Kyle O'Quinn Q&A: Sixers center talks Bass Pro Shops hats, how 'basketball chose me,' and more

Kyle O'Quinn Q&A: Sixers center talks Bass Pro Shops hats, how 'basketball chose me,' and more

Kyle O’Quinn sometimes sports a sweatshirt that reads “O’Quinn & Son Hardware.” It’s the name of the hardware store his family had growing up in Queens, New York. 

O’Quinn was raised by his mother, Regina, a post office worker, and his father, Tommie, who worked in N.Y. transit, alongside his older sister, Rasheena. He describes his childhood as “regular family life … just the four of us pulling for each other.”

O’Quinn started playing basketball recreationally in his neighborhood at a young age, like most kids do, but didn’t play organized basketball until he was in 11th grade. Up until then, baseball was his first love.

“Until I couldn’t get the curve anymore, the ball started moving too fast,” O’Quinn, a die-hard Mets fan, remembers. He also played football because he liked the physicality and his best friend was the quarterback, but he knew he didn’t want to play in college.

Basketball just kind of happened. It kinda chose me because of my growth spurt, and how things were playing out.

After getting an opportunity to play his senior year of high school, he made the most of it, and Norfolk State offered him a full athletic scholarship, the first and only college to do so.

“It was life changing for my family,” Q’Quinn said to NBC Sports Philadelphia. “You didn't realize it at the beginning, how much help it provided, but it was really, really helpful. … When you get older and you see all your friends in college debt. … You think your parents are so rich, and in reality we weren't. I was just thinking my sister went, so I'll go, and the scholarship really helped.”

When O’Quinn got drafted by the Orlando Magic with the 49th pick in the 2012 NBA draft, he can remember his late father's response putting everything in perspective.

“You were 1 of 60,” O’Quinn remembers his father saying. “I was like wow, when you really think about it.”

O’Quinn, whose father passed in a car accident in September of 2015, always carries his father with him.

“Just appreciation of life,” O’Quinn said of the biggest thing he takes from his father. “He left that with us. We just know he's in a better place. … I know he's super chillin’ right now.”

For more on O’Quinn, check out our Q&A:

What do you take away from each of your NBA stops?

In Orlando, I think they taught me how to be a pro, carry myself as one. I had Jameer Nelson, JJ Redick, Al Harrington.

In those early years, New York kind of gave me my identity, my style of play, being a spark off the bench, getting the crowd involved and doing things that don't show up in a stat sheet. They gave me tremendous opportunity to play and gave me my identity, and now I'm here. 

How is Philly different from all the other places you’ve played in?

The fans are in it, and I think the fans are in it wholeheartedly with you. They are not playing GM in the stands, criticizing the home team, cheering for the away team. They are with it. They are in it with you. It's hard to explain because I'm not trying to kill the other fanbases, but sometimes you have those people that sit so close and they feel like they know a better rotation or coach should call this play and (Philly fans) kind of go with whatever’s going on and they feed off the energy. The play that we try to put out there kind of represents them and I think the way they cheer for us, represents us.

(Photo courtesy of Sixers.com)

I’ve noticed that you’re always using acronyms on your social media accounts. What started that and does every acronym have their own meaning? Can you share one with us?

Just a me thing. Sometimes there's some curses in there, or some things I don't want people to know. Sometimes it's an inspirational quote and I know what it means, like the one I keep on my shoes. How much do you look down at your feet on the bench or at the free throw line? It stands for “Control what you can control.”

What’s the story behind the Crocs? I see you wearing them all the time …

My nephews wear them, and I feel like I'm out of place when I don't wear mine. They question me. And just because we live close to a farm, it's an easy shoe to wear. Washable, you can hose them down, and when I go to Yoga they're easy to wear. They are very easy wearing, and I was actually surprised they had them in my size. I think just trying to be cool with my nephews is what started it, and then I just kept it going because I actually think they are super comfortable. 

How many pairs?

Every pair that comes in a Size 16. And I put the Jibbitz on them to kind of style them up a little bit. 

