Josh Harris says Sixers' season a 'huge success'

joshua-harris-sixers.jpg

Josh Harris says Sixers' season a 'huge success'

The Sixers pulled off a surprise when they opened the season on a three-game winning streak, including a victory in the season opener over the defending world champion Miami Heat.

They continued to shock when they ran off 26 consecutive losses, tying an NBA record.

Owner Josh Harris is a very successful businessman who does not like losing, nor does he encounter it often. That was until that two-month stretch from the end of January until the end of March.

Through it all, Harris views the 19-63 season as a success.

"I think the season has been a huge success," Harris said during a press conference at the team's practice facility. "Obviously, I don't like to lose. In terms of a losing season, it's tough. It was incredibly fun to take down the Bulls in my first year when we were seeded eighth and they were seeded one. We want to get back to the playoffs and compete for the championship. That's what we're trying to do. To get to that point to be an elite team, there is no shortcuts. We came in knowing it would be a long season and we would be putting building blocks in place."

Needless to say, it wasn't easy for Harris during the season. That was especially true during the 26-game losing streak.

“I threw things, I turned off the TV, I tried to ignore it but it was hard to ignore it,” Harris said. "Emotionally, it was very difficult. I don’t like to lose. I don’t like to live through a season like this, it is not fun. It is not why I bought the team. So it was very hard emotionally.”

And yet Harris permitted his front office to put together a roster that, talent-wise, was not good enough, nor had the experience to win on most occasions. That was especially the case after the trade deadline.

“Sam Hinkie ran a very in-depth and thoughtful process,” Harris said. “We evaluated every single option. We had multiple conversations and we were satisfied with the results of what happened at the trade deadline. It was all part of the bigger plan. I am very happy with the job our front office did.”

The bigger plan is to rebuild and have a perennial winner. But the Sixers' strategy, while operating under the rules of the NBA, took rebuilding to a new level. The organization will never use the word “tanking,” but it has been a conversation around the NBA this season because so many teams, including the Sixers, appeared more interested in losing games to better their chances at winning ping-pong balls for the draft lottery.

“We are not out to lose. We are out to win every game,” Harris insisted. “I want to correct that. Our goal is to be an elite team. In order to get from here to there, sometimes you need to develop players. There are decisions that we make. I think the league is in great shape right now. Attendance is high and there is a lot of parity in the league, so I don’t think that there is a negative perception.”

There are many who disagree with Harris’ last premise and maybe that will lead to discussions this summer about changing the draft lottery rules yet again.

“We are certainly working in the context of those rules. They have changed those rules four times since 1996,” Harris said. “It has evolved. It is never going to be perfect. Last time it changed it did so that teams with losing records would have more of a chance. There are arguments all over and there will be continual evolution.”

In the meantime, the rules say the Sixers will have the second-highest percentage of landing the No. 1 overall pick when the draft lottery takes place on May 20.

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."