76ers

Joel Embiid says he's '100 percent' back from foot injury, excited to play with Ben Simmons

Joel Embiid says he's '100 percent' back from foot injury, excited to play with Ben Simmons

AVALON, N.J. -- Joel Embiid has been waiting since 2014 to make his NBA debut. Two years later, the former third overall pick is nearing that day.

“I feel a hundred percent,” Embiid said Saturday at the Sixers Beach Bash. “I’m ready to get started. My summer has been great. We’ve been working out a lot this past summer, just getting some runs in. I’ve gotten a chance to play a little bit against the guys.” 

Embiid’s pro career has been sidelined by injuries, undergoing two foot surgeries in as many years. The first was to repair a stress fracture in his right navicular bone. The second, a bone-graft operation on the same bone. 

The 7-foot-2 big man has been rehabbing since then, traveling as far as Qatar in the process. This offseason Embiid was cleared for monitored, five-on-five drills. He joined the Sixers during the Las Vegas Summer League to continue his recovery away from game competition.

“It’s been really tough,” Embiid said. “The main thing is, I haven’t gotten a chance to get on the court and play, or help my teammates, or play in front of Sixers fans. I look forward to it and I can’t wait.”

Embiid said he “definitely” plans to be a go for training camp. He expects there will be a transition period once cleared to play given the length of his rehab, but notes he is a quick learner. Embiid also anticipates having restrictions, but has not discussed the specifics with the Sixers. 

“Probably,” he said. “But I think the restrictions would probably be about the fact that I haven’t played in two years. It’s not going to be about because people are worried that I’m going to re-injure myself, which I don’t think is going to happen.”

One player who is eager for Embiid’s return is rookie first overall pick Ben Simmons. The two have been friends since high school. They easily gel off the court, and plan to do the same in games. 

“He has great footwork, he has great touch, so I’m looking forward to playing with him,” Simmons said, continuing, “Off the court, we’re like brothers. We have fun.” 

Embiid has been present with the Sixers for games and practices. He has had numerous conversations with head coach Brett Brown about his days on the San Antonio Spurs coaching staff and how the organization achieved success with fellow big Tim Duncan, one of Embiid’s basketball role models. 

With an abundance of bigs, the Sixers will have to determine how they share the floor. For Embiid, who can also knock down long-range shots, he plans to fill whatever role the coaches outline for him.

“I think I’ll take a couple threes, but I’ll do what’s best for the team and whatever I’ll feel comfortable doing,” he said. “Obviously they’re going to need my presence inside and that’s what I’m going to do. But when I’m open, I might fire some threes.”

After a series of setbacks, Embiid is enthusiastic about the thought of making his NBA debut. 

“It feels great,” he said. “Especially after the past two years, I haven’t been able to do what I love. It just feels great.”  

Elton Brand should help Sixers fuse new school with old school

Elton Brand should help Sixers fuse new school with old school

CAMDEN, N.J. — Elton Brand was a phenomenal basketball player.

The 1999 No. 1 overall pick played 17 seasons and made two All-Star appearances. He was on the court for the Sixers a little over two years ago. 

When the team named Brand their GM, it seemed like an odd fit. On the court, former NBA player and Philly native Malik Rose referred to Brand as an “old school Chevy.”

Now, Brand is charged with leading an NBA team in 2018. And not just any NBA team, but one that’s had a heavy focus on analytics, starting with former GM Sam Hinkie and “The Process.” 

“Analytics is a great tool,” Brand said Thursday at his introductory press conference at the team’s practice facility. “We’ve built one of the strongest analytical departments in the league in my opinion. But I’ll bring the human side. I’ll bring the 17 years of evaluating talent and being on the court to add to the analytics.”

This makes a ton of sense. With Brand’s promotion to GM, Alex Rucker took his former position as executive VP of basketball operations. Rucker’s most recent position was senior VP of analytics and strategy. 

