Sports Tonight: Sixers' 'load management' strains Jazz fans

Joel Embiid, here sitting next to Ben Simmons (left) during a preseason game in October, will be doing a lot more sitting tonight.

A few seasons ago, I said the San Antonio Spurs had practically committed consumer fraud by sitting out a heathy Tim Duncan for the team’s only game in Philadelphia.

For decades, the NBA’s marketing strategy has been promoting star players and not teams. Fans buy tickets in large part to see star players on other teams.

When the Sixers play at the Utah Jazz at 9 tonight on NBCSP, they should get a fine from the Consumer Protection Agency. They are sitting out Joel Embiid, one of the brightest young stars in the Association, for something they call “load management – i.e. “rest.”

I understand the Sixers’ primary goal is to ensure that Embiid has a long, healthy and productive career. At this stage, management of his playing time is still part of the plan. This is the start of a five-game Western Conference swing.

The Sixers, however, last played Friday. This is their only trip to Salt Lake City. NBA fans in Utah deserved their opportunity to see the exciting young tandem of Embiid and rookie Ben Simmons live.

The Sixers might end up outsmarting themselves. In 2001, Larry Brown sat his starters for the final game of the regular season against a 14-win Chicago Bulls team. That loss cost them home-court advantage in the 2001 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Sixers flew immediately to L.A. after an exhausting seven-game series against the Milwaukee Bucks instead of the Lakers’ coming to Philadelphia.

If the Sixers lose to the Jazz and end up dropping a seed in the playoffs or missing out altogether by one game, “load management” could end up biting them in the rear.

 

Camera icon Nick Wass / AP
Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) reacts to a call to referee Haywoode Workman (66) during the first half against the Wizards on Friday.

Slow start has Cavaliers bugging out

The Cleveland Cavaliers are “team turmoil” for the early part of the NBA season. Coach Tyronn Lue said the team “should be embarrassed,” and veteran guard Dwyane Wade said blame the starters for always putting the team in a hole early in games.

LeBron James has resorted to posting cartoon characters on social media to express his building anger. Wade responded with 14 crying-with-laughter emojis.

The three-time reigning Eastern Conference champions have lost five of their last six games entering their matchup with the Bucks at 7 tonight on NBA TV. Milwaukee has lost three straight and four of the last five.

Somebody has to score for bad teams, and Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (31.0 ppg) and James (28.8) are, respectively, first and fourth in scoring – that’s sarcasm.

 

Camera icon ESPN Films
Poster for “Nature Boy,” ESPN’s newest “30 for 30” entry, about beloved, troubled wrestler Ric Flair, directed by Philadelphia’s Rory Karpf. It premieres tonight.

What I’m reading

Woooo! Staff writer Vaughn Johnson previews the ESPN “30 for 30” film “Nature Boy,” which premieres at 10 tonight on ESPN. If you need me to explain who the “Nature Boy” is, I suggest you watch because I can’t do him justice.

Carson Wentz understands that the Eagles cannot win a Super Bowl without great play from their quarterback. Staff writer Zach Berman says Wentz will go into the bye knowing he has to improve upon his already stellar play.

The Eagles have been the best team in football, and staff writer Les Bowen says the team needs to understand the increased expectations it’ll face after the bye.

Ben Simmons’ getting his jersey ripped off during routine play under the basket isn’t the only incident of the new Nike-made NBA jerseys falling apart. The company, which paid $1 billion for exclusive rights, acknowledges that it’s an embarrassing issue that must be addressed.

Jahlil Okafor has no trade value, but his name keeps popping up as a great fit for some teams. With the Milwaukee Bucks trading center Greg Monroe, Bryan Kalbrosky at Hoopshype.com adds them to the Okafor list, which also includes Boston Celtics, Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls.

Camera icon BRANDON DILL / AP
Warriors coach Steve Kerr stands on the sideline during the first half against the Memphis Grizzlies on Oct. 21.

The riff

Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr spoke about the tragic killing of 26 churchgoers in Texas by saying that to solve gun violence, Americans “almost have to look at it as a public health issue.”

It’s not Kerr’s degree from the University of Arizona that makes him qualified to speak on gun violence. It’s real-life tragedy.

When Kerr was a freshman at Arizona, his father, Malcolm, who was serving as president of the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, was murdered by gunfire outside his office in 1984.

“Too often, we get caught up in political rhetoric, Second Amendment rights, NRA stuff,” Kerr said. “We have to look at this as it having nothing to do with partisanship, political parties. It’s got to be a public safety issue, a public health issue. Which means a lot of things we can do without taking away people’s Second Amendment rights.”

Politicians, who refuse to do a thing despite 85 Americans’ being killed by just two gunmen in mass shootings in about a month, would say Kerr is politicizing a tragedy.

I’d say he is speaking from the pain of experience.

Tonight’s schedule

TV/Radio

NBA
Bucks at Cavaliers, 7 p.m. (NBA TV)
76ers at Jazz, 9 p.m. (NBCSN; WPEN-FM 97.5)
Thunder at Kings, 10 p.m. (NBA TV)

NHL
Capitals at Sabres, 7 p.m. (NBCSN)
Kings at Ducks, 10 p.m. (NBCSN)

College Football
Akron at Miami (Ohio), 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Bowling Green at Buffalo, 7:30 p.m. (ESPNU)

Golf on Golf Channel
LPGA: Blue Bay, 11 p.m.

Baseball
Gold Gloves award show, 9 p.m. (ESPN)