Give the 76ers credit for at least identifying the problems that have led to their recent woes. After Monday’s 137-106 demolition in Miami, Ben Simmons referred to the team as soft.
Following practice at the Sixers’ Camden facility on Wednesday in preparation for Thursday’s game in Milwaukee against the 43-7 Bucks, Joel Embiid and Al Horford talked about having to be more focused.
Embiid says said the team doesn’t really have an offensive identity.
Fifty one games in, the Sixers (31-20) are searching for the right fit.
At least all the players agree that after three straight road losses at Atlanta, Boston, and Miami, these are desperate times for the Sixers.
“Our backs are against the wall right now,” Horford said. “That last game didn’t go like we wanted to, especially the second half, and we have to respond.”
The Sixers were outscored, 81-54 during the second half against Miami. The recent performances aside, the Sixers still haven’t found a comfort level on the court.
“I am just trying to figure out where I fit,” Embiid said. “It is a work in progress and take it day by day and try to get better every day.”
Embiid is clearly frustrated this season. The addition of Horford, gives the Sixers arguably the best backup center in the league, but when he plays power forward alongside Embiid, there is a real spacing problem.
When asked if the Sixers have an identity on offense, Embiid couldn’t have been more candid.
“No, we don’t,” he said. “Spacing is an issue."
Embiid mentioned that sometimes the team plays fast and sometimes it plays slow. It’s usually a faster-paced game when he resting and more of a half-court style when he is in the game.
“As we try to get ready for the playoffs, the game slows down and becomes a half-court game and that is where we struggle the most,” he said. “Hopefully we do a better job in the next few games.”
Horford was asked if the team needs someone to call out the players when the effort and/or result isn’t the desired one. He basically said that there have been discussions.
“There is stuff going in our locker room and we will keep that internal,” he said.
So the Sixers aren’t sweeping the problems under the rug. They are discussing the deficiencies, but at this point, there haven’t been any favorable long-term solutions.
After Saturday’s 116-95 loss in Boston and Monday’s defeat in Miami, coach Brett Brown admitted that the Sixers weren’t playing physically enough.
The trade deadline is 3 p.m. on Thursday and it would be surprising if the Sixers made a blockbuster move. Early Thursday morning the Sixers did help their perimeter game by acquiring Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III from Golden State for three second round picks.
That said, the core that has been inconsistent this season will have to make an about-face if the Sixers plan on any type of extended postseason run.
The players say that this unit, the way it is constructed, can win. What else are they to say?
“I am not going to complain about what I have," Embiid said referring to his teammates. “We’ve got a bunch of great players who can do a lot of things on the basketball court and we got what we need.”
Brown says that time remains on the Sixers side, but even that is dwindling away.
“We have played 51 games under kind of funky terms with availability and injury, it doesn’t have to be an excuse, it is the truth,” Brown said. “And now it is my job to try to piece this together with more than enough time.”
NOTES: Starting shooting guard Josh Richardson will miss his sixth consecutive game, with left hamstring strain that he suffered during the first quarter in a 107-95 loss at Toronto on Jan. 22.
According to a team official, Richardson went through a three-on-three workout on Tuesday and responded well. On Wednesday he went through an individualized workout. The official said that Richardson’s return is near.