NBA Notes: Nets' Joe Johnson close to return

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NBA Notes: Nets' Joe Johnson close to return

Even though the Sixers' chances at making the playoffs have all but disappeared, Doug Collins and his squad want to finish strong in their final nine games.

Here is a look at the news around the league:

Joe Johnson nears return
Joe Johnson should make his return to the court sometime this week for the Nets.

Johnson, who has been dealing with a quadriceps contusion and a sore heel, practiced fully on Tuesday for the first time since Match 23, according to SNY.tv.

"Practice went great, it felt great to get up and down a little bit and see where I'm at," Johnson said. "I felt great, finished practice and we'll just see how it feels [Wednesday]."

Johnson should return for either Wednesday's game at the Cavaliers or Thursday's game versus the Bulls.

In his first season with the Nets, Johnson is averaging 16.4 points, 3.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game.

Okafor to stay with Wizards
Emeka Okafor will remain with the Wizards next season after choosing to not opt out of his contract, according to CSNWashington.com (via ProBasketballTalk).

"My plan is to be here next year," Okafor told CSNWashington.com. "My mindset is to be here next year. I just think that this team has a lot of potential. If we had everybody healthy, it would be different around here. We'd be playing for (playoff) position."

Although it won't be official until signing period beginning on July 1, Okafor will make $14.48 million next season.

Okafor is averaging 9.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game this season.

44,000 tickets requested in Seattle
SEATTLE -- The man who's trying to bring the NBA's Sacramento Kings to Seattle says fans have requested 44,000 season tickets in the event the team actually relocates.

Hedge fund manager Chris Hansen had urged Seattle fans to join a "priority ticket waitlist" to show the NBA how strong support is for bringing professional men's basketball back to the city and calls the result "nothing short of stunning."

Seattle has been without an NBA franchise since the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City in 2008.

Hansen and Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer have agreed to buy a majority stake in the Kings from the Maloof family for $341 million, but the deal needs league approval.

Owners are meeting Wednesday to discuss the sale and a counter-offer to keep the Kings in Sacramento. A decision expected this month.

--The Associated Press

Ex-Wizard indicted on murder charge
ATLANTA -- Former NBA player and Atlanta native Javaris Crittenton has been indicted on charges of murder and gang activity.

Fulton County District Attorney's spokeswoman Yvette Jones said Tuesday that 25-year-old Crittenton and his cousin, Douglas Gamble, are charged in the death of an Atlanta woman and the attempted murder of another man.

Julian Jones was shot and killed while walking with a group in August 2011. Authorities say that incident and a second shooting were gang-related, and may have been retaliation after Crittenton was the victim of a robbery.

Crittenton was drafted by the Lakers in 2007 and has also played for the Wizards and Grizzlies. He was suspended in 2010 for pulling a gun in the Wizards' locker room.

--The Associated Press

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Brett Brown left training camp last September with an unsettling feeling. He had just completed long days of scrimmages, drills and planning, and yet he sensed the Sixers were not ready to tackle the 82 games that lied ahead. 

“I remember driving back to Philadelphia last year knowing in my heart of heart that this group was going to be challenged,” Brown said Thursday following the morning practice session at Stockton University. “That was a frightening drive home. That drive home scared me because I felt like, I know what we have and how are we going to be able to maneuver through this?”

Brown was right. The Sixers lost their first 18 games and began the season 1-30. They stumbled the rest of the way, finishing the 2016-17 campaign with a dismal 10-72 record. 

“We really didn’t know who the point guard was,” Brown said. “We came in extremely injured, we were trying to make the Nerlens [Noel]-Jahlil [Okafor] thing work, there really weren’t a lot of veterans to look around [and see], and you knew it.”

Now in his fourth training camp as head coach, with 47 wins and 199 losses with the Sixers behind him, Brown has different emotions as the team nears the end of training camp on Friday. 

Instead of a constantly-changing lineup of players, the Sixers are building a roster that can serve as the foundation for the future. There are nine new players on the team, including first overall pick Ben Simmons and rookie Dario Saric. Joel Embiid will make his NBA debut after two years of injuries, and the Sixers added veteran leaders in free agency.

Brown has a clearer picture of what the team could look like this season and beyond. He is coaching training camp to enter a new chapter, not to simply make it through the upcoming months. 

“You can leave and you can sniff reality,” Brown said. “Now what I see is there’s depth. There are challenges positionally as we’ve talked about. But there’s talent. There’s point guards. They’re sprinkled in with some veterans. How we grow it and play it is still on the table. To me, it’s a completely different feeling that I have now that I did not have last year.”

The additions of Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez at the one spot lessen the coaching load for Brown. He also can turn to T.J. McConnell from last season. The depth is a far cry from when the Sixers were quickly changing at that position and didn’t find a consistent starter until they traded for Ish Smith in late December.

“That position, I think, is vital when you start putting a bunch of 20-year-olds around it and trying to find some type of organization,” Brown said. “You just can’t replace a point guard’s intellect. You can’t replace, I think, somebody that has great command from that position. It certainly helps me.”

Brown expects to feel “proud” when the Sixers wrap training camp on Friday. He is looking forward to getting the season underway, beginning with two practices at the new training complex in Camden before their first preseason game Oct. 4 against the Celtics. 

Brown anticipates his drive home this time will be a much different trip. 

“I feel comfortable that we’re ticking boxes and we’re achieving the goals that we set out from the start of what we wanted to get done in Stockton,” he said.

The Sixers continued to monitor load management on Thursday, as Okafor, Embiid and Gerald Henderson did not participate in the morning scrimmage. Bayless also did not go through the scrimmage because of a sore left wrist. 

Nerlens Noel thinks he and Ben Simmons can be a lockdown defensive duo

Nerlens Noel thinks he and Ben Simmons can be a lockdown defensive duo

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The Sixers' abundance of big men lends itself to numerous combinations in the frontcourt.

On Thursday, Nerlens Noel had his first experience playing with Ben Simmons. The center gelled with the rookie forward.

"It's a great duo, I think," Noel said following the morning practice session of training camp at Stockton University.

Noel has been paired with many big men during his career with the Sixers. Last season, he faced the challenge of playing out of position at times with Jahlil Okafor. The logjam prompted him to speak out about the current makeup of the roster (see story).

After playing with Simmons, Noel saw how the two can share the court.

"I think we complement each other very well, especially on the defensive end," Noel said. "He's definitely a lockdown type defender that digs in."

