76ers

Philly area natives Tahjere McCall, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson bond on Nets' summer league team

Philly area natives Tahjere McCall, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson bond on Nets' summer league team

LAS VEGAS -- A distance of 23 miles is minimal in the grand scheme of the NBA.

So when North Philadelphia’s Tahjere McCall and Chester’s Rondae Hollis-Jefferson met for the first time on the Nets' summer league squad, they clicked instantly.

“We like to see other kids from our area do good,” Hollis-Jefferson said.

Hollis-Jefferson and McCall, who attended high schools just 23 miles away, took very different paths to get to the same summer league squad.

Hollis-Jefferson became a McDonald’s All-American while at Chester High School. He declared for the NBA draft after two years of college ball at Arizona. He was selected 23rd overall in 2015 and is entering his third season in the league. Hollis-Jefferson already has played in 107 games for the Nets.  

McCall went to Carver High School of Engineering & Science in Philadelphia. He didn’t play high school basketball until his junior year and never played on the AAU circuit. McCall initially attended Niagara before transferring to Tennessee State, where he graduated this spring. The Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year, McCall went undrafted in June and received a summer league invite from the Nets after making an impression during a pre-draft workout. He also worked out for the Sixers at one point before the draft.

Despite different their different paths, the two players bonded.

“He has the best personality, kind of reminds me of me,” Hollis-Jefferson said with a laugh. “It’s amazing to have that around you, that energy. I just gravitated to him and likewise. It was fun being out there, him dancing. It’s good to see people like that. Teams like when you have somebody that can bring up the energy.”

Hollis-Jefferson averaged 23.5 minutes for the Nets in the summer league. McCall, however, was sidelined because of injuries. He didn’t appear in the games, yet stayed positive over the two weeks.

“[I want to show I am a] good character kid,” McCall said, maintaining eye contact and keeping a smile throughout the entire interview. “Everybody out here is skilled and could do things, but I just want to be a good teammate and a good person.”

Hollis-Jefferson is under contract with the Nets this coming season. McCall will try to continue his basketball career at the next level. He knows he has a lot to prove, but he’s been in this situation before.

“You get it from being in Philly — wherever you go, you feel like you’re the best player and nobody can beat you,” McCall said. “But flying under the radar, that just let me be myself and let me move freely. I’m used to it so it doesn’t really bother me anymore.”

Joel Embiid ready for home playoff debut, says Sixers' 'time is now'

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

Joel Embiid ready for home playoff debut, says Sixers' 'time is now'

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid received a text message from across the NBA following the Sixers’ 27-point win over the Heat in Game 1. 

It was from Draymond Green, sending his championship-winning insight. 

“Draymond texted me after the first game when we blew Miami out,” Embiid recalled Monday. “He basically told me that it’s not going to be the same in Game 2. They came back and they won that game.” 

Green was right. Each contest has been a match of adjustments, including Embiid’s return from a 10-game layoff. Wearing a required mask with goggles, Embiid played in the Sixers’ Game 3 and Game 4 victories. 

Now he’s poised to make his postseason home debut Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Center, where he’s been eager to compete in a playoff game his entire career. 

“The atmosphere was amazing, it was insane,” Embiid said of the home crowd in Games 1 and 2. “After going to Miami, I felt like nothing compared to it. … We’ve been almost perfect [at home] since the beginning of the year. It just shows you how much we need them. Especially myself, I play better in that type of environment. I need the fans to get into it and push me. That makes me elevate my game.” 

Embiid’s offensive game has been impacted since coming back from a concussion and left orbital fracture suffered on March 28. He scored 23 points (5 for 11 FG) with seven rebounds, four assists, three blocks and three turnovers in Game 3. The following game, he posted 14 points (2 for 11 FG, 0 for 4 from three), 12 rebounds, five blocks and eight turnovers. Embiid is shooting 31.8 percent from the field and 71.4 percent from the line in the series. 

“The main thing, especially when it (the offense) doesn’t go my way, is just be a beast defensively,” he said. 

Embiid cannot play without the protective mask, though, which he has described as “annoying” and “weird.” Markelle Fultz and Amir Johnson tried on the goggles after practice Monday to get a glimpse into his line of vision. 

“They kind of saw my pain when I have to wear them,” Embiid said. “But that can’t be an excuse. I have to get used to it.” 

Embiid’s mindset going into Game 5 is to close out the Heat series and get some extra time before the second round (see story). The Celtics and Bucks series is tied 2-2. He sees the first round as just the starting point for the Sixers’ postseason. 

“A lot of people say that we have a bright future, but I think our time is now,” Embiid said. “We have a pretty good chance. We have a special team, a lot of great guys. I don’t think we need anybody else. We’ve just got to work with what we have, and we have a special team. I feel like we have a pretty good chance to go far. 

"So it’s just about us taking care of the little things, like not turning the ball over, just playing together, like we've been doing, sharing the ball, not be selfish, and everything is going to take care of itself." 

Embiid will take the court for his first postseason game in Philadelphia when the Sixers tip off against the Heat at 8 p.m. Tuesday on NBCSP.

"The playoffs, that’s kind of like you play in front of the whole world," Embiid said. "I feel like I thrive in that type of situation because I feel like I was made for this." 

Sixers know what must be done to knock out Heat

Sixers know what must be done to knock out Heat

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers have pushed the Heat to the brink of elimination and now they are hunkering down for yet another battle in this hard-fought first-round matchup. 

The Sixers do not anticipate closing out the series Tuesday night at home to be any easier than the first four grind-it-out games. 

“You don’t have to be a wise man to know what is about to happen, what style of play they’re going to try to play,” Brett Brown said before practice Monday. “Especially when they’re going to go home if they’re not able to find a win. We understand that.”

The Sixers are returning to the Wells Fargo Center up 3-1 after completing the challenging task of taking two straight games on the road. As they prepare for what could be a deciding game, they are focused on fixing their mistakes from the previous ones. The Sixers overcame giving up 30 points on 27 turnovers, shooting 7 for 31 from three, and trailing by 12 in Game 4. 

“I said it after the game and I’ll say it again now: we were very fortunate to win that game,” Brown said. “The discipline that we did not show offensively and defensively in the first three periods, especially as I go back and watch it, can’t happen.” 

Regardless of the final score, the Heat have proven to be a feisty squad each night. The tussle between Robert Covington, James Johnson and Ben Simmons exemplified the spirit of the series. The teams were whistled for a combined 10 technical fouls in Games 3 and 4. 

Goran Dragic said the Heat are not going to show up at the Wells Fargo Center to surrender. The Sixers don’t anticipate them to, either. 

“A team like Miami, their culture, their organization, their group of guys, they have fighters, they have warriors on their team,” JJ Redick said. “Every game in this series has been tough. There’s no expectations that Game 5 will be any different.”

The Sixers have not advanced out of the first round since 2012, the last time they were in the playoffs. With a 3-1 lead, their objective Tuesday is clear. 

“Our mindset is to close it out,” Joel Embiid said.