Jahlil Okafor

Injuries to Sixers' 2018 draft class just the latest in team's string of rookie ailments

Injuries to Sixers' 2018 draft class just the latest in team's string of rookie ailments

Even by basketball gods standards, this is pretty cruel.

You already know the Sixers’ long history with injured rookies. Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons all missed what was expected to be their first professional seasons with injuries. Jahlil Okafor didn’t make it the entire way through his rookie campaign. And of course, Markelle Fultz sat out a huge portion of last season.

In total, the Sixers’ top selections in each draft since the team started “the process” have missed a combined 343 games during what was supposed to be their rookie seasons.

Now this.

Zhaire Smith, the No. 16 overall pick in June who was acquired in a draft-night trade with the Phoenix Suns, suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot during a development camp in Las Vegas. He’s scheduled for surgery later this week after meeting with a Sixers specialist.

Add him to the list. Not just the one above. Toss Smith into the group of Sixers rookies that were injured … just this summer. 

Smith joins fellow 2018 draft picks Landry Shamet and Shake Milton, who also found themselves sidelined after being selected in June. Shamet, the No. 26 pick in the draft, suffered a sprained right ankle in the Sixers' first MGM Resorts NBA Summer League game in Las Vegas and was immediately shut down for the remainder of the event. Second-round selection Milton never even had the opportunity to suit up in Sin City as he was ruled out with a stress fracture in his back.

Coming into any season dealing with an ailment is difficult, especially if you are a first-year player. You already have to learn a new playbook, teammates, city and so much more all while adjusting to the highest level of basketball competition in the world.

But, as the Sixers continue to find out, those other experiences take a back seat if the player can’t actually step on the floor.

“I just want to get healthy. That’s the first thing,” Shamet said after his summer league stint ended following just 12 minutes of action. “Give myself some time to get this ankle right because without that there is no on the court or any of that. Just get healthy and go from there.”

Of course, none of these injuries have turned out to be career-threatening and the players typically come back to display the form that justified them being chosen in the first place.

However, it’s still crazy how the franchise continually has had to deal with guys enduring setbacks just as they’ve achieved their dreams of reaching the NBA.

Well, maybe crazy isn’t the right word that starts with the letter C.


More on the Sixers

Sixers smother Nets to push win streak to 11 straight

Sixers smother Nets to push win streak to 11 straight

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Make it 11.

The Sixers continued their winning streak with a 121-95 victory over the Nets Tuesday in their return home to the Wells Fargo Center.

The team rallied once again without Joel Embiid (orbital fracture, concussion) and Dario Saric (right elbow cellulitis). Both will miss Wednesday’s game in Detroit as well, but Brett Brown expects Saric to play Friday against the Cavaliers. 

• Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz played together, a combination Brown wanted to get a look at as long as “we’re not hurting the team.” The concern: both guards have been best suited when surrounded by shooters. Simmons and Fultz shared the court for 3½ minutes, with Simmons bringing the ball up and oftentimes quickly finding Fultz. During that period, Fultz scored four points. Both players dished an assist. Simmons recorded his 36th double-double (15 points, 12 rebounds, six assists). Fultz finished with 10 points, two rebounds and two dimes in 20 minutes. 

• It was a team win for the Sixers. No player scored over 20 points, eight were in double digits. Ersan Ilyasova posted 11 points and 13 boards as the starting power forward. Redick dropped a team-high 19 points and Marco Belinelli was right behind him with 17 on the second unit. 

• Former Sixers Jahlil Okafor (15) and Nik Stauskas (13) combined for 28 points off the Nets’ bench. Okafor also grabbed five rebounds amid boos from the crowd. Neither have had a major role with the Nets since being traded from the Sixers earlier in the season. 

• Saric certainly was in attendance: 

• Earlier in the day, the Sixers unveiled a statue for Julius Erving at their training complex in Camden, New Jersey. Erving also rang the ceremonial bell before the game. 

Sixers avoid another near-disaster with comeback

Sixers avoid another near-disaster with comeback

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The Sixers got back on track at the Wells Fargo Center with a 120-116 down-to-the-wire win Friday over the Nets. They had to climb out of a 13-point deficit and play disciplined down the stretch to overcome the Nets, who have proved pesky this season. 

The Sixers moved up to 38-30 with the victory while the Nets fell to 22-48.

• Fans sang “Happy Birthday” to Joel Embiid while he shot free throws and then got creative with a new chant: “E-M-B-I-I-D Embiid” to the tune of “E-A-G-L-E-S Eagles.” Embiid posted 24 points, a career-high 19 rebounds, four assists and two blocks in spite of shooting 6 for 23 from the field. He was a perfect 11 of 11 from the free throw line.

• A timeline for determining Markelle Fultz’s availability still has not been set, Brett Brown said pregame. 

“I think at some point soon a decision is going to have to be made so that we can progress forward,” Brown said. “But sincerely, there is nothing going on right now that you all don’t know that I know.”

When asked if he thinks Fultz will play this season, Brown replied, “I truly don’t know.” 

• Former Sixers Jahlil Okafor and Nik Stauskas returned to the Wells Fargo Center for the first time since being traded to the Nets in December. Okafor was greeted with some boos when he checked in, and the jeers got louder when he touched the ball. Okafor scored 10 points with three boards in 13 minutes.

Okafor said it was “weird” being in the visitors’ locker room and spending the night in a hotel. He actually got lost finding his way through a different arena entrance. 

“Being here where my NBA career basically started, it feels good to be back and see some familiar faces,” he said before the game. 

• Justin Anderson (11 points) got playing time after falling out of the rotation as of late. He dropped nine points in the first quarter off a trio of threes. More importantly, Anderson played tough defense with Embiid on Spencer Dinwiddie with 21 seconds left in regulation to maintain the Sixers’ lead. 

• Ben Simmons neared another triple-double (21 points, 12 assists, eight rebounds), which is becoming a common occurrence. Dario Saric (nine points) failed to score in double digits for only the second time since the beginning of December. 

• D’Angelo Russell, who averaged 24 points in the first two games against the Sixers, scored only eight points (3 for 14 from the field). The Nets were led by 21 points and 10 rebounds from Chester, Pa., native Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. 

• Hall of Famer Allen Iverson stood courtside to watch the game go down to the wire. Check out the whole video to see how he addressed the crowd. 

• Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman was also in attendance.