76ers

Sixers Notes: Embiid’s hand OK, Okafor’s DNPs, Simmons’ shot

Sixers Notes: Embiid’s hand OK, Okafor’s DNPs, Simmons’ shot

HOUSTON – Joel Embiid is determined to play through a right-hand contusion and face the Rockets.

He participated in the Sixers’ light practice Sunday, the day after suffering the injury against the Mavericks. Embiid thinks it occurred either late in the first quarter or early in the second when he tried to go baseline out of a double team. He stayed in the game and x-rays taken Saturday night came back negative.

“I’m feeling good,” Embiid said. “I think I should be ready. I should be playing tomorrow. It’s hurting a little bit but I think I’ll be fine. I’ll push through it.”

Embiid experienced swelling Sunday. The Sixers will have shootaround ahead of Monday’s matchup, where they will get another look at the situation. Embiid is ready to make an early diagnosis of himself.

“I’m fine,” he said. “I’m playing. I don’t care what they say. I’m playing.”

Embiid posted 21 points, six rebounds and three assists in the Sixers’ buzzer-beater loss Wednesday to the Rockets. He was not involved in the offense down the stretch and, considering how competitive he is, he’s likely looking to avenge that defeat on the Rockets’ home court.

Okafor reacts to DNPs
Jahlil Okafor understands his place on the Sixers, albeit on the bench and out of the rotation. The third-year center has been in communication with Brett Brown, who has opted to play Amir Johnson as the backup center behind Embiid.

“The last time we spoke, he told me that Amir was the backup to Jo,” Okafor said Sunday. “I’m ready to play. We talk often. That’s what it is at the moment. He told me I’m not in the rotation.”

Okafor entered training camp with expectations of a turnaround camp. He had shed significant weight and was no longer dealing with right knee soreness.

The competition for the backup role heated up, though, as the Sixers signed the veteran Johnson to a one-year, $11 million deal this summer and Richaun Holmes had made a strong case for more playing time last season. Holmes has been injured (fractured wrist) but Brown designated the other reserve minutes to Dario Saric. Okafor has appeared in one game. Still, he prepares as if his name could be called.

“I’m just healthy,” Okafor said. “I feel great. I’m ready to play. The coaches know that. My teammates know that as well. I’m just coming in here, working day by day, we’ll see what happens.”

And so Okafor’s future with the Sixers remains unclear, as it was the prior two seasons as well.

“Anything can change,” he said. “It could change in the blink of an eye. But right now, I’m not in the rotation and that’s what it is.”

Okafor re-joined the Sixers on Sunday after staying back at the team hotel Saturday in Dallas because of an upper respiratory infection.

Simmons expanding shot … but how far?
For everyone who wants to see Ben Simmons knock down long-range jumpers, that’s going to have to wait. Yes, the rookie is looking to expand his offensive game, but the Sixers aren’t focusing on that far from the basket.

“[I want to work on] the way I score at certain spots on the floor,” Simmons said Saturday. “Multiple spots — elbows, low block, through the lane, finishing.”

Simmons believes he needs to improve his overall scoring. That coming from the rookie who is averaging 17.5 points and recorded a triple-double in his fourth NBA game. Still, Simmons has been doing his most offensive damage in the paint.

Of his 84 field goal attempts, 47 have been taken from less than five feet from the basket, according to NBA.com. Simmons is shooting 65.9 percent in the restricted area (29 for 44) and 40.0 percent in the non-restricted area of the paint (12 for 30). He has been highly efficient attacking the basket with his speed and physicality.

Getting further out, though, Simmons is just 2 for 7 from mid-range and has not attempted a three. So when Simmons and the Sixers eye areas of improvement, they’re not talking about transforming into a younger version of JJ Redick — not yet, at least.

The team has specific objectives for his rookie season. They start in two areas, the basket and the line, where Simmons is shooting 59.4 percent.

