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Sixers heading toward training camp without resolution on Jerryd Bayless

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Sixers heading toward training camp without resolution on Jerryd Bayless

With NBA training camps set to open in a few weeks, the Sixers appear headed for a familiar situation. 

For a third straight season, the team could open camp with a high-profile player that doesn’t exactly fit into their plans.

In 2016, it was Nerlens Noel. “I don’t see a way it can work. It’s just a logjam,” he said at the time about the Sixers’ situation at center (see story)

Of course, Noel was right. The big man was eventually traded to the Dallas Mavericks after 29 games and just 19.4 minutes a night during his final stand with the Sixers in 2016-17.

Last season, Jahlil Okafor was the odd man out. The former No. 3 overall pick reported to the Sixers in better shape and with an open mindset, but the organization had already moved on.

“He comes in and his head’s good and his spirit’s good,” Brett Brown said last October (see story). “And he and I talk all the time, but that is the bottom line. He is not in the rotation.”

The #FreeJah movement finally got its wish when Okafor was shipped to the Brooklyn Nets after a measly two appearances for the Sixers in the 2017-18 season.

Now the franchise is staring at yet another training camp conundrum: Jerryd Bayless.

While nowhere near as big a name as the other two players, Bayless’ contract says otherwise. The veteran guard is set to earn $8.5 million in the final year of a three-year, $27 million deal that hasn’t yielded close to the return expected when he signed. That would make him the fifth-highest paid Sixer for the 2018-19 campaign.

That’s a pretty penny for a guy limited to 39 games a season ago, mainly because of the coach’s decision not to play him. 

Bayless started out last season in Brown’s mix of reserve guards, but his lack of consistent shooting (41.6 percent from the field) and spotty defense eventually led to him being glued to the bench (see player evaluation). The 30-year-old played in just one game after Feb. 9 — a one-minute, 44-second run in garbage time of the Sixers’ Game 1 loss to the Boston Celtics.

Things aren’t likely to change much regarding Bayless’ status for the upcoming slate, which means seeking outside options make the most sense. He had been connected to a trade for Cleveland Cavaliers sharpshooter Kyle Korver earlier this summer, but those rumblings have died down. 

That leaves the waive and stretch provision, which would allow the Sixers to part with Bayless and spread his $8,575,916 cap hit for next season over three years. It hasn’t come to that point yet since reaching an agreement on using the “stretch” can be a bit complex, but after seeing the Los Angeles Lakers recently figure out a way to get from under Luol Deng’s massive contract using the method, anything is possible.

“This whole year from an individual standpoint wasn’t the easiest,” Bayless said during exit interviews. “At the same time, when you’re around a group of guys that we had and the success that we had, it made it easier. I’m really grateful that I was able to be a part of this organization this year. We’ll see what happens moving forward.”

We’re all still waiting.

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To DNP-rest, or not to DNP-rest: That is the question facing Joel Embiid

To DNP-rest, or not to DNP-rest: That is the question facing Joel Embiid

It’s certainly not going out on a limb to say the Sixers’ success depends on the health and fitness level of Joel Embiid.

When he’s on the floor, he’s one of, if not the best center in the NBA. The issue for the Sixers is when he’s not on the floor — which happens more often than they’d like. The series against the Raptors was the most prime example. Embiid was a plus-89 in a series the team lost in seven games. Greg Monroe was a minus-9 in two (2!) minutes in Game 7. Yuck.

By now we all know about Embiid’s injury history. His knee tendinitis and illnesses dominated the headlines during the Sixers’ postseason run. The tendinitis could be attributed to Embiid playing 54 of the first 58 games of the season. Some have made the connection of Embiid's illnesses to a poor diet. Whatever the case, both mired Embiid's effectiveness.

There is good news: Embiid knows things need to get better. He knows he needs to be in better physical shape. He knows the Sixers will only have a long playoff run if he’s the best and healthiest version of himself. 

He also knows how he can accomplish that.

Looking at the way Toronto managed Kawhi [Leonard] all season … when you start thinking about back-to-backs and stuff like that, having a good team around you helps,” Embiid said during exit interviews. “Most of the time I kind of feel bad because I feel like I let everybody down by not playing or sitting out. If you see that and you know guys are going to take over and get the win — we have the talent to do so. I guess it’s an easy decision for me. I think as long as we got it all covered and we have an opportunity to win games without me, I’m open to it. … Just gotta keep working on my body. It’s only going to get better.

