If not Noel, Sixers wanted Bennett or Oladipo


If not Noel, Sixers wanted Bennett or Oladipo

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Everywhere you turn at the Amway Arena during NBA Summer League play, there are conversations taking place in hushed voices off in the corners of the practice gym. General managers are talking to agents; coaches are talking to other coaches; writers are talking to anyone who will give them a scoop.

And one NBA front-office source shared a tidbit about the Sixers and draft night. The deal with New Orleans was in place days before the draft rolled around.

Three names would have supposedly gotten the deal done: Anthony Bennett, Victor Oladipo and Nerlens Noel. Bennett went first to the Cavaliers. Oladipo was selected second by Orlando, and fortunately for the Sixers, Noel was still on the board when the Pelicans picked at No. 6.

What is interesting about the draftees they liked is that all three play a different position. Noel is a center, Bennett a power forward, and Oladipo a shooting guard. It seems unlikely that acquiring Bennett or Oladipo would have done anything to stop the Sixers selecting Michael Carter-Williams at No. 11.

This gives insight into the workings of the draft and how deals get done on that night -- it hardly happens in a five-minute window. Plans and contingency plans are mapped out in advance.

Sam Hinkie is definitely a thinker and a planner and his thoroughness has impressed his boss in the brief time he has been on the job.

“My first impression is he is fantastic,” owner Joshua Harris said. “My first impression was we were getting a super smart, hardworking, very focused, world-class GM, and that is exactly what we got. I like to say I was playing checkers and he is playing chess. He is thinking about five moves ahead, so I am learning a lot about basketball from interacting with him.”

Just as he was in 2012, Harris was in the war room on draft night when the Sixers made that trade with New Orleans and later acquired Carter-Williams, Arsalan Kezemi and two future second-round picks.

“I got down there early afternoon and was there until two in the morning,” Harris said. “I was there because when it comes to very significant decisions like some of those that were made on draft night, I am going to be around and focused.”

Another topic drifting in and out of conversations this week is the Sixers' head coaching vacancy. Have the Sixers hired a coach yet? When are the Sixers going to hire a coach? Those phrases have been heard time and again.

The coaching fraternity is tight, whether we are talking about head coaches or assistants, and the summer league is where they get to enjoy each other’s company and share ideas or just friendly conversation.

One member of that coaching fraternity confirmed that Dave Fizdale -- Miami's assistant coach said to be on the Sixers head coach radar -- has not been contacted by the organization.

If anyone has been contacted to fill that position remains a mystery.

Where is Nancy Drew when I need her?

Summer League schedule
The Sixers had a closed practice Tuesday. They were not scheduled to play a game but will resume playing Wednesday at 1 p.m. when they take on Oklahoma City.

Point guard Joel Embiid? Sixers' big man works on leading break

Point guard Joel Embiid? Sixers' big man works on leading break

CAMDEN, N.J. — Toward the end of Sixers practice Monday, Joel Embiid participated in a fast-break drill … by himself.

Embiid brought the ball up the floor in a one-on-none situation against members of the Sixers' coaching staff. 

He's already showed off his three-point shooting skills and now he’s running the break? 

“I’ve always thought I was a point guard,” Embiid joked. “So that’s something that I want to do.”

In all seriousness, Embiid worked on his ball-handling skills during his two-year rehab from foot injuries. It’s not that he wants to become an unconventional point guard, it’s that he is striving to be an all-around threat. Embiid focused on recording his first assist, as an example, during the preseason. 

“I think I’m a complete player,” he said. “I think I can do everything on the court. Doing that shows I think it can help my team, too, in other aspects.” 

With running the break comes attacking the basket in traffic. It could be an anxious moment for a coach to watch a player fresh off two years of foot injuries to drive in a crowd. Sixers head coach Brett Brown said he has to be past the feeling of holding his breath whenever he watches Embiid do so. 

“We are so responsible with how we use him and play him,” Brown said. “It’s like us with children. They go out for the night. You’re nervous, but they go out for the night. He plays basketball for a living, and so he plays. We’ve just got to keep putting him in responsible environments and monitoring his minutes.”

As a point guard, T.J. McConnell appreciates Embiid’s skills, especially given his size. 

“To the people that try to pick him up when he brings the ball up the floor, good luck,” McConnell said. “It’s pretty incredible to see.” 

Robert Covington watched Embiid practice his ball handling during his lengthy recovery. He has seen improvements and likes the dynamic it creates for the team on the break. 

“His handle is really tight and then he’s really strong with it as well,” Covington said. “We’re very comfortable with him pushing the ball.”

That being said, Brown isn’t about to anoint Embiid into a point-center role. He knows Embiid’s desire to be active all over the court, but just as he’s said he doesn’t intend for Embiid to become a go-to three-point shooter, he also wants Embiid to focus on his true position. 

“Joel likes to be a player,” Brown said. “He wants to be a guard. He wants to shoot a three. He wants to be a post player. He wants to play. And we all have seen enough to think he actually can. 

“There are times that he rebounds and leads a break, we want him being aware of get off it, get it to a point guard more than not. I don’t mind him coming down in trail if he’s got daylight, him shooting some. He’s got a wonderful touch and I’ve seen it for two years. 

“... All over the place, I want to grow him. I’m not just going to bucket him up. I still say, like I say to him, 'At the end of the day, you’re a seven-foot-two post player. Post player.'”

Watch Embiid running the floor here:

Sixers cut Brandon Paul, Dionte Christmas, 3 others to set 15-man roster

Sixers cut Brandon Paul, Dionte Christmas, 3 others to set 15-man roster

In a preseason full of unexpected turns, the Sixers' final cuts were as anticipated.

The Sixers on Monday waived guards Cat Barber, Dionte Christmas, Brandon Paul and forwards Shawn Long and James Webb III to trim their regular-season roster to 15. 

Long, Paul and Webb had been with the Sixers since summer league. Barber signed with the team for training camp. Philadelphia native Christmas was the newest addition. He joined the Sixers the day of the deadline (see story)

The Sixers own the D-League rights to Barber, Christmas, Long and Webb. They are expected to land with the affiliate Delaware 87ers. 

Paul’s D-League rights are owned by the Cavaliers. He has received interest from other NBA teams, according to a source, and has not discussed playing in the Development League. 

Long appeared in each of the Sixers' preseason games. He averaged 4.0 points and 2.3 rebounds. Webb posted 4.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in six games. 

Paul averaged 7.3 points (36.4 percent from three) and 2.3 rebounds in four games. Barber was sidelined during the preseason by a right hand/wrist injury. He played two games, averaging 5.5 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists. 

Christmas, 30, had planned to play this season in Greece and decided on Sunday to sign with the Sixers instead of returning overseas. 

The Sixers waived 17-year veteran Elton Brand last weekend after he announced his intention to retire. 

Here's the Sixers' complete roster:

2016-17 Sixers
Robert Covington, SF, 6-9/215
Joel Embiid, C, 7-2/250
Jerami Grant, F, 6-8/210
Gerald Henderson, G, 6-5/215
Richaun Holmes, F, 6-10/245
Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, G/F, 6-6/205
T.J. McConnell, PG, 6-2/200
Jahlil Okafor, C, 6-11/275
Sergio Rodriguez, PG, 6-3/176
Dario Saric, F, 6-10/223
Nik Stauskas, G, 6-6/205
Hollis Thompson, G/F, 6-8/206

Inactive list
Jerryd Bayless, PG, 6-3/200
Nerlens Noel, PF/C, 6-11/228
Ben Simmons, F, 6-10/240