76ers

Joel Embiid questionable vs. Jazz with left knee soreness

Joel Embiid questionable vs. Jazz with left knee soreness

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Joel Embiid is questionable for the Sixers' Monday's matchup against the Jazz but the big man expects to play. 

Embiid will be a game-time decision because of left knee soreness. He is experiencing tightness and will go through pregame warmups to see how he reacts. After that, the call will up be up to him. 

"My whole body's a little bit sore, but I think I should be playing tonight," Embiid said. "If I feel good, I'll play. It's not on them (the Sixers). I think it's more on me."

Embiid took three-point shots and free throws after shootaround Monday. He did not attribute the discomfort to one play in particular. He took a tough spill Saturday against the Warriors but said that wasn't the specific cause.

"Maybe just a little bit because I landed on both of my knees," Embiid said. "It wasn't a little bit painful but it's nothing to be worried about." 

Embiid said his questionable status was not because of needing a day to rest. Embiid played 33 minutes Saturday. In fact, he said he was going to be "set free, basically" in terms of his minutes following that game. 

Embiid shot "a little bit" at Sunday's practice and did not go through shootaround Monday, something he has been doing to make keep his body ready for the game itself. 

"There's still a schedule in place," Embiid said. "I'm not cleared for back-to-backs yet. I expect at some point this season to be playing back-to-backs. You've just got to follow the plan and see how my body reacts. But it's been going well so far." 

Embiid has sat out twice this season, the last time being against the Jazz in Salt Lake City. The Sixers won that game, 104-97. 

The Sixers know what they have to do if Embiid cannot play. Dario Saric scored 25 points and JJ Redick added 20 in the Sixers' victory over the Jazz. Richaun Holmes started that night in place of Embiid, but he also is questionable because of gastroenteritis. Expect Amir Johnson, who did not play against the Warriors, to see more minutes if neither big can play. 

"In that case [without Embiid], we need to share the ball, we need to move a lot, we need to play a little bit faster," Saric said. "Try to attack Utah in the fast break because they are a really good defensive team of the half court." 

Jerryd Bayless is cleared to return after missing the last six games because of a left wrist injury. Justin Anderson (left leg) and Nik Stauskas (right ankle) are out. 

Brett Brown states Sixers' goal for new season: 'We want to play in the NBA Finals'

Brett Brown states Sixers' goal for new season: 'We want to play in the NBA Finals'

CAMDEN, N.J. — Brett Brown gave the Sixers a chance to digest their first team meal Friday and get a good night of sleep before announcing his hopes for the 2018-19 season.

“We want to play in the NBA Finals,” Brown said of what he shared with the players right before Saturday’s practice to open training camp. “We could have played in the NBA Finals. I understand the magnitude of that statement, but I stand by it and I own it. 

“It’s our goal to go play in an NBA Final. It’s a respect of championship habits. It’s a respect of each other. There are a lot of pieces that clearly have to be involved for us to achieve such a high goal but that’s our goal.”

Sure, the bar for every head coach entering a new season should be playing for a championship. But Brown truly believes it and knows his roster is one of precious few around the league with the weapons to potentially pull it off.

So does that mean the Sixers will now get ahead of themselves and start thinking about the postseason long before that deserves to be a thought in their minds? Not exactly, although the joy of getting back to that point a season ago and the pain of their exit are emotions they want to carry forward.

Brown laid out what needs to happen for the Sixers to make him look like a prophet, namely good health, attention to detail and a bit of luck to help navigate through the top dogs in the Eastern Conference of Boston and Toronto.

Still, more than anything else, the head coach made it clear that the guys must maintain a day-by-day approach.

Dare we say the Sixers still have to trust the process?

“I feel like the lessons we all learned from the playoffs last year will put us in better shape,” Brown said. “As you’ve heard me say, trying to start where we ended. You recognize the things that you need work on. You recognize the things, just the atmosphere that the playoffs bring. And you better deal with that from October, September to incrementally set the table for trying to achieve the goal that I just shared with you all.”

With 11 players back from last season’s team and hungry to take the next step in the overall progression, Brown didn’t have to do much convincing in the locker room.

“I think we have two of the best players in the NBA, a group of guys around them whose skills complement them,” JJ Redick said. “Hopefully we’ll find out next spring what we learned about the playoffs last year. I think if you just have the expectation that young players can make leaps playing in their second year, in their fourth year, that we should be one of a handful of teams in the East that have a chance of playing in the Finals.”

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Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz together? Expect to see it a lot more

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Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz together? Expect to see it a lot more

CAMDEN, N.J. — In their limited time together last season, playing Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz together didn’t seem like the best idea. Both players were dangerous in transition and attacking the paint, but both had suspect jumpers. Brett Brown only played the pair together for 51 minutes.

Expect to see a lot more of the former No. 1 picks sharing the court this season.

“We were on the same team most of the time,” Simmons said Saturday after Day 1 of Sixers training camp. “There were a couple plays where you get the ball up the floor to get it started. The first play he’s going to drive down and come off the curl, curl offense, and get to the rim. That’s exactly what I did, got to the rim and scored. Playing with him is easy. He plays the game the right way.”

If the work Simmons and Fultz each did in the offseason to improve their shots paid off, playing the two together isn't such a crazy idea. Fultz’s work with trainer Drew Hanlen is well documented, and he seems confident in his game. Simmons worked on his shot with his brother Liam. Saturday, he went into more detail on the mechanical changes he’s made.

“Just getting the ball to my left side; I was bringing it over to my right a lot,” Simmons said. “And getting underneath it and getting my thumb off the ball.” 

When he shot free throws after practice, Simmons’ focus on keeping his elbow locked in and on the left side of his body was evident.

Brown acknowledged Simmons’ shot is still a work in progress, but he’s been encouraged by what he’s seen. 

“Eighteen-footers, look at the rim,” Brown said. “Look at the rim. If you’re open, shoot it. The notion that he was going to come back after the summer, like, ‘wow, he’s really shooting a lot of threes …’ The reality of the summer was going to be looking at the rim and if people backed off you, to find a way to feel confident and comfortable punishing that. I think that he’s getting there. I think that his confidence and just body language, eye contact, looking at the target, has improved.”

One creative solution Brown mentioned that could allow Simmons and Fultz to play together more would be occasionally putting Simmons at the power forward spot. That could allow Fultz to run the offense, with Simmons serving as a point forward of sorts out of the post. 

The 6-foot-10 Simmons wasn’t very efficient in the post last season, recording 0.69 points per possession, 17th percentile in the NBA. But he was working on his game in the mid and low-post after practice in a spirited one-on-one session with Robert Covington. 

With that kind of athleticism and explosiveness, Simmons is clearly capable of being a better post player than he showed his rookie season. 

Ultimately, if the progress Simmons and Fultz appear to have made with their jumpers translates to the regular season, it may not take a ton of innovation for Brown to play the two together.

Just put two dynamic offensive players with improved jumpers on the floor and let them do their thing.

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