Markelle Fultz, Dario Saric available tonight vs. Celtics; 2 starters out

Markelle Fultz, Dario Saric available tonight vs. Celtics; 2 starters out

BOSTON — JJ Redick and Robert Covington (rest) won't play for the Sixers tonight in preseason game No. 3 in Boston, but Brett Brown will get two key players back. 

Markelle Fultz is available for the Sixers tonight after missing Friday's home game against the Celtics with a shoulder injury. Dario Saric is also available after missing each of the first two preseason games to rest. 

The Sixers' starting lineup tonight will be Ben Simmons, Jerryd Bayless, Nik Stauskas, Saric and Jahlil Okafor. Fultz will come off the bench. Brown is using this preseason game as another opportunity to experiment with lineups. He will distribute minutes to get an extended look at different players. 

Brown's plan is to play Saric limited minutes tonight and then ramp him up in the Sixers' final two preseason games (Wednesday at Brooklyn, Friday vs. Miami).

"I'm feeling free," Saric said of being cleared to play. "Now I'm fresh." 

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (right knee) and James Michael McAdoo (left hamstring) will also be available tonight. 

Joel Embiid remains out but is back in Philadelphia training and will rejoin the Sixers on Monday night.

The Sixers will be without center Richaun Holmes for at least three weeks as he recovers from a broken left wrist suffered in Friday's loss to Boston.

The regular season begins for the Sixers on Wednesday, Oct. 18 at Washington.

George Dempsey dies
The Sixers on Sunday announced the passing of George Dempsey, who played for the Philadelphia Warriors and Syracuse Nationals from 1954-59. 

A native of South Jersey who was born in Philadelphia, Dempsey was part of the Warriors' NBA title team in 1956. 

Dempsey was 88 years old.

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.

Sixers' big men work to expand shooting range to 3-point line

Sixers' big men work to expand shooting range to 3-point line

CAMDEN, N.J. — A group of Sixers gathered at the three-point line and moved around the arc for a spirited shooting drill. They trash-talked and bantered as each pulled up from long range, a sight one would expect from the overflow of guards or perimeter players. 

Only this enthusiasm was coming from four centers — Joel Embiid, Richaun Holmes, Amir Johnson and Jahlil Okafor. The Sixers have tasked their bigs with incorporating three-point shooting into their practice routines. 

“For the most part, all of our guys, it’s not out of their wheelhouse to shoot threes,” Brett Brown said Wednesday. “Apart from the fun, competitive side of it, it’s the way our sport is trending.” 

The Sixers shot 34.0 percent from three last season, tying the Bulls for 25th in the league. They added shooters to their backcourt, most notably three-point wiz JJ Redick. Between the NBA’s position-less basketball and the Sixers’ unconventional lineup with a 6-foot-10 point guard in Ben Simmons, however, it is not unlikely to see centers stretching the floor and taking outside shots. 

“We still recognize that we like getting the bigs the ball close to the rim,” Brown said. “But when it does happen, we don’t discourage it if they’re wide open.”

Of the group, Johnson has the most three-point experience. The 13th-year veteran expanded his game in 2013 and shot 40.9 percent with the Celtics last season. 

Embiid was not shy to shoot treys as a rookie. He showed off his dream of being a guard by attempting 98 threes in 31 games (36.7 percent). Holmes also worked on drills after practice last season and shot 35.1 percent (27 of 77).

“We saw what Joel Embiid did last year,” Brown said. “We’ve seen the growth that Richaun Holmes has made. Amir Johnson has effectively reinvented himself because he now has that truly, especially in the corners, in his arsenal.”

As for Okafor, who also knocked down shots, don’t expect that to become his new go-to move. He has made one three over his two-year career and didn’t attempt any last season.

“That’s probably having more fun than it will become a part of his game,” Brown said. “But who am I to say it’ll never be a part of your game? At this stage, it’s not something that we would run a play for.” 

Injury updates
Okafor participated in 5-on-5 for limited parts of the scrimmage in Wednesday’s practice. He missed the final 11 games of last season because of right knee soreness. Okafor had been restricted to 3-on-3 for the start of camp. 

Embiid worked on shooting drills, cardio and resistance training in his rehab from left knee surgery. 

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (knee tendinitis) went through parts of practice and did not participate in 5-on-5.