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.” 

Sixers refuse to look at silver lining from season-opening loss

Sixers refuse to look at silver lining from season-opening loss

BOX SCORE

WASHINGTON — In years past, overcoming a 12-point deficit and trailing a playoff-contending team by just two points with a minute to go would be considered an “A for effort” for the Sixers

If they held their own against a more experienced team and didn’t get dominated by John Wall, a 120-115 loss on the road wasn’t really that bad … was it?

Not this season.

The Sixers are in a new phase, one with actual pieces versus promising potential. With that comes higher expectations to win, and it starts in the locker room after the first game. 

“I don’t like taking positives from losses,” JJ Redick said. “We need to clean up a lot of stuff. We need to be better. It takes a lot to win in this league. We need to figure that out, and we will. We are good enough to do that.” 

The Sixers were in Wednesday's game until the end (see observations). They withstood the combined 53 points from Wall and Bradley Beal with a 29-point performance by Robert Covington and double-doubles from Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons (see studs, duds, more).

The team acknowledged it had a chance to win. Yes, there were encouraging moments. No, they weren’t hanging their heads and writing off the season after opening night. 

At the same time, they are not ignoring the missteps that landed them in the loss column. Those are the turning points to learn from this season. 

The Sixers gave up just three points off four turnovers in the first half. The second half was a different story: 20 points off 13 turnovers. Down two points late in the fourth, the Sixers committed a pair of turnovers in a span of 30 seconds that hindered them from closing the gap. Those errors have been a focal point of conversation among the players. 

“Too many turnovers. That's big,” Embiid said (more on him here). “That's been the talk in the locker room. Got to work on that.”

The Sixers have one day of practice before facing the Celtics and Raptors in back-to-back games. It's just a small taste of what's to come in a stacked schedule over the first two months of the season. The attitude is be good enough to win, not good enough to compete. 

“We’re not going to try to lose this season and take a bunch of positives from that,” Redick said. “We’re trying to win. We’re trying to be in the playoffs this year. That’s got to be the mindset.”

Joel Embiid 'surprised' by amount of playing time in Sixers' opener

Joel Embiid 'surprised' by amount of playing time in Sixers' opener

WASHINGTON — In the end, Joel Embiid’s playing time was a non-issue.

After days of frustration leading up to opening night, Embiid played just three seconds shy of 27 minutes against the Wizards. That far surpassed the 16 minutes he anticipated a day earlier on Tuesday (see story)

“I was surprised,” Embiid said following the Sixers’ 120-115 loss on Wednesday night (see observations). “I was expecting way less than that, but it just shows you they trust me.”

Brett Brown had maintained Embiid’s minutes were going to be more flexible than last year and he wasn’t locked into a specific number by the medical staff. Initially, Brown projected Embiid would play somewhere in the teens, but the game presented an opportunity for him to log more. 

Embiid had played 21:38 through three quarters and it seemed, based on last season, he was done for the night. The coaching staff calculated Embiid had over 20 minutes to rest between the third and the fourth quarters, so Brown put him back into the game with just over five minutes to play. He finished the game with 18 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, a block and four turnovers (see highlights).

“It’s a range,” Brown said. “It’s more of a plan that we have this year than a restriction. When you look at and you feel the flow of the game, that’s where the variables come in.”

Embiid wants open lines of communication between him and the medical staff — for him to know what its planning and for him to be honest about how he is feeling.

“It’s on me to not lie to them and tell them how my body feels when I’m tired,” Embiid said. “At some point through the game I was tired and I told them to take me out.”

Embiid is ready for a new outlook on his availability moving forward. 

“We’ve got to stop calling it 'minutes restrictions,'" Embiid said. "There’s a plan with that — it’s just go out and play. If you’re tired, get out because injuries happen more often when you’re tired.”