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How Sixers are adjusting their workouts and nutrition with help from team chef

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Image courtesy of Philadelphia 76ers

How Sixers are adjusting their workouts and nutrition with help from team chef

Since the news of the NBA’s hiatus nearly four weeks ago, the Sixers' staff has been committed to helping the team’s players through all facets of this crisis.

“From Day 1, we were ready to take care of our players,” said Lorena Torres, the team’s Performance Director, who was creating individualized workout plans the night the NBA announced its suspension.

“We were prepared … and we are a team that believes in individualization, covering individualized needs,” Torres said. “But it’s more than just physical plans, it’s also about the mental and nutritional side of it.”

Torres worked closely with JaeHee Cho, the Sixers’ Executive Chef.

“It was actually really incredible to see all the different talented people, and people at the top of their field, all working for the Sixers,” Cho said, “and all of a sudden the goal wasn't how do we win basketball games anymore, it was how do we keep everyone healthy and fed properly during a pandemic? What does that actually mean?

“It was an incredible amount of information being exchanged, and from a professional development point of view, it was pretty cool to see how fast we could mobilize actions and get things done.”

From a physical performance aspect, getting strength, cardiovascular and recovery equipment for the players was a priority. And from a nutritional aspect, making sure players had the least amount of interruption as possible to their individual diets was of utmost importance.


(Image courtesy of the Philadelphia 76ers)

How was that done?

Well, Sixers rookie Matisse Thybulle gave us a glimpse into one of the ways on his TikTok account, saying that when he pulled up to the Sixers’ training facility, he opened up his trunk and had it loaded up with supplies.

Cho also credits the Sixers’ catering partners for being a huge help, especially during the initial two weeks, making sure that none of their core nutritional guidelines had to change.

And now, the team is continuing to adapt and evolve.

“We've done what we can to make sure guys are comfortable,” Cho said. “Now, it’s how do we continue to challenge them and continue to meet their needs, as they change, and the key to that is staying in touch without overloading them with information.” 

The mental aspect is equally important. 

“Being in social distancing and self-isolation can raise stress hormones,” Torres explained. “Activity and moving your body can help balance those hormones, and so can cognitive activation.”

Books, classes, yoga, meditation and mindfulness — it’s all about finding the balance between your mental state and your body.

“We need to stay mentally healthy and occupied and keep our minds busy,” Torres urged. “Maybe it’s a good moment to discover some tools, like mindfulness, meditation or reading and finish a book, trying to stay focused and have a purpose. Keep your mind busy, active, creative and focused, because the mind and the body are very linked.”

And while these are all ways in which the Sixers’ performance department has continued their commitment to taking care of their players during this time, these are also tips that all of us can take away.

Including you reading this right now.

So, I asked both Torres and Cho to share tips for all of us.

Torres’ tips for your physical wellness

When it comes to staying active, Torres noted that it doesn’t always have to be a workout. The key is to move. For example, if you’ve never been someone with an active workout routine, you can dance, do yoga with kids, have activities in the backyard.  

“It’s about moving and rising your heart rate,” Torres said. “You need to activate certain systems in your body to keep you healthy in general.”

For those looking for help with workout routines at home, Torres has provided us with some examples. Please note these are recommendations, but people should adjust to what equipment they have, and also to their level of fitness and experience.

Torres notes it’s important to involve the full body with an emphasis on the lower body, since lower-body muscles are bigger and more demanding.

“The more muscles you involve in your body, the better,” she said. “Big range of motions.”

Target one or two programs that you can do anywhere from two to five times per week.

(Image courtesy of the Philadelphia 76ers)

Cooking and nutrition tips From JaeHee Cho

Educate yourself as much as you can about food safety and COVID-19
This includes good hygiene, washing hands, not touching your face when you're cooking and keeping your work area really clean. You can learn more here.

Make it easy on yourself to eat healthy 
Don’t get into the habit of snacking on foods that cause inflammation or indigestion — that means highly processed foods, sweeteners, sugars, refined grains, trans fats, artificial colors and flavors. If you don’t have it around, you won’t eat it! Do your best not to shop for pre-packaged stuff like chips, snacks, candy bars, etc. Have healthier produce and food around the house.

Pro tip: Processed foods and snacks can contribute to chronic inflammation and quick and unnecessary weight gain. Instead, get your fill of healthy foods from fresh produce, nuts, seeds and proteins from traceable sources.

Food routine/eating schedule 
Let me preface this by saying everyone is different. You might be a person who likes to eat three meals a day, or a person who prefers to eat five smaller meals. Now is the time to pay attention to your eating habits, make a schedule and follow it. Whatever it is that you know works for you, stick to it.

Eat more greens, drink more water 
Vitamin D, Vitamin C and probiotics (which are great for gut health) are also really important, and if possible, do your best to get them from real foods, rather than from a supplement.

