76ers

Sixers Mailbag: Joel Embiid's big landings; T.J. McConnell still a starter?

It’s August, so you know what that means: less than two months until the start of NBA training camp. For as many questions as the Sixers addressed in free agency and the draft, there are a lot that still remains. In this mailbag, let’s take a look at a few of those topics. If you don’t see your tweet here, I will be answering more next week. (On that note, big thanks for the huge response to mailbag questions!)

Good question, Jake. Sounds like you were one of the many who gasped whenever Joel Embiid flew out of bounds. The Sixers are tasked with the tough job of getting Embiid to find the balance between giving 100 percent on each play and having enough restraint to avoid hurdling six rows into the stands. (So it wasn’t that many rows, but you get my point.) 

One interview with Embiid that struck me last season was when he said in November, “I don’t really have my legs yet,” in regard to finishing around the rim. That showed he still was a work in progress during his rookie year, learning how to maneuver a massive 7-foot, 250-pound frame with its capabilities and areas for improvement. All the while, he still wanted to chase down every loose ball like a feisty undersized point guard. 

Sixers head of strength and conditioning/assistant coach Todd Wright takes a very methodical, sports science-based approach in his training. Each player’s workout regimen is tailored to his health and conditioning needs. After going through foot and knee surgeries, I would expect landings and balance are a focus in Embiid’s training efforts to avoid further injuries. 

T.J. McConnell has the mentality he has to fight for his job every day, in every game and every practice. He’ll do that again in his third season.

There’s no question McConnell has earned his place in the NBA. He exudes hustle on each play and can be counted on for maximum effort. Between a combination of injuries to Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez and his own hard work, McConnell took over the starting point guard role in January. McConnell knows the situation will be different this coming season with the addition of Markelle Fultz and the returns of Ben Simmons and Bayless. Expect him to be using that to drive him this summer. 

The point guard role is going to be very non-traditional for the Sixers this season. The pairing of Fultz and Simmons looks promising because of Fultz’s ability to play off the ball. McConnell is more of a traditional point guard than a scorer, which isn’t the best fit to start alongside Simmons. The Sixers also will want to get Fultz acclimated in playing with Embiid and others in the starting lineup to further his consistency and development within the system. McConnell has come off the bench before and embraces the attitude to accept any role he is assigned.