Jahlil Okafor

Sixers vs. Pelicans: Live stream, storylines, game time, more

Sixers vs. Pelicans: Live stream, storylines, game time, more

The Sixers are 12-7, seeking to extend their winning streak to four games with the 10-7 New Orleans Pelicans in town, looking dangerous with Jimmy Butler on board, and still holding the only perfect home record (9-0) in the NBA.

Unfortunately, the off-court drama about Markelle Fultz was the big story Tuesday, not the team’s success.

At the recommendation of his agent Raymond Brothers, Fultz will have a consultation with a shoulder specialist in New York on Monday (see story). He won’t practice with the team or play in games until then.

It’s still unclear what that decision might mean for Fultz and the Sixers in the long term. In the short term, T.J. McConnell will step into Fultz’s spot as the second-unit point guard.

• Fultz’s absence could result in Landry Shamet occasionally shifting from shooting guard to point guard.

“My initial reaction is we can absorb this as it sits because of T.J,” Brown said Tuesday. “The question of who’s the third point guard, Shamet was a point guard in college. So you don’t have to look that far around.”

As Brown said, Shamet did play a lot of point guard at Wichita State. He had an excellent 2.73 assist to turnover ratio in college.

• Joel Embiid vs. Anthony Davis is a matchup of two big men with legitimate MVP aspirations.

Across the board, the two have very similar numbers. Embiid is outscoring Davis by 0.3 points per game and is averaging 0.7 more rebounds. Davis is shooting 2.3 percentage points higher, is averaging 0.6 more blocks and 0.9 more steals. Even the advanced defensive metrics are tight; opponents are shooting 45 percent against Embiid on 19.1 attempts per game, while Davis is defending 17.4 attempts per night with a 46.3 percent defensive field goal percentage. 

It’s rare that Embiid plays a true peer, someone who can match up with him well on both ends of the floor. 

Davis and Embiid have faced each other on just three previous occasions, two of which were in Embiid’s rookie year. Last season, Embiid had 24 points and 16 rebounds on Feb. 9, while Davis had 14 points and eight boards in a 100-82 Sixers win at Wells Fargo Center.

• The Pelicans have two notable former Sixers on the roster in Jrue Holiday and Jahlil Okafor. Though Holiday hasn’t made an All-Star team since the 2012-13 season with the Sixers, he’s been on the cusp plenty of times since. Since leaving the Sixers, he’s averaged 16.7 points, 6.8 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.5 steals. This season, his 9.2 assists per game are second in the NBA, behind only Kyle Lowry. 

The best hope for Sixers fans wanting to see Okafor in action is likely a blowout. He hasn’t played more than two minutes in a game since Nov. 1.

New Orleans also has Tim Frazier, a Penn State product and member of the 2014-15 Sixers for six games.

Below are the essentials for Wednesday’s game. 

When: 7 p.m. EST 
Where: Wells Fargo Center 
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia (Pregame Live starts at 6:30 p.m. EST)
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the MyTeams by NBC Sports app

Roster
Jonah Bolden, F, 6-10, 220, No. 43 
Jimmy Butler, F, 6-8, 236, No. 23 
Wilson Chandler, F, 6-9/225, No. 22 
Joel Embiid, C, 7-0/260, No. 21 
Markelle Fultz, G, 6-4/200, No. 20 
* Demetrius Jackson, G, 6-1/200, No. 11 
Amir Johnson, F/C, 6-9/240, No. 5 
Furkan Korkmaz, G/F, 6-7/185, No. 30 
T.J. McConnell, G, 6-2/190, No. 12 
* Shake Milton, G, 6-6/205, No. 18 
Mike Muscala, F/C, 6-11/240, No. 31 
JJ Redick, G 6-4/195, No. 17 13
Landry Shamet, G, 6-5/190, No. 23
Ben Simmons, G/F, 6-10/230, No. 25 
Zhaire Smith, G, 6-4/200, No. 8
Justin Patton, C, 6-11/229, No. 0

* Two-way player

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Sixers heading toward training camp without resolution on Jerryd Bayless

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USA Today Images

Sixers heading toward training camp without resolution on Jerryd Bayless

With NBA training camps set to open in a few weeks, the Sixers appear headed for a familiar situation. 

For a third straight season, the team could open camp with a high-profile player that doesn’t exactly fit into their plans.

In 2016, it was Nerlens Noel. “I don’t see a way it can work. It’s just a logjam,” he said at the time about the Sixers’ situation at center (see story)

Of course, Noel was right. The big man was eventually traded to the Dallas Mavericks after 29 games and just 19.4 minutes a night during his final stand with the Sixers in 2016-17.

Last season, Jahlil Okafor was the odd man out. The former No. 3 overall pick reported to the Sixers in better shape and with an open mindset, but the organization had already moved on.

