Energetic Morris ready to help Sixers' young PGs

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Energetic Morris ready to help Sixers' young PGs

Darius Morris came to the Sixers this past summer in free agency. The former backup Los Angeles Lakers point guard said the opportunity to get more playing time was appealing and so was the chance to impart NBA wisdom to rookie PG Michael Carter-Williams.

“I want to come out here, play and compete and help the team win, whether I am coming off the bench backing him up or whatever it may be,” Morris said. “I am not really worried about that [starting]. It is a long season. They drafted him. I think he is a great player.

“There is no vet here at the point guard position, so me having starts in the league with the Lakers and playoff appearances, there is a lot I can teach him.”

Morris has 17 career starts, including two in the playoffs last season against San Antonio.

Morris (6-4, 195) said he could have returned to the Lakers and that his agent also had conversations with the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers. Ultimately, Morris felt the Sixers were the best fit for him.

“Going into my third year, I just wanted an opportunity to compete,” Morris said. “With Steve Nash and Kobe (Bryant), there is a log jam in L.A. They are great guys, but I wanted more opportunity.”

That opportunity coincides with a rebuilding process, which in no way scared Morris off.

“When I went to Michigan, they were rebuilding with Coach (John) Beilein,” Morris said. “That first year was rough. Nobody wanted to go there. We were at the bottom of the Big Ten. Now they are on top. I think it is the same thing with Philly, I don’t think they will be down for long.”

Morris hopes to help with bringing the Sixers back to prominence. Head coach Brett Brown doesn’t exactly know where Morris fits just yet, but he is certain the guard will have an impact.

“I don’t know,” Brown said when asked of Morris’ role. “I tell you what, he brings a lot of energy and his pickup points baseline to baseline and his defense and pushing the ball. We have some people in the gym that you can see a bomb squad emerging as a second group, that if you needed to change up the tempo, play small ball and junk it up a little you could and create some energy. “

Sixers fan will quickly know who Morris is on the floor. He will be the player wearing a plastic mask on his face similar to the one Rip Hamilton has worn for so many years. That’s because Thaddeus Young’s forearm found Morris’ face in a pickup game last week, breaking Morris’ nose.

“I broke it on Monday, had surgery on Tuesday and then they took all the stitches out on Friday,” Morris said. “Now I have to wear a mask for about two months. That was my welcome to Philly.”

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

NEW ORLEANS -- Of all the players Joel Embiid could be compared to, a similarity between a 7-foot-2, 270-something-pound center and a 6-foot-3, 190-pound point guard wouldn’t seem like a match.

That’s exactly what Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry sees, however, when looking at Embiid and reigning MVP Steph Curry.

“He’s different than anybody that’s been in this league in a long, long time,” Gentry said Thursday before the Sixers win over the Pelicans. “He’s a tremendous talent, he really is. I’ve never seen a guy that size, and with that kind of strength, that’s got such a soft touch. He shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry. It’s so soft when it leaves his hand.”

Curry is shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 40.1 percent from three. Embiid is 45.8 percent from the floor is 44.2 percent from long range.

Embiid flashed a big smile and paused to react when hearing of Gentry’s praise. He had been feeling hard on himself after going 0 for 5 beyond the arc against the Pelicans (see story).

“Steph is probably one of the best shooters in the league right now," Embiid said. "So that compliment means a lot."

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

NEW ORLEANS -- The weeks and months have quickly piled up. Nerlens Noel has not played an NBA regular-season game since last season ended for the Sixers on April 13. Nearly eight months later, Noel is nearing the return he has been eyeing for quite some time now. 

“It’s always an excitement to be able to play basketball after this amount of time, including the summer, not being able to play organized basketball at a competitive level,” Noel said Thursday. “I’ve been really looking forward to this. I think I’ve gained some momentum coming back from this minor surgery, and I think I’m in a really good place and I’m feeling good with my body. Everything is on point.”

Noel has been sidelined since undergoing elective left knee surgery in October to address an inflamed plica. He traveled to New Orleans on Wednesday to join the Sixers ahead of their 99-88 win over the Pelicans (see game recap). Noel continued his rehab Thursday while the team prepped for the game. 

“I’ve been able do five-on-five, full contact,” Noel said. “I’ve tried to maximize my opportunities of that with the team being gone on the road. I came down here and went through most of shootaround and it went well. Now these next couple of days, [I will be] going through practice, still working on my wind. I do like where I’m at now.”

The Sixers’ next game is Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Brett Brown had given Noel’s availability for that game a “maybe” (see story)

“I’m not sure,” Noel said of playing Sunday. “I’m ready to go with these next couple of days and see how my wind feels and how my body feels, which I have been feeling good. So it’s a possibility.”

When Noel does return, there is a scenario in which he could be paired with center Joel Embiid. Last year, the Sixers struggled finding the best way to utilize Noel and Jahlil Okafor, also a center, at the same time playing the four and five positions. As Okafor has said of playing with Embiid, Noel also believes his off-the-court friendship with the towering rookie would translate onto the court. 

“I think it would be something that’s experimented,” Noel said. “It’d definitely be interesting.”

Noel candidly expressed his opinion of the Sixers’ logjammed frontcourt at the start of the season. Since speaking to the media after his surgery, Noel has mentioned he is in a good mental place (see story). For him, that means being out on the court again. 

“I love myself and I love the game of basketball,” Noel said. “When I step out here to come and play, it just brings a lot of enjoyment and excitement to me. Regardless of what the details of it are, I just love the game and I’m happy to just be playing.”