Seltzer's Notebook: Managing Injuries, Wood's Outlook, Staff Behind 'Nova
Some thoughts and observations left over from the 76ers’ most recent game, a 117-105 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Sunday at Oracle Arena. To best access this content on a mobile device, select the “view in browser” option.
Sixers Seeking to Manage Injuries
This time last week, when the Sixers set out on their recently-completed road trip, one of the main storylines surrounding the team was improving health. As the seven-day, four-game trek unfolded, however, injury issues only seemed to mount.
While the Sixers welcomed back Robert Covington and Richaun Holmes Wednesday in Denver after each missed six consecutive contests, Holmes tweaked his right achilles again on Saturday in the first half at Portland. He wouldn’t be the only Sixer hurt that night.
Sonny Weems, no longer with the team after being waived on Sunday, didn’t appear in Saturday’s second stanza due to a right quadriceps strain. Later in the evening, T.J. McConnell dislocated his left index finger; however, he managed to return. The Sixers had already gone into the game, which ended in a 108-105 loss, down Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor.
Then Sunday, the Sixers sustained another key injury, as Jerami Grant was diagnosed with contusions in his right knee and quadriceps. The injury left the Sixers with 10 available players. One of these players, rookie Christian Wood, had literally just been summoned to the Bay Area after a 1:30 AM text message woke him up, and told him to pack his bags to join the team.
Of the active members of the Sixers’ roster, only three - Elton Brand, Carl Landry, and Wood, who was called up from the Delaware 87ers - filled frontcourt positions. With Grant, Holmes, Noel, and Okafor all on the shelf, Brett Brown was left with limited options against the Warriors.
“We had to take what was available, find ways to sub it, keep fresh bodies on the floor, make it work” said Brown, referencing the state of the Sixers’ big man rotation. As a result of the Sixers’ being so short-handed, Brown relied predominantly on his veterans. He allotted Elton Brand, the recently-minuted 37-year old 17 minutes, his highest total of the year. Brand responded by scoring 10 points, which matched a season-high. Carl Landry made the most of his 25 minutes on the court as well, bursting for 22 points, his second-best total with the Sixers.
“I thought that Elton [Brand] came in and gave us some veteran type minutes. Carl came in and gave us veteran type minutes. I thought in general Ish [Smith] has been playing well. So, if Ish plays the way he’s been playing, you feel like you’ve got a chance,” Brown said. “I’m not unhappy with things that we have been looking at in regards to people improving and staying together, like the group competing.”
The point guard Smith generated his 14th 20-point performance of the year at Golden State, and, with 10 assists, recorded his second double-double in a row, and 12th overall.
Following the game, Brown said he didn’t know how long the Sixers would be without Grant. Grant missed time earlier this month following his March 11th collision with Robert Covington.
“We did take our hits recently, most recently with Jerami,” Brown admitted. “We’ll have to try and find a way to get back on that recovery path over the next few days.”
As for Noel’s projected timetable for recovery from his right knee contusion, Brown again said, “I don’t know.”
“We’ll be able to learn a lot more after he wakes up tomorrow.”
Wood, signed as an undrafted free agent in September, played sparsely at the outset of Sunday’s first quarter. He was on the court for five minutes total.
Wood Aims to Make the Most of Late-Season Opportunity
With the Sixers needing as much help as they can get in the frontcourt, Christian Wood has been presented with another opportunity to show his potential at the NBA level. Between two seasons at UNLV, and 32 outings in the NBA Development League, the 6’11” tall, 220 pound power forward has flashed potential with his interior and perimeter scoring capabilities. Furthermore, his size gives him a chance to have an impact on the glass, and in terms of protecting the rim.
Before Sunday’s match-up against Golden State, Wood spoke about the lessons he’s absorbed over the course of his first professional campaign, during which he’s bounced back and forth from the NBA and NBADL.
“It’s a lot,” Wood said. “You just got to keep your body right, get the necessary treatment. Just do the little things in practice, and when we have practice, go hard, and when we have games, go hard.”
Brown Brown spoke Sunday about the expectations he has for Wood, and the aspects of Wood’s game the Sixers intend to further evaluate in the final weeks of the season.
“We want to see his athleticism get up and down the floor,” said Brown. “We want to encourage him to shoot the ball. He’s a pick-and-pop big. He has that ability in him. We want to see particularly his shot-blocking ability at the rim. He jumps quick. He is also very young. And so, given our history with him, and the fact we’re down bigs for us, he was quite a natural choice.”
In his stint with the Sevens, Wood has generated 17.3 points and 9.4 rebounds in 28.8 minutes per game. He began the year with the Sixers, and has collected 51 total points and 32 total rebounds in 15 outings with the squad.
To create an open roster spot for Wood, the Sixers waived Sonny Weems. The 29-year old wing man suited up in seven games for the Sixers, posting 17 total points and 12 total boards.
“I spoke to Sonny [Sunday],” Brown said. “It’s never easy. I looked at him, and talked with him. He was grateful for the opportunity. For the little time that he was here, he was good to have around. He is an NBA player.”
With Connections to Villanova, Sixers Staff Throws Support Behind ‘Cats
About an hour before the Sixers tipped off against the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday at Moda Center, the Villanova Wildcats’ Elite Eight pairing with the Kansas Jayhawks had just gotten underway. Several sets of eyes inside the visitors locker room were fixed on the broadcast of the game, which was being streamed on the large portable video screen that the Sixers take with them on the road.
“I’ve got a few people on my staff that were paying as much attention to [Villanova’s] game as they were figuring out our scouting report [Saturday],” Brett Brown said jokingly. “I forgave them.”
Sixers assistant coach and director of player development Billy Lange had two separate stints at Villanova under Jay Wright, first from 2001 through 2004, and then again from 2011 through 2013. Lange left the Main Line to join Brown’s staff.
Four other Brown hires have strong ties either to either Villanova, Wright, or both. Shooting coach Eugene Burroughs worked for Wright during Wright’s first head coaching stop at Hofstra. Curtis Sumpter was an All-Big 5 selection, and part of Villanova’s Sweet 16 team in 2005. He is now a player development assistant for the Sixers. Video coordinator Connor Johnson was a graduate assistant at Villanova two years ago. Assistant equipment manager Dan Rosci attended Villanova, and was involved with the club during his undergraduate days as well.
Villanova defeated Kansas on Saturday, 64-59, clinching the second Final Four berth in Wright’s 15-year tenure as the team’s head coach.
“I exchanged texts with him,” said Brown, who went overseas with Wright this summer. “I got to know Jay. We had a pretty unique trip deep into Israel, deep into the West Bank. You’re in Jerusalem, you’re in Bethlehem, you’re in Ramallah, and you’re going to crazy places and really trying to get a feel for that side of the world. The program that we went on, PeacePlayers [International], is an initiative to try to get young Palestinian children interacting with the Israeli children and try to connect the dots there, and to experience that part of the world with Jay and his family was great. And now to see what they have done, it doesn’t surprise me. He’s built something unique there. He’s done it for years.”
Brown continued, “It’s great to see Villanova represent the city of Philadelphia. We look forward to seeing them go even further.”
The Wildcats go up against Oklahoma, another two-seed in the NCAA Tournament, this Sunday in the first of two National Semi-Final clashes. The Final Four is being staged in Houston.