| The Sixers got a lump of coal on Christmas day, but other wins shouldn’t be overshadowed |
A Week of Mixed Results
The Sixers had a number of important games in the past week The most notable was their Christmas Day matchup with the Celtics. It was much closer than the season opener but largely the same result, a frustrating 121-114 defeat in overtime. Philadelphia had a chance to win it at the end of regulation, but JJ Redick’s long shot came up short.
Execution in overtime doomed the Sixers, as did many old habits; turnovers (19 for the game), erratic and disorganized halfcourt offense, and the other team just making incredible shots. Kyrie Irving was sensational, despite a great defensive game by Jimmy Butler. He torched the Sixers for 40 points including the game tying score to send it to overtime. In the face of a tough loss, head coach Brett Brown chose to make this game a learning point.
“This will be a tremendous reference point for me as the coach to remind [the team] and show them and teach them different things” Brown said after the loss.
Christmas may have been a disappointment, but there were some positive moments in important games. They beat the short-handed Toronto raptors 126-101. Kawhi Leonard did not play which saps some importance from the win, but it was one that Philadelphia probably needed. It was just their third win in the last 11 games versus Toronto, which appears to be the class of the East along with Boston and Milwaukee.
Finally, they defeated the Utah Jazz on a nationally televised TNT game on Thursday. Jazz fans, possibly still bitter about Donavan Mitchell finishing second in last year’s rookie of the year voting, were chanting at Simmons all night. Ultimately, the first place rookie of the year made his mark. Simmons notched his fifth triple double of the year (13 points, 14 rebounds, and 12 assists) and was quick to shrug off the crowd’s attempt at heckling.
“I love being able to come into an arena and hear boos and chants, whatever it is, see signs and come in here and win by 20,” he said after the game.
When asked about the crowd’s hostility being related to the Rookie of the Year voting results, Simmons took an ever firmer stance.
“It wasn’t a f—ing race,” Simmons said. “Did you see the votes?”
TJ McConnell, arguably the last remaining fixture of The Process, penned a piece in The Players Tribune about growing as a player in that environment. He had a bunch of interesting anecdotes about Embiid, Allen Iverson, and coach Brett Brown. Perhaps the most interesting part is when McConnell establishes when The Process officially ended
“When we traded for Jimmy, a lot of experts went out of their way to say The Process was over. And that’s cool of them, I guess. But they were six months late. The Process ended last season, in the locker room, after our elimination game against Boston.”
In many ways, McConnell is right about the timeline. The jump from 28 to 52 wins is a franchise altering total. Embiid and Simmons showed enough last year to significantly raise expectations, and they finally cashed in, so to speak, by trading for Jimmy Butler. It’s not about collecting talent anymore; the Sixers have their stars. It may not be The Process anymore, but the Sixers still have work to do.
Landry Shamet was also featured in a short team-produced video, in which he spoke about his rookie season.
JJ Redick’s Milestone
Redick hit a major milestone last week in a win versus the Knicks. He scored his 10,000th career point.
Redick’s comments after the milestone were based in perspective, and the long road that he’s taken to get there.
“If you had told me like 10 years ago as a third-year guy struggling to get into the rotation, that I would score 10,000 points I would be like, ‘You’re crazy,'” Redick said of his milestone.
Milestones are good points in time to appreciate things, and fans should be very impressed with what Redick has done so far in Philadelphia. He may be 34, but he’s arguably playing the highest level of his career. After playing a large role on the Clippers for four years, Redick has been even better as a Sixers. Last year he set a career high in points per game (17.1) and he’s on pace to break that again this year (18.2). He’s hit the 24th most three’s in league history, and could pass at least two more by season’s end.
Zhaire Smith Update
We did get some a positive update on Zhaire Smith from General Manager Elton Brand last week.
Smith broke a bone in his foot before the season began, and reportedly had a sever allergic reaction in September that caused him to lose a significant amount of weight. That the team expects him back this season is pretty remarkable.
A Minor Update for Fultz
There was also some positive news about Markelle Fultz. He reportedly expects to play again this season, but there was nothing in regards to his timeline to come back. The team announced that he would be re-evaluated in 3-6 weeks in early December, and Elton Brand expects one in the coming weeks.
All Star Voting
Voting for the 2019 All Star Game in Charlotte officially began last week. Joel Embiid will almost certainly make the team for the 2nd consecutive year. His stats are even better than last year, and he’s a legitimate MVP candidate at this point in the season.
Ben Simmons was just shy of making it last year. Goran Dragic on Miami took to the final spot. Simmons won’t have that competition this year, but his case is still somewhat shaky. His stats haven’t gotten noticeable better, though he has been more efficient. It may simply be tough because of the quality of players in the Eastern Conference. Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kyrie Irving and Blake Griffin are assuredly locks. John Wall will reportedly miss the rest of the season, which at least takes a big name out of the race. Jimmy Butler could also have a case, though his stats don’t stand out much either. The best hope for Simmons or Butler to make it would be the team stringing together a lot of wins in impressive fashion while voting is open.