Joel Embiid Shines Again in Another Sixers Win

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Philadelphia 94, Toronto 89 – Box Score

All-Star voting has ended and the Philadelphia 76ers and their fans are waiting to find out whether Joel Embiid will be a starter or reserve down in New Orleans. The way Embiid played Wednesday night, though, All-Star starter might be setting the bar too low.

Facing a Raptors team that had the second-best offense in the league and had defeated Philadelphia 14 straight times, the Sixers held Toronto to just 89 points and the equivalent of just over a 92 offensive rating. The biggest reason, both literally and metaphorically, was Embiid, who finished the game with a +20 plus/minus in a game his team won by 5.

Embiid simply does so much on the defensive end of the floor. It’s incredible to watch him at over 7 feet tall switch onto Kyle Lowry (24 points) and DeMar DeRozan (25 points, 14 in the 4th quarter) and do more than a credible job defending them. Embiid consistently stifles the pick-and-roll and erases his teammates’ mistakes by providing an intimidating presence on the back line.

The closing sequence of the game perfectly demonstrated that, as right after Robert Covington blocked a Kyle Lowry three-point attempt, Lowry recovered and managed the beat RoCo on the sceond try, but Embiid was there to swallow the ball into his orbit. The fact that he basically tipped it to himself and drew a 6th foul on Lowry in the process was icing on the cake.

Oh yeah, and Joel Embiid is easily the team’s best offensive player as well. He went over 20 points for the 10th consecutive game (again, playing less than 30 minutes), finishing with 26 points on the evening. He saw his outside shot reemerge, hitting 2-5 from three, and knocked down 12 of 14 from the foul line. As Brett Brown alluded to in his post-game press conference, having a 5-man who can hit free throws is such a luxury in today’s game. You can keep your elite rim protector on the court in crunch time without giving the opposition a hacking target to try to shave down points.

There were plenty of Sixers who also deserved kudos, but I’ll only highlight Dario Saric, who finished with 8 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks off the bench. Earlier in the game, Dario caught an F-bomb from Brett about not moving on offense that was audible even to the fans at home. Later on, Saric was certainly moving on defense anyway, as he flashed back to the Olympics with this stunning block of Jared Sullinger. After the game, Brown said if Joel Embiid wasn’t in the league, you’d have to talk about him for Rookie of the Year.

The Sixers now sit just 5.5 games out of a playoff spot. They’ve won 7 of their last 8 games when Joel Embiid plays. Just a few weeks ago, Philadelphia fans were calculating lottery odds in the Markelle Fultz sweepstakes. Now, they’re checking playoff projection percentages. The startling turn in fortune has been as rapid as Joel Embiid’s ascension to superstardom. When the Process is this good, you can’t help but trust it.

Embiid Powers Sixers to Win on MLK Day

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Philadelphia 113, Milwaukee 104 – Box Score

With the Sixers playing a mid-afternoon game in Milwaukee as part of the Martin Luther King, Jr. day schedule, it was certainly not the normal game day routine for Joel Embiid, who doesn’t have a large catalog of game day experiences from which to draw from in the first place. Perhaps understandably then, he started out a little slowly, with just 4 points at halftime, as his young star counterpart, Giannis Antetokounmpo, wowed the home crowd while tallying 21 points on 9-11 shooting by halftime.

It’s a good thing Aaron Rodgers is around to single-handedly boost the morale of the greater Wisconsin area, because the second half reversal had to be a huge letdown for the cheeseheads at the Bradley Center. The Greek Freak’s production dropped off to only 2 second half points, partially due to foul trouble, partially due to strong defensive efforts by Embiid around the rim.

