76ers

Joel Embiid still trusts the process after Sixers net No. 3 pick

Joel Embiid still trusts the process after Sixers net No. 3 pick

NEW YORK — The Sixers didn't land the first pick at the draft lottery Tuesday night, but that wouldn't stop Joel Embiid from trusting the … you guessed it. 

"I'm excited," Embiid said. "We jumped up one more spot. I wish we would have gotten the No. 1 pick and the Lakers' pick, but we're trusting the process and it's going to be exciting to see who we're going to draft."

The Sixers received the third pick via a pick swap with the Kings, who will draft fifth (see story). That swap stems from the 2015 trade involving Nik Stauskas, which the guard cleverly tweeted about after the results (see story). The Sixers had a 14.7 percent chance to land at No. 1 between their own odds (11.9 percent) and those of the Kings (2.8). 

The Celtics, who are set to take on the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals, have first dibs in the draft thanks to a pick swap with the Nets. The Lakers received the second pick. The Sixers would have received their 2017 selection had it fallen out of the top three. Instead, it will convey as an unprotected pick in 2018. 

Embiid got involved in friendly banter with Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson while they represented their teams on stage. 

"It was great," Embiid said. "I kept telling him, 'I'm about to get your pick.'"

After the results were announced, Embiid put on his scouting hat to project who the Sixers should take with their first-round selection.

"I think the two guards (Markelle) Fultz and Lonzo Ball are going to be one and two," Embiid said. "I like Josh Jackson a lot and Jayson Tatum. So I expect one of those guys to be at three with us."

Jackson and Tatum both are small forwards who would fill a need on the perimeter. They possess the two-way player skill set the Sixers covet. Like Embiid, Jackson played one year at Kansas. 

If Embiid had a wish list, he would address more offense and additional ball-handlers. After Fultz and Ball, De'Aaron Fox and Dennis Smith are highly-projected point guards. 

"I like Markelle Fultz a lot as a scorer," Embiid said. "I think we need someone else who can score the ball. I like him a lot. And a point guard, somebody that can run the point. T.J. (McConnell) did a great job, and that's my guy and I love him ... I think we need more depth at the point guard position. If we get the chance, that'd be exciting."

The Sixers didn't get the first pick. They ended up with one selection instead of two. They still landed ahead of their projected draft order and an opportunity to acquire a highly-touted young talent. For those reasons, yes, Embiid still trusts.

"Sometimes people don't understand the definition of the process," Embiid said. "The process is not just about getting over what we've been going through for the past three or four years. I feel like the process is going to keep on going.

"It's a process to get over that hump. Then it's a process to make the playoffs. Then it's another process to get to the conference finals and then another process to get to the Finals and win an NBA championship. 

"It applies to everything in life. We're always going to be trusting the process."

Sixers praise Amir Johnson as MVP of win over Jazz

Sixers praise Amir Johnson as MVP of win over Jazz

BOX SCORE

Ben Simmons scored a career-high, Joel Embiid recorded a double-double, and still, the highest praise was directed to an unlikely player after the Sixers’ 107-86 win over the Jazz: Amir Johnson.

“He was the MVP of tonight,” Embiid said. 

Johnson embraced the ultimate role player mentality. He didn’t know until shortly before the game if he was going to start in place of Embiid or come off the bench. Embiid, who had been dealing with left knee soreness, ended up playing. So Johnson waited for his name to be called and stepped right into action. 

Johnson began the game with five rebounds in four first-quarter minutes. He finished with 13 boards, eight points and four blocks in 21 minutes. Johnson pulled down 10-plus rebounds for the 98th time in his career (see observations)

“I feel like my job is just to find ways I can help my teammates,” Johnson said. “Knowing Joel, Ben and those guys are going to get the majority minutes, but when I come in I want to be effective at the same time.”

The 13-year veteran has been studying game film. Even though he didn’t get on the court in either of the Sixers’ matchups against the Warriors and played a combined 28 minutes in three road games in California, Johnson has been staying ready. 

“It’s huge for us,” Simmons said of Johnson’s defense. “Having a guy come off the bench and play a role like that. As a vet, he’s one of the leaders. He comes in, plays hard, doesn’t ask for more minutes or anything like that. He’s a great player.”

The Sixers signed Johnson to a one-year, $11 million contract this summer. He proved what he could do on the court since entering the league out of high school in 2005, but the even bigger draw was what he could add to the locker room. Brett Brown reached out to some of Johnson’s former teammates and the assessments echoed one another. Now the Sixers are seeing what those who played with Johnson were talking about. 

“It was amazing, to a man, how consistent the reviews were,” Brown said. “People skills, work his butt off, could handle sitting and swinging a towel or coming in and making a difference. He’s a good person and he’s a pro. 

“To be able to bring him in the game, and not worry about is he happy, is he fresh, is he in shape, does he need 10 shots isn’t ever on my mind with Amir. He’s a perfect teammate.” 

Redick bounces back in 2nd half
JJ Redick is at a point in his career where he isn’t worried about a slow start. He went scoreless in the first half and still ended up with 20 points. 

“Maybe five or six years ago I probably would have been a little more stressed at halftime,” Redick said. “But I just knew there would be some opportunities and stayed patient.”

Brown noticed Redick getting better looks after halftime. He evenly distributed his scoring with 10 points in both the third and the fourth quarters. He shot a perfect 4 for 4 from the field in the third. 

“I’m always going to be aggressive. There just weren’t opportunities to get shots off in the first half,” Redick said. “I scored 20 in the second half, but didn’t feel like I was forcing anything. The opportunities were there. Sometimes that happens within a game.”

Simmons, too
Simmons showed the same kind of poise, even more notable because he is a rookie. Simmons shot 2 for 9 in the first half, shook off the early struggles, and scored a career-high 27 points. He scored half of the Sixers’ 28 points in the third quarter off an efficient 7 for 9 shooting stretch. 

“I thought I was going to have more, honestly,” Simmons said. 

Simmons took advantage of the Jazz missing center Rudy Gobert in the middle. He became the only Sixer since 1963-64 to score in double digits in each of his first 16 games. Simmons is averaging 18.7 points, 9.2 rebounds, 7.6 assists and 2.0 steals per game.