“He comes in and his head’s good and his spirit’s good,” Brett Brown said last October (see story). “And he and I talk all the time, but that is the bottom line. He is not in the rotation.”

The #FreeJah movement finally got its wish when Okafor was shipped to the Brooklyn Nets after a measly two appearances for the Sixers in the 2017-18 season.

Now the franchise is staring at yet another training camp conundrum: Jerryd Bayless.

While nowhere near as big a name as the other two players, Bayless’ contract says otherwise. The veteran guard is set to earn $8.5 million in the final year of a three-year, $27 million deal that hasn’t yielded close to the return expected when he signed. That would make him the fifth-highest paid Sixer for the 2018-19 campaign.

That’s a pretty penny for a guy limited to 39 games a season ago, mainly because of the coach’s decision not to play him. 

Bayless started out last season in Brown’s mix of reserve guards, but his lack of consistent shooting (41.6 percent from the field) and spotty defense eventually led to him being glued to the bench (see player evaluation). The 30-year-old played in just one game after Feb. 9 — a one-minute, 44-second run in garbage time of the Sixers’ Game 1 loss to the Boston Celtics.

Things aren’t likely to change much regarding Bayless’ status for the upcoming slate, which means seeking outside options make the most sense. He had been connected to a trade for Cleveland Cavaliers sharpshooter Kyle Korver earlier this summer, but those rumblings have died down. 

That leaves the waive and stretch provision, which would allow the Sixers to part with Bayless and spread his $8,575,916 cap hit for next season over three years. It hasn’t come to that point yet since reaching an agreement on using the “stretch” can be a bit complex, but after seeing the Los Angeles Lakers recently figure out a way to get from under Luol Deng’s massive contract using the method, anything is possible.

“This whole year from an individual standpoint wasn’t the easiest,” Bayless said during exit interviews. “At the same time, when you’re around a group of guys that we had and the success that we had, it made it easier. I’m really grateful that I was able to be a part of this organization this year. We’ll see what happens moving forward.”

We’re all still waiting.

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Jahlil Okafor shares advice for Markelle Fultz, talks fresh start in New Orleans

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Jahlil Okafor shares advice for Markelle Fultz, talks fresh start in New Orleans

Jahlil Okafor has been through it all in just a handful of years.

In 2014, Okafor was the pride of Chicago as the No. 1 high school player in the entire country before choosing Duke as his collegiate destination. At Duke, Okafor dominated the competition to help the Blue Devils claim a national championship and cement his status as a top-tier draft pick.

After being selected No. 3 overall by the Sixers, Okafor enjoyed personal success as a rookie before injuries, off-court issues and flaws in his game eventually pushed him out of the team’s future plans. He was traded to the Brooklyn Nets this past season before signing with the New Orleans Pelicans as a free agent this summer.

“I am 22. As a 22-year-old I’m going into my fourth NBA season, which is crazy to even think about,” Okafor said on C.J. McCollum’s Pull Up Podcast. “A few weeks ago, I was speaking at the rookie transition program where all the incoming rookies come in and get as much knowledge as they can. It’s just crazy where I am now.”

One player that also had a bit of a wild introduction to NBA life is Markelle Fultz. The Sixers’ No. 1 overall pick from 2017 spent most of his rookie year parked on the sideline with a mysterious shoulder injury sitting next to Okafor, who was out of Brett Brown’s rotation.

During his appearance on the podcast, the center explained what advice he would share with Fultz about getting back on track in his sophomore season.

“The first thing is just realizing that you hear so much stuff on social media and the news articles it makes you think that something’s wrong with you or that life is bad,” Okafor said. “So my first thing would tell him just take a second, look at what you have around you and realize that life isn’t bad at all. You’re blessed and you’re playing the game of basketball that you love. 

“After that, it’s just knowing who he is and not forgetting who he is and that he wasn’t a No. 1 pick on accident. Those are just two reminders that I would tell Markelle.”

Okafor doesn’t need any more tips about trying to regain his standing in the league. The big man already reached rock bottom (remember the #FreeJah movement?).

Now with the Pelicans, Okafor feels he can get back to the player who was deemed worthy of the No. 3 overall pick in 2015. Why? Because New Orleans is intent on doing something Okafor hasn’t been used to so far in his career.

“It’s a fresh start for me. A new city, a new organization, a completely new conference,” he said. “With the Pelicans in particular, I’m going to a team that has aspirations of winning a championship. The whole organization, the whole atmosphere is all about winning and that’s not something I’ve been accustomed to since I’ve been in the NBA. It’s kind of been the opposite. I’m really excited about having a chance to be on a playoff team and all those great things. It’s something I’m really looking forward to.”

Interesting.

Anyway, to hear Okafor talk about the transformation of his body (he’s no longer vegan), getting the chance to play with fellow Chicago native Anthony Davis, mental health awareness and much more, check out the full podcast.

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