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Give and Go: Which Sixer has been most impressive through camp, preseason?

Give and Go: Which Sixer has been most impressive through camp, preseason?

Each week, our resident basketball analysts will discuss some of the hottest topics involving the Sixers.

Running the Give and Go are NBC Sports Philadelphia anchor/reporter Marshall Harris, NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com producer/reporter Matt Haughton and NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com producer/reporter Paul Hudrick.

This week, we'll break down which Sixer has been the most impressive during training camp and preseason so far.

Harris
With all of the hype over Markelle Fultz, it's easy to forget about Jerryd Bayless. 

Bayless missed all but three games in 2016-17 with a wrist injury. However, in the preseason he has shown exactly what Brett Brown expected from the guard last season when he signed with the Sixers as free agent. In two preseason contests, Bayless has put up 19 points on 7 for 12 shooting from the field (4 for 8 from three-point range), five rebounds, four assists and just one turnover.

The question becomes now just how large of a role will he have on this team? He's better than Fultz at the moment, but Brown has stressed development and winning as being mutually exclusive. 

With 10 of their first 14 games on the road, playing Bayless more over Fultz makes sense if the Sixers are trying to avoid a 4-10 or 5-9 start. 

Yes, it could be that bad if you're relying on a Fultz-Ben Simmons backcourt defensively with Joel Embiid's availability on a nightly basis a giant question mark.

Haughton
A wise man named Uncle Drew once said the name of the game is to get buckets.

With all of the trade speculation and health questions surrounding Jahlil Okafor, it was easy to forget that the big man can flat out put the ball in the basket.

Through two preseason games, the slimmed-down Okafor has posted 24 points on a red-hot 10 for 13 shooting (76.9 percent). More importantly, he has shown a willingness to hit the glass with six boards in each game.

While Okafor will never be confused with a good defender, the big man's 20-pound weight loss has at least helped him be a little more active on that end.

You can never have enough scoring, and the Sixers should certainly benefit from bringing a healthy Okafor's offensive punch off the bench behind Embiid.

Hudrick
I'll be the guy who takes the obvious pick and choose Simmons.

That first quarter against Memphis was breathtaking. Sure, the Grizzlies' lineup that night was obviously not loaded with stars, but consider what Simmons has dealt with. He hadn't played an actual basketball game since the 2016 summer league. He finished Wednesday night with nine assists and just one turnover. Damn impressive for an NBA rookie who's never truly played the point guard position.

Friday night's loss to the Celtics was certainly a little disappointing, but these are the lumps Simmons will have to take. Especially when facing quality opponents like Boston. Then there's the obvious: the shot has to get better. I'm not talking threes. If he can learn to hit 12-foot pull ups, he could be unstoppable. 

Simmons is an example of why fans focused on the playoffs need to pump the brakes just a tad. Simmons will have plenty of games like Wednesday's but will also have a few like Friday's. Just enjoy the ride.

'Dots don't connect' for Sixers on inbound confusion

'Dots don't connect' for Sixers on inbound confusion

Of all the scenarios that transpired over the Sixers’ triple-overtime loss to the Thunder on Friday, there is one moment that stands out.

Fast-forward to the end of the second overtime. The Sixers had the opportunity to take the final shot after Dario Saric grabbed a defensive rebound. Joel Embiid motioned for a timeout before Saric put the ball on the floor. 

The Sixers huddled and prepared for a half-court play they had practiced before, confident they could execute it with 1.2 seconds on the game clock.

However, as they went to set up, the officials told them the inbound was actually full court. Saric had dribbled the ball before the timeout was called, they were told. That change wiped out the play they had initially planned. 

“They asked us what side of the floor did we want to advance it to, and so we told them,” Brett Brown said. “We drew up a play to try to score. Then we walked out and they said no you can’t advance it, it goes full court. When you look at the tape, you can see Joel and myself calling a timeout with 1.2 seconds. They said Dario dribbled, yet there were still 1.2 seconds. The dots don’t connect.”

The last-second shift in inbound position left the Sixers scrambling. Embiid said the team was “caught off guard.” Ben Simmons considered the call to be “huge.” 

“We weren’t told that we couldn’t progress the ball up the floor until we actually had to run the play,” Simmons said. “That kind of messed us up. We got into a late play, which didn’t convert.” 

The Sixers didn’t connect on their final possession. There’s no guarantee the shot would have gone in, but they would have been prepared to get a good look. 

“[It changed] everything,” Robert Covington said. 

Instead of pulling off a last-second game-winner, the Sixers went into triple overtime. They were edged out by two points, 119-117 (see game recap)

"That kind of like messed up in our minds, but that’s not an excuse," Embiid said. "We shouldn’t have an excuse for losing that game."

Joel Embiid won't back down in his house

Joel Embiid won't back down in his house

BOX SCORE

Joel Embiid’s Tour de Trash Talking continued Friday night in the Sixers’ triple-overtime loss to the Thunder.

Two days after an Instagram exchange with friend Karl-Anthony Towns, things got chippier against the Thunder veterans. Embiid swapped words with both Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook. 

Westbrook took exception when Embiid waved goodbye to Steven Adams when the Thunder center fouled out, and the reigning MVP sent a message of his own after the game. 

“He told me to go home,” Embiid said. “And this is my home and I ain’t going nowhere.”

Embiid said he gave the Thunder credit for the 119-117 win (see observations), but took a jab at Westbrook’s individual performance. Even though Westbrook recorded a 27-point, 18-rebound, 15-assist triple-double, he shot just 30 percent in the effort. 

“The dude shot like 10 for 33,” Embiid said. “I wish I would have shot 33 times. I guess we would have had a better chance of actually winning the game.”

Embiid told Westbrook he would see him in Oklahoma City. The Sixers play the Thunder on the road Jan. 28. 

“I’m not about to get into back and forth with him,” Westbrook said, according to The Oklahoman. “I’m not about to give him my energy.”

Before Embiid had words with Westbrook, there was chatter between him and Anthony.

With the Sixers down seven and 2:26 on the clock, Embiid banked in a hook shot as he was fouled by Anthony (see highlights). After the bucket, Embiid shouted “and-one” several times in Anthony’s direction, which led to some jawing between the pair. 

Embiid reiterated he isn’t going to back down, nor is he concerned about these exchanges turning physical. 

“He just said something like, ‘Don’t do this with me,’ or something like that,” Embiid said. “I’m like, ‘Dude, you’re not going to do anything. You fouled me. I had the and-one on you.’ 

“Guys in the league, I can’t remember the last time someone actually threw a punch on somebody. I’m not worried about anybody. I’ve seen out there a lot, all over the place about people talking about people coming back at me. I’m African, so don’t try me.”

Embiid has been involved in trash talking with players around the league, from Towns to Draymond Green, Hassan Whiteside to Andre Drummond. Each time, he emphasizes the exchanges are conversations, not altercations. 

"I’m having fun," Embiid said. "What goes on the court, stays on the court. I don’t think I ever disrespect anybody."