Celtics 110, Sixers 106: Violence at the Rim Foiled By Celtics Three Point Shooting

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Sixers point guard T.J. McConnell dished out a career-high 17 assists in the Sixers 110-106 loss to the Celtics | Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

It took 924 days, but Philadelphia 76ers fans finally saw the violence at the rim that they were promised when former general manager Sam Hinkie selected Joel Embiid 3rd overall in the 2014 draft, joining Nerlens Noel (6th overall in 2013) as the core of his young frontcourt.

But injuries got in the way. The expected recovery time for Embiid’s fractured navicular bone wiped away the 2014-15 season, then the 2015-16 season was lost to the unexpected second surgery Embiid required on the same injury. The pairing was further delayed by Noel’s surgery during training camp to address an inflamed plica, then delayed once more due to Brett Brown‘s desire to experiment with lineups that included Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor together.

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76ers Waive Shooting Guard Hollis Thompson

The Sixers will pick up the team option for 2016-17 on Hollis Thompson's contract, according to multiple sources | Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The 76ers will waive fourth-year forward Hollis Thompson, according to a league source. | Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers have decided to part ways with shooting guard Hollis Thompson, according to a league source.

Thompson is in the final year of a four-year contract signed in the summer of 2013. The 2016-17 season would have become fully guaranteed if he did not clear waivers by January 10th.

Thompson, a career 38.9 percent three-point shooter, is averaging 5.5 points and 2.7 rebounds in 18.1 minutes per game with the 76ers this season, the lowest amount of playing time he’s received over his four-year career. His playing time has been cut as a result of the offseason signing of veteran Gerald Henderson, as well as the recent emergence of rookie Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot.

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Joel Embiid’s 25 Points Lead Sixers to 93-91 Victory Over Wolves

Joel Embiid led the Sixers with 25 points in their 93-91 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves | Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Joel Embiid led the Sixers with 25 points in their 93-91 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves | Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Led by 25 points from rookie big man Joel Embiid the Sixers held on for a 93-91 victory over the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves for their 9th win of the season.

The Sixers didn’t pick up their 9th win until March 11th last season.

In many ways, the game was a microcosm of the the Sixers’ season, with the flashes of dominance from Joel Embiid that showcased his seemingly inevitable rise to NBA superstardom, mixed in with a combination of youth, roster imbalance, and deficient perimeter talent that let the Wolves back into a game they had no right clawing their way back into.

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Sixers vs Wolves Preview: The Rematch of NBA Unicorns

The Sixers will look to slow down Karl-Anthony Towns and the Minnesota Timberwolves tonight at the Wells Fargo Center | Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Sixers will look to slow down Karl-Anthony Towns and the Minnesota Timberwolves tonight at the Wells Fargo Center | Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Just about a year ago today, Kevin Durant described New York big man Kristaps Porzingis as a unicorn for his rare combination of skills.

Since then, unicorn has entered regular NBA parlance, with Bill Simmons writing an article for The Ringer in an attempt to find the most unicorny of all the unicorns in existence. His list came down to 5 names: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kristaps Porzingis, Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Joel Embiid.

Tonight’s Sixers vs Wolves matchup at the Wells Fargo Center will feature two such unicorns, as Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns will do battle for the second time this season. The first matchup, a 110-86 Minnesota victory in mid-November on national television, didn’t go so well for the hometown team, and Embiid and the Sixers will look to atone for that poor showing tonight in South Philadelphia.

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Goals for the Philadelphia 76ers in 2017

Developing chemistry between Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons will be key for the Sixers in 2017 | Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Developing chemistry between Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons will be key for the Sixers in 2017 | Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

2016 was a productive year for the Philadelphia 76ers, even if it doesn’t necessarily feel that way when looking at the team’s 15-65 record during the calendar year.

During that time the team was finally awarded the #1 overall draft pick, selecting one of the more unique, and capable, franchise building blocks in recent years in Ben Simmons. Perhaps just as importantly, Joel Embiid‘s troublesome navicular bone in his right foot finally cooperated, allowing him to finally make his NBA debut more than two years after being selected third overall.

In the 546 minutes of NBA basketball Embiid has played since he’s shown that he was worth the wait. His averages of 18.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, and 1.9 assists per game are incredible for a rookie in their own right, but even more staggering when you consider Embiid’s doing it under a heavy minutes restriction that’s allowed him to play just 24.8 minutes per game. Embiid’s shown the ability to dominate in virtually every facet of the game, and proving he can do that in an NBA environment makes 2016 a big success.

