Its been eight months since Emeka Okafor last played in anNBA game and the Wizards 6-foot-10 center cant wait another day.Its been a long time, saidOkafor, who will make his Wizards debut Thursday night at Verizon Centeragainst the New York Knicks. I mean, just getting back into the flow. Practiceis one thing, games are a completely different thing.The Wizards are hoping theirhome preseason debut is a lot better than their preseason opener on Sunday,when they committed 20 turnovers in a 100-88 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats.What needs to be better in Game 2?A little bit of everything, really, Wizards coach RandyWittman said. The whole thing.Obviously, turnovers is going to be a big thing for ourteam. We cant have individuals with six turnovers in a game no matter who it is.Forward Trevor Ariza committed a team-high six turnovers in theloss to the Bobcats.If we can eliminatehalf those 20 individual ones, were pretty much where we need to be,Wittman said. Weve got to get it done. Rebounding and execution. Passing theball. I think we held it a little too much in the first game. Its what weve workedon the last couple days, ball movement.Wittman said he expects to see gradual improvement from histeam, which has been without John Wall and Nene since the start of trainingcamp. The arrival of Okafor should help that process. He missed the final 39games of last season with a knee injury and was traded from New Orleans to the Wizards on June 20 alongwith Ariza.The first game looked likea first game, Okafor said. It was a bit sloppy. Transition killed us. It justlooked like some guys trying to get it together. But its the first game so itsnot the end of the world.Okafor said hed like fansto show a little patience with the Wizards as they try to learn each othersgames and the new system installed by Wittman. Wed like to see it come sooner rather than later, he said.Im just curious to see game-by-game improvement. Its going to be a littlebit of ebb and flow. But were all moving in the right direction so far.
Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, J.J. Redick and the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night.
Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:
WASHINGTON WIZARDS VS. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 8 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (coverage begins at 7 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM
The Wizards continue their difficult stretch coming out of the All-Star break against a very dangerous Sixers team. Philly has proven to be very streaky this season, but right now they are rolling. They come to Washington having won their last seven games dating back to Feb. 6 when they beat the Wizards at the Wells Fargo Center. The Wizards are also playing well, having won eight of their last 11, despite their loss to the Hornets on Friday.
The Sixers are currently seventh in the East and appear on track to make the playoffs. If they keep rising the standings, they could meet the Wizards, who are currently fourth, in the first round.
Speaking of the playoffs, this game could end up looming large for postseason seeding. The Sixers have won two of the three matchups between these teams this year. If they win on Sunday, they will take the season series and own the tiebreaker over Washington.
If the two teams tie head-to-head and end up with the same record at the end of the season, it will then come down to conference record. The Sixers currently have a better record against East teams than the Wizards. But if they can beat Philly this time, the Wizards will have a chance to secure the conference tiebreaker down the stretch of this season.
Sixers are tough to guard
The Wizards have found out the hard way this season just how difficult it can be to match up with the Sixers, who are led by two emerging stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Embiid is 7-foot-1 with rare abilities to stretch the floor and beat opponents off the dribble. Simmons is 6-foot-10, yet can lead the fastbreak with rare speed and vision to find his teammates with crisp passes.
The mobility for their size is almost unmatched and it has not been easy for the Wizards to answer. In their last meeting earlier this month, Simmons had 15 points, eight assists, six rebounds and three steals. Embiid had 27 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. The Wizards have to try to limit those guys while also dealing with other challenges like Robert Covington, Dario Saric and J.J. Reddick.
RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKING
Instead of visiting the White House when they come to Washington this week to play the Wizards, the defending-champion Golden State Warriors plan to hold an event with D.C.-area kids.
Their invitation was rescinded by president Donald Trump following a back-and-forth between the two sides last year. After the Warriors won the title, they openly questioned whether they should follow the tradition given many of the players and coaches disagree with his policies. Trump took the opportunity away before they came to a final decision.
PODCAST: WIZARDS MAKE A FREE AGENT SIGNING
The Warriors' event will be closed off to the media and held at an undisclosed location. It is set for Tuesday, the day before they play the Wizards at Capital One Arena. The Warriors had the option of holding a ceremony with other politicians in the Democratic party, but decided that would send the wrong message.
"It's their championship. They got disinvited to the White House, so it's up to them what they wanted to do. So they made their plans," coach Steve Kerr said. "I want the players to have a good day and to do something positive and to enjoy what they're doing."
The Warriors are the first NBA team to make this choice since Trump was elected president. Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers held their celebration with president Barack Obama in November. They did so just days after Trump was elected and LeBron James questioned at the time whether he would visit the White House with Trump in office.
Sports teams visiting the White House goes back to the mid-1800s. The first World Series title team to visit was the 1924 Washington Senators. By the 1960s, NBA teams were going and by the 1980s NFL and NHL teams made it a tradition.
Entire teams snubbing the White House is unusual, but many players have turned down the opportunity. In the NBA, some famous cases include Larry Bird in 1984 and Michael Jordan in 1991, according to Rolling Stone.
Perhaps the Warriors start a trend, or maybe it will be a one-off thing. Regardless, the alternative they chose is a respectable one.
RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS