76ers

Sonny Hill: Joel Embiid can be 'young Wilt Chamberlain'

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Sonny Hill: Joel Embiid can be 'young Wilt Chamberlain'

After nearly every home game, it's common to see Joel Embiid having a conversation at his locker. Sonny Hill, a fixture in Philadelphia basketball for nearly 60 years, is seated next to the Sixers' star center and chatting away. 

Hill recognized the immense potential in Embiid early on and he is staying closely involved in the big man’s journey through the NBA. 

“I mentioned to Joel before he started playing — I could see the beautiful shot, the rotation, how soft it is — I said to him, ‘You’ve got a chance to be a young Wilt Chamberlain,’” Hill said. “I’ve never, ever told that to anybody before. What he is doing right now, I kind of saw that before he even got healthy.”

Embiid is averaging 23.1 points, 11.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.7 blocks in his first 19 games this season. He has career averages of 21.3 points, 9.1 boards, 2.5 assists and 2.2 blocks in only 50 games played. Embiid is on pace to dominate for years to come and poised to set statistical marks along the way.

Chamberlain posted 30.1 points, 22.9 rebounds, 4.4 assists while playing 45.8 minutes in over 1,000 NBA games. The Hall of Famer was a two-time champion, four-time MVP and one-time NBA Finals MVP. A reference to Chamberlain is not to be taken likely, especially since Embiid got a late start playing basketball. And especially not from someone as closely associated with Chamberlain as Hill was.

“It’s the most phenomenal thing that I’ve ever seen in basketball, and I’ve seen just about everything,” Hill said of Embiid. “On all sides, not just in the NBA but the history of the game of basketball. I have never ever seen anyone with the limited amount of playing time being involved in the game that has developed his skills at the level that Joel Embiid’s skills are at this point. And with the horizon, the best is yet to come. Not just for him, but for the Philadelphia 76ers.”

The Sixers celebrated Hill on Saturday for his contributions to basketball in Philadelphia. They announced the Sonny Hill Legacy Award, created to recognize youth with high character on and off the court, in his honor. Allen Iverson was in attendance to participate in the ceremony.

“It’s beyond my wildest dream,” Hill said. “You have to understand that when I was born in 1936, none of this could have been even thought about. To be on the journey that I’ve been on is phenomenal.” 

Sixers remain quiet as contenders make their case for Eastern Conference supremacy

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Sixers remain quiet as contenders make their case for Eastern Conference supremacy

These are truly the dog days of summer when it comes to the NBA.

Players are likely either putting in work with daily workouts or enjoying some vacation time before things get cranked back up in the fall.

However, those aren’t the only activities that are presented with that extra free time. There is also more opportunity for guys to do some boasting about what is to come. After all, they’re probably feeling good about the progress made during the offseason and the recent 2018-19 schedule release has put a jolt in their system.

Unless you’re a Sixer. They’ve remained relatively silent as members of one team after another have stated their case for the Eastern Conference crown now that LeBron James took his talents to Hollywood.

Boston swingman Jaylen Brown openly laid claim to the East during an appearance last week on Portland guard C.J. McCollum’s Pull Up podcast.

“Oh, we're getting to the Finals. No question about it,” Brown said.

And Brown made it clear that he didn’t feel that way about his Celtics just because James signed with the Los Angeles Lakers. In fact, he said the C’s were going win next season regardless of whether James stayed in the Eastern Conference or not.

“I hate how everybody is like, ‘Oh, LeBron's gone in the East,’” Brown said. “I know he did have a strong hold on the East for the last seven years, but he barely got us out of there this year. And our mindset was like, ‘Man, he’s not beating us again.’”

That’s pretty bold, but the Celtics have a right to feel good about themselves. They were on the cusp of reaching the NBA Finals a year ago and are getting All-Star reinforcements back in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.

New Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez was a bit more diplomatic with his expectations for next season. Still, he presented the case for his squad to become the new big dogs in the East.

“We definitely think the East is wide open,” Lopez said to Hoopshype a week ago. “It’s going to be such a fun, exciting time in the East and it’s going to be super competitive. There are a lot of teams that can do [big] things, from Toronto to Boston to Philly — you just go down the list and it’s clear that the East is as exciting as it’s been in a long time. I think we’re very confident that we can, no question, win the East.”

Even Washington Wizards guard John Wall explained why his group could be the one to rise to the top of the conference.

“I feel like we’re all equal,” Wall told Yahoo! Sports. “None of them won a championship. This is no knock on no other team. Don’t get me wrong. Boston is a hell of a team. Philly has great young talent with those guys (Joel) Embiid, (Ben) Simmons. And Toronto, losing DeMar (DeRozan), they still get Kawhi (Leonard). Y’all might have been to the Eastern Conference finals, where we haven’t been to, but none of y’all were going to the Finals. It was one guy going to the Finals. Ain’t nobody separated from nothing. I know one guy that separated himself from the Eastern Conference every year and that was LeBron James and the Cavs. Other than that … if you lose in the second round or the conference finals, you still didn’t get to your ultimate goal.”

Throughout all of the chest-puffing discussions, the Sixers haven’t made a peep. Not even the 7-foot-2 All-Star known for trash-talking anyone in sight. Embiid barely gave a response to No. 1 overall pick DeAndre Ayton when the rookie recently decided to draw himself dunking on the Sixers’ center.

It’s a stark departure from Embiid’s normal back-and-forth nature, but it’s safe to assume that the big man and his team will wait until they step on the court to let their game do the talking.

With a healthy offseason under his belt for the first time as a professional, you can bet that Embiid — and in turn the Sixers — will have plenty to say at that time.

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Sixers rookies Landry Shamet, Shake Milton receive good (!) injury news

Sixers rookies Landry Shamet, Shake Milton receive good (!) injury news

Finally, some good health news, Sixers fans.

While Zhaire Smith continues an unfortunate trend of Sixers’ rookies suffering injuries, two other 2018 draft picks are progressing.

First-round pick Landry Shamet (sprained right ankle) and second-round pick Shake Milton (stress fracture in his back) are both asymptomatic, the team said Monday.

Shamet has been cleared for “light basketball activities” while Milton can “resume limited basketball activities.”

Shamet, a guard out of Wichita State, got banged up in the first half of the Sixers’ first summer league game against the Celtics. Shamet logged just 12 minutes before suffering the ankle sprain. He hit 2 of 5 from three for six points during the stint.

Milton never got the opportunity to play in summer league having suffered his injury during the pre-draft process. The 6-foot-6 guard/forward out of SMU is on a two-way contract with the Sixers, meaning he’ll spend the majority of his season with the Delaware Blue Coats and can spend no more 45 days with the big club.

Smith, the 16th overall pick acquired in a draft-night trade with the Suns, suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot and underwent successful surgery last week. There’s been no timetable for his return.

Both Shamet and Milton offer something the Sixers covet: shooting. Shamet shot 44 percent on 5.1 threes a game in 71 games. Milton was also proficient, shooting 43 percent on 5.1 attempts from distance in 87 games.

The Sixers’ rotation should be a tough one to crack this season, but being healthy for camp would be a fine start for Shamet and Milton.

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