76ers

Jacob Pullen's contract converted to 2-way deal as Sixers make series of roster moves

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Jacob Pullen's contract converted to 2-way deal as Sixers make series of roster moves

UPDATED: 6:35 p.m.

The Sixers made a series of moves to shape their roster five days before the start of the regular season.

The team converted the contract of point guard Jacob Pullen to a two-way deal. In this new contract created by the league for this season, Pullen will play for the Delaware 87ers in the G League and can spend a maximum of 45 days with the Sixers (excluding time with the Sixers before the Sevens’ training camp). Each NBA team can sign two players to this deal. The Sixers previously inked James Michael McAdoo to one.

Pullen came to Sixers' training camp with a lengthy international resume. He averaged 2.8 points and 1.0 assists in 6.8 minutes in four games during the preseason.

“He's been an A-plus teammate, A-plus worker, no back down,” Brett Brown said of Pullen Friday (see story). “I think all those things have made him a really professional addition to our roster.”

The Sixers also waived six players: guards Andrew Andrews and James Blackmon Jr., forwards Kris Humphries, Marc Loving and James Webb III and center Emeka Okafor.

Initially, Humphries seemed like he had a chance to break into the roster. At 32, he could bring a veteran presence to the bench. He was physical in early practices and the scrimmage at the Palestra, looking like someone who could push his younger teammates competitively. Humphries, though, scored three points in as many preseason games and did not make an impact on the court.

Okafor was attempting an NBA comeback with the Sixers. He suffered a herniated cervical disc in 2013 and had not played in the league since then. The veteran was a long shot to make the team, but the Sixers needed depth at the center position because of the restrictions on Joel Embiid and later the wrist injury of Richaun Holmes. The 35-year-old Okafor will play in the G League for the 87ers, according to a report from ESPN's Ian Begley.

Blackmon Jr. had been with the Sixers since their minicamp in June. He played for their summer league teams as well. Blackmon Jr. averaged 3.0 points in 5.6 minutes over four preseason games.

Webb III is a familiar face within the organization. He went through Sixers training camp last year and played for the 87ers last season. Webb averaged 13.1 points and 9.3 rebounds in 34.8 minutes before suffering a season-ending ankle injury in March.

Andrews, a guard, averaged 14.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game for Best Balikesir Basketbol Kulubu of the Turkish Basketball Super League last season. He played four years at Washington, the same school as Markelle Fultz.

The forward Loving went undrafted out of Ohio State this summer. He played four seasons of collegiate basketball and averaged 12.3 points and 4.7 rebounds as a senior.

The Sixers open the regular season Wednesday night in Washington, D.C. against the Wizards.

Sixers use stifling defense to blow out Trail Blazers

Sixers use stifling defense to blow out Trail Blazers

BOX SCORE

The Sixers blew out the Trail Blazers by 20 points and reached the 10-win mark, their 2015-16 total, 17 games into the season (see observations)

Still, when Brett Brown assessed their 101-81 victory, he did so with a non-complacent eye. Not getting wrapped up in a win in November keeps the team even-keeled and focused. 

“I would give us an A on defense and like a C-minus on offense,” Brown said. “We’re happy with [the record], but we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

The Sixers held the Trail Blazers scoreless for the first seven minutes of the game (16-0) (see video). They notably restricted C.J. McCollum to only five points, 16 below his average. 

“I think we’re just very consistent on defense,” Ben Simmons said. 

Brown noticed room for improvement on the other end: committing less turnovers (18), finding Joel Embiid (28 points) more often, taking better-advised threes (3 for 11 in the first quarter) and minimizing possessions during which they didn’t get a shot attempt. Expect the team to focus on these areas so it doesn’t get ahead of itself for the next game on Saturday. 

“If you said you could have offense versus bad defense,” Brown said, “I would take the bad offense and have good defense any day of the week.” 

Embiid surpassing Thanksgiving milestone
Brown uses different points in the season as milestones. He eyed Thanksgiving as a checkpoint when it came to Embiid’s fitness level. Well, the holiday is here and Embiid has been averaging 32 minutes in his last five games. 

“He has exceeded my expectations to date kind of all over the place,” Brown said.

Embiid has been playing minute restriction-free. He has sat out only two games after appearing in 31 last season. Embiid is averaging 22.7 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.9 blocks and 0.8 steals in 29 minutes per game. He delivered a monster block on Damian Lillard that nearly shot the ball out of the arena. 