With Brand embracing the analytical side of things, the Sixers appear to have an ideal front office situation. Everyone surrounding Brand will be able to provide him with all of the data that is out there when it comes to personnel decisions. Brand will then be able to couple that research with years of basketball experience.

“I’m not old school and trying to fight that and say, ‘let me pick with my gut,’” Brand said. “I think those little nuances, with the way the game is trending, I’m on top of that. I think I have the pulse of that.”

Brand was named the GM of the Delaware Blue Coats, the team’s G-League affiliate, just this past season. So it’s a quite a leap to go from that position to running an NBA franchise. 

He’ll rely heavily on the experience of people like assistant GM Ned Cohen and senior VP of player personnel Marc Eversley. After all, that group has led the way since Bryan Colangelo was relieved of his duties and head coach Brett Brown was given the interim GM title. 

But don’t expect Brand to simply just be the face of the franchise. Sure, that is part of his appeal after the unceremonious departures of Hinkie and Colangelo, but make no mistake, Brand will have the “loudest voice off the court,” according to managing partner Josh Harris.

Brand will bring his wealth of experience on the court into the front office. That’s another reason the Sixers hired him: his ability to relate to players as a former player himself. Joel Embiid, Markelle Fultz, Robert Covington and T.J. McConnel were among the players in attendance during his introductory press conference. 

But expect Brand to mix his old school approach with today’s way of thinking.

“In the parlance of basketball ops,” Harris said, “he’s a new school Tesla.”

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We finally have footage of Markelle Fultz's rebuilt jump shot

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The Players Triune/Facebook Watch

We finally have footage of Markelle Fultz's rebuilt jump shot

No more cryptic Instagram posts. No more Zapruder-type videos.

On Thursday, Markelle Fultz gave us a glimpse of his much-anticipated jumper via an interview with the Denver Nuggets’ Isaiah Thomas for The Players' Tribune.

The biggest takeaway? What a huge improvement from anything we saw last season.

It’s certainly encouraging, but there are still things we need to see. All of those shots were set shots off the catch. We still need to see him shooting off the dribble, at the free throw line and in game situations.

During an almost 20-minutes conversation with I.T., Fultz talked about the injury that affected his shot. He dealt with a scapular muscle imbalance, which was finally diagnosed in late October after a weird start to the season.

The biggest question involving Fultz is whether the shot change caused the injury or the change occurred because of the injury. Fultz gave a clear answer.

“There was a lot of things going about changing shots and all this, but there was an injury there,” Fultz said. “For me, I’m a hooper so I was like ‘this ain’t going to stop me.’ Once I realized I really couldn’t do stuff to my full capacity, I was like ‘it really is something’ so I had to find out what it was and we did that throughout the season.

“It took a long time, which people really didn’t understand. They thought I was just being soft but it was really an injury. And now I got a chance to just sit down and pick apart all these doctors – we figured it out and I’ve been back to work this summer and everything’s even better than what it was.”

Fultz was the No. 1 overall pick in 2017 and for good reason. He had a stellar one-and-done season with Washington. The Sixers traded up to acquire the rights to select Fultz, primarily because of his fit with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Part of that fit centered around Fultz’s jumper.

When Fultz got hurt, all of that changed. He played in just 14 games and struggled in his limited playoff action. The team won 52 games and a playoff series with him mostly as a spectator.

Now fully healthy, Fultz has spent the summer in L.A. working with training guru Drew Hanlen, who’s worked with Embiid and Jayson Tatum, among others. The work appears to be paying off.

“Sixers fans are gonna get somebody that’s going to come in and play hard,” Fultz said. “I think I’m going to be that guy that’s going to be able to create shots for himself and his teammates. That guy at the end of the game when you need a bucket – you don’t really have to call a play. I’m going to get out there on defense. Most people don’t know I like to block shots so I’m going to be a big point guard out there.”

You can check out the full video here.

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