All game long, Embiid was an absolute monster when Milwaukee had the ball, finishing with 2 steals and tying a career-high with 5 blocks. He really wanted the 6th rejection, sprinting full-out in the closing seconds of a game that was already over to swat away a Jabari Parker lay-up attempt (he was questionably called for a goaltend). Whenever he was in the game, the Bucks had to account for his presence on the court, and seemingly every shot they put up was impacted. Philly Mag’s Derek Bodner noted how poorly opponents have been shooting against Embiid during the team’s recent stretch of strong play.

When his offensive game fell into place later in the second half is when Embiid completely put the team on his back. One of the great things about his game is how efficiently he can get points, even when his shot isn’t falling. Embiid ended the day with 22 points on just 9 shot attempts, going a whopping 13-18 from the foul line, and chipping in 12 rebounds and 2 assists. It marked the 9th straight 20-point game for the rookie (still a record for someone who hasn’t played 30 minutes in a game). If he’s going to be catching passes in the open court like this and throwing down earth-shattering dunks, I’m not sure how anyone could expect to stop him.

The guy who threw the pass on the play above, Dario Saric, also had himself a great game. The Homie had 17 points on 6-11 shooting, also collecting 9 rebounds and 4 assists. It was the third straight game he’s hit multiple threes (2-5 on the game), which combined with his passing ability and all-around hustle makes him a very valuable guy to have on the floor. He just needs to remember he’s not playing under FIBA rules, after he forgot once and knocked a ball off the rim for an obvious goaltending violation.

The victory was especially impressive because the Sixers were missing a couple key pieces from their recent winning streak. Sergio Rodriguez filled in well for the injured TJ McConnell (sprained wrist), finishing with 10 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists. He works well with Embiid (most people do, honestly) because his biggest weakness (perimeter defense) is mitigated by having JoJo back there to erase mistakes. Philadelphia was also without Nerlens Noel, who was a late scratch with a sprained left ankle. Jahlil Okafor filled in and per usual, had a few nice offensive moves, but with him in the game, the lane was as open for the Bucks as a 24/7 7-11.

The Sixers have now won 6 of the last 7 games in which Joel Embiid has played. The team is playing great basketball behind a legitimate superstar and seems to be having a great time doing it. As Dario Saric said after the game, Trust the Friendship.

Sixers Finally Complete Trifecta with Win over Hornets

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Philadelphia 102, Charlotte 93 – Box Score

For the first time since late 2013-early 2014, the Philadelphia 76ers have an honest-to-god winning streak. With Friday night’s smothering defensive performance against the Hornets, the Sixers have finally won 3 straight games and 5 of their last 6.

As usual these days, the man of the hour was Joel Hans Embiid. Coming out in pregame introductions performing the Triple H water spitting routine out of the tunnel, Embiid then wrestled the Hornets frontline into submission with 24 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals, and 3 blocks. 5 turnovers made for the only blemish on an otherwise stellar evening that included his ritualistic burial of Cody Zeller.

Embiid is the only player ever to score at least 20 points in 8 straight games where he does not play 30 minutes. By the fourth quarter, the usual “Trust the Process” chants had transformed to “MVP”. With JoJo on the cusp of an All-Star berth and having the Sixers playing as well as anyone in 2017, such an idea might not be too far-fetched.

With Embiid as the back line anchor and Nerlens Noel out there the sole back-up center, the Sixers played some of their best defense of the season. They forced 19 Charlotte turnovers, which is the most the Sixers have forced this season and the most the Hornets have committed on the year. As a team, Charlotte shot just 32.9% from the field, as Philadelphia held Kemba Walker below his 23 ppg average with just 17 points on 7-23 shooting.

Noel made his presence known in just 20 minutes with 4 blocks to go along with a perfect 3-3 shooting night. Nerlens knocked down another mid-range jumper, continuing a trend that has seen him shoot well above 50% on those shots this season.

Aside from Embiid and Noel getting full run as the lone big men on the court, the biggest beneficiary of these recent Jahlil Okafor DNP-CD’s has to be Dario Saric. The Homie gets to play almost exclusively at his natural power forward position and looks much more comfortable out there. Against Charlotte, he dropped 15 points 6 rebounds in 21 minutes, shooting 4-6 from three.