He has been looking rather svelte in his Instagram posts and shouldn’t have to feel bad about sitting out with the talent that’s been brought in.

Elton Brand was aggressive in signing veteran Al Horford. Horford will play with Embiid in the starting lineup at the four, but will also be the team’s primary backup center. There may not be a better backup five in the entire league. Horford’s abilities on both ends of the floor will soften the blow of having Embiid on the bench.

And let’s not forget about Kyle O’Quinn. The veteran big is solid defensively and would’ve served as a better option than any backup big Brett Brown went to against the Raptors. He’s a strong insurance policy as the team’s third-string center.

It also helps that the schedule makers were kind to the Sixers — and it doesn’t seem like it was an accident. The Sixers have no nationally televised games on the second half of back-to-backs, something our NBC Sports National NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh pointed out as a guest on the Sixers Talk podcast last week. Clearly, those networks don't want to get burned if Embiid decides to rest.

Haberstroh actually wrote a piece about the very topic of the DNP-rest epidemic, discussing a company called Fansure. Fansure should appeal to Sixers fans as “an analytical start-up company that helps protect fans by offering reimbursement plans for tickets to games in which star player(s) sit out due to either rest or a last-minute injury.” (Then maybe angry fans will be less likely to be in reporter’s mentions … probably not.)

It’s also fair to wonder if medical personnel decisions will have any effect on all this with Embiid.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Philadelphia 76ers handle Embiid’s rest regimen," Haberstroh writes. "The team signed big man Al Horford to start next to him and potentially start at center in Embiid’s place if he needs a night off. Those decisions will come down to Embiid and new members of the medical staff after the team parted ways with two major voices — vice president of athlete care Dr. Danny Medina and director of performance research and development Dr. David Martin.

It’s tough to know the significance of Medina and Martin no longer being with the Sixers. The team has already begun filling in roles in the athlete care department. They’ve hired Lorena Torres-Ronda, formerly of the Spurs, as performance director. Expect more new names to be announced this week, per a team source.

While breathing new life into the athlete care department could help, it ultimately comes down to Embiid. 

Is he ready to listen to the advice of those around him and do what’s best for himself and the team? Will he feel comfortable letting his teammates try to win in back-to-back situations without him?

Guess we’ll find out starting Nov. 13, the second game of a back-to-back in Orlando.

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Sixers' Josh Richardson has a unique defensive challenge ahead

Sixers' Josh Richardson has a unique defensive challenge ahead

There are plenty of new things in store for Josh Richardson as one of the newest members of the 76ers, but there is one in particular that’s going to take some getting used to.

At 6-foot-6, 200 pounds, Richardson will be the smallest guy in the Sixers' starting lineup this upcoming season.

“I have never been that, ever in my life,” Richardson said with a laugh at the Sixers Summer Shore Tour in Wildwood, New Jersey. “It will be interesting looking up to my teammates, talking in huddles and stuff.”

On a serious note, Richardson is looking forward to the challenge on defense. Richardson guarded point guards quite a bit during his four years with the Miami Heat and has confidence he’ll be able to guard smaller guards.

“I know that I’ll be the shortest starter here and I don’t mind guarding all of the guys that like to get in the paint and use their speed a lot,” Richardson said.

One thing is for certain: Richardson is ready for the season to get started, especially after the NBA schedule release.

“I’m just excited," Richardson said. "I saw we open with Boston and I know there’s a little rivalry history there, so it’s going to be fun to be a part of that.”

And as for his former team?

“I always have Miami circled to go back there and compete against my brothers down there," Richardson said, "but I’m just ready, excited to compete every game.”

Richardson has kept in touch with Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Mike Scott throughout the offseason. He met Shake Milton for the first time, working out at the Sixers' training facility on Saturday morning.

The former Tennessee Volunteer has been getting his own work in this summer.

“Health, I think health is a big part, just being able to be out there for as many games as I can is going to be huge, and being able to make shots,” Richardson said of his offseason goals. “I think being a shot maker is going to be big for us.”

Looking back at the trade, despite there being a shock factor in the moments following, he couldn’t be more eager for this new opportunity. Richardson said his excitement occurred "almost instantly."

“After I started looking at the pictures of our lineup, it turned into straight excitement, like as soon as it happened,” Richardson said. “As long as we all gel, as long as we all have the same goal in mind, I think we’ll have a strong season.”

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