* Sidenote: I had to look up what Jibbitz are. They're basically shoe charms for Crocs.

Speaking of style, how do you describe yours and is there a story behind the Bass Pro Shops hat that we always see you wear?

I really don't think I have that much style. I wear what's comfortable. Everyday, all day gear. I don't like changing too much. Anyone who knows me knows I don't really like wearing jeans. Super comfortable. The Bass Pro Shops hat kind of came out of nowhere, because we were on a road trip type deal and we needed Yeti coolers and bottles and we were in there, and they (Bass Pro Shops) had literally everything, and I thought the hat was cool. Where I train at in Vegas they have one of the bigger stores, and I was in there one day and I grabbed the hat and didn't have a haircut and kept wearing it, and next thing I know ,other people started wearing it, and then I got every color.

And your beard?

I pretty much treat my beard like the hair on my head, so I don't overcomplicate it. I think a lot of it just has to do with the anatomy of my beard. People act like I have a secret potion that I put in there but I don't. 

Do you have goals after basketball?

My dream is to be a Dean of Discipline or a guidance counselor. I pretty much graduated with an education and psychology background.* I knew I wanted to be in the school system when I'm done — that's why I chose those directions, so I could have a job after I'm done.

*O’Quinn graduated with a degree in interdisciplinary studies.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

Waiting on people. … People brushing their teeth without running the water. Like they put the toothpaste on there and wet it, and then walk around. … That's disgusting. DISGUSTING. I hate when someone doesn't brush their teeth with the water running.

Are you like me and brush your teeth in the shower? 

Oh yeah, I keep a toothbrush in the shower and by the sink. 

Anything you're afraid of? 

(laughs) Being in the house alone. People think I'm crazy, but I hate being home alone. I don't like being alone.

Who is Kyle outside of basketball?

I am a full-time son. A full-time uncle. A full-time brother. That is me.

I hope you know K.O. now. If it ain't comfortable, I ain't doing it!

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Sixers Injury Update: Joel Embiid, Josh Richardson out for Saturday's game vs. Cavs

Sixers Injury Update: Joel Embiid, Josh Richardson out for Saturday's game vs. Cavs

The Sixers will be down two starters Saturday night when they return to Wells Fargo Center to play the Cavs.

Josh Richardson will miss his fifth consecutive game with right hamstring tightness, while Joel Embiid is out with a left hip contusion.

A team source told NBC Sports Philadelphia that Embiid reported discomfort after the Sixers' 119-113 loss to the Wizards on Thursday night and is being treated for the injury.

Embiid had 26 points, 21 rebounds and eight turnovers Thursday.

Richardson and the Sixers have been cautious with his hamstring. He told reporters in Washington, D.C., that this is the first hamstring injury he's dealt with and admitted that it's been a frustrating process.

“A hamstring is one of those things where you can think that you’re fine and then you take a wrong step and it’s a week or two-week setback," he said. "I don’t really want to get into that whole cycle. ... It’s just one of those things where I just don’t really know where I’m at most of the time. It always feels like I’m tiptoeing, trying not to do too much.”

The Sixers' preferred starting five of Embiid, Richardson, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris and Al Horford have played just 102 minutes together this season, posting a plus-21.3 net rating. 

Furkan Korkmaz has started the past four games in place of Richardson. Without Embiid, the Sixers will need to plug in another spot starter and perhaps search for further big man depth. Kyle O'Quinn hasn't played since Nov. 23, but he might be called upon vs. Cleveland.

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How Joel Embiid can improve with the subtleties of screening and rolling

How Joel Embiid can improve with the subtleties of screening and rolling

The Sixers, through 22 games, have run the fewest pick-and-rolls in the NBA, and at the worst efficiency

Joel Embiid is in the bottom top 10 percent of the league in efficiency as a roll man. 

None of those stats are encouraging at first glance.

That said, are there any positive signs for Embiid’s progress as a screener and a roller? And how can he get better?

Rolling isn’t always the right option

While Brett Brown said after practice Wednesday that he wants Embiid “screening and rolling more than popping,” rolling isn’t always the right option for the All-Star center.