Unfortunately for those hoping the Sixers can make it 4 straight, Joel Embiid will be sitting the second half of the back-to-back Saturday night in Washington. That means Jahlil Okafor will get his chance to show what he can do, and well, we’ve seen that show before. For tonight though, let’s enjoy the fact that the Sixers are just 6 back in the loss column of the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. If Joel Embiid believes, I believe.

76ers: A Year In Review

By Andrew Curran (@andrewjc417)

[Editor’s Note: This piece was meant to run around the New Year, but because my editorial skills are on par with Sergio Rodriguez’s defense (in that I mean well, but you could ultimately do much better), the piece was forgotten about until now. Please do not hold Andrew accountable.]

First off, I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays and is loving this great stretch of Sixers basketball to kick off 2017! It’s around that time of the year where we look back and assess the past 12 months of our lives, and I thought it would be fun to look back at what took place for the Sixers in 2016. The Sixers faced plenty of adversity over the past calendar year, but we also have a lot we can look back on fondly. So without further ado, I present to you “The 76ers Year In Review”.

Airing of Grievances

Let’s start with the negatives. Festivus was a few weeks back, and for those non-Seinfeld fans, it’s a holiday meant as a negative contrast to Christmas, consisting of the Aluminum Festivus Pole, the Feats of Strength, and the Airing of Grievances. I already covered the pole and Feats of Strength components this week in gym class, so the only thing left for me to do is to complain about what bothered me regarding the Sixers this year.

The most obvious issue right now is the big man logjam. This conversation has seemingly carried on all year so I’ll make this quick. For me, ideally, both Okafor and Noel go. In my opinion, Richaun Holmes is a capable backup behind Embiid (you can read why I think Holmes is awesome here).

Now that we got that out of the way, the pileup of Sixer losses in early 2016 really stung, but we knew that would happen going into the year. But you know what really grinded my gears? The Joel Anthony trade.

On February 18th, a three team trade occurred between the Sixers, Pistons, and Rockets, which landed Philly Joel Anthony and a 2nd round pick. They released Jakarr Sampson to make room for Anthony. It was kind of an “eh” trade. Nobody felt too strongly. But then a few days later, Donatas Motiejunas, who ended up in Detroit as part of the deal, failed his physical, and the trade was rescinded. So to sum that up, the Sixers cut Sampson for nothing. I was actually fine with losing Jakarr since he may be my least favorite Process-Sixer ever. But the mounting frustration of countless losses really made my blood boil, and on top of that, the 76ers couldn’t even get a trade to go properly for them!

Oh, it gets worse. In an effort to stop Philly from tanking, the NBA very blatantly shoved the Colangelos in, which jettisoned Sam Hinkie out. Sensing that he would essentially be forfeiting all power to Bryan Colangelo, Hinkie resigned with full support from the Philly faithful on April 6th.

I possess absolutely no animosity for Hinkie. He left when they cut The Process short, and as Ron Swanson says, “Don’t half-ass two things, full ass one thing”. Hinkie appears to lives by that motto (check out this great article on SI about Hinkie). What infuriates me lies in the lack of logic. The whole point of The Process was to not go back to the middle, but cutting The Process short seemed/seems like a significantly short-sighted move by management which may very well result in just that, except for the fact that the roster might already possess enough transcendent young stars to overcome it.

Enough about basketball politics, what about the actual team? Well, in short, the 2nd half meltdowns probably took several years off my life. Every game had roughly a quarter of purely unwatchable basketball, as time after time victory slipped through the Sixers’ fingers. Not to mention, it always seemed like teams were inclined to make some sort of insane buzzer beater against Philly. The Harrison Barnes corner 3 to win it for the Warriors, the Emmanuel Mudiay game winning half court heave for the Nuggets, and many more to end quarters were just soul-crushing, and part of the reason the recent game-winners by Robert Covington and TJ McConnell were so sweet.

