76ers

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

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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. 

Best of NBA: Thunder carry George to win in Indiana return

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Best of NBA: Thunder carry George to win in Indiana return

INDIANAPOLIS -- Paul George made a winning return to Indiana, hitting the clinching free throws with 10.7 seconds left in the Oklahoma City Thunder's 100-95 victory over the Pacers on Wednesday night.

Steven Adams had 23 points and 13 rebounds and Russell Westbrook finished with 10 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists in his ninth triple-double this season. The Thunder have won two straight on the road.

Victor Oladipo led the Pacers with 19 points and Bojan Bogdanovic scored 15. Indiana had a chance to tie the score after getting the ball back with 15.2 seconds left but committed a turnover and then fouled George.

The Pacers' winning streak ended at four.

But the highly anticipated matchup between George and Oladipo, the key components in last summer's blockbuster trade, didn't go as expected.

George was booed loudly during introductions and every time he touched the ball. Fans only cheered for George when he was called for a foul or made a mistake and it seemed to take a toll on the four-time All-Star. He finished 12 points on 3-of-14 shooting, had two rebounds and four turnovers.

Oladipo, the reigning Eastern Conference player of the week, didn't have a typical night either. He was 9 of 26 with five rebounds and six assists (see full recap).

Wizards top Grizzlies in Wall’s return
WASHINGTON -- Bradley Beal scored 18 points and John Wall had 13 in his return from a sore knee to help the Washington Wizards hold off the Memphis Grizzlies 93-87 on Wednesday night.

Beal scored 11 points in the fourth quarter, hitting three 3-pointers. Otto Porter Jr. added 14 points, and Marcin Gortat had 12.

Wall missed nine games, with Washington going 4-5 in his absence.

After the Grizzlies took their first lead of the night, 67-65, on James Ennis III's 3-pointer with 8:53 left to play, Washington responded with a 13-0 run and Memphis got no closer than 83-80 the rest of the way.

Andrew Harrison led Memphis with 20 points, JaMychal Green had 15 points and15 rebounds, and Marc Gasol had 15 points and 10 rebounds. The Grizzlies have lost five straight and 16 out of 17 (see full recap).

Lillard leads way as Blazers rally past Heat
MIAMI -- Damian Lillard scored seven of his 18 points in the final 3:16, and the Portland Trail Blazers overcame a 16-point second-half deficit to break their five-game losing streak, beating the Miami Heat 102-95 on Wednesday night.

Lillard, who came into the game averaging 26.6 points, had only one field goal in the first 31 minutes. But he converted a three-point play put the Trail Blazers ahead to stay, 98-95, and sank two free throws on their next possession for a five-point lead.

CJ McCollum scored 28 points for the Trail Blazers (14-13). They climbed back above .500 and improved to 7-5 on the road. The Heat (13-14) fell below .500 and dropped to 5-7 at home.

Miami reserve Wayne Ellington sank seven 3-pointers and scored a season-high 24 points. Dion Waiters added 17 points for the Heat, who were hurt by three missed free throws down the stretch.

Both teams were short-handed. Heat forward Justise Winslow left the game in the first half with a left knee strain and did not return, and guard Tyler Johnson sat out because of a migraine.

Miami was also without center Hassan Whiteside for a seventh consecutive games because of a bone bruise in his left knee (see full recap).

Joel Embiid doesn't want Sixers to end up like OKC

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Joel Embiid doesn't want Sixers to end up like OKC

Joel Embiid doesn't want the Sixers to end up like the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Not the 2017-18 Thunder, but OKC circa 2011-12.

Embiid is convinced that at some point soon, the media will turn on him and the Sixers. 

Speaking specifically about the core trio of Embiid, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz, Embiid told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne:

"I think with everything, the main thing we have to do is just stay together because I feel like there's going to be some type of situation where people say who is better between us three. And that's how it splits."

Shelburne, who wrote a long and interesting feature on Embiid this week, told more of the story Wednesday on Zach Lowe's podcast.

She recalled talking to Embiid about his social media presence at All-Star weekend in 2016, when he told her, "I'm just trying to have as much fun before everybody turns on me."

Shelburne pointed out the uniqueness of a then-22-year-old — who had been in the United States just seven years — understanding the "fame cycle" well enough to know that things could soon turn.

"I saw what happened in Oklahoma City with (James) Harden, (Russell) Westbrook and (Kevin) Durant and I don't want that to happen here," Shelburne recalled Embiid saying.

If the Sixers get to that point ... it'll probably be a good problem to have. Just prior to the 2012-13 season, the Thunder traded Harden to Houston in one of the worst trades in recent NBA history. OKC did it for several reasons — salary cap, personalities, only having enough shots to go around. And really, who knows if Harden would have been able to grow into this superstar had he been sharing the ball the next handful of seasons with two other alphas?

Embiid and Fultz have already grown close, and it's important to Embiid that the three young Sixers don't get caught up in the "Who takes the last shot?" conversations or "Who should be the All-Star" questions that inevitably come up. 

Luckily for the Sixers, Embiid, Simmons and Fultz have different enough skill sets that they should be able to coexist. It's not directly analogous to the OKC situation where all three players needed the ball in their hands. The Sixers were built this way for a reason. 

Right now, it's clear Embiid is the alpha of the group. He's the go-to guy in crunch time and again has a top-five usage rate. When Simmons eventually becomes more comfortable with his jump shot and Fultz finally makes his impact on the court, we'll see whether or not Embiid was prescient.