Despite trading away their best player, the Philadelphia 76ers surprised many with an impressive start this season. But with one of the league's most inexperienced rosters, reality appears to be setting in.
Former 76ers guard Jrue Holiday will try to hand them their sixth loss in eight games Saturday night as they visit the New Orleans Pelicans.
On the heels of seventh-, eighth- and ninth-place finishes in the Eastern Conference in successive years, Philadelphia (5-5) opted for a massive shakeup. After four seasons with Holiday at point guard - including an All-Star selection in 2012-13 - the club dealt him to New Orleans in exchange for the rights to sixth overall pick Nerlens Noel and a first-rounder in 2014.
Holiday, who had just signed a four-year, $41 million extension last November, said he's been happy since joining the Pelicans, though it hasn't necessarily shown in his performance. His 39.8 shooting percentage and 1.65 assist-to-turnover ratio are both the worst of his career.
The fifth-year pro said he's looking forward to facing his old team.
"For sure," said Holiday, who averaged 17.7 points and 8.0 assists last season. "Obviously they still have a core group of guys who I played with, so it's definitely going to be good to compete against them."
Even without Holiday, Philadelphia won its first three games, including victories over Miami and Chicago with rookie Michael Carter-Williams averaging 20.7 and 9.0 assists. The 76ers have fallen on rough times since, dropping five of seven after a 113-103 loss in Atlanta on Friday.
They were without Carter-Williams for the second straight game due to a bruised arch in his left foot, and coach Brett Brown said he's doubtful to play Saturday.
Second-year man Tony Wroten has scored 40 points in two starts in place of Carter-Williams, but James Anderson was just 1 for 6 for two points Friday after scoring a career-high 36 in an overtime win over Houston on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Pelicans (3-6) are looking to get back on track after a winless three-game trip in which they allowed an average of 109.3 points on 52.0 percent shooting, including a 42.2-percent mark from 3-point range.
They blew a 16-point third-quarter lead in a 111-105 loss to Utah on Wednesday, giving the Jazz their first victory despite 29 points and 15 rebounds from Anthony Davis. Holiday, who had been averaging 13.1 points, had 19 - his highest total since scoring 24 in a season-opening loss to Indiana.
"We had the momentum the whole game," said Davis, one of six NBA players averaging a double-double with 21.8 points and 11.2 rebounds. "We got to make sure they have no life in them, but we let up and let them back in."
New Orleans' defense has been much better at home, limiting teams to 92.0 points per game and 42.2 percent shooting.
Coach Monty Williams said there's a chance Ryan Anderson could make his season debut after being sidelined due to a chip fracture in his toe. He averaged a team-best 16.2 points in 2012-13.
The Pelicans could use the size after losing reserve center Greg Stiemsma for six to eight weeks with a left knee injury suffered in Tuesday's loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Stiemsma had been averaging 4.6 rebounds and a block over 15.4 minutes per game.
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