76ers

Former teammate Pachulia: Sixers a 'great situation' for Justin Anderson

Former teammate Pachulia: Sixers a 'great situation' for Justin Anderson

Sometimes it's hard to get the full picture of a player from a stat line.

In the case of Justin Anderson, he had appeared in only 106 NBA games and averaged under 13 minutes before the Sixers acquired him from the Mavericks in the Nerlens Noel trade.

How much do 5.1 points and 2.7 rebounds over a short career tell about someone?

Not enough, if you ask Zaza Pachulia. 

Pachulia was teammates with Anderson last season when Anderson was a rookie with Dallas. The veteran big man recognized a hustle that didn't always get the opportunity to be displayed on the court.

"He has a really good heart," Pachulia said. "A good personality, positive, works hard. He had some rookie mistakes sometimes, but just a good kid overall."

Anderson found himself toward the bottom of the depth chart on an experienced Mavericks team last season. Even though he appeared in only 55 games as a rookie, he stayed optimistic from the sidelines.

"That's one of the tests, especially for rookies, how they handle the situation where they don't get playing time," Pachulia said. "He had a great attitude and positive attitude. We've seen him play, we've seen him not play, but he always brings a great vibe in the locker room. Maybe inside of him, he wants to play, and that's normal, of course he should want to play. But when he didn't get those minutes he was still smiling and just working hard."

Pachulia got a glimpse into Anderson's game during practice and shootarounds. Anderson has to work on his shot (40.5 percent from the field for his career) but has a natural skill set that holds potential.

"Physically he's so strong and athletic," Pachulia said. "He's tough but he has to learn how to use it the right way. He will with the experience of playing and getting more consistent minutes and working with the coaches."

Pachulia foresees the 23-year-old Anderson thriving in a change of scenery that meshes with his talents and development.

"I think it's a great situation for him," Pachulia said. "He can grow with the team."

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.”