76ers

Elton Brand talks Markelle Fultz, Zhaire Smith, potential additions, more

Elton Brand talks Markelle Fultz, Zhaire Smith, potential additions, more

You have to give Elton Brand credit. The Sixers general manager has already been more accountable than either of the team’s two previous GMs.

He’s a regular fixture at games and spoke with the media before Saturday night’s win over the Raptors.

Brand gave a medical update, talked about the team’s search for more talent and the expectations going forward.

Update on Markelle Fultz, Zhaire Smith

Really there was good news and kind of no news here.

Smith, acquired in a draft-night trade with the Suns, suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot back in August. He then had an allergic reaction in September that required a thoracoscopy. Because of complications, Smith lost a significant amount of weight.

He’s finally been able to get back on the court though on a limited basis.

"Zhaire has been in the gym every morning, early in the morning, sometimes 5 a.m., shooting,” Brand said. “He's in good spirits. He'll have another test on his foot after the holiday. But we expect to see him back this season."

As Brett Brown alluded to Wednesday night, the Sixers could definitely use another capable perimeter defender. The hope is Smith can provide that once healthy.

With Fultz, there wasn’t really anything new to report. He’s in L.A. undergoing rehab for thoracic outlet syndrome with physical therapist Judy Seto. He’s not doing any basketball activities at this time.

The only interesting thing to note is that Brand was noncommittal when asked if Fultz would play again this season. Brand also said he’ll have another update on Fultz after Christmas.

Both Fultz and Smith will be with the team in Boston Christmas day.

Where can the team improve?

Brand wasn’t shy in saying that he’s looking for ways to improve his roster. He acknowledged that he’s looking into the trade and buyout markets.

He also mentioned the G League as a possible resource, with senior VP of player personnel Marc Eversley and assistant GM Ned Cohen just returning from the G League Showcase in Las Vegas. It’s easy to scoff at the notion of a player from that level making an impact for a title contender, but it’s not crazy.

Brand singled out Haywood Highsmith and Norvel Pelle as two players already in Delaware to keep an eye on. 

Highsmith, a product of D-II Wheeling Jesuit Academy, has been playing extremely well for the Blue Coats — especially recently. He’s a great athlete, has ideal size (6-foot-7) and is shooting 39 percent from three. The Sixers recently had him in for a workout.

Pelle is an intriguing player. He was a highly-touted prospect coming out of high school but had academic eligibility issues at St. John’s and then Iona. He decided to turn pro but went undrafted. He’s been spending time overseas and in the G League. He’s a tremendous athlete and the Sixers could use an athletic five to rim run and back up Joel Embiid.

Can either player help the Sixers? You never know.

Expectations for the season

Since Brand pulled the trigger on a trade for four-time All-Star Jimmy Butler, the expectations have heightened. With that said, Brand has been quick to temper those expectations but acknowledges them.

He wants what the fans want.

“I’m confident, I’m encouraged that we will be right there with these elite teams when it counts in April, May and hopefully June,” Brand said. “We want to win. We want to win big. I don’t want to let this city and the fans down.”

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Sixers Talk podcast: Ben Simmons' recent play; Kobe Bryant's legacy

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Sixers Talk podcast: Ben Simmons' recent play; Kobe Bryant's legacy

On the latest Sixers Talk podcast presented by Wilmington University, Amy Fadool and Paul Hudrick discuss how great Ben Simmons has been during Joel Embiid's absence as well as Kobe Bryant's legacy.

• Simmons has been on another level, but how will it look when Embiid returns?

• Could Matisse Thybulle make an All-Defensive team as a rookie?

• Discussing the tragic death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, and our best memories of the Philly native.

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Tobias Harris remembers his hero Kobe Bryant

Tobias Harris remembers his hero Kobe Bryant

CAMDEN, N.J. — Sneaker choice is a big deal for NBA players. There’s Nike, Jordan, Under Armor, Adidas. If you go through the Sixers’ locker room, there’s a decent mix. While guys may stick to a brand, they don’t all necessarily stick with one style or a signature player shoe.

If you go to Tobias Harris’ locker, it’s the same every time: He’s wearing a version of the Nike Mambas.

The entire basketball world was shaken with the news that NBA great Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among nine people killed Sunday in a helicopter crash in Calabassas, California.

“He was my hero as a kid,” Harris said. “Hearing about him getting up at 6 in the morning to go work out and being the first in the gym, those things inspired me as a player coming up. I really try to model my work ethic after a guy like Kobe. It’s sad news to hear. … I heard the news and just really couldn’t believe it.”

Harris and Al Horford spoke, along with head coach Brett Brown and GM Elton Brand, at the team's practice facility Monday. 

A veteran in his ninth season, Harris’ career intersected with Bryant for a couple years. As a kid, Harris grew up rooting for those Lakers teams led by Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. Even then, Harris said he was modeling his work ethic after Bryant's.

While he played against him a couple times during his career, Harris got an extraordinary opportunity during this past offseason.

This summer I got to go out to L.A. with a group of 15 guys and we were working out two-a-days,” Harris said. “During those two-a-days, I got a chance to talk to him, communicate with him and pick his brain on some different things basketball wise. That for me was like a dream come true, being able to get lessons from Kobe — that was once in a lifetime. And those dialogues, those communications, I’ll never forget.

Despite Bryant's untimely death, the league made the decision to carry out its slate of games Sunday. It was an emotional night around the NBA as teams and players honored the future Hall of Famer in a variety of ways.

The Sixers have a game to play Tuesday night against the Golden State Warriors. In the city where Bryant was born, it’s sure to be an emotional night. Harris said the team has discussed ways to honor Bryant but didn’t divulge them Monday.

While the emotions will still likely be raw, Harris will look to getting to play the game he loves as therapy.

A lot of emotions overweigh a lot of things,” Harris said. “Basketball has always been a peaceful place for me. Even being out there today and practicing, it was kind of relaxing to just get out there and compete, and I believe it was probably the exact same way for Kobe. Just to be able to go out there and be around teammates and use that competitive fire. … It’s always good to play the game and love the game on top of that stuff off the court.

Like so many other players already have, Harris will likely have a message and show of respect for Bryant on whichever style of Mambas he’ll be wearing.

And he’ll carry the memories of the past summer and the conversations he shared with Bryant.

“He was telling me he pulls for the Lakers heavy, but he was telling me, ‘Man, I love Philly. Philly’s my home,’ that’s what he told me. I knew he was watching the game, us vs. the Lakers [on Saturday], and I knew he was impressed with our play. … The whole timeline is surreal to me.”

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