76ers

T.J. McConnell Q&A: Inspiration for dance moves, love for Philly fans and more

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Paul Hudrick

T.J. McConnell Q&A: Inspiration for dance moves, love for Philly fans and more

When I asked for fans to send in their questions for T.J. McConnell, they came pouring in! 

Hope you enjoy our fun Q&A.

SW: What do you call your pregame dance where you look like you’re dipping both hands in cookie jars? 

T.J.: I call it the … well, I don't have a name for it, but Richaun (Holmes) started it with the dancers that come out and we're just imitating it and obviously I don't have a lot of rhythm so it probably looks like I'm putting my hands in cookie jars, but that's not what I'm going for.

SW: So what are you going for? 
T.J.: 
I think whatever the dancers are trying to do, and I'm not doing it very well.

SW: What music do you like to listen to on game day?
T.J.: 
So, I'm actually not a big player where before games I will put on my headphones and get into a zone. I've never done that.

SW: What do you do?
T.J.: 
I'm just relaxing. After I'm on the court, I go have a meal back there and I talk to a lot of people. I text friends. Text my wife, call her, my family. But since Jimmy (Butler) has gotten here, he's really put me onto country, and that's what I listen to when I'm home or in the car, so kudos to Jimmy for helping me out with that.

SW: Since you’re a Pennsylvania native, do you eat scrapple?
T.J.: 
Eat WHAT?

SW: Scrapple.
T.J.: 
I have never heard of that in my entire life. 

SW: Me either. I had to look it up after a fan asked, it's basically scraps of meat with cornmeal that's shaped into loaves for slicing and frying, and is apparently tied with Eastern Pennsylvania ...
T.J.: 
That sounds foul. 

SW: How do you keep your hair so immaculate under such extreme circumstances?

(
Sidenote: Remember when Dario Saric said it was like plastic?)

T.J.: I don't really agree with that statement, because I would say, my second year in the NBA was better because I would put gel in it, and then hairspray it, but then I started breaking out in acne and you just can't keep getting acne at 24, 25. 

So now, I don’t know, I guess water and a great comb. 

SW: How do you feel about the change in the city over the past few years, and not just with the Sixers, but with the Phillies, Eagles, and Flyers?
T.J.: 
In professional sports, you are obviously about winning, but when your front office as a whole, the Phillies, the Flyers, the Eagles, us, when you're about winning and you make moves even more, like each organization has to take it to the next level, its special, and this city deserves it. The Eagles winning the Super Bowl last year, us making that jump to the second round of the playoffs when we haven't been there in awhile, the Phillies going out and getting Bryce Harper, and the Flyers as well, it's just an exciting time to be in Philly and I say this all the time, the fans deserve a winning product and I'm glad they get to see that.

SW: Who was your favorite player growing up?
T.J.: 
I loved Steve Nash, watched him all the time and I've gotten to know him a little bit from being on the Sixers. We've gone out to LA to work out with him, so it's really been like a dream come true. 

SW: Most impactful thing you’ve learned from him?
T.J.: 
He gave me so much information that one thing was not more important than the other. It all was just so important. The thing I learned from him and the reason I think that he was as great as he was, was just his attention to detail and the way he takes care of his body and his movements on the floor to gain an advantage and you kind of see that and you're like OK now I know why this guy won back-to-back MVPs.

SW: All-time favorite or least-favorite, depending on how you look at it, players to defend?
T.J.: 
Ironically, they both play or played on the Celtics. My rookie year, and I haven't had to defend him since my second year, I think, was Isaiah Thomas. He just literally abused me every time we played. And I'd like to consider myself a decent defender where I have enough pride where somebody is not going to abuse me everytime, I'll kind of figure something out, but he did. And Kyrie (Irving), his handle is just, you can't even see where the ball is at half the time, it's on a string. Those two guys have been incredibly difficult, but I mean, as a point guard in the NBA, I don't think you really have a night off guarding anyone. They are all really difficult.

When you're guarding guys like Steph (Curry) and Kyrie and Dame (Lillard), and all the great point guards it's like, you're so locked in, in trying to stop them, they're so good, you're not going to shut anyone down.

SW: How do you feel about the “White Iverson” nickname?

T.J.: I think it's funny. Obviously it's a joke, because that guy was one of the greats, one of the best to do it at his size and will obviously be a legend in Philadelphia forever.

SW: But I think it’s also about what you represent to Philly fans …
T.J.: 
I mean there are similarities, like obviously his talent is just like another galaxy better than mine, and that's not putting me down, but how passionate he was about the game, I am. I think the same thing. His love for Philadelphia. In that regard, I think me and him are similar. I love playing here, I love playing in front of these fans and with my teammates and playing with the heart that I do and he did every night.

SW: Do you live in Sixers sweats?
T.J.: 
Oh yeah, I hate dressing up, but there are times when I'm like, I'm going to try to impress myself because I never really dress up, but other than that I love wearing sweats. 

Unless it’s when he wear his wedding suit to his exit interview:

Obviously you've got to take care of your body a little bit, but at that age I wasn't exactly worrying about my diet. I feel like I've always had a lot of heart, and I feel like having that and a mindset to never give up and never quit will take you a long way.

