76ers

Jahlil Okafor, Markelle Fultz miss Sixers' trip to Boston

Jahlil Okafor, Markelle Fultz miss Sixers' trip to Boston

BOSTON — Jahlil Okafor was one of the players who did not travel with the Sixers to Boston. Unlike Joel Embiid, Markelle Fultz and T.J. McConnell, the reason was not related to injuries or rest.

Okafor is out of the rotation. Rather than sit on the bench in TD Garden, Okafor could use the time on the practice court in Camden, New Jersey. He stayed back Thursday during the one-game road trip for individualized training.

“[We are] trying to get him in a place that we can do whatever we can do to help him move forward, to move his career forward,” Brett Brown said. “If it’s not going to be in Philly, to make sure that we create an environment that he knows he’s cared for, that we are doing everything we can to keep his body right and his mind right and his fitness up.” 

Okafor has played a total of 25 minutes over two games this season, his third in the league. He made it known after the Sixers did not pick up his contract option that he would like to be bought out or traded. Neither scenario has been reached in the month since then. 

It seems likely the Sixers will make a deal before the deadline as they look to get something in return for the former No. 3 overall pick. Brown wants Okafor to be prepared to play in that case. 

“At any point, somebody could tell him he’s traded,” Brown said. “He’ll be on a plane and he’s going to roll into a city and expect to be able to perform. When that moment, if that moment happens, we want to do everything we can to help him.”

It has yet to be determined if the Sixers will implement the same approach for their next road trip, starting Dec. 9 in Cleveland. Okafor also was inactive for the Sixers’ home game on Wednesday while Nik Stauskas (ankle) was taken off the inactive list and cleared to play. 

Fultz in Kentucky
Brown reiterated the Sixers are not pushing Fultz, who is dealing with right shoulder soreness and scapular muscle imbalance, back on the court. 

Fultz is in Kentucky receiving physical therapy on his shoulder with Dr. Ben Kibler, Medical Director of the Shoulder Center of Kentucky at the Lexington Clinic. The Sixers announced on Nov. 19 Fultz would be reevaluated in “approximately two to three weeks,” which hasn’t happened yet.

“I think the defining moment is probably going to end up being, we’re going to look at his shot,” Brown said. “He’s going to go to the free throw line and we’re all going to say, does it pass the eye test? 

“He’s not there yet. He’s just not there yet. Everything is moving forward, but it’s not anything that we’re going to rush. There needs to be a tremendous confidence level that he has and a health-related confidence that our medical people have. As far as a timeline of what that all means, we don’t know. But I can tell you his heart is in the right place. His work ethic is great.” 

Sixers put bench under construction, but is second unit now any better?

Sixers put bench under construction, but is second unit now any better?

After a relatively quiet offseason, the Sixers’ roster has suddenly turned into musical chairs over the past few days.

In are Mike Muscala and Jonah Bolden. Out are Justin Anderson, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Richaun Holmes.

Not exactly earth-shattering moves, but moves nonetheless.

Of course, all of those changes were directed at the Sixers’ bench. That’s because the team already has one of the best starting rotations in the entire NBA. The Sixers’ five-man combination of Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Joel Embiid was plus-21.4 points per 100 possessions in 600 minutes of action together last season.

The reserves were a different story. The Sixers’ bench was among the league’s worst scoring-wise in 2017-18 before buyout veterans Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova pumped life into the group. With that duo on the squad, the Sixers posted a 20-3 record to close out the regular season and made quick work of the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs.

Those results changed against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Sixers’ bench was exposed defensively and smothered on offense in the five-game series.

“I’ve said on record, and I’ll say it again, I believe that anything that kind of matters, you’re probably going to bump into the Celtics,” Brett Brown said during the Sixers’ exit interviews. “So they’re always going to be sort of on our mind in relation to how do you compete with them?”

Competing with the Celtics and beating them are two very different things.

Did the Sixers’ tinkering with their bench put them any closer to knocking off their longtime rival? That’s a tough one to answer right now.

Despite shipping away Anderson, Luwawu-Cabarrot and Holmes, you can argue that the Sixers’ second unit will still be more athletic next season. A fully healthy Markelle Fultz will likely start out as the sixth man, and we know he’s got some incredible bounce to his game. Zhaire Smith already gave a glimpse of what type of athlete he is during summer league. And while 31 years old, Wilson Chandler can still rise up to throw it down.

Defensively is where that athleticism should really shine for the latter two. The rookie Smith has continually said defense is his best skill as he was named to the Big 12 All-Defensive team during his lone season at Texas Tech. Chandler possesses the ability to defend both forward spots and takes pride on that end of the floor.

Meanwhile, Muscala and Bolden aren't anywhere near leapers of Holmes' caliber. However, they are still bigger bodies that have the ability to move their feet to keep up with their man. That’s in addition to known hustlers T.J. McConnell and Amir Johnson putting forth their maximum effort guarding opponents.

But is that enough when a healthy Celtics team gets its projected roster back and rolls out a reserve lineup of Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Semi Ojeleye, Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes?

If the Sixers are unable to contain Boston’s talented starters and deep reserve blend, they might really run into problems trying to keep pace with offense of their own now that they lack a serious three-point threat outside of Redick. Belinelli and Ilyasova, who both departed moments into free agency, gave the team a one-two punch off the bench that could drain shots from anywhere. Now the only serviceable shooter in a backup role is the 6-foot-11, 240-pound Muscala (a career 37.8 percent shooter from long range). Kyle Korver, anyone?

The bench reset was necessary if the Sixers planned on getting to the next level. Is it enough to put them on the same level as the Celtics or will they remain green with envy?

We’ll see.

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Sixers trade Richaun Holmes to Suns; Jonah Bolden inks 4-year contract, source confirms

Sixers trade Richaun Holmes to Suns; Jonah Bolden inks 4-year contract, source confirms

The Sixers are not quite done making moves this offseason.

The team on Friday sent big man Richaun Holmes to the Suns for cash considerations. The Sixers also signed 2017 second-round pick Jonah Bolden to a four-year deal, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark.

Yahoo! Sports' Shams Charania first reported the trade and Bolden's signing.

With these moves, the Sixers’ roster remains at 15 players, but that could change if the team finds a way to rid themselves of Jerryd Bayless’ contract — say, in a trade with Cleveland (see story).

The writing has been on the wall for Holmes. Now entering his fourth year, the 2015 second-round pick struggled to find a role in Brett Brown’s rotation last season with a healthy Joel Embiid and veteran Amir Johnson in the fold. While he offered energy, athleticism and weakside rim protection off the bench, Holmes lacked discipline defensively, something Brown hasn’t tolerated during his tenure.

Bolden will essentially take Holmes’ spot on the roster as a developmental big. With quicker feet defensively, Bolden has more versatility to guard fours. While his summer league performance was underwhelming offensively, Bolden did impress defensively, especially against No. 1 pick DeAndre Ayton. It’s important to note that the third and fourth years of Bolden’s deal are not guaranteed, according to Derek Bodner of The Athletic.

Drafted by the Sixers out of Bowling Green State, Holmes flashed at times but was only able to get into 48 games this season, averaging 15.5 minutes a contest. He averaged 7.4 points and 4.2 rebounds in 156 career games with the Sixers.

A native Australian, Bolden attended UCLA for one year before heading overseas to play for FMP Beograd of the Adriatic League. As a draft and stash this past season, Bolden played for Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv and tested his skills in the EuroLeague. He averaged 7.2 points and six rebounds in 20.8 minutes a game. He’s shown flashes of a jump shot but shot just 31 percent from three this season abroad and 24 percent in summer league action.

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