THE SIXERS extended their losing streak to six games over the weekend.
Joel Embiid impressed once again on Friday, and tickled the imagination of what could be when on the court with Jahlil Okafor, but the team gave a horrible effort in a 105-88 loss to the Orlando Magic, a team that was in the middle of a five-game road trip and had lost the night before in Memphis.
Saturday against Boston, the Sixers sat Embiid as part of his recovery. The team showed much better effort, got a solid performance from Dario Saric (21 points and 12 rebounds) but couldn't stop Boston's Isaiah Thomas, who exploded for 37 points in a 107-106 Sixers' loss.
So many questions still surround this team in a year where at least some were supposed to be answered.
To that end, let's take a look at some of the most asked questions that are on the minds of fans.
Q: Why is it that Embiid still can't play every game? He seems fine and says he's fine and wants to play. What's the deal?
A: I won't even pretend to understand what goes on with the sports-science people who are so valuable to this organization. Even when they try to explain subjects such as "load management," it's mind-numbing.
That being said, they certainly aren't haphazardly restricting his minutes. Is it frustrating as hell to anyone who watches this team? No question. And perhaps no one is more frustrated by the limitations than Embiid (well, maybe Brett Brown). But look at it this way. If Embiid gets through this season on the schedule they set for him without injury, and his twice-repaired right foot holds up for years to come, all will look back and realize his situation was correctly handled.
Q: Is Brett Brown on the hot seat? His end-of-play coaching is questionable and he can't seem to settle on a rotation.
A: I would find it hard to see Brown being replaced before he gets to coach a team with Ben Simmons in the lineup. Simmons has been sidelined with a fracture in his right foot. Brown has gone through close to 60 players during his three-plus seasons here and has never been given a true starting point guard with which to work.
Questions about end of games are legit, but I see it more as having limited talent more than poor coaching. It kind of goes back to the thinking of Vince Lombardi, where you run only a few plays but execute really well. I see what Brown wants executed, only to be snuffed out by an opponent that is simply more talented.
I've been asked so many times about rotation, and it may be one of the easiest to figure out. All you have to do is remember that Embiid has been on minutes restriction and missed seven of the first 20 games; Okafor was on a minutes restriction for the first part of the year while rehabbing a right knee injury; starting point guard Jerryd Bayless has missed all but three games; Nerlens Noel has yet to see the floor due to a left knee injury; Robert Covington's play has been sporadic, at best.
Got all that? And that doesn't even mention the Simmons injury.
Q: Who are they going to trade, Okafor or Noel? And what's taking them so long?
A: There is little question that Okafor has more value right now, simply because he is playing, is a proven scorer and would be a nice fit on most teams. Teams have concerns with Noel because of his injury, having had a procedure Oct. 24 on his left knee, and his inability to improve his game at the offensive end. Which one goes depends on a few things.
If Brown chooses to look at Embiid and Okafor on the floor together more often, and it seems to work pretty well, then you have to wonder if it will be an even better fit when Simmons and his great passing skills are in the lineup. If that's the case, you have to keep Okafor.
Also, it would seem that Noel has to get back on the floor to prove he's healthy before anything can be done. The problem is going to be finding him minutes, if both Embiid and Okafor stay healthy. It's probably going to become the biggest issue around this team in a couple of weeks, when Noel is expected to be healthy enough to return.
Questions. They're pretty much the only thing that surrounds this team more than losses.