Finally, how could we forget about Ben Simmons’ foot? On the last practice of the preseason, Ben suffered a Jones Fracture in his right foot, delaying his rookie season by months, perhaps even derailing the whole year (although his recent traveling with the team bodes well for a debut in the not-too-distant future). The Sixers-ness of that whole situation blows my mind. The freak accident took place at such an inopportune time, in uncanny, Sixers-like fashion.

The Positives

Now for the things that made us smile. On May 17th, the 76ers won the draft lottery for the first time since 1996, when they took Allen Iverson with the first overall pick. Sixers fans were alive for the first time in years. People embraced and cheered and celebrated and had that one key thing: hope. The Process generally lacked happy moments, but winning the lottery made it all worth it for Process Supporters, casual fans, and Apostles of Hinkie alike. It marked a turning point in 76ers history.

On June 23rd, the Sixers officially drafted Ben Simmons, marking the beginning of a new era in Philadelphia sports. Sam Hinkie, of course, was not around when the draft took place, but I like to think he watched it and smiled. Without his presence, The Process still lived on.

We all knew Philly would get Ben; reading his name on draft night was just a formality. The pleasant surprises came when Colangelo selected Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Furkan Korkmaz 24th and 26th overall, respectively. I, as well as many others in the Sixers community, had my eyes on those two, I really didn’t think Luwawu would fall into the Sixers’ lap, but he did, and we should all be thankful. As much as it pains me to say this, Bryan Colangelo deserved an A+ for the draft.

“Whatever, Saric isn’t coming over this year and Embiid will never play basketball again,” insisted the critics. Well, on July 14th, Saric came to the USA with a giant middle finger in tow for all the doubters. The Croatian Sensation fulfilled his promise to come over in 2016, turning down millions of dollars in the process. If he had waited another year, he would have been freed from the rookie pay scale, but he stuck to his word and that alone should plant him in the hearts of Philly fans for eternity.

Then, on October 4th, Joel Embiid played in his first ever preseason game. It was wonderful, but meaningless. The real test took place on October 26th. On this day, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric played in an official NBA basketball game. Once again, I’m sure Hinkie watched with a smile. Since then, Saric hasn’t been too shabby and Embiid has been outright dominate, the runaway Rookie of the Year favorite and on the cusp of an All-Star selection. Most importantly, he has not appeared to be affected by his past injuries (knock on wood).

While the Sixers still have the logjam in the frontcourt, as long as it doesn’t impact him in the long term, Simmons’ injury might not have actually been the worst thing in the world in the long run. It gave the Sixers a little more time to figure out the big man situation, and the rehab time may help Ben add/improve a facet of his game, similar to Embiid when he honed his outside shot during his recovery process.

All in all, 2016 treated the 76ers tremendously. A superstar was born, and another one may be on the horizon. Things did not go perfectly (they never do in Philadelphia), but 2016 gave us hope. Joel Embiid alone rejuvenated the city, and things are looking up in Sixers-ville. Here’s to an equally great 2017 (already off to a hot start on the court) and thank you for your support!

2-on-1 Fast Break Podcast: 2017 Divisional Round

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak) & Dan Urda (@DanUrda)

Carrying a perfect NFL playoffs record out of the Wild Card Round, Dan returns to the podcast. We discuss his recently meeting Joel Embiid, before diving into a full breakdown of the Divisional Round.

Regular Season Record: 33-47-5; Playoffs Record: 1-0

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TJ Plays the Hero in Buzzer-Beater Win

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Philadelphia 98, New York 97 – Box Score

These are the games the Sixers never win. The Knicks led Wednesday night’s game by as many as 17 points; since the start of last season, the Sixers were 0-71 when trailing by 15 or more points in a game. But you know who doesn’t care about your stats? Timothy John McConnell.