Eating and cooking should be a source of joy and stress reduction
Now more than ever, eating and cooking should not be a source of stress. One thing that is really important in making this happen is being prepared and mindful, and focusing on what you're doing. Know what you are going to cook and map out your steps before you get into the kitchen, just as you would before you start a workout. If you approach food shopping and cooking with that same mindset, it can make it that much more enjoyable and fun. A good shopping list means a faster and more efficient experience.

Be present in your kitchen. Put your distractions away and focus on the task at hand. I think you will find that you know more about cooking and techniques that may have seemed daunting and scary before, you will realize how fun they are and you'll start to approach it differently.

Pro tip: Medical studies show that getting good sleep, reducing stress and eating well can be a huge boost to the immune system, which is always important, but especially so right now. 

Don’t know what to cook? 
Give yourself time. Maybe now is the time to pull a cookbook off the shelf. Call your parents, grandparents and friends, and ask them for recipes or inspiration. 

(Still in a cooking rut? We asked Cho to create a special recipe for fans. Just check the end of this article.)

Do you have a favorite dish from a local Philly restaurant? Think about how you could try to recreate that at home. And while you’re doing it, why don’t you give that business a like on social media to show your support for your favorite local restaurants during this time.

Speaking of restaurants and the service industry, now more than ever is a time to think about your local neighborhood restaurant. Is your favorite restaurant open for takeout and/or delivery right now? Now is the time to support them while being mindful of public health guidelines for physical distancing and safety during this crisis. Sports and entertainment are such a part of our social psyche, and local, independently owned restaurants are too. 

For our Philly neighborhoods, Philadelphia as a whole, southeastern Pennsylvania, south New Jersey — in general, we used to rely on them so much to nourish us, celebrate with us, provide us community and entertainment. Now is the time they need our support more than ever.

Hate doing dishes? 
My tip there is eat and clean as you go. If you’re following a recipe, one of those steps  should be “now is a great time to wash that pot or clean that cutting board!”

If you approach washing the dishes with disdain, you've already lost the battle, so understand that doing the dishes and cleaning up is just as much a part of the process. Then I think it becomes a little more palatable, even enjoyable.

Green herb rice pilaf recipe

Cooking rice can be deceptively simple.  There are a large array of types, a myriad of different techniques and countless variations.

The simplified rice pilaf outlined is an easy way to upgrade your meal and practice a new technique.  The recipe below will go nicely with a simply prepared protein.

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons of Butter (or oil)
1 medium onion, small dice
2 to 3 cloves of Garlic, minced

2 cups long grain rice (such as basmati or jasmine rice)
2.5 cups vegetable stock, chicken stock or water

Salt and pepper

About 2 cups of fresh herbs, chopped

Tools needed

A medium pot (3 Quarts) or skillet or Dutch oven with a lid
A medium-sized bowl, for “cleaning” the rice
Cutting board and knife
Wooden spoon or rubber spatula

Preparation

Clean the rice by placing in a bowl and filling the bowl with cool water to cover from the tap. Using your hands, gently swirl and stir the rice in a circular motion — you will see the water turn opaque from the starch that is being rinsed from the surface of the rice.  Pour the water out carefully by letting the rice settle to the bottom of the bowl first.  Repeat three times or so until the water runs relatively clear. (To be conscientious of water usage, you can pour the water out into another container and use it to water your houseplants.) Set the rice aside.

Put the oil in the pot over medium heat.  When the oil is heated, add the onion and garlic and cook until softened and translucent — about three minutes. Add the rice, stirring to coat the rice in the butter. Keep toasting and stirring until the rice begins to give off a nice aroma — about two to three minutes.

Add the water or stock, a pinch of salt (about one teaspoon) and turn the heat up to bring to a boil. Lower the heat to bring the water down to a low simmer and cover with the lid. Set a timer for 15 minutes.

Now would be a good time to clean and chop up the fresh herbs. I like to use fresh, leafy herbs like parsley, cilantro, chives, or mint, depending on what you are having with the rice. If you don’t have herbs in your house, you can swap it out for anything that can steam in 10 minutes, such as baby spinach, peas, broccoli florets and grated carrots.

When the 15 minutes are up, turn the heat off, remove the lid and carefully stir in the herbs (or your substitute ingredient) with a fork. Replace the lid and rest the rice for at least 10 minutes, but up to 20 minutes. While the rice rests, you can tidy up the kitchen, set the table, etc.

This technique can be easily varied by substituting the fat or vegetables to suit your tastes! Leftovers can be easily microwaved for another meal.

Enjoy!

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The 5 worst Sixers free-agent signings

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The 5 worst Sixers free-agent signings

NBA GMs sometimes feel the temptation to pay average or good players as if they are great.

