Many NBA teams hit the buyout market in the hours immediately following the March 25 trade deadline. Not the Philadelphia 76ers. They chose to stay the course and posted a 4-3 record during that span.
More importantly, the Sixers went 9-3 without MVP candidate Joel Embiid in the starting five. That is probably a big reason why team president Daryl Morey has been in no rush to add another player to the mix as head coach Doc Rivers keeps reiterating how much he “loves this team.” They are sitting pretty in the Eastern Conference, a half-game behind the Brooklyn Nets for the top spot.
“It doesn’t matter one way or the other with me. I’m happy now,” Rivers told reporters on Thursday. “If we add someone, I’ll be happy. But I’m not going to lose sleep over it, either way, let me put it that way. We’ll see.”
The decision to release Iggy gives them the flexibility to make a move if they want to, per Doc Rivers. They could save that roster spot for later in the year, too. It sounds like (my opinion) something is going to happen. #Sixers #HereTheyCome
— Michael Greger (@mike_greger) April 8, 2021
The deadline to make a move on the buyout market is April 9, but teams can still add free agents later on assuming they have an open roster spot. Players eligible for buyouts are able to negotiate with the team of their choice, but post-deadline free agents are subject to waivers and all 30 teams have a crack at signing them within a 48-hour window. So there are still moves to be made.
“We could [add somebody]. We want to have that ability,” Rivers said. “I’ve always said, with the Clippers, we always left one or two guys available, even picked up guys after this [deadline] because there are some guys out there that you can even use for next year, so I just think the flexibility is always good.”
The Sixers released Iggy Brazdeikis on Thursday to give them that kind of flexibility. Their roster stands at 14 players, plus Mason Jones and Rayjon Tucker who remain on two-way contracts and don’t count against the total.
Justin Jackson BANG💥pic.twitter.com/6zZ2K106AW
— OKC Thunder Türkiye (@Thunder_Turkiye) February 15, 2021
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Light Practice, Much-Needed Rest
The Sixers (35-16) have been in and out of airports while crisscrossing the country since March 11 in a brutal stretch of games highlighted by nine road games and four back-to-backs. Yikes.
Yet they somehow went 10-4 during that crazy road trip that took them to hell and back. Rivers conducted a light practice in Philadelphia on Thursday before the team got ready to board another flight, this time to New Orleans to face the Pelicans on April 9.
“It was nice, we didn’t too much [at practice] honestly,” Rivers said. “We needed this [rest time]. It was very important for us.”
No one can deny what @JoelEmbiid is doing this season.
35 PTS | 6 REB | 1 BLK
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) April 7, 2021
Finally, the Sixers got two days off and the head coach took full advantage by using it to rest his weary bunch. Well deserved. Especially after the way the team has persevered this season without Embiid in the lineup. The big man’s absence has actually boosted the confidence levels of the locker room.
“Obviously, I don’t ever want to play without Joel, or without Ben [Simmons] or without Tobias [Harris],” Rivers said. “You want them to always play but you obviously know that they are not going to [play] all the time. And you still have to figure out a way to win the game, and so from the players’ standpoint, I think it’s good for them.”
Zion Williamson Keeps Getting Better
Their next opponent is the New Orleans Pelicans (22-29), a team still scrapping for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They have dropped two straight games, including a 139-111 thrashing to Brooklyn on Wednesday night in Kevin Durant’s return.
Zion Williamson was held to 16 points in that one but he remains one of the NBA’s rising stars. The All-Star forward is averaging 26.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists in 46 games for the Pelicans. Rivers knows his defense will have to lock all windows and doors on the dominant big man.
“He keeps getting better,” Rivers said. “He’s so much more than a dunker. He’s a playmaker at his size. His speed and power is really unmatched in a lot of ways. You gotta keep him square [to the basket]. He’s starting to shoot the little 15-footer well. He’s just going to be one of these guys who is going to keep getting better and better and fast.”
ZION WILLIAMSON 💪
Scores 34 PTS (12/18 FG) & ties SHAQ for longest streak of 20+ PTS on 50% FGs (shot-clock era)
Shaq (2001): 25
Zion (2021): 25
Mailman (1989): 19
Wilt (1966): 19pic.twitter.com/E7ICpDj7mt
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) April 7, 2021