After supposed basketball unicorn Kristaps Porzingis airballed a wide-open three in the closing seconds, the Sixers charged downcourt frantically, trailing by one and opting not to call a timeout. Surprisingly, both Gerald Henderson and Ersan Ilyasova passed up a chance to be a hero, and the ball found McConnell. TJ, finding himself between future Hall-of-Famer Carmelo Anthony and global sensation Porzingis, stepped back and nailed the turnaround jumper at the buzzer. The ensuing celebration was straight out of Philadelphia sports movie, complete with the leaping fist pump.

The Sixers are now 5-1 with TJ as a starter this season, with the lone loss a last-minute defeat to Boston. A lot of that stretch coincides with the last week or two with the Sixers giving Jahlil Okafor a DNP-CD and playing the full 48 minutes with either Joel Embiid or Nerlens Noel at center. Still, there’s no denying McConnell is playing good ball. He’s easily the team’s best defensive option at point guard, and provides a stabilizing hand on running the offense and getting others involved.

His Wednesday line of 8 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists is more quietly effective than flashy, but hopefully his clutch shot shines some light on just how well he’s been playing. Joel Embiid certainly is happy to have TJ around.

Speaking of Embiid, the battle between he and fellow young big man Porzingis was a clear victory for JoJo. With the Knicks up 10 with 2 and a half minutes remaining, Embiid scored 8 points down the stretch, starting with this basically unstoppable crossover to Eurostep that drew an and-one.

Embiid had a final line of 21 points and a career-high 14 rebounds in 27 minutes, compared to Porzingis who went for just 7 points and 3 rebounds in 28 minutes. KP may have had a couple GIF-able moments, blocking one Embiid jumper and standing strong at the rim as Embiid’s dunk attempt clanged over the front rim, but this was a clear win for JoJo both in the hearts of viewers and on the scoreboard.

Philadelphia has now won 4 of its last 5 games, something it had not accomplished since 2013. If this keeps up, we’re going to have to do more than chuckle when Embiid brings up playoffs. Regardless, he’s playing out of his mind, role players like Robert Covington and TJ McConnell have stepped up in the clutch recently, and Ben Simmons will be back before you know it. Make sure you’re sprawled out comfortably on the Sixers bandwagon because it’s about to get much more crowded.

Other Game Notes:

  • Carmelo Anthony scored a game-high 28 points, but needed 25 shots to get there and didn’t have a field goal in the last 13:29.
  • Derrick Rose scored 25 points on 11-16 shooting after not showing up for the Knicks game Monday and not even letting him know where he was or what was going on. He pulled out some vintage MVP-Rose moves, including one where he went up-and-under to the reverse side of the basket to finish at the rim against Embiid. But these types of games are too few and far between for a guy who laughably said he’s seeking a max contract after the season.
  • Ersan Ilyasova tallied 16 points on 5-16 shooting. I’m really tired of a guy of him finishing first or second on the team in field goal attempts every game, especially now that his shooting has regressed after a white-hot start with the Sixers. Ilyasova is gunning in a contract year and I hope Bryan Colangelo isn’t foolish enough to overpay him this summer.
  • Nerlens Noel was excellent again with 13 points and 8 rebounds in just 21 minutes off the bench. Nothing more needs to be said about the whole Noel vs. Okafor ordeal. Management has nowhere to hide considering Noel is not only playing better than Jahlil ever has, but the team is winning games with its new rotation.

Sixers Beat Brooklyn to Begin Playoff Push

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Philadelphia 105, Brooklyn 95 – Box Score

With a noon start Sunday following a day and night spent in New York City (including a team trip to see Hamilton!), the Sixers were unable to get into the flow of the game early on in Brooklyn. Shots weren’t falling for anyone aside from Nets center Brook Lopez, who dropped 18 of his 26 points in the first half. Brooklyn went into the locker room with a double-digit lead, at which point the Sixers must have thawed out, because they came out in the second half like a different team.

