76ers

Sixers Mailbag: Jahlil Okafor trade options, Fultz update, biggest surprise

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AP Images

Sixers Mailbag: Jahlil Okafor trade options, Fultz update, biggest surprise

There were so many responses to this edition of the Sixers Mailbag, that we needed a Part Two of the Q&A. Check out the answers from Part One

The Sixers have been looking for a trade partner for Jahlil Okafor for a while now. No team wants to just cut ties with a player and get nothing in return, especially when that player was a third overall pick only three drafts ago. 

I’d expect the Sixers to stay active in trying to work out a deal. Now that could include just Okafor, or it could be a package deal with Okafor and a player or Okafor and a pick to make it work. 

The tricky thing is, Okafor’s value isn’t going up. He has made it very clear he wants out of Philadelphia. He is hitting free agency next summer. On top of that, he has appeared in just two games, most recently picking up three fouls in as many minutes against the Jazz. 

There are teams around the league where he could fit in as an offensive-minded center, but it’s going to be about reaching a common ground in trade talks. 

Markelle Fultz is about halfway through the time period before his next reevaluation. The Sixers announced on Oct. 29 Fultz is out indefinitely (right shoulder soreness and scapular muscle imbalance). That day, the team also announced Fultz will be reevaluated in “approximately” three weeks by Dr. Ben Kibler, whom Fultz previously met with in Kentucky. Today is just under two weeks from that update. In the meantime, Fultz is receiving treatment with the Sixers and being monitored by the staff. 

The biggest surprise by far is how quickly the team has gelled, especially when you look at how many significant changes were made to the roster and starting five in particular.

The starting point guard is a 6-foot-10 rookie who had never played in the NBA and was coming off a season-long foot injury. Ben Simmons didn’t have trouble assuming the floor-general role, nor did he have lingering effects from his foot fracture. To date, he has recorded seven double-doubles and a pair of triple-doubles.

The Sixers implemented a new backcourt with Jerryd Bayless, also coming back from a season-long injury (wrist), and JJ Redick, who had to adjust to a whole new team. Brett Brown went with a three-guard lineup to start the season and has had success with Redick back at shooting guard and Bayless coming in off the bench.

Robert Covington, a mainstay from last season, switched from small forward to power forward to start the season. A few games in, Brown moved Covington back to the three and found a winning formula with Dario Saric starting at the four. 

Joel Embiid has played more minutes than expected (averaging 27.6) in his first month playing since knee surgery last March. That number surpasses the projection that prompted him to express frustration early on. 

The biggest disappointment has been the injury to Fultz. Another ... rookie ... injury. The Sixers are clicking, but it has been without the 2017 No. 1 pick. Fultz’s injury leaves a lot of uncertainties: How will he perform when he returns, how will his shoulder hold up, how will be fit into the Sixers' system and what does that mean for the other guards? 

In an ideal situation for the Sixers, they would be playing this well with a healthy squad so they know exactly what the team looks like when everyone is available. That helps to better plan for the future rather than waiting for questions to be answered. 

Our NBA All-Star challenge — describe Embiid in one word

Our NBA All-Star challenge — describe Embiid in one word

LOS ANGELES —  From trash talking on the court to expressing himself on social media, Joel Embiid is a player of many (many) words. So if his fellow All-Stars had to describe him in just one, what would it be? 

Draymond Green: "'Funny.' He's hilarious. The stuff he says, he goes on TV talking about (Kevin Durant's) burner account, he's talking how he's a savage. His Instagram locations, pretty funny. He's a good guy." 

Andre Drummond: "I’d probably say 'charismatic,' 'funny,' 'savage.' He don’t care, he just does what he wants to.”

Paul George: “Personality,' in all caps."

(Why all caps?)

“Because he’s a big dude.”

John Wall: "He's just 'himself.' He's very confident."

Anthony Davis: “'Savage.' Cool dude, he lives by his own rules. He’s just enjoying life and having fun.”

Jimmy Butler: "'Remarkable' in the fact that his game on the court is insane. Then the way he's always saying something to somebody on social media is really 'remarkable.'"

Bradley Beal: “'Wild.' He has no filter, he doesn’t care. That’s my boy, but he just has no remorse, doesn’t care."

LaMarcus Aldridge: “'Entertaining,' because he’s always on TV expressing how he feels. So, entertaining.”

New NBA ASG great, but what in the world was before it?

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USA Today Images

New NBA ASG great, but what in the world was before it?

This week’s serving of Rob Rants focuses on the dichotomy of the 2018 NBA All-star Game and the show that comes with it. On the court, the game was a highly entertaining, competitive, tightly fought contest that incorporated a new concept that's a winner. The league also attempted something new prior to the game. That idea did not quite work as well. 

All-Star Games 
I generally am not a fan of All-Star Games. I haven’t watched the Pro Bowl in years. Same goes for the NHL All-Star Game. I find the MLB's midsummer classic to be the most watchable of the four. Plus, they have a captive audience as there are no other options that time of year. In recent years, I’ve taken more to the NBA three-point contest and skills competition rather than the dunk contest or the game itself. Full disclosure: I watched the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday night for a few reasons. I wanted to see Joel Embiid’s first All-Star Game. I was curious about the new draft format of player selection. And my 16-year-old son who I was watching it with is a die-hard Sixers and NBA fan. So I watched all the way through. What I found were two polar-opposite productions. 

Premise
Along with ESPN’s College Gameday. I find TNT's Inside the NBA to be as good as it gets in terms of pregame shows. Ernie, Charles, Kenny, Shaq and crew were excellent as always. It’s what happened after they signed off that was a sight to be hold. 

Pregame show?
Philadelphia’s own Kevin Hart performed some type of musical/broadway play/comedy/is this really happening? Somehow Rob Riggle, the least funny man in the world, was involved. As were Jamie Foxx, Queen Latifah and Ludacris. And there were cheerleaders and wild west folk. There may have been others but at that point, I began slipping into some kind of hypnotic coma. It went on interminably long. It was the kind of thing that, if Hart was not so popular and talented, can kill a career. It was that bad. But I strangely could not pull myself away. It was car crash, rubber-necking kind of bad. 

That mercifully ended and you thought it was game time. But we still had the anthems. First, the Canadian anthem, which was followed by the Star Spangled Banner. Fergie decided that she would turn Francis Scott Key’s composition into a steamy, sultry, lounge act from back in the day. To put it kindly, she missed the mark. Charles Barkley said at halftime that he needed a cigarette after her performance. It wasn’t quite Carl Lewis or Roseanne Barr-level of terrible, but it just capped a half hour-plus of strangeness that anyone who watched was never getting back. All of this just reaffirmed why I don’t generally indulge in these exhibitions. But then something funny happened. 

The game
The NBA smartly changed formats for All-Star selection this year. The league went playground style, having two captains choose their teams. LeBron James and Steph Curry were the two captains in charge of selecting from the voted-in All-Stars. The game, unlike recent years, had a different kind of competitive feel from the jump. Yes, it had the usual array of dunks and incredible passes, which the game should have. But there was defense played and fouls taken. Strategy was employed. To the players and NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s credit, the changes were a home run. The game came down to the last possession with Team Steph having a chance to tie with a three. Team LeBron played great defense and Curry could not get a shot off, giving Team LeBron the 148-145 victory. The game had the best of both worlds — incredible athletes showing off their skills and a level of care and compete not seen in a long time. And Embiid had an excellent All-Star debut with 19 points, eight boards and a great sequence where he nailed a rainbow three-pointer and then swatted Russell Westbrook at the other end of the floor.

Lesson here: tune in at tip-off. And no more Rob Riggle. Ever.