SW: Are you saving slapping the hardwood for the playoffs?
T.J.: 
Umm, I don't know. When I do stuff like that, I tend to blackout in those situations, so we'll see if we go on a big run and the fans are really into it, then I will. 

SW: How do you like your cheesesteak?
T.J.: 
Regular cheeseteak. I'm a bit weird because I try to stay away from dairy as much as I can, so I don't put cheese on it, which is like really weird. Onions, mushrooms, and I'll mix like hot sauce and ketchup together and make this weird … almost like a Siracha. Don't knock it ‘till you try it.

SW: Something you’re afraid of?
T.J.: 
I hate snakes. Ben's Instagram post the other day. He had a snake in his pocket and that's just not for me.

I know they are a part of the ecosystem, they probably eat stuff that helps us out, but I think they are disgusting animals. Disgusting.

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Joel Embiid listed as doubtful for Sixers-Nets Game 4

Joel Embiid listed as doubtful for Sixers-Nets Game 4

Joel Embiid is listed as doubtful with left knee soreness on the NBA’s official injury report for Game 4 of the Sixers’ first-round playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets.

He missed Game 3 in Brooklyn, a 131-115 Sixers’ win. About an hour before tip-off, Embiid discussed his knee pain, which he described as "tendinitis," saying he feels he’s getting better “slowly but surely" (see story). 

That said, it sounds like Embiid’s progress is non-linear and difficult for him to predict.

“At the end of the day, what cures it is just loading,” he said. “You gotta load in the right way. Can’t do too much and then also can’t sit out and do nothing. It’s hard to manage, but gotta do it. Gotta push through the pain and see where it goes.”

Embiid began practice Friday by firing a few three-pointers in his slippers.

He then laced up his sneakers and went through an individualized workout.

Brown said early Friday afternoon that his holistic “gut feel” Thursday was that Embiid would not play. He said he didn’t yet have a sense for Embiid’s Game 4 availability. 

Though the Sixers’ athlete care team is closely monitoring Embiid’s “loading,” all the factors behind the decision of whether he plays remain nebulous. Brett Brown has characterized that choice as being dictated both by how Embiid feels and the recommendation of the medical staff.

The center tandem of Greg Monroe and Boban Marjanovic combined for 23 points and 21 rebounds Thursday night. Marjanovic has been impressive in this series and quite possibly the Sixers’ most consistent player (see story). 

While he’s officially doubtful, it’s still very possible Embiid plays in Game 4. He went from being doubtful for Game 1 to playing and posting 22 points and 15 rebounds in the Sixers’ 111-102 loss.

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Boban Marjanovic's size is impossible to ignore, but he's more than a novelty

Boban Marjanovic's size is impossible to ignore, but he's more than a novelty

Boban Marjanovic sometimes seems like a walking punch line. Not in a mean-spirited way, mind you — he’s far too charismatic to be teased, and far too good-natured to mind if he was. But the simple reality that he is probably the largest human being you will ever encounter is impossible to ignore. 

While his size remains his most important attribute as a player, Marjanovic has shown through the first three games of the Sixers’ first-round playoff series against the Nets that he is no joke.

He’s averaged 14.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in just 17.3 minutes per game this series. Thursday night in Brooklyn, he posted 14 points, made all eight of his foul shots during the Sixers' 131-115 win, and was so vital that Brett Brown inserted him into the game with five fouls and just under nine minutes to play.

It was a reasonable choice, too, given how much better the Sixers were playing with Marjanovic on the floor than Greg Monroe. Marjanovic, who fouled out with 7:05 left on a suspect offensive foul call, was a plus-18, while Monroe was a minus-9.  

The Nets haven’t had much success drawing Marjanovic away from the rim and exposing his lack of foot speed. He’s generally dropped deep in pick-and-roll coverage, giving the Sixers’ perimeter defenders time to recover when they fall a step behind, and he’s even survived on one or two switches against guards like D’Angelo Russell and Caris LeVert.

“I’m pretty tall, you know,” Marjanovic told reporters, an understatement. “The effect is my size. Sometimes just to be there, my size helps me to protect the basket. We work on that, we prepare for that … we must stick to the plan.”

Brooklyn has shot a combined 5 for 13 against Marjanovic in Games 2 and 3, per NBA.com/Stats. The unlikely duo of Marjanovic and Monroe is not in Joel Embiid’s league defensively, but the idea of Marjanovic helping to hold down the fort if Embiid misses Game 4 shouldn’t be terrifying to the Sixers.

Marjanovic, though an historically efficient player, might eventually regress in these playoffs.

Monroe’s comment that Marjanovic “hasn’t missed from midrange since I’ve been here” is not a massive exaggeration. The odds are his jumper will cool off a little, and some of the shots the Nets are missing around the rim will start dropping.

In that event, Brown likes Mike Scott as a small-ball five contingency plan, as he showed Thursday. It appears rookie Jonah Bolden and Amir Johnson will not play significant playoff roles — although we would have said the same thing about Monroe a week or two ago.

For the time being, Brown can rely on Marjanovic. As Embiid’s absence highlighted, the 7-foot-3 Serbian — always eager to praise his teammates — is more than a mere novelty.

“We need to hold each other,” Marjanovic said. “Sometimes this happens — [Embiid] can be out or somebody else. We’re here together and we helped each other to get this win and play the game better and better.” 

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