The Sixers had a huge 3rd quarter in which they outscored the Nets, 32-16. Nik Stauskas went off for 13 points in the frame (finishing with 15 on the game). With Sergio Rodriguez back from injury, Stauskas was relieved of back-up point guard duties, allowing him to concentrate on knocking down triples (3-4 on the game from behind the arc). He was so hot at one point that even Richaun Holmes was imitating pouring sauce on the ball.

After the Nets briefly retook the lead at 85-84, the Sixers closed things out with a 17-2 run. That surge was propelled by Robert Covington, who shook off another poor shooting start by scoring 9 points over that stretch, including this exclamation point on the game.

Covington’s final line was 15 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 steals. Even when his shots aren’t falling, RoCo’s defense has been on another level. The steals and deflections are a constant, and the fact that he can guard (smother, really) any player between the opposing 1-through-4 is remarkable. There have been a couple games lately where we’ve seen signs of him breaking out of his shooting funk. When that happens and he reverts to his usual level of offensive production, watch out.

Through it all, the guiding force for the Sixers was once again Joel Embiid, who finished with 20 points on 8-14 shooting. Even on top of some of his eye-popping performances, it’s crazy how consistent the rookie’s play has become. Not only is he the team’s focal point on offense, the anchor of an outstanding defense (when he’s on the court), but Embiid hasn’t even been having off nights (at least lately).

Embiid also doesn’t lack for going after lofty goals, as his quest for love should have already told you. With the team having won 3 of 4 games, he said after the win that the team still has a chance to make the playoffs. The Sixers are 7.5 games out of the 8th seed, so even though they now have a better record than Brooklyn and Miami, I’ll keep a closer eye on Markelle Fultz than a potential first round series with LeBron and company.

Still, the Sixers have already matched their win total of 10 from last season, and have one of the most dominant, charismatic, young stars in the game. Who am I to tell Joel Embiid what he can and can’t do in this world?

We’ll next see Wednesday against the Knicks.

Sixers Falter Late in Boston

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Boston 110, Philadelphia 106 – Box Score

For 24 minutes, all signs pointed towards the Sixers earning that long-awaited 3-game winning streak. Philadelphia led 62-51 heading into the locker room, Joel Embiid had 17 points, and fans in the TD Garden (in Boston) were literally chanting “Trust the Process”.

The second half saw the Celtics lock in and get hot from behind the arc. On the night, Boston knocked down a whopping 19 of 40 three-point attempts. Avery Bradley (game-high 26 points) knocked down many of his 6 threes in the third quarter, then passed the baton on Al Horford in the fourth (4-7 from three for 19 points). That hot shooting set the stage for a final sequence that came right down to the wire. Then, it was Ersan time, but not in a good way.

With the Sixers up 2 with 28 seconds and coming out of a timeout, Brett Brown inexplicably left Ersan Ilyasova in for the second game in a row on a key defensive possession. Once again, Ersan completely botched the play, this time misplaying a pick-and-roll and letting Kelly Olynyk barrel down the lane unguarded.

Unfortunately, Joel Embiid felt he should be the one to help, even though he was same-side defender tasked with guarding Horford in the short corner. Olynyk kicked it to Horford, who obviously drained the shot, and the Celtics led by one. Ersan was not done, however.

On the next possession, after a poor pass by Embiid that TJ McConnell was lucky to retrieve, Ilyasova found himself with the ball about 20 feet from the rim along the baseline. Despite the fact that there were still 7-8 seconds left, Ilyasova threw up an off-balanced heave that clanked off the iron.

Finally, after Amir Johnson hit one of two free throws, Brett Brown drew up a play to offer Ersan a chance at redemption. Ilyasova came off a screen wide open, but didn’t look like he caught the ball cleanly and ending up air-balling the potential game-winning three-point attempt. It was about the worst three-possession sequence imaginable for “The Professional”.

