NBA source (who has worked with Kidd) told Berman. “It would be a terrible choice. There’s a reason Milwaukee is in the place where they are right now — coaching.”

Sixers Notes: Horford, Milton, Robinson, Thybulle

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.”