With that brief retrospective out of the way, what should be on the Sixers’ agenda for 2017?

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Joel Embiid’s Free Throws Lift Sixers to 124-122 Win

Joel Embiid is fouled by Gary Harris of the Denver Nuggets. Embiid's 12 made free-throws were key in the Sixers 124-122 victory | Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Joel Embiid is fouled by Gary Harris of the Denver Nuggets. Embiid’s 12 made free-throws were key in the Sixers 124-122 victory | Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Sixers closed off 2016 with a dramatic 124-122 victory over the Denver Nuggets, heading into the new year with a record of 8-24.

The Sixers were 3-31 at this time last year.

The Sixers were led by Joel Embiid, who finished with 23 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocked shots, and 2 steals on the evening. Embiid got to the free-throw line 14 times on the night, making 12 of them, none more important than the three free-throws he sank in the final 8 seconds to secure the victory.

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76ers Musings: Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid Lineups Aren’t Working

Lineups with both Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid on the court have struggled so far | Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Lineups with both Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid on the court have struggled so far | Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Sixers are in the midst of their annual winter road trip, spoiling a pair of golden opportunities with close losses to Phoenix Suns (123-116) and Sacramento Kings (102-100) to begin their trip.

They’re also in the middle of yet another lineup experiment, trying out the a frontcourt pairing of Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor in the starting lineup over the past six games. That lineup, its effectiveness, and whether the Sixers should continue with the experiment going forward will be the focus of this week’s 76ers musings column.

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Sixers Roundup: Nerlens Noel’s Health Reignites The Great Big Man Debate

Both Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor will be out of the lineup when the Sixers take on the New York Knicks in preseason basketball tonight at Madison Square Garden | Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Should the Sixers keep Nerlens Noel or Jahlil Okafor? | Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The 76ers are finally starting to get healthy, which in Sixers Land means controversy. In this case it’s a revival of the Noel-vs-Okafor debate.

Part of the debate, which seemed to engulf last year’s NBA season, is because of the polar opposite ways each player goes about playing the position. Many people have a certain archetype in their head of what they think an NBA center should be, whether that’s a big man who can command a double team in the post or an elite defensive player who can anchor a defense, and both Okafor and Noel only tick one of those boxes.

Contributing to the debate is an acknowledgement from almost everybody involved that the situation isn’t tenable long-term. Before the season Nerlens Noel said having all three on the roster “didn’t make any sense“. Last week head coach Brett Brown said it would be an “extreme challenge” to keep all of them on the roster all year. While Bryan Colangelo claimed they would be willing to do so if they didn’t get a good trade offer, he didn’t exactly disagree with his coach’s assessment, either.

That feeling that a trade is inevitable has only served to heighten the debate.

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Nerlens Noel Isn’t Benched, They’re Just Not Sure When He’ll Play

The Sixers aren't sure when center Nerlens Noel will find his way back to the lineup | Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Sixers aren’t sure when center Nerlens Noel will find his way back to the lineup | Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday afternoon Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo held an impromptu press conference to clarify the organization’s stance on disgruntled center Nerlens Noel.

After the fourth-year center expressed frustration over his lack of playing — Noel played just 8 minutes in Friday’s 100-89 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers — head coach Brett Brown announced that Noel would be out of the rotation for the foreseeable future.

But that’s not the case. Or maybe it is. Colangelo’s not exactly sure, but he wanted to clear it up.

“It’s a pretty simple answer,” Colangelo told members of the media on why Noel would be out of the rotation, immediately before explaining that “how much he’s in control of (the situation), or we’re in control of that, is really the part that is difficult to define.”

Oh.

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Plenty of Blame to Go Around for the Nerlens Noel Situation

Nerlens Noel came off the bench to score 16 points and collect 9 rebounds in the 76ers 113-88 loss to the Charlotte Hornets | Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Nerlens Noel has been unhappy with his playing time. | Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Sixers are certainly no strangers to losing, having compiled a 53-219 record over the course of the last four seasons. That record is of very little fault of head coach Brett Brown or his staff, who was hired in August 2013 to see the team through one of the more aggressive rebuilds in the history of professional sports.

Despite the losing Brown has largely been able to keep the team together, a development which feels like a virtual miracle given the competitive nature of sports, the youthful construction of the roster, and the vast quantities of losing this team has experienced. With but brief and fleeting exceptions this team has lacked the toxic infighting, complaining, and resentment typically found on losing teams.

They really have experienced losing outcomes without the losing culture typically associated with that.

Until now.

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