I generally like having Ilyasova out there with Embiid; he helps space the floor and open things up for JoJo. But he should never be taking 21 shots like he did Friday night, and he should never be in when the team is coming out of a stoppage and needs a defensive stop.

Anyway, although Embiid slowed down in the second half and struggled with foul trouble (eventually fouling out in the closing seconds), he did have finish with 23 points, going a perfect 10-10 from the foul line, and made the basket look like when a kid lowers his driveway hoop to 7-feet to mess around.

In his Boston homecoming, Nerlens Noel was the only other center Brett Brown used on the evening. Noel was outstanding defensively, rotating, sliding across pick-and-rolls, and recovering like a madman. He also had his customary (when he receives playing time) 3 blocks and 2 steals to go along with 13 points and 8 rebounds. Noel played a season-high 25 minutes, while Jahlil Okafor got the dreaded DNP-Coach’s Decision; small wonder the Sixers hung with one of the better teams in the league on the road.

Finally, TJ McConnell continued his fine play since entered the starting lineup for the injured Sergio Rodriguez, recording a career-high 17 assists (against just 2 turnovers) and 9 points. McConnell plays at such a controlled pace, finding the right angles to set others up with open looks; he also has great chemistry throwing oops to Noel.

I plan on expanding upon this in a piece for Fan Rag Sports, but I think the better teammates you place with TJ, the more he can help your team, because he is a true table setter. No surprise that having him alongside Joel Embiid lately has taken his game to the next level.

Tough to see the Sixers see this game slip through their fingers, but it was a good effort, a fun game, and the losses are still beneficial come lottery time. They should have an easier time of things Sunday in Brooklyn.

Sixers Release Hollis Thompson

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

The Process era is officially over. Though every “Trust the Process” chant for Joel Embiid will keep the spirit of Sam Hinkie alive throughout JoJo’s sure-to-be long and storied career, Hollis Thompson was the last remaining player from the opening night active roster of the 2013-14 season. Though he did not play in that game, Hollis carried the torch of that squad which upset the LeBron James-led Miami Heat, 114-110, beginning a 3-game winning streak that preceded a subsequent 3-plus years of losing. Wednesday afternoon, that torch was extinguished, as the Sixers announced Hollis Thompson’s release.

The move was a financial one, as Thompson’s $1.01M salary would have become fully guaranteed if he was still on the roster January 10th. The Sixers clearly felt there was no reason not to save that money when, as the last man on the totem pole, Thompson would have been released later when the team needed a roster spot to sign someone to a 10-day contract or facilitate a 2-for-1 trade. The move opens up even more playing team for rookie Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who had recently passed Hollis on the depth chart and looks increasingly comfortable and effective on the defensive end.

As for Thompson, he finishes his Sixers career having shot 38.9% from three. He never developed any off-the-dribble game and frequently looked lost on the defensive end, but in a league where the corpse of James Jones still earns a paycheck, teams are always looking for shooting. It’s a fairly safe bet another team will give Hollis a chance. Maybe he’ll be the next Jordan McRae, a process-era Sixer who flourishes when surrounded by better teammates, including a ball-handler who can actually distribute to shooters. It’s a shame we never got to see Hollis alongside Ben Simmons in a meaningful game.

An undrafted free agent out of Georgetown, Hollis Thompson’s career is already a success story. Much like the Sixers of the past few years, he was a plucky underdog who often frustrated, but did just enough to keep you hoping there might be something there. Good luck to him in his future destinations.

2-on-1 Fast Break Podcast: 2017 Wild Card Round

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak) & Dan Urda (@DanUrda)

Playoffs!?! That’s right, we’re talking about playoffs and we’re not kidding you. Dan is back for a Wild Card Round discussion of everything from the Connor Cook-Brock Osweiler showdown to the Packers hot streak.

Week 17 Record: 2-3; Season Record: 33-47-5.

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