Kazemi set to contribute after historic draft night

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Kazemi set to contribute after historic draft night

Michael Carter-Williams fielded most of the questions between the Sixers’ two 2013 draftees in attendance at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine on Friday.

Flanked to Carter-Williams’ left was Arsalan Kazemi, who received less of the attention but was certainly on the Sixers’ minds during draft night.

Kazemi was selected 54th overall for the Sixers by Washington, a product of one of several draft deals executed in the second round by Sam Hinkie.

The Sixers' new president and GM was doing plenty of maneuvering to gain assets while keeping one eye on Kazemi.

“We had the 35th pick in the second round and we were interested then, but we moved and moved and moved,” Hinkie said. “But we always moved with one goal. We were never not going to have a pick in the second round. The reason for that is we were never going to put ourselves in a position to not pick Arsalan, so we are excited to be able to also add him.”

Kazemi (6-7/226) played all four years in college. The forward averaged 9.4 points and 10 rebounds a game for Oregon last season while leading the nation in defensive rebounding percentage.

Those are all solid accomplishments, but the achievement of becoming the first Iranian-born player ever selected in the NBA draft took the night to a completely new level for Kazemi.

“I am really just happy. It is not just me but all the kids back in Iran and not just Iran but the region of the Middle East,” he said. “It is going to be huge for them keeping their dream alive because they think it is not going to happen for them. But I was just the same way and thinking the same way, and the next minute I am in a plane coming to the U.S. and now I am being drafted.

“It is exciting and I am really happy and happy for basketball in that region.”

Soccer and wrestling are considered the major sports in Iran, but Kazemi said basketball and volleyball are really growing. The interest in basketball certainly continued on Thursday when plenty of people in Iran stayed up late to see Kazemi’s named called.

Kazemi’s road to Philadelphia had its rough moments. He spent the first three years of his college career at Rice University. He was granted hardship transfer for allegedly being the target of racial abuse from the school’s athletic director.

However, Kazemi didn’t let that deter his dream.

In three NCAA Tournament games this past spring, Kazemi grabbed 45 total rebounds to help keep his name in discussions about playing at the next level.

In the mold of other high-energy rebound magnets such as Kenneth Faried and Reggie Evans, Kazemi is confident about what he can bring to the Sixers.

“I always play hard and I bring toughness,” Kazemi said. “I bring hard work. I am a good defender and energy, that is what I bring to the table. I think I am mentally ready and obviously I played against professional players because I played for my national team. Every year I get to play against a bunch of professional players.

“I want to compete. I played against a lot of NBA guys playing against Team USA. I have the mindset of how it is going to be. I have the experience playing in college four years. I think I should be good.”

Report: Sixers 'will take a hard look' at Jrue Holiday in free agency

Report: Sixers 'will take a hard look' at Jrue Holiday in free agency

Has The Process come full circle?

The Sixers "will take a hard look" at point guard Jrue Holiday in free agency, according to ESPN's Zach Lowe

Holiday, of course, was the Sixers' starting PG from 2009-13, before he was traded on draft night by then-GM Sam Hinkie for Nerlens Noel and a future first-round pick (which became Elfrid Payton, who was traded for Dario Saric).

In four seasons since, Holiday has averaged 15.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.4 steals for the Pelicans. He's fought injury and missed 122 games since joining New Orleans.

The Pelicans have Anthony Davis but little else. They're going to need to make some tough decisions moving forward and one will be with Holiday.

As Lowe points out, there aren't many teams in need of a point guard — he lists the Sixers, Kings, Knicks and maybe the Magic as players for a PG in free agency.

"[Holiday] fits what [the Sixers] need around Ben Simmons, and the hilariousness of Philly bringing Holiday back after flipping him to start The Process is irresistible," Lowe writes.

Holiday has never been a great three-point shooter but he's been decent from long-range his entire career, topping out at 39 percent and sitting at 36.8 percent over eight NBA seasons.

He's coming off a four-year, $41 million contract, and although he has a lengthy injury history, he'll still command a nice-sized contract in free agency, especially with the cap expected to increase again.

Sixers merchandise sales on the rise along with win total

Sixers merchandise sales on the rise along with win total

Between recent wins and Joel Embiid’s All-Star push, fans are buying their Sixers gear.

According to Fanatics.com, a sports apparel website partnered with the four major sports, the Sixers rank fourth among all NBA teams in total merchandise sales over the past seven days. The Warriors, Cavaliers and Bulls are ahead of them.

Joel Embiid was the fifth-best selling player over that period. His popularity has risen during his enthusiastic All-Star campaign, which included celebrity shoutouts and an outpour of social media activity. Embiid is now up to 553,000 Twitter followers.

The Sixers have ranked in the league’s top 10 of merchandise sales since the beginning of the 2016-17 season. They hold the largest year-over-year increase during that time frame in the NBA this season.

In September, Ben Simmons ranked in the top 10 of NBA players in merchandise sales since draft night.

Sales from the Sixers' and NBA's official online stores are included in these statistics.