It’s been more than a week since the 76ers suffered their sweep to the Boston Celtics with a 110-106 loss in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference first-round series. Since then, coach Brett Brown has been fired and general manager Elton Brand has expressed confidence that things could turn around.
There was a lot about accountability, but the big question is, will the Sixers hold their biggest star accountable?
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Making Joel Embiid accountable
It might seem harsh to criticize Joel Embiid for the Sixers’ first-round ouster. With fellow All-Star Ben Simmons out after left-knee surgery, the brunt of leadership fell on Embiid.
He averaged 30 points and 12.3 rebounds in 36.3 minutes. Yet one statistic stood out: three-point field goal attempts per game (4.0). Embiid shot just 25% from three-point range in the series, and any time he attempted one, the undersized Celtics had to breathe a sigh of relief that he wasn’t posting down low.
Even though he put up impressive numbers, Embiid didn’t look like he was in great shape. Earlier in the seeding games, he twisted his ankle and that likely didn’t help, but seeing Embiid gassed is nothing new.
Former NBA player and current ESPN analyst Bruce Bowen blamed Embiid for the firing of Brown, suggesting among other things that the 26-year-old center needed to be in better shape.
Brand took exception to seeing the three-time All-Star center criticized.
“He gets a lot of stuff in the media criticizing him, but I’ve seen him work first-hand and I see the work that he puts in,” Brand said.
While nobody expected Brand to start ripping Embiid publicly, telling everybody how hard he works is enabling him. It wouldn’t hurt if once in the while that the Sixers GM suggests that his center needs to be in better shape.
Brand talked about Embiid’s not being injured heading into the offseason and having all that time to work on his conditioning and game.
We’ll see. How many times have we been told that Embiid was in the best shape of his life only to see otherwise?
Here are stats from the Celtics series showing Embiid’s play in the first quarter vs. fourth quarter. The production was much better early in the game before he would become fatigued.
First quarter: 15-22 FG (68.1%), 2-5 3-pt (40%); 12-18 FT (66.6%); 17 rebounds (4.5) and 44 points (11.0)
Fourth quarter: 7-22 FG (31.8%); 1-5 3-pt (20%); 19-20 FT (95%), 14 rebounds (3.5) and 34 points (8.5)
Things would have been much worse in the fourth quarter, but Embiid had a 17-point fourth period in Game 4.
Before the playoffs, Brown had suggested that he’d like Embiid to average 38 minutes. Even at 36.3, he looked dead tired. Maybe he isn’t capable of playing that many minutes.
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Jason Kidd and John Lucas are said to be interested in Sixers coaching job. Both have expressed interest, according to Pompey. A Hall of Fame point guard, Kidd is an assistant with the Lakers and has already been a head coach in Brooklyn and Milwaukee. Lucas, now a player development coach in Houston, once was the Sixers’ head coach.
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This will be a busy offseason in the NBA coach-hiring department. In addition to various vacancies, Houston’s Mike D’Antoni’s contract ends after the season. Barring a deep run by the Rockets, the former Sixers assistant could also be on his way out.
Here are the teams with coaching openings.
Brooklyn Nets: Interim coach Jacques Vaughn made a big pitch to get the job permanently even though the outmanned Nets were swept by Toronto in the first round. Ty Lue will be rumored for this job and just about every other one. With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving expected to return to health next season, this is a highly desired job.
Chicago Bulls: Jim Boylan was let go after two seasons and a 39-84 record. Sixers assistant Ime Udoka is considered a candidate.
Indiana Pacers: After recently getting his contract extended for a year, Nate McMillan was fired after the Pacers were swept by Miami in the first round. McMillan guided the Pacers to the playoffs in each of his four seasons, bu Indiana was just 3-16 in those games. One report has the Pacers interested in D’Antoni, if he doesn’t return in Houston.
New Orleans Pelicans: This might not be as attractive a job as it is billed, simply because nobody knows if franchise cornerstone Zion Williamson can stay healthy. Alvin Gentry had one winning season during his five years in New Orleans.
Sixers: This is still considered a desired job with Embiid and Simmons as the cornerstones. Lue, Jason Kidd, Golden State assistant Mike Brown, and Villanova coach Jay Wright are just a few of the many names being suggested as possibilities.
Eastern Conference semifinals
Here are the dates of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
TORONTO vs BOSTON
Game 1 – Sunday, Aug. 30, Boston, 112-94.
Game 2 – Tuesday, Sept. 1
Game 3 – Thursday, Sept. 3
Game 4 – Saturday, Sept. 5
Game 5* – Monday, Sept. 7
Game 6* – Wednesday, Sept. 9
Game 7* – Friday, Sept. 11
MILWAUKEE vs MIAMI
Game 1 – Monday, Aug. 31
Game 2 – Wednesday, Sept. 2
Game 3 – Friday, Sept. 4
Game 4 – Sunday, Sept. 6
Game 5* – Tuesday, Sept. 8
Game 6* – Thursday, Sept. 10
Game 7* – Saturday, Sept. 12
Passing the rock
Question: I am intrigued by the Sixers coaching search. I have to admit Mark Jackson and Jason Kidd really interest me to hear of their interest and system. Both could help Ben. Neither could shoot when they entered the league. — Mike Paternoster from Facebook.
Answer: This is a great question, Mike, and thanks for sending it in. I just looked it up and Jackson, in his first eight NBA seasons shot 29% from three-point range. His final nine seasons, he shot 36%. Kidd’s first four seasons, he shot 32.1%. For his final 15 years, he shot 35.5%.
Even without the shooting element, both could add knowledge on how to play point guard, and in my opinion, that is Simmons’ best position for this team. Both Jackson and Kidd also had a degree of success as head coaches. Kidd’s teams qualified for the playoffs in three of his four full seasons and Jackson in two of three at Golden State. Both had celebrated tiffs with either the front office (Kidd) or assistant coaches (Jackson), so that will have to be explored, but either would be a viable candidate. I would prefer Jackson because I think he would bring a tough mindset that the Sixers need.