Carter-Williams relishes challenge of Oladipo

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Carter-Williams relishes challenge of Oladipo

ORLANDO, Fla. -- With his team down one, Victor Oladipo, the second overall pick in the NBA draft, knocked down a step-back jumper just inside the three-point line to put Orlando up, 90-89, over the Sixers with 4.4 seconds remaining.

Oladipo did so with a hand in his face. That hand belonged to the 11th overall pick Michael Carter-Williams.

Khalif Wyatt could not connect on a baseline jumper on the final possession as the Sixers fell to 0-4 this week at the Orlando Pro Summer League with the 90-89 loss.

Carter-Williams looked unhappy walking off in defeat, but he liked the challenge of guarding such a talent as Oladipo.

“When I wasn’t covering him throughout the game I kept asking coach if I could cover him,” Carter-Williams said. “He is a great player and just the competitiveness -- we are cool off the court and we are good friends, so to be competitive on the court is just a fun thing.”

Travis Leslie and Justin Holiday took turns in the early going guarding the Indiana Hoosier product.

Oladipo, in addition to making the game-winning jumper, had 24 points, six assists, three rebounds and five turnovers.

His counterpart, Carter-Williams, finished with 11 points, nine assists, six rebounds and eight turnovers.

“I think with both those guys, the turnovers are higher than they will be,” Sixers assistant coach Michael Curry said. “But it is tough coming in as a rookie point guard and trying to learn everything and still trying to make plays and do everything for your teammates. So far, both those guys have been playing very well despite their shooting numbers and despite their turnovers.”

Carter-Williams and Oladipo met in the Sweet 16 of last year’s NCAA tournament. Carter-Williams got the better of Oladipo that night, scoring 24 points, grabbing five rebounds and tallying four steals.

Syracuse upset Indiana, 61-50, to advance to the Elite Eight.

Oladipo, in his final collegiate game, scored 16 points, had three rebounds and three steals.

Thursday, their rivalry was renewed.

“It felt like a little déjà vu,” Carter-Williams said. “He got the better of me this time with that last shot but we will have our time again.”

In the summer of 2010, John Wall went No. 1 in the draft and Evan Turner No. 2. The two players have been compared to one another in terms of progress ever since the 2010 draft night -- a meeting between the Sixers and Wizards does not happen without a Wall-Turner storyline.

As time marches on for the 2013 draft class, it is likely that Oladipo and Carter-Williams will experience the same as Wall and Turner. For now, they are two rookies learning the ropes, and in Oladipo’s case, transitioning from two-guard to point guard.

“I think we can compete against the guys that are already [in the NBA],” Carter-Williams said. “The point guard is a tough position in the league, probably one of the toughest positions. [Oladipo] is going to keep working and so will I. Right now we are at the bottom of the pedestal. We are chasing guys like Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook -- we’re just trying to get at their level.”

Carter-Williams made some brilliant passes. One in particular was a left-handed dump-off pass to Arsalan Kazemi cutting to the basket as Carter-Williams penetrated the lane. Carter-Williams continues to struggle with his shot -- he was shooting 25 percent coming into the game and finished 3 for 10 against the Magic.

Curry has found the other aspects of Carter-Williams’ game to be very strong.

“I like his focus and the way that he competes every day,” Curry said. “Every practice he brings it. Every practice he asks questions. There is not one thing we go over that he doesn’t ask questions about. He is aware of everything. Sometimes players who have a chance to be great in this league, when they are young and a team starts to struggle, they try to take over and that’s because they want to try to put the team in a position to win. You see he has that in him.”

Notes
Arnett Moultrie had his best game of the week, scoring a team-high 23 points and grabbing a team-high 12 rebounds. … The Sixers will wrap up their week in Orlando with a 4 p.m. Friday game against Brooklyn. … Monte Shubik, former assistant coach/video coordinator to Doug Collins, was named director of player services for Rutgers men’s basketball. Shubik is reunited with Eddie Jordan, who he worked with when Jordan coached the 76ers.

Sixers being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

Sixers being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The Sixers lost Jahlil Okafor for the final 23 games last season because of a small meniscus tear in his right knee. Now they are being cautious as he prepares for his second year.

As part of the Sixers’ prescheduled load management for Okafor, he participated in a portion of practice and then worked out individually with head strength and conditioning coach Todd Wright.

“They just told me to relax once I did what they wanted me to do today,” Okafor said. “I was off to the sidelines. I feel fine. I’ll be good tomorrow.”

Okafor learned during his first NBA season that he should speak more openly with the staff about his body.

“Communication is key,” he said. “I think last year I didn’t really communicate how I was feeling, so I wasn’t able to get the help I needed.”

The team held three practice sessions in the first two days of training camp. Okafor said he knew the Sixers would be cautious with his workload. He is poised to improve upon his rookie year in which he averaged 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in 53 games last season.

“I’m 100 percent healthy,” he said. “I’m all good.”

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- With Joel Embiid's excitement to be on the court following two years of injuries comes the reality of his lengthy setback.

Embiid is participating in his first NBA training camp this week. While he has impressed with his natural abilities and improved skills, Embiid is facing challenges as he gets accustomed to the league.

"Everything is kind of off right now as far as catching the ball or shooting," Embiid said after practice Wednesday. "I've still got to get in the flow of the game."

Embiid has yet to play since being drafted in 2014. For the past two years he has worked out individually and in controlled settings. Practices, even in training camp, are different. 

"You see all the time when you realize he hasn't played basketball for a long time," Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. "He's trying to gather his feet and find his balance, he's trying to figure out stuff in real time speed on defensive assignments and rotations."

On Wednesday, Embiid went through practice without any minute restrictions and was feeling healthier from the cold and virus he had been battling (see story). Teammates have praised his physical presence and eagerness to compete. He makes an impact with his 7-foot-2 presence alone, but there is more he wants to improve. 

Embiid is adjusting to the speed of the game. He has been facing challenges with getting the ball in the post and spoke to the coaches about his frustrations. The staff explained they are focusing on pick-and-roll defense and getting out to run during training camp, but he will get that desired location in game situations. 

“You continue to see the size of Joel Embiid,” Brown said. “He's a big man and he's got a mindset to back up his physical gifts. He really wants the ball. He wants to get deep catches. He wants to dunk on people.”

Embiid always has been realistic about his transition to his rookie season. He has pointed out many times that he is a fast learner, and is anxious to soak up new knowledge and apply it to the court.

"It's really frustrating," he said. "But like I've said, you've got to trust the process, which I've been doing."