“Not to be cocky, but I think I’m the best defensive player in the league right now,” Embiid said.

The big man projected his fitness level is at 81 percent with room to improve. 

“It’s not all the way there but I think it’s getting better,” Embiid said. “I’ve still got to work on a lot of things, but it’s getting there. I can’t wait to be at a hundred percent.”

“We-Want-Ok-A-For” 
With a 20-point lead and the game wrapped up, the Sixers' home crowd broke out into a chant. Only it wasn’t “Trust the Process.” It was “We want Okafor.” Brett Brown didn’t nudge out of consideration to Jahlil Okafor, who has appeared in two games this season. 

“I don’t think it’s fair,” Brown said. “I think you get into a playing rhythm, a playing routine and that’s fair. To just hoist somebody a little tiny window of minutes isn’t something that interests me. I say that out of respect to him. I don’t think that puts him in a position that I want to put him in.”

Okafor is out of the Sixers’ rotation and their future plans since the team declined to exercise his player option. Okafor has made it clear he wants to be traded or bought out so he can find an opportunity to play. 

Embiid heard the chants and would like his close friend to be the court too, but at the same time gets the team’s game plan at this point. 

“I just want what’s best for him,” Embiid said. “I think he’s really good offensively. Defensively I think he’s gotten so much better, even in rebounding. I think he deserves a chance. But it’s hard. It’s business. We’ve been playing so well and I understand the coaches and the front office want to keep the same lineup because we’ve been playing so well.” 

Best of NBA: Celtics' 16-game winning streak snapped by Heat

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Best of NBA: Celtics' 16-game winning streak snapped by Heat

MIAMI — Goran Dragic scored 27 points, Dion Waiters had 26 with a pair of big 3-pointers in the final minutes and the Miami Heat held on to beat Boston 104-98 on Wednesday night, snapping the Celtics' 16-game winning streak.

Tyler Johnson scored 16 points for Miami, which saw what was an 18-point lead cut to one in the final moments. The Heat shot 49 percent and outrebounded the Celtics 48-37.

Kyrie Irving scored 23 points for Boston. Jayson Tatum added 18, and Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris each had 14.

The Celtics got down by 18 in the first half, which has been a very comfortable place for Boston so far this season. Boston had overcome 18-point deficits against Oklahoma City and Charlotte, a 17-point hole against Golden State, a 16-pointer against Atlanta and rallied from 13 down to win in Dallas this week.

They almost did it again (see full recap)

Barnes' 30-footer at the horn lifts Mavs over Grizzlies
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Harrison Barnes banked in a 30-footer at the buzzer to give the Dallas Mavericks a 95-94 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night.

Officials reviewed the play to make sure the shot got off in time. Memphis suffered its sixth straight loss after squandering an 18-point lead in the first half.

Barnes led the Mavericks with 22 points, nine of them coming in the fourth quarter to help Dallas thwart a late Memphis comeback. Dennis Smith Jr. finished with 17 points, and J.J. Barea had 10 points and 11 assists.

Tyreke Evans led Memphis with 18 points, and Marc Gasol and Deyonta Davis finished with 14 points each (see full recap).

Westbrook's 34 points lead Thunder past Durant's Warriors
OKLAHOMA CITY — Russell Westbrook scored a season-high 34 points and added 10 rebounds and nine assists to help the Oklahoma City Thunder roll past the Golden State Warriors, 108-91 on Wednesday night.

It was Oklahoma City's first win over the Warriors since Kevin Durant left the Thunder to join the Warriors after the 2015-16 season. Golden State won all four meetings last season by an average of nearly 20 points.

Westbrook said it was just another game in the buildup, but he didn't play like it. At one point in the third quarter, Westbrook and Durant went forehead to forehead and were called for double technicals.

Westbrook's new All-Star teammates came through. Carmelo Anthony scored 22 points and Paul George added 20 (see full recap)

Howard, Hornets rally to beat Wizards in overtime
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte Hornets keep finding ways to win at home.

Now if Dwight Howard and his teammates can figure out how to win away from Charlotte they might become a very dangerous team.

Howard had 26 points and 13 rebounds, including a key block at the end of regulation and a crucial offensive rebound in overtime, in the Hornets' 129-124 victory over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.

The Hornets improved to 7-2 at home. But they're still below .500 overall because of a 1-7 road record (see full recap)