76ers

Sixers Injury Update: Joel Embiid plays half-court 5-on-5; Jahlil Okafor full participant

Sixers Injury Update: Joel Embiid plays half-court 5-on-5; Jahlil Okafor full participant

CAMDEN, N.J. -- The bigs are getting closer to their returns. 

On Friday, Joel Embiid participated in half-court 5-on-5 during the final day of training camp. He had not done 5-on-5 activity since undergoing left knee surgery in March. 

“To see him with us, sweating and playing against people, and them playing against him was a good day,” Brett Brown said. 

The Sixers have not set a specific date for Embiid’s return. He is targeting opening night, Oct. 18 against the Wizards in Washington, D.C. Embiid has not played in a game since Jan. 27. 

Embiid worked out and rehabbed at the Sixers' training complex over the summer. He has been part of practices, but this was the first time he was on the court in this type of game-like setting. 

“It’s a whole different thing for his teammates,” Brown said. “You have another incredible weapon and target that you have to get the ball to or recognize that he is behind you defensively.”

Jahlil Okafor, who had been sidelined by right knee soreness, participated in a complete practice for the first time in camp. He has battled right knee issues since his rookie year and last played on March 22. 

“I just feel good on the court,” Okafor said. “Everything’s pretty comfortable. I have no soreness in my knee. Mentally, I’m not even thinking about it. That’s what I’m most excited about.”

Okafor is experiencing the benefits of his drastic weight loss. He adopted a vegan diet and dropped to 258 pounds, 20 less than at the start of last training camp. While Okafor admitted he got winded at points because of the long layoff from 5-on-5 action, Brown observed Okafor is moving at a more “efficient rate.” 

“He looks like a stick,” Richaun Holmes said. “He’s moving better, more athletic. You can see the determination in his face to have a successful season.” 

Okafor said he plans to play in Sunday’s open practice at The Palestra.

“It’s going to be scary when they’re back to full health and playing,” Ben Simmons said of the centers. 

As for Simmons, he was happy to complete training camp a year removed from suffering a season-ending foot injury on the final day. He has not been under any restrictions. 

"They wanted to go for two more minutes because it was a tied game," he said. "I was like, 'Nope.' Let's just get through it." 

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (right knee patellar tendonitis) practiced but did not go through 5-on-5.

Ben Simmons takes 4 families on holiday shopping spree

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Photo courtesy of Sixers' Twitter account

Ben Simmons takes 4 families on holiday shopping spree

Four families gathered in a roped-off waiting area adorned with Sixers decor inside of a Philadelphia Target store. They were told they were getting a surprise Thursday evening, but they didn't know who or what until a car pulled up outside ... and Ben Simmons walked through the door.

Simmons gave each family a $1,000 shopping spree right then and there. The room erupted in cheer.

"Beautiful," a mother exclaimed at the news. One child put his head in his hands in disbelief when he saw Simmons. Another said, "This is the best day ever."

"It's one of those things I always wanted to do growing up," Simmons, who came up with the idea for the shopping trip on his own, said. "It's the perfect time, season of giving. It just means a lot for me to be able to do this for some families."

The towering 6-foot-10 point guard walked through the store on Monument Road with each family and helped them choose their gifts along the way. 

They headed straight to the toy section, where the children piled in Legos, dolls and anything else that grabbed their attention. Then it was on to electronics. One child filled his cart with video games and a gaming system. Another family selected a television and soundbar. 

Shopping carts accumulated quickly as the kids ran in and out of aisles with bright smiles on their faces.

"Seeing them pick out what they want, not having to worry about it, I think that was the biggest thing," Simmons said. "It was a great time. I had a lot of fun, can't wait to do it next year."

The recipients were selected through Unity in the Community, a nonprofit organization based in South Philadelphia. Each had been through tough times in the past year and this trip helped to put the happy in their holidays.

"They can enjoy it now," Simmons said. "It's great for them to have no worries, especially on Christmas."

Best of NBA: LeBron James triple-double lifts Cavaliers over Lakers

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USA Today Images

Best of NBA: LeBron James triple-double lifts Cavaliers over Lakers

CLEVELAND -- LeBron James recorded his 59th career triple-double in front of Lonzo Ball and his brothers, Kevin Love scored 28 points and the Cleveland Cavaliers won for the 16th time in 17 games, 121-112 over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.

James finished with 25 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists to move a tie with Larry Bird for sixth place on the career triple-doubles list. He also put the Lakers away with a dunk and short runner in the final two minutes.

Love scored 13 in the third quarter, when the Cavs opened an 11-point lead on the way to their 10th straight home win. Jose Calderon added a season-high 17 points for Cleveland.

Brandon Ingram scored 26 for the Lakers and Ball had 13 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.

It was the first on-court meeting between James and Ball, the Lakers' highly touted rookie whose outspoken father LaVar has brought both attention and animosity toward his son.

LaVar Ball, who did not attend the game, launched his "Big Baller Brand" to promote his three talented sons. James gave them an in-person lesson in the business of basketball (see full recap).

Lee, Knicks top Nets after Porzingis exits
NEW YORK -- Courtney Lee scored 18 of his 27 points in the second half, Michael Beasley added 15, and the New York Knicks held on to beat the Brooklyn Nets 111-104 on Thursday night after losing star forward Kristaps Porzingis to a sore left knee early in the second half.

Porzingis motioned to the bench with 9:25 remaining in the third quarter after contesting a shot made by Brooklyn's Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. The Knicks' leading scorer had scored 13 points in nearly 18 minutes in the first half.

Enes Kanter had 13 points and nine rebounds for the Knicks, who earned just their second road victory of the season. Their only other one was Oct. 29 at Cleveland.

Spencer Dinwiddie had 26 points for the Nets, who have dropped the first two games to their city rivals. Hollis-Jefferson added 25 points on 10-for-16 shooting and Caris LeVert added 15 (see full recap).

Drummond helps Pistons snap 7-game skid
ATLANTA -- Andre Drummond had 12 points, 19 rebounds and a career-high nine assists, Tobias Harris added 19 points and the Detroit Pistons snapped a seven-game slide with a 105-91 victory over the NBA-worst Atlanta Hawks on Thursday night.

Avery Bradley finished with 18 points and Langston Galloway scored 17 as Detroit won for the first time since beating Phoenix on Nov. 29.

Ersan Ilyasova had 23 points, John Collins scored 15 and Dennis Schroder had 10 assists for Atlanta, which dropped to 6-22 and has lost three in a row.

The Pistons never trailed after Galloway's 3-pointer early in the second quarter. They led by 13 at halftime when Galloway hit a 20-footer in the closing seconds and went up by 22 on Reggie Bullock's floater midway through the third.

Detroit recovered from a 103-84 home loss Tuesday to Denver, a performance coach Stan Van Gundy called one of the worst "I've ever had to coach" in over 850 career games (see full recap).