“Maybe next year or at the end of this year, we’re going to start seeing, I think, some catch-shot threes and really expanding it. But that will not define him,” Brown said. “My mind for him completely in his first season is finishing at the rim and trying to get to that 70-percent mark as a free throw shooter.”

Scenes from the road
Redick, Jerryd Bayless and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot were the last three on the court following Sunday's light practice at the Toyota Center. It is a good example for a younger player like Luwawu-Cabarrot see veterans putting in extra work. (Redick's status for Monday has not been announced. He missed Saturday's game with lower back tightness.)

Sixers reportedly rebuffed in attempt to hire Rockets GM Daryl Morey

ap-rockets-daryl-morey.jpg
AP Images

Sixers reportedly rebuffed in attempt to hire Rockets GM Daryl Morey

Well, you can’t say the Sixers aren’t aiming high.

According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, the Sixers “have been rebuffed in their attempt to hire away Houston's Daryl Morey to take over as their new general manager.” Stein added that the team had great interest in Morey, but he couldn’t be lured away from the Rockets.

Morey, who has served as the Rockets’ general manager since 2007, was named the NBA’s Executive of the Year after Houston secured the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference with a franchise-best 65-17 record during the 2017-18 regular season.

Morey obviously fits the Sixers from a surface standpoint with his analytics background, commitment to building a pace-and-space roster and desire to chase stars. However, what makes the Sixers’ desire in him really interesting is that Morey is the mentor of former Sixers front office executive Sam Hinkie.

Bryan Colangelo, the man who replaced Hinkie in the Sixers’ front office, resigned in June after a scandal involving multiple secret Twitter accounts rocked the franchise. Head coach Brett Brown took over as interim general manager following Colangelo's resignation.

The Sixers have been patient throughout their search as managing owner Josh Harris recently said there is no timetable to select a candidate.

“We’re just getting focused on it now, given everything with free agency and the draft, and also the other GMs are in the same place. We’re looking for the right person,” Harris told NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Amy Fadool last week (see story). “One of the things that Bryan Colangelo did really well was we built a great staff, whether it be (vice president of basketball operations and chief of staff) Ned Cohen or (vice president of analytics and strategy) Alex Rucker or (vice president of player personnel) Marc Eversley or (Delaware Blue Coats general manger) Elton Brand, we have a lot of great people. It’s very consensus-oriented, there’s a lot of people in the dialogue, and we want to make sure we find the right fit for that. 

“It’s not going to be easy. My guess is it’s going to take awhile. And we’re obviously focused on doing it as quickly as possible, but at the same time I don’t want to set unrealistic expectations — it could take a little while. So we’re just starting that.”

More on the Sixers

Sixers officially bring back Amir Johnson on 1-year contract

ap-sixers-amir-johnson.jpg
AP Images

Sixers officially bring back Amir Johnson on 1-year contract

The band is back together.

The Sixers are still making their offseason moves official, which is what happened on Monday when the team officially announced a one-year deal to bring back Amir Johnson. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it is reportedly worth the veteran’s minimum, which would be $2.39 million for the center.

“Our experience with Amir last year confirms to us, on so many levels, that he is a perfect fit for our young and developing team,” Brett Brown said in a statement. “His work ethic, leadership and buy-in to team-first basketball all comes to mind when I think of his value to our ball club and his acceptance of a backup role to All-Star Joel Embiid is priceless. We are thrilled to have Amir and his family back in our program and I know this feeling is a shared by all of his teammates.”

Johnson, the last player drafted into the NBA straight from high school, spent his 13th professional season with the Sixers in 2017-18. The 31-year-old averaged 4.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 15.8 minutes a night.

However, it was the little things Johnson did that really added up for the Sixers. The big man had the highest aggregate hustle score, which measures screen assists, deflections, loose balls recovered, charges drawn and contested shots per contest, to win the league’s second-ever Hustle Award. 

“This is definitely an honor,” Johnson said after receiving the award. “I pride myself on doing the little things on the court and I just want to say thank you to my teammates and coaches. This award means a lot.”

More on the Sixers