76ers

Sixers bring in Cal guard Jaylen Brown for workout, doing due diligence

Sixers bring in Cal guard Jaylen Brown for workout, doing due diligence

The Sixers hold the first pick in the 2016 NBA draft, but that doesn’t mean their evaluation is limited to projected top selections Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram. On Tuesday they held an individual workout for Cal’s Jaylen Brown. The forward is ranked in the top 10 of the draft class. 

There is always the possibility the Sixers could acquire another lottery pick, and the team is doing its due diligence looking at other high-level players. The Sixers' invitation to work out does not necessarily mean they are going to make a trade to move up in the order. But if that opportunity presents itself, it is important to be ready on June 23. 

Vice president of player personnel Marc Eversley said this is not an indication of the Sixers' draft plans, other than their interest in observing other top prospects. 

“It’s just another prospect who we wanted to see and bring into Philadelphia,” Eversley said. “He’s one of those guys who’s up in that area that we’re looking at. He’s a high level prospect. As you saw today, he shoots the ball extremely well. He had a terrific year at Cal, and we just wanted to get him here in Philly and take another look at him.”

Brown entered the draft following his freshman season at Cal in which he averaged 14.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists, leading his team to a 4-seed in the NCAA Tournament. Brown shot 43.1 percent from the field, 29.4 percent from three and 65.4 percent from the line. 

The Sixers wanted to get a closer look at Brown on offense. Eversley noted Brown shot “very well.” He noticed an improvement in Brown’s trajectory and mechanics.  

“I think there’s a lot of misconceptions about if I can shoot the ball,” Brown said. “I think shooting 29 percent leaving college and coming to the NBA three-point line, they want to see the transition. I think I’m shooting the ball well above their expectations.”

Eversley described Brown as a “slasher” who can run the floor. He measured in at 6-foot-7, 223 pounds (5.05 percent body fat) with an 8-foot-6.5-inch standing reach and 6-foot-11.75-inch wingspan at the pre-draft combine last month. 

“We all know he’s got great length,” Eversley said. “He’s a great athlete, he’s very explosive at the rim, he’s got a tremendous vertical.” 

Brown was seen rubbing his right shoulder during the workout. He said he had bumped it in previous workouts and was a “little sore” and shrugged it off.

“It’s all right,” he said. “Nothing to worry about.”

Brown spoke to the Sixers about their rebuilding phase. He sees himself fitting with the team as a young wing who can run in transition. 

Once in the NBA, Brown will look to adjust to the quicker pace of the game and shorter shot clock. He would like to develop into a two-way player who can both stop and score. He lists Kobe Bryant, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler and Russell Westbrook as players whose paths he'd like to follow during his career. 

Brown is taking a unique approach to the NBA draft process: He chose not to hire an agent. Instead, he has been leaning on former NBA players such as Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas and fellow Cal alumnus Shareef Abdur-Rahim. This is different from other players who are heavily linked to their agents, such as Simmons. When asked Monday why the Sixers had not yet scheduled a workout with Simmons, president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo suggested asking his agent, Rich Paul. 

“I’m not trying to knock agents,” Brown said. “I don’t think they are not important or anything. I just thought with my situation, the resources I’ve had and I have, I think it would have been stupid not to use [my resources].”

Brown has worked out with the Sixers, Lakers (No. 2 pick), Celtics (3), Suns (4) and Pelicans (6). He does not have workouts scheduled with any other teams, but believes he may be invited for a second visit from some of the aforementioned organizations. 

“I’m not concerned with being a top whatever pick,” Brown said. “I want to be a top player in the NBA one day. This is just a milestone, this is just a checkpoint that I’m going through. I’ve still got a long way to go.”

Joel Embiid has trouble with mask, not Heat in Sixers' Game 3 win

Joel Embiid has trouble with mask, not Heat in Sixers' Game 3 win

BOX SCORE

MIAMI — "We're not here to make friends. We're here to win the series." 

With those two sentences, Joel Embiid made it known what he is all about in the playoffs.

The big man fought to return from an orbital fracture to help the Sixers win, and that’s exactly what he did in his first game since March 28. Embiid led the team with 23 points, seven rebounds, four assists, three blocks and a steal over 30 minutes in his NBA postseason debut … while wearing a mask with goggles (see story)

“I was excited,” Embiid said following the Sixers’ 128-108 victory Thursday in Game 3 (see observations). “Worked really hard for it. Promised the city that and made it happen. I was kind of sad that I couldn’t play in that first at home because we have a special connection. But I’m glad, came back today and we got a win.” 

Embiid sent a message — he is back, and not backing down. Sitting at the podium with a calm confidence, he talked about everything from his desire to return to in-game chippiness to defending his teammates. 

“I hate sitting out,” Embiid said. “I felt like it was time to come back, especially after watching how physical the game was, Game 2. I love this moment, I love being physical, I love attacking, I love contact.” 

Returning meant wearing a protective mask on his face. Though irksome in some ways, Embiid noted his game is too strong to be held back. 

“It was difficult,” Embiid said of the mask. “But to me it wasn’t really about getting used to it because at the end of the day, no matter how much it bothers me, I’ve still got to be a basketball player. If the shots aren’t falling and it gets foggy or I can’t see, there’s a lot of different stuff I can do, especially defensively because I feel like I’m the best defensive player in the league.”

There was plenty of contact in Game 3, and his mask wasn’t safe from it either. At one point, Embiid’s goggles landed on the court. Justise Winslow stepped on them, downplaying it after the game. 

“He kept throwing it on the ground, so I don’t know if he didn’t like it or what,” Winslow said. “But I was talking to JoJo, we were smack talking, trash talking, going back and forth. No love lost.”

Embiid didn’t quite see the situation as “throwing it on the ground.” He added an extra punch to the end of his recount. 

“Justise stepped on it and tried to break it with his hands,” Embiid said. “But little do they know is that I have about 50 of them. So it’s going to take much more than that to get me out of the series. 

“I’m going to be a nightmare for them, too.” 

When the game was in hand, Embiid was eager to see the Sixers finish with as large a margin of victory as possible. He thought back to Game 2 when Goran Dragic scored a layup with 1.2 seconds to play, and how Jordan Clarkson had thrown a ball at Dario Saric for scoring similarly during the regular season in Cleveland. So on Thursday, Embiid wanted them to run up the scoreboard. 

“I wish I was there in that Game 2 because I was kind of pissed about it,” Embiid said. “It’s basketball. It’s always good to blow a team out. I think we were up 18 or 20. If you could get that lead up to 22, I think it’s good. I love blowing teams out. I like the fact that we did that.” 

There's less than 48 hours until the Heat will look to bounce back in Game 4 and even up the series. Embiid knows the Sixers are in for a battle. 

And he likes that. 

“Game 4, they’re going to try to do what they did at Game 2, come out and be really, really extra aggressive and try to punch us in the mouth,” Embiid said. “We’ve got to be ready for that and I’ll for sure be ready.” 

Joel Embiid's return sparks Sixers' physical Game 3 win in Miami

Joel Embiid's return sparks Sixers' physical Game 3 win in Miami

BOX SCORE

MIAMI — Joel Embiid is 1-0 in the playoffs.

The Sixers beat the Heat, 128-108, Thursday with their mask-wearing center back in the starting lineup to take a 2-1 lead on the series. 

• Embiid made his long-awaited return, playing in his postseason debut and first game since March 28. Donning a face mask with goggles (see story), Embiid rejoined the starting lineup. He had 23 points, seven rebounds and four assists in 30 minutes. 

He looked eager as well as affected at times by the long layoff from the left orbital fracture and concussion. He was aggressive at getting to the line (and drawing fouls on Hassan Whiteside), but shot 10 for 15 once there. Embiid knocked down threes (3 of 4), at the same time committing a 24-second violation trying to back down to the basket. Considering how long it’s been since he played, Embiid’s conditioning looked better than expected. 

• This game was not decided until the final quarter. The Sixers led, 96-94, after three. Brett Brown started Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Robert Covington, Ersan Ilyasova and Embiid to open the fourth. That group outscored the Heat 9-1 to push the lead to 10 and change the tone of the remainder of the game. 

• First it was Kelly Olynyk. Then it was Dwyane Wade. In Game 3, Justise Winslow was the offensive spark plug off the Miami bench. Winslow scored 19 points in the first half, seven more than the Heat’s next leading scorer. He also was an agitator throughout the game, continuing to try to get under the Sixers’ skin as he had done in the previous games. Check out what happened with the goggles from Embiid’s mask.

• Justin Anderson looked like he had been waiting for this defensive assignment all season. Brown tasked him with defending Wade in the first half, and that matchup turned chippy. Anderson and Wade both were called for physical taunting technical fouls after Anderson pushed off on Wade and Wade grabbed his arm and flung him around. Anderson had played less than two minutes in the series prior to Game 3. 

• The game was physical with whistles and double techs throughout the night. Just how physical was it?

• Late in the third quarter, the Sixers rolled out the lineup of T.J. McConnell, Marco Belinelli, Anderson, Ilyasova and Embiid. None of these players are hesitant to mix things up. At one point a play culminated with Embiid and Anderson jumping up to block an Olynyk shot with the Heat forward landing on the ground. 

• Brown had planned to play Markelle Fultz more than the five minutes he clocked in Game 2. That didn’t happen. Fultz was on the court for 4:21 in the first half without a shot attempt (one rebound, one assist, two fouls). McConnell got the backup point guard minutes in the second half. 

• Game 4 will be played at 2:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon on NBCSP in Miami.