Because Ben Simmons frequently stations himself in the “dunker spot,” Embiid often needs to float out behind the three-point line for the Sixers to maintain proper spacing.

When opposing big men drop on the pick-and-roll, there’s typically not much to be gained by Embiid rolling.

Embiid pops on the play below against the Raptors, and it’s a reasonable move with Marc Gasol dropping into the paint on Josh Richardson’s drive. Ultimately, the bigger issue is he settles for a mid-range jumper instead of either taking an open three or putting pressure on Gasol to guard a drive to the rim. 

A game-winning variation  

Before Richardson’s hamstring injury, the Sixers were incorporating the action above more into their offense. It’s a basic look — Richardson rubs off a screen to the top of the key, then Embiid steps up to give him a ball screen. 

Embiid’s game-winning dunk on Nov. 12 vs. the Cavs came from a smart variation. After Embiid’s roll to the rim, he set a strong down screen for Tobias Harris, flowing into a perfectly executed high-low.

On most of the occasions Embiid rolls to the rim and doesn’t receive the ball initially, a deep post-up is the next best option. Instead of finding Embiid on the high-low Nov. 15 in Oklahoma City, Al Horford swung the ball to Harris and created a good angle for a post catch. Embiid will score or get fouled in these positions more often than not. 

Getting snug

The “snug pick-and-roll” is, in theory, a way to allow Embiid and Simmons to both be near the rim at the same time without the only result being claustrophobic spacing. 

Embiid set a hard screen on RJ Barrett, forced the desired switch and got an and-one Nov. 29 against the Knicks. 

“We've been trying to do that bit by bit over the years,” Brown told reporters. “I think that you have a deep pick-and-roll with those two, a lot of times they do switch. I thought Ben did a good job of finding that and if they don't switch you got Ben going downhill, and we're trying to just continue to work on his finishing. And it is a look that I think, especially in crunch-time environments, interests me a lot.” 

The obvious problem with the snug pick-and-roll is there’s minimal space for anything to develop. Simmons has little margin for error with his first read. 

Though Embiid eventually had the switch the Sixers wanted against the 6-foot-5 Malcolm Brogdon on the play above, Simmons had already committed to a righty jump hook on Myles Turner and didn’t have room to change his mind. 

Developing the tricks of the trade 

Embiid’s value as a roller increases against teams that aggressively hedge the pick-and-roll.

He didn’t even roll very far on this play from Nov. 8 in Denver — just a couple of feet after screening for Richardson — but the scheme the Nuggets were using meant Will Barton had to tag Embiid before flying out to Furkan Korkmaz. Barton couldn’t recover in time.

Embiid’s chemistry with his new teammates is predictably not yet at an advanced stage. Richardson has a tendency to snake back in the opposite direction of his initial drive, and Embiid still seems to be figuring that out. 

They were on different wavelengths here. 

Since Embiid draws so much respect from opposing defenses, many pick-and-roll actions involving him are going to be inelegant. Especially late in games, teams often know what’s coming and load up to stop it.

He can still be helpful in those situations by focusing on doing the simple things. The technique isn’t textbook on this play, but his screen on Donovan Mitchell gets the job done. 

One of the next steps in Embiid’s evolution as a screener and roller will be applying a few of the dark arts that are prevalent across the NBA, whether it’s stealthily using his upper body like Horford or giving the ball handler space to drive by sealing his man in the lane.

He did the latter well vs. Larry Nance Jr. and the Cavs. 

As a 7-foot, 280-pound player with diverse offensive skills, Embiid is a threat as a roller, at least on paper.

It often won’t be as easy for him as just rolling with purpose to the rim and being rewarded with dunks, but he’s shown he has the ability to help himself and his teammates get good looks. 

For Embiid, it’s clearly important to work on dealing with double teams, refining his post game, limiting turnovers and hitting open three-point shots at a decent rate. 

But the 25-year-old big man also has plenty of room to improve as a screener and roller. 

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