76ers

Sixers notes, quotes and tidbits: Joel Embiid targeting season opener

Sixers notes, quotes and tidbits: Joel Embiid targeting season opener

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid is impacting the Sixers without yet playing full-court basketball. Embiid is limited to half-court 5-on-5, which is enough for him to make a difference.

“His physical presence and how competitive he is is a powerful combination,” Brett Brown said. “You put somebody that competitive and that big on a court, he’s different. And he changed practice today.”

Brown said Embiid “looked good” as the center continues his recovery from knee surgery in March. The Sixers head coach noted the change in spacing when Embiid is on the court. Embiid is targeting Oct. 18, opening night, to make his return.

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot also participated in half-court 5-on-5. He has been dealing with right knee patellar tendinitis. 

“Timmy looked like he hasn’t played in awhile,” Brown said. 

Fultz's shooting a non-issue?
Markelle Fultz’s shot has become a hot storyline in the first week of the preseason. The rookie is experimenting with his form, which has sparked video analysis and debate over his offense. So are people reading too much into these adjustments (which could end up being temporary)? Brett Brown thinks so. 

“Everybody’s looking into it. It’s shocking to me,” Brown said. “He’s a young guy that’s trying to come into the league and make improvements. All the other stuff that he does, people just really find interest in this. 

“In some ways, I don’t completely not understand it. But I feel like all the guys have had issues with trying to grow their game. Developing Markelle, for me, is obviously huge. We will continue to work on his shot.”

Brown's 'soft spot' for Okafor
Jahlil Okafor was back on the court for practice Monday the day after participating in the team’s scrimmage at the Palestra. Okafor, whose past season was cut short because of right knee soreness, said he felt “a little bit” sore Monday morning but was OK once he got warmed up in practice. 

Sixers fans gave Okafor a loud ovation during the scrimmage, which wasn’t lost on the third-year center. 

“It was great to hear,” Okafor said.

Brown also was glad to observe the fans’ response. Okafor’s time in Philadelphia has been up-and-down between injuries, trade talks and an inconsistent role. 

“I have so much sort of personal affection for him and respect in the way that he’s handled some things,” Brown said. “He hasn’t cried once. He comes in, he’s a hell of a teammate … I’ve got a real sort of soft spot for Jahlil.” 

Redick learning the ropes
When players join a new team, usually it is the veterans who show them the ropes. In the case of JJ Redick, he was signed by the Sixers to be a veteran leader and still needs to learn his way around. 

“I’m trying to figure it out,” Redick said. “That’s the only thing that’s kind of been weird this week is just kind of dealing with the unfamiliar. It’s been actually kind of fun. But it’s been surreal at times kind of going through a different camp with a different program.”

The 33-year-old Redick is entering his 11th NBA season. For such a lengthy career, he hasn’t moved around the league that frequently. He played six-plus years for the Magic, 28 games for the Bucks, and the last four years for the Clippers. Redick signed a one-year, $23 million contract with the Sixers in July and hopes to be with the team beyond this season (see story).  

“He has fit in great,” Brown said. “I am so happy he is in this program.” 

'Playing like a high school team' plaguing Sixers during losing streak

'Playing like a high school team' plaguing Sixers during losing streak

NEW ORLEANS — The Sixers have hit a four-game skid and there is not a clearly defined way out of it thanks to a laundry list of injuries.

“I think it’s painfully obvious,” Brett Brown said of what needs to be done. “Let’s get our better players back in a uniform.”

The Sixers have to play their best with their pieces available down two starters (Joel Embiid, Robert Covington) and a key bench player (T.J. McConnell).

There are adjustments that can be made to prevent a losing streak from spiraling the Sixers down in the standings.

“We need to be just smarter,” Dario Saric said. “I know we are a young team. I know are playing without Joel, without our very important players … we need to find a way. We need to be more calm down, don’t be nervous, especially on defense.” 

Saric pointed to the Sixers’ late-game defense in their 131-124 loss to the Pelicans (see observations). They were tied with eight minutes to play before the Pelicans hit threes on their next four straight possessions. Jrue Holiday drained four treys himself during a five-minute stretch to push the lead to 11. The Sixers were outscored 44-29 in the fourth quarter.

“In that situation, to me, we are playing like a high school team,” Saric said. “That cannot happen. We need to be smarter at that point. I hope we will grow up and we will be mentally ready for that last five, six, seven minutes.”

The Sixers also were in the position to come back Saturday in Cleveland. They trailed the Cavaliers, 99-98, with 1:39 to play and did not score after that point.

It was during that final stretch when Covington landed out of bounds and suffered a lower back contusion. A day later, Embiid was a late scratch because of lower back tightness (see story). McConnell has missed five of the last six games with a left shoulder injury.

“We’ve got to be consistent with making the right plays every time,” Ben Simmons said. “It’s hard to make mistakes without those guys there. When you make mistakes and you don’t have Jo or Cov and guys like that to make up for that, it’s tough. But we’ve got to just come together as a team and get through it.” 

The Sixers don't have it easy their next two games. They face the Timberwolves (16-11) Tuesday in Minnesota when Embiid said he expects to play but has not been cleared. Covington is doubtful, while McConnell's status is to be determined. The Sixers return home Friday from a three-game road trip to host the Thunder (12-13).

Joel Embiid: 'If it was the Finals, I'm sure I could have gone'

Joel Embiid: 'If it was the Finals, I'm sure I could have gone'

BOX SCORE

NEW ORLEANS — Joel Embiid is trying to kick back tightness he has been dealing with since Thursday.

Embiid was a late scratch for the Sixers in Sunday's 131-124 loss to the Pelicans (see observations). He said he began to experience the tightness while playing Thursday against the Lakers. Embiid received treatment during the game but felt "pretty sore" after.

The big man already was slated to miss one of the two back-to-backs in Cleveland and New Orleans because of his medical restriction. He sat Saturday, but when he warmed up pregame Sunday, he still didn’t feel healthy enough to go.

“I tried to warm up earlier but I couldn't,” Embiid said. “If it was the Finals, I'm sure I could have gone. But we've got 82 games and they don't want me to push if I'm not a hundred percent, so that's what I did.”

The Sixers need Embiid (23.5 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.0 blocks) back on the court. They have dropped to 13-13 on a four-game losing streak, including these last two without him. Embiid is an integral part of the Sixers’ defense, especially against a Pelicans team with DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis in the frontcourt. The two bigs combined for 52 points, 17 rebounds and six blocks. 

Embiid said he expects to play in the Sixers' next game, Tuesday in Minnesota. Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns is posting 19.8 points, 11.6 boards and 1.3 blocks per game this season. Embiid still has to work out Monday before that his availability. In the meantime, he is receiving massage treatment.

“I just got to keep resting for a couple days and see how it feels day-by-day,” Embiid said. “But it's been getting better. It's a lot, much better.”

Embiid is the latest Sixers to be added to the list of injuries. Robert Covington suffered a lower back contusion Saturday and is doubtful for Tuesday (see story). T.J. McConnell continues to be hampered by a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder. He has missed five of his last six games. Markelle Fultz (right shoulder) and Justin Anderson (left leg) are weeks out from another reevaluation.