76ers Blog: Pre-Game Notes ~ 3/10/2014 @ New York Knicks
3/10/2014 7:14:00 PM
The 76ers (15-47; 5th-Atlantic Division, 14th-Eastern Conference) make the short trip up to Madison Square Garden to play the New York Knicks (24-40; 3rd-Atlantic Division, T10th-Eastern Conference) for the third time this season. So far, the series is tied at a game apiece. Tonight's road game breaks up a home-heavy stretch on the Sixers' schedule, during which the team has four out of five games at the Wells Fargo Center.
Even though the they ended up dropping a 104-92 decision to the Utah Jazz, the Sixers showed solid resolve on Saturday. Trailing by nine points with 9:30 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Sixers set out on an 18-7 run that forced a 91-91 tie with just under 3:00 to play. The Sixers then managed to score just one point the rest of the way, finishing the night 0-7 from the field, perhaps a reflection of the amount of energy that was expended during the come-from-behind bid. The loss was the Sixers' 16th in a row. The Charlotte Bobcats were the last team in the NBA to fall in 17 consecutive games, doing so last season.
The New York Knicks opened March in the midst of a plunge that seemed destined to knock them out of post-season contention. New York, however, with 18 games remaining on its schedule, has moved to within three and a half games of the eighth and final playoff-eligible spot in the feeble Eastern Conference's standings. The Knicks have won three straight games - their longest streak in a month - on the heels of a seven-game slide. Carmelo Anthony - ranking second in the NBA in scoring, with 28.1 points per game - has almost single-handedly kept New York afloat. Recently, he's gotten some help, as J.R. Smith and Amar'e Stoudamire - two veterans that have had inconsistent seasons - have stepped up.
This season, the 76ers have prioritized building for the long-term, committing to the discovery and development of talent deemed worthy of keeping around for future seasons. A case could be made that Tony Wroten - lacking a heralded pedigree and coming off a relatively quiet rookie season with the Memphis Grizzlies - has been the team's most unexpected find. Several facets of Wroten's game are still raw, and - at times - reckless, but his ability to routinely lift the Sixers via bench scoring has proven to be a productive trait.
With Michael Carter-Williams having a difficult offensive night in Saturday's loss to Utah, Wroten helped fuel the Sixers' fourth-quarter comeback push. He finished with a career-best 30-point performance.
"I'm not perfect. You want to be a perfectionist. I still need to work on everything," Worten told reporters following Sunday's practice at the Haverford School. "In this league, it's the best of the best. This is a grown man's league. There aren't no nights off. Some nights you're going to be tired, but your opponents aren't going to give you no days off. You got to bring it every night."
As Wroten concentrates on further expanding his skill set, his head coach has convinced him to address one area in particular.
"In the beginning, I was definitely more towards the offense, but with Brett Brown coming from San Antonio, you aren't going to play if you don't play defense," Wroten said. "Once I got here, and coach Brown started coaching me, I started to taking defense more seriously and started to make it a priority."
Wroten is averaging 13.3 points through 55 games this season. For Memphis last year, he managed just 2.6 points per game in 35 appearances as a reserve.
New York has 18 games left on its 2013-2014 schedule. That stretch could potentially represent the end of Carmelo Anthony's three and a half year stint with the organization. Maybe not-so-coincidentally, there were reports that surfaced over the weekend that the Knicks had made contact with Phil Jackson about not only becoming the team's next head coach, but also the person in charge of its basketball operations.
While Jackson passed on taking the head coaching offer, he is apparently interested in a front office position, and has kept a line of communication open with New York's management. As of this afternoon, the two sides seemed to be getting closer to reaching terms for a contract. The New York Daily News expected a deal to be finalized before the end of the day.
Just to briefly recap Jackson's credentials, he coached in the NBA for 20 years before retiring in 2011. He lead his teams to 13 appearances in the NBA Finals, winning six titles with the Chicago Bulls, and five more championships with the Los Angeles Lakers. The 68-year old Hall of Famer's all-time record stands at 1,155 - 485.