76ers

Joel Embiid trying to help Markelle Fultz through 'crazy situation'

Joel Embiid trying to help Markelle Fultz through 'crazy situation'

Joel Embiid knows a thing or two about injuries and off-court drama. Even he hasn’t seen anything like the current situation with Markelle Fultz.

Wednesday night, about 30 minutes before opening tip of the Sixers’ 121-120 win over the Pelicans (see observations), The Athletic published a report that Fultz has been dealing with a wrist injury in addition to his previously diagnosed scapular imbalance. According to the report, Fultz “would prefer a fresh start with a new team" (see story).

Fultz’s agent Raymond Brothers denied that his client wants to be traded. Per Brothers’ recommendation, Fultz will have an outside medical consultation on Monday in New York. He won’t play in games or participate in team practices until then, although head coach Brett Brown said pregame that Fultz took part in the Sixers’ light walkthrough before the game. 

Fultz was on the Sixers’ bench in street clothes during the game. 

After the game, Brown said, “It would be irresponsible and reckless for me to even comment on it.”

He didn’t respond directly to a question about Fultz’s wrist. 

“I’ve said as much as I can on Markelle,” Brown said.

Ben Simmons said, “That’s my brother; that’s my teammate,” and left it at that.

Embiid was much more expansive with his thoughts on Fultz:

It’s a crazy situation. I thought I went through it my first two years, but this is different. Honestly, I don’t know what’s going on. I’m just a player on the 76ers, so I just try to do my job. All I can do is try to help him and give him advice. It’s a tough situation. Last year I felt like a lot of people didn’t have his back — that was with the previous management. I feel like everybody has been trying to do their job helping. I don’t even know what’s the problem. I think he’s been playing really well, coming off the bench, coming in, doing his job. I love playing with him. We have something going, especially on that pick-and-roll. A lot of people talk about, 'He’s a bust' and all of that. It’s stupid. He’s been doing a great job. In the limited minutes that he gets, he comes in, does his job, runs the offense, defensively he tries. He has a lot of potential. I just got to keep doing my job and try to help him.

Embiid’s reference to “previous management” appears to be a shot at former president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo’s regime. Colangelo drafted Fultz No. 1 overall out of the University of Washington last year. 

Fultz has averaged 8.2 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 19 games this season. He’s made 29.5 percent of his jumpers and is shooting 56.8 percent from the foul line.

In Embiid’s mind, Fultz’s production outside of his shooting and the fact that he has just 33 games of NBA experience makes the “bust” label premature. 

Even with the Sixers at 13-7, winners of four straight and all 10 home games this season, it’s inevitable that the team is going to continue to be asked about Fultz. A former No 1 pick reportedly dealing with multiple injuries and preferring a change in scenery is a big deal, though it’s not an especially palatable story. 

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Ben Simmons seems like he may be teasing intent to shoot more jumpers

Ben Simmons seems like he may be teasing intent to shoot more jumpers

Ben Simmons appears comfortable with the public knowing that he’s been working on his jump shot during the NBA’s hiatus.

After the Sixers included Simmons making a three-pointer in a video package from a recent practice, the 23-year-old released a YouTube video on Wednesday that shows the workouts he did in Los Angeles with trainer Chris Johnson ahead of the league’s restart. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade make appearances. 

Simmons shoots plenty of jump shots in the video — turnarounds in the post, mid-range pull-ups, catch-and-shoot threes. Johnson has Simmons put on shooting gloves for some of the drills. 

There’s one exchange with the Pistons’ Tony Snell, at around the 5:18 mark of the video, that possibly teases Simmons’ intent to attempt more jumpers when play resumes.

Snell: You should be shooting way more. Your shot looks good.

Simmons: Orlando.

Snell: Orlando? I’ll be watching.

Simmons: I’m coming for it.

We don’t need to remind Sixers fans that Simmons has yet to be a remotely regular or effective NBA jump shooter. The two-time All-Star has made the first two three-pointers of his professional career this season and is 6 for 34 overall from 10 feet and out. He'd said in September, "If it's open, I'll take it" when asked about the prospect of taking threes this season, an attitude that did not materialize in games. 

This video of him sinking shots in a non-game setting is not necessarily a sign he’ll be primed to fire at Disney World, but the fact that he’s put the footage out there for all to see is at least notable. Of course, there were also plenty of videos last summer of him draining jumpers. He’s had an excellent all-around season and is one of the league’s best defenders, but the jump shot has still been miles behind the other areas of his game. 

The Sixers have been using Simmons as a power forward in their practices at Disney World, a shift he said Tuesday he’s willing to try.

“You've just gotta work with different things,” he said. “You’ve gotta try different things out, see if they work. We’re not at a stage where we can be comfortable yet. I’m still trying to figure it out myself ... what feels comfortable, what’s right for this team and how we’re gonna win. 

“If it’s this way, then I’m all for it. I’ve been having fun in that position — whatever you guys say, the four — whatever it is. But at the end of the day, when you see me I’m on the floor, I’m making plays.

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Matisse Thybulle, Ben Simmons and Sixers provide insight into life in NBA 'bubble'

Matisse Thybulle, Ben Simmons and Sixers provide insight into life in NBA 'bubble'

Hearing the Sixers describe their early days inside the NBA’s “bubble” at Disney World, it sounds something like living inside a reality television show.

The team is isolated from the outside world and preparing to perform for the general public’s entertainment. In their downtime, many players have felt as if they’re at summer camp, not an environment created in response to a pandemic. They’re taking part in approved recreational activities while making sure to adhere to the league’s many health and safety regulations. Fishing has been an option some players have enjoyed. 

“The fishing conditions are very good, a lot of largemouth bass,” Ben Simmons said Monday in a video conference call. “I fish a lot so this is what I do every day. I work out, play some video games and fish, so that’s my day-to-day routine. But overall I think everyone is just doing something to be productive in some sort of aspect. 

“I think guys are enjoying it. Myself, personally, I’m just having a good time, getting ready for the games coming up and using the free time to just do something that I enjoy doing. So it’s been good.”

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We went fishing for some bass 🎣

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Joel Embiid said Monday he’s enjoying his “big TV and video games. … Just enjoying my time being on FaceTime basically 24/7 and playing video games.”

The NBA and NBPA announced Monday that two players of the 322 tested in Orlando were positive for the coronavirus, and that those players never cleared quarantine. Though many questions linger about the league’s approach, both in terms of efficacy and morality as the NBA ramps up to play in a location where COVID-19 has taken a serious toll on the healthcare system, it seems to have been successful so far in preventing a spread of the coronavirus on the Disney World campus.

Monday, ESPN reported that the Rockets' Bruno Caboclo unintentionally broke quarantine, while former Sixer Richaun Holmes tweeted that he accidentally breached the bubble to pick up a food delivery. Both players were subject to extended time in quarantine. The Athletic's Shams Charania reported Monday that multiple tips have been made to the NBA's anonymous hotline to report protocol violations. 

At least initially, Brett Brown thought his players were doing a good job of following all precautions. 

“How are the players responding? Well," Brown said Sunday. “Do I think it can be maintained? I do, as far as the discipline. We all worry about the virus, in some capacity, sneaking it. But I tell you what, full credit to the NBA for creating this environment, and credit to the players for being — albeit (in early days) — disciplined to do the things that they have asked us to do.”

Rookie Matisse Thybulle’s video series on life in the bubble has provided a look at this unusual existence for players. Thybulle is showing fans everything from testing procedures to practice banter to a masked general manager Elton Brand sinking a jumper. 

“He didn’t get clearance to put me on,” Simmons said with a smile. “I’m going to have to speak to him if he makes any money off it. But I love it, I love that he’s capturing this moment. It’s a historic moment for sports in general. I think what he’s been doing has been great.”

It’s excellent insight from Thybulle into a situation nobody has ever come close to experiencing before. His two videos thus far have totaled over 500,000 views on YouTube, so Simmons may be wise to renegotiate a royalty agreement. 

On a more serious note, Mike Scott on Monday summed up life in the bubble well. He has no complaints.

“I just know how to adapt to situations I’m in,” he said. “It’s not that bad. The hotel room is good, food is solid. It’s just basketball after that. It feels like camp, like a basketball camp. You go from your room to the court from the court to your room, see some players here and there, but for the most part, I’m not really tripping. It’s straight, it’s cool.”

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