Dei-mails: NCAA freshmen, Moultrie, and more


Dei-mails: NCAA freshmen, Moultrie, and more

Answering your e-mails as the Sixers prepare for a five-game West Coast road trip.

I want the Sixers to finish in the bottom three, get a couple quality draft picks and start improving next year. If they can get a tough guy for underneath the hoop, they have a shot at becoming a legitimately good team. Until they show me otherwise, this management team gives me hope.

-Albert Parker

Albert’s sentiments about being a bottom-three team are shared by many -- currently the Sixers are tied with Orlando for the third-worst record in the NBA (8-20, .286 winning percentage).

The 2014 draft class has been surrounded by hype for some time now. Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Aaron Harrison, Marcus Smart -- the names get thrown around often. And, yes, frontcourt help would certainly be a boost, but so too would a legitimate shooting guard.

The Sixers will get at least one, maybe two very good players in next June’s draft. New Orleans' first-round pick is currently a lottery pick, but the Pelicans have just the 13th-worst record (12-14).

Yes! Looking forward to getting @JuliusRandall or @JabariParker22_ Please keep losing!

-Michael Hillocks ‏(@mhillocks)

Randle is 6-foot-9, 250 pounds and is averaging 18.2 points and 11.3 rebounds for Kentucky. He shoots 54.5 percent from the floor. Size and muscle in the frontcourt would be a welcomed change.

Elton Brand brought it, but he was past his prime when he accepted the Philly max in the summer of 2008. Randle won't turn 20 years old until next November.

Parker is 6-foot-8, 235 pounds and is averaging 22.1 points and 7.8 rebounds. The the three-point shot is part of his repertoire, too -- he shoots 47.5 percent from downtown.

Both players will go in the top five. Meanwhile, Michael doesn’t mention Wiggins, who is averaging 15.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and is shooting 46.6 percent.

Wiggins certainly seemed to have more cache before he began his college career at Kansas, but his stock could rise again as his freshman season plays out. He's still a top-five pick, but before, No. 1 overall was all the talk.

What is Arnett Moultrie's status? Is he playing this season or will he be cut?


Moultrie has been in the gym with the Sixers regularly at home practices. He does not participate in contact activities but he does shooting drills and often can be seen on the treadmill. How close he is to playing basketball scrimmages is unknown following his September ankle surgery, but Sixers head coach Brett Brown is impressed with Moultrie’s commitment to his conditioning.

The Sixers did pick up the third-year option on Moultrie's rookie contract, so they won’t be cutting him.

Lost in Joel Embiid's night, Jahlil Okafor returns with new role

Lost in Joel Embiid's night, Jahlil Okafor returns with new role

Joel Embiid’s regular-season debut headlined the Sixers' home opener Wednesday, a night two years in the making. He wasn’t the only player coming back from injury, though.

Jahlil Okafor took the court in a regular-season game for the first time since Feb. 28. Okafor underwent surgery in March to repair a right meniscus tear. He suffered a setback during training camp and was limited by soreness in that knee.

Okafor subbed in for Embiid with 7:47 remaining in the first quarter. He totaled eight points (4 for 10 from the field), three rebounds, one block, two fouls and three turnovers in 16 minutes, exceeding the Sixers’ initial minute projection of 12 to 14.

Okafor said his knee felt “good” after the game and did not experience discomfort. 

“I enjoyed myself,” Okafor said following the Sixers' 103-97 defeat to the Thunder (see Instant Replay). “Even though we lost, I enjoyed myself. We had a sold-out crowd. We had a hard-fought battle.”

Okafor’s role on Wednesday was different than it had been his rookie season. The former third overall pick is coming off the bench with a minutes restriction, broken down into segments. 

“It’s different for me,” Okafor said of his playing time. “I’m not used to playing in four-minute clumps. You’re more aware of when you’re going to go in. It kind of helps you a little bit. But it’s not something I want to get used to.”

Okafor is adjusted to a new in-game experience as a reserve. Last season, he started 48 of his 53 games and averaged 30.0 minutes. 

“My main thing was being able to come off the bench, which I’m not really used to, and still stay engaged, trying to stay loose,” Okafor said.

Opening night marked new starts for Okafor, as a player and a member of the Sixers (see 10 observations).

“I was taking a flashback to last year when we were 0-15, 0-16 and we so badly wanted to just restart the season,” he said. “Now we have the opportunity.”

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

The crowd erupted as Joel Embiid stepped to the free throw line. They chanted a phrase Embiid has been repeating for the past two years, a fitting welcome to his NBA debut.

“That was great,” Embiid said after the Sixers' 103-97 loss to the Thunder on Wednesday in the season opener (see Instant Replay). “That’s my motto, 'Trust the process.'”

After two years of rehabbing foot injuries, Embiid has his first regular-season game behind him. Embiid scored a team-high 20 points, shooting 6 for 16 from the field, 1 for 3 from long range and 7 for 8 from the line. He also recorded seven rebounds, two blocks, four turnovers and four fouls in over 22 minutes. 

“The beginning I was nervous, but once you make that first shot, it just goes away,” he said. “The fans were so into the game that it was fun. I love having fun.”

Sixers head coach Brett Brown enjoyed watching Embiid on the court as much as the big man liked being on it. Brown has seen the 7-foot-2 center grow and develop during his rehab. Finally, he was able to utilize his versatile skills in a real game setting.

“I can't say this loud enough,” Brown said. “For the city to be rewarded with a player that we all understand has unique gifts, special gifts, for him to go through all the things he has been through and play like he did on opening night, the city deserves it. Most importantly, he deserves it.”

Now that Embiid has been cleared to play, he would like to do so for longer periods of time. He began the preseason at 12 minutes and was increased to 20 in segmented spurts for opening night. Even though he exceeded that limit by over two minutes, Embiid is itching to be cleared to play more extensively. 

“It sucks,” Embiid said. “I feel like I could have played more but you know you’ve got to trust the process, got to trust those guys. If I have my minute restriction at 20 minutes, I guess I’m going to go with that. But obviously I want to play more and more and I think it can help the team better. But they have a plan for me and I’ve got to follow it.”

Embiid has maintained he wants to be a clutch player. Brown looked to him toward the end of the game as the Thunder pulled ahead late in the final quarter. He drained a fadeaway jumper to tie the game at 97 apiece with 50.7 to go. 

Later trailing by four with 10 seconds left, the Sixers went to Embiid. While he was whistled for an offensive foul, Brown was glad to have a go-to unlike in years past. 

“You have a target,” Brown said. “We tried to get the ball to him a lot. … By and large, to have somebody like Joel, where the mystery is solved like, 'What do you do?' You get him the ball as much as you can.”

The more the Sixers found Embiid, the more the Thunder had to try to defend him. Thunder head coach Billy Donovan knew what his team was going up against. He watched Embiid as a high schooler and coached against him during his tenure at Florida. 

“He’s gifted and skilled,” Donovan said. “It was probably our guys' first time seeing him … I knew the talent, the gifts. The one thing with him is, he’s got great footwork. He’s hard to guard because he’s herky-jerky. He moves. He’s got a lot of [Hakeem] Olajuwon to him.”

Opening night had been two years in the making. Even though the Sixers didn't win, the significance of the evening didn't disappoint. 

"I thought this moment was going to be special," Embiid said, "and it was just great."