That description applies to a few of the players listed below in our ranking of the five worst Sixers free-agent signings. For the purposes of this list, we’re reserving judgement on well-paid current Sixers. 

5. Scott Williams 
Then-Sixers GM and head coach John Lucas liked that Williams knew “how to win.” The big man had immediately won three championships after entering the NBA, but the fact that he was on Michael Jordan’s Bulls probably had something to do with that early success. 

Signed to a seven-year contract, Williams only managed to play 212 games with the Sixers, none of which were in the postseason. He posted 5.3 points and 5.4 rebounds per game before being traded to the Bucks and eventually facing the Sixers in the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals. In that series, he was suspended for Game 7 because of a hard hit to Allen Iverson’s throat in Game 6. 

4. Brian Skinner 
Skinner’s first stint as a Sixers was solid. Though he wasn’t used much during the 2003 playoffs, he chipped in 17.9 minutes per game during the regular season. After spending a year with the Bucks, Skinner then decided to return to the Sixers, who offered a five-year, $25 million contract.

Besides starting regularly for the first time in his career the season prior, it’s unclear what Skinner had done to merit such a lucrative deal. With Marc Jackson, Kenny Thomas and Corliss Williamson all preferred in the frontcourt by head coach Jim O’Brien, Skinner had a minimal impact, averaging 2.0 points and 2.6 rebounds in 24 games. The Sixers ultimately used his contract in February to help facilitate their ill-fated trade for Chris Webber. 

3. Kenny Thomas 
Seven years and approximately $50 million was far too large a commitment for Thomas, who the Sixers acquired in a 2002 trade with the Rockets and then signed as a restricted free agent.

Thomas wasn’t a bad player — he even averaged a double-double in the 2003-04 season — and he would’ve been viewed in a much kinder light if GM Billy King had given him a shorter and/or less expensive contract. He joined Skinner and Williamson in that deal for Webber, wrapping up his NBA career in Sacramento. 

2. Elton Brand 
Brand was far from a bust as a player with the Sixers after signing his “Philly max” contract. He wasn’t a 20 points, 10 rebounds per game guy anymore, but he was decent when healthy enough to play and praised frequently for his leadership and professionalism. 

Unfortunately, he suffered a season-ending torn labrum in his first year with the team. While he was a regular presence in the three years after that, he was diminished physically compared to his prime in Los Angeles. The Sixers released him with one season left on his five-year, $82 million deal under the league’s amnesty clause. 

1. Matt Geiger 
First, it’s important to note that Geiger’s refusal to waive his trade kicker prevented Iverson from being traded to the Pistons ahead of the 2000-01 season. It’s very unlikely the Sixers would’ve won the Eastern Conference without him.

"I looked at Detroit and didn't think Allen and I would've been better off there,” he told reporters in 2001. "So the decision was easy."

Geiger’s contract, however, was excessive — six years and approximately $48 million. He had some bright moments in Philadelphia, including a career-best 13.5 points per game in the 1998-99 season and a 5-for-7 shooting performance in Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals (although he fouled out in under 14 minutes), but none of that was enough to make the contract worth it. He retired after four games in the 2001-02 season because of persistent, painful knee problems. 

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2020 NBA return format: NBPA approves return to play format

2020 NBA return format: NBPA approves return to play format

A day after the NBA’s Board of Governor’s approved a 22-team return to play format, the NBPA did so Friday evening, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.

All 28 player reps approved the plan, which would see 22 teams head to Walt Disney World in Florida to finish out the 2019-20 season beginning July 31. The league will play eight regular-season games with the possibility of a play-in tournament for the eighth seed. The playoffs will follow the traditional format.

One of the new pieces of information presented Friday is that there will also be two or three preseason games before the season resumes.

On TNT Thursday night, commissioner Adam Silver said the league is in the “first inning” in its quest to return to play. The NBA suspended the season on March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. 

According to Charania, players will undergo testing every day and there will be a minimum seven-day quarantine for any player that tests positive. If a player does contract the virus, play would continue.

“Of course we’ve always been looking for whether or not there is an appropriate and safe way that we can resume basketball,” Silver said, “and knowing that we’re going to be living with this virus for a while. … We’ve been exploring with the players whether there can be a new normal here.”

Another sticking point was a tentative date of Nov. 10 to start training camps for the 2020-21 season. Oct. 12 would be the last possible date for Game 7 of this year’s NBA Finals under this return-to-play plan. The NBPA told the players it’s “unlikely” the 2020-21 season would start on Dec. 1 and that it’s still being negotiated, per Charania.

With no fans in the stands, the two sides have also discussed pumping fan noise in courtesy of NBA2K.

The league and NBPA are still continuing to work out the health and safety details in the weeks leading up to a return.

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