Sixers hold another team-building event with ping pong tournament

Photo courtesy of the Sixers

Sixers hold another team-building event with ping pong tournament

CAMDEN, N.J. — First a surprise visit from Charles Barkley at Brett Brown’s house, then a spirited ping pong tournament in the city. 

The Sixers held another training camp team-building event Thursday night at Spin Philadelphia. Players and staff took part in a field-of-64 competition in which Jerryd Bayless topped Brett Brown for the title. 

"Any time somebody brings their own ping pong paddle, you know you're in trouble,” Brown said at practice Friday. 

Bayless delivered his A-game. He credited his skills to playing in matches at Boys and Girls Clubs growing up. The veteran guard wasn’t that concerned about his competition, anyway.

“It’s not that hard,” Bayless said of beating Brown. 

When asked about knocking out his teammates en route to the finals, he laughed, “Yeah, they’re not that good either.” 

Bayless ultimately met his match when he faced off against a 14-time ping-pong champion from Sweden. 

“Any pros, they can beat me,” he said. “But if you’re not a pro, you’re probably not going to beat me.” 

Brown took his loss in stride. Not surprisingly, he used a basketball reference to accept the defeat.

“I said to Ben (Simmons) and Markelle (Fultz), ‘If Washington and LSU could’ve got to the finals of the NCAA Tournament and you would’ve just got crushed, you would’ve been embarrassed on national TV vs. not making it, which one would you choose?’” Brown said. “They said, I’d rather go to the Finals and be crushed. 

“I said, ‘Well, that’s what happened to me. I was crushed in front of the team.’”

That’s not to say Brown’s appearance in the title round should be discounted. He beat strength and conditioning coach Todd Wright, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Simmons along the way. 

“Coach Brown beat me, I’ll give him that,” Simmons said. “I wasn’t sure if he was going to be quite the player, but I was a little rusty.” 

Brown has incorporated non-basketball activities throughout training camp. Earlier in the week, the team got together at his house where the Sixers arranged for Barkley to speak with the players. 

“Everybody had a really good time,” Bayless said of ping pong. “We’ve had four really good days here. Trying to get away from this for a night and then pick it back up today I think was a good idea. It was really a lot of fun.” 

(Photos courtesy of the Sixers)

Banged-up Markelle Fultz is latest chapter in Sixers' painful rookie history

Banged-up Markelle Fultz is latest chapter in Sixers' painful rookie history

CAMDEN, N.J. — Brett Brown has been here before. The scenario isn’t as drastic in the past, but it’s familiar nonetheless: starting the season with an injured rookie for the fifth straight year.

Markelle Fultz will begin his first NBA season dealing with ongoing right shoulder and right knee soreness. The No. 1 pick is expected to play on opening night Wednesday, but will come off the bench after appearing in only two preseason games. 

Brown has learned to manage this type of situation after years of experience. Nerlens Noel missed Brown’s entire first season because of an ACL injury. Joel Embiid sat out the following two seasons with foot injuries. Ben Simmons suffered a season-ending foot fracture in last year’s training camp. 

The biggest lesson? 

“To go slow,” Brown said. “To not put them in a position where it’s going to produce some difficult times.” 

Fultz was likely to be a starter when the Sixers traded up to draft him first overall in June. The 19-year-old guard hasn’t had that much experience since then thanks to injuries in both summer league and preseason. 

The Sixers face John Wall, Kyrie Irving and Kyle Lowry in the first three games alone. That would be a tall defensive task if Fultz were to start. 

“This league is driven by men, this league is driven by veterans,” Brown said. “To just put him in that environment is just, I think, poor coaching and I’m not doing it.”

Just as Simmons took advice from Embiid during his injury, he is offering words of wisdom to Fultz.

“[You’ve] got to to take your time and you definitely have to take care of your body,” Simmons said. “Put your body first. There’s no need to rush.”

The Sixers have the backcourt depth to adjust without Fultz in the starting lineup. They have been turning to veteran Jerryd Bayless at shooting guard alongside Simmons, their intended backcourt pairing last season. 

In the meantime, Brown will balance Fultz’s health, his growth as an NBA player, and the team’s success. 

“The end game needs to be developing Markelle Fultz," Brown said. 

Joel Embiid disappointed Brett Brown has him on another minutes limit

Joel Embiid disappointed Brett Brown has him on another minutes limit

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid would like to play 48 minutes every game. The Sixers are looking at a maximum of 20 for opening night.

"I don't really know if there's a solid number," Brett Brown said Monday after practice. "I can tell if you were to choose a number, it's somewhere in the teens."

Embiid was hoping for more playing time on Wednesday against the Wizards, his first regular-season game since Jan. 27 (left knee surgery).

"I didn't know about that, but that's very disappointing," Embiid said Monday of the minutes restriction. "I feel great and hopefully that changes based on today's practice and tomorrow's practice."

The Sixers are being cautious with Embiid, who has both a lengthy history of injuries and a massive new contract extension. He clocked 15 minutes in both of his preseason games last week. Embiid felt he could have played twice as many minutes.

While the Sixers aren't ready to go as high as 30 minutes yet, they could exercise some wiggle room based on the flow of the game.

"There will be some minutes restrictions, but it's also a judgment of how is the game being played, not just looking at rote, rigid number," Brown said.

The NBA's new timeout rules could impact Embiid's playing time. The updated format changes include a decrease in the maximum number of timeouts allowed (18 to 14), 75-second team timeouts and fewer timeouts in the final minutes of the game. 

"One of the things that we're doing this year unlike previous years is there's a little bit of a looseness in relation to it doesn't have to be rigid if the game didn't dictate some track meet," Brown said. "This is like I'm coaching in the London Olympic Games again. The game moves. I can have guys at a scorers table for two minutes with no stoppage. So sometimes the torrid pace of a game doesn't favor Jo where you go flying up and down."

In addition to individual games, it remains to be seen if Embiid will be cleared this season for back-to-backs. The Sixers face their first set of consecutive games this Friday and Saturday against the Celtics at home and the Raptors in Toronto.