76ers

Amid busy summer, Justin Anderson eager for 1st full season with Sixers

usa-justin-anderson-sixers.jpg
USA Today Images

Amid busy summer, Justin Anderson eager for 1st full season with Sixers

Justin Anderson has been busy this summer. Training, getting to know his new teammates, traveling to China with the Yao Ming Foundation, finally getting settled into an apartment in Philadelphia instead of a hotel. 

His time also included appearing at the Sixers' Camden Youth Basketball Clinic, twice in three days this week. Jahlil Okafor also attended on the second day. 

“For me to even be invited is dear to me,” Anderson said. 

The camp, presented by Virtua, hosted over 900 children from the Camden, New Jersey area. It included basketball drills, dance lessons and fitness tests. Anderson addressed the campers and stressed the importance of health, respecting parents and school. He handed out boxes of Nike sneakers as well.

Anderson held a demonstration wherein campers stood on a basketball. Each second they could balance on the ball represented one season in the NBA. Then, he asked them to stand on a stack of textbooks. Each second represented a year of opportunities afforded to them because of their education. The seconds on the books far outlasted the seconds on the basketball. 

“It’s such a vital moment for them education-wise,” Anderson said. “I just want to put myself in a position to be a role model, be a mentor, and open up and allow these kids to see it’s cool to be in school, it’s cool to have fun with it, and also be able to be a good athlete as well.”

Anderson showed a natural ability to connect with the campers and lead a crowd. He plans to bring those aspects to the Sixers this season, too. 

“We want to make as strong of a playoff push as we can, and we really do confidently believe that we can make that happen,” he said. 

Anderson was traded in mid-February from the Mavericks in the Nerlens Noel deal and basically lived out of a suitcase for the remainder of the season. He considers not being settled for those months “the toughest moment” of his NBA career. Anderson can relate to those who are new to the team and aims to help them get acclimated. 

“[I want to] show these guys that even though I’m only 23 years old, I’m a leader in my own type of way,” he said. 

He looks to bring an even-keeled approach to the season. The Sixers are positioned to make a noticeable improvement from last season’s 28-54 record. Anderson understands this doesn’t always happen overnight. 

“Expectations are for us to go through growing pains but us to have fun going through them,” he said. “Us understanding that we’re going to create an identity of being very tough, hard-nosed under Coach (Brett) Brown. Obviously, we have a lot of young talent trying to figure it out, along with myself. But the best thing is being able to grow together.”

On the court, Anderson wants to contribute versatility on both ends. He could earn the backup small forward role behind Robert Covington, and also has the ability to play multiple positions. Last season, Anderson averaged 8.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 24 games for the Sixers. He started the final eight games in place of Covington (knee). 

“I think my role is going to be one that allows to play different positions, guard multiple positions, being able to shoot the ball from deep, close, whatever the case may be,” Anderson said. “My athleticism being off the charts and being that energy guy who’s going to be one that brings that spark to the team. I’m just excited.”

Anderson is ready to get the season underway. He’s simply looking forward to participating in a full practice at the Sixers' training complex, something he didn’t have the opportunity to do because of the team's crammed game schedule after the All-Star break. 

“I wish training camp was tomorrow,” Anderson said. 

With Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons set to debut, John Wall and Bradley Beal recall their early days

usa-john-wall-bradley-beal-wizards.jpg
USA Today Images

With Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons set to debut, John Wall and Bradley Beal recall their early days

The Sixers will have two No. 1 overall picks make their NBA debuts on Wednesday night in Markelle Fultz (2017) and Ben Simmons (2016). They are in for a challenge with the Wizards, one of the best teams in basketball, and with guards John Wall and Bradley Beal.

Wall and Beal know that challenge well. They were both top draft picks in their own right, Wall the first pick in 2010 and Beal the third pick in 2012. They can recall in specifics their first games in the NBA and how humbling they were.

"My first game, I was going against Dwight Howard. It was fun," Wall said. "There was a lot of pressure. There were a lot of people talking."

It's often said that the point guard position is as deep as it's ever been nowadays. The last three MVP awards have gone to point guards, for instance.

There were some good ones back in 2010, too.

"I remember in a five-game span I played like [Rajon] Rondo, Derrick Rose here and then I went out west and played Steve Nash, Chris Paul and Russell [Westbrook]," Wall said. "I don't think it's gotten any harder than it was back then in 2010 with those five guys. You kind of understand what those guys are about when you get to see it firsthand and play against them."

Beal vividly remembers going up against the LeBron James-led Miami Heat as a 19-year-old. It wasn't easy.

"It was the Heat when they had [Dwyane Wade] and LeBron on the same team. That's when D-Wade was electrifying. He still had his quickness. He was strong as I don't know what and I was a baby at that time," he said.

"For me, it was like I was in awe because those are the guys I grew up watching and I was a fan of. Now I'm playing against them and I can't be a fan of them. It was amazing to play against them, but also an eye-opener like, I need to get better."

Now it's Fultz and Simmons' turn to see what matching up with NBA superstars is like and don't expect Wall or Beal to take it easy on them.

"I'm a competitive person, so I'm not going to back down from any challenge," Wall said.

Joel Embiid to start Sixers' season opener, but how much will he play?

uspresswire-sixers-joel-embiid.jpg
USA Today Images

Joel Embiid to start Sixers' season opener, but how much will he play?

WASHINGTON — The first starting lineup of the Sixers' 2017-18 season will be Ben Simmons, Jerryd Bayless, JJ Redick, Robert Covington and Joel Embiid.

Brown is sticking with the group that closed out preseason competition. That group has a balance of veterans and young talent, including Simmons making his NBA debut after missing all of last season with a foot injury.

"It helps a lot (starting together in the preseason) because you're learning guys and how they move and how they play," Simmons said. "I think we have a pretty good connection going into tonight's game and it's only going to get better."

Embiid will be under a minutes restriction but Brown does not have a definitive number. The big man previously said he expected to play 16 minutes. Embiid was the last one to leave the court at the conclusion of shootaround. 

"There's a range that we'll work with," Brown said. "We're going to feel it together. We'll play Joel within some parameters and go from that base." 

Markelle Fultz also will make his NBA debut. The No. 1 pick, who has battled right knee and shoulder soreness, will come off the bench in front of his hometown crowd. 

"I'm excited," Fultz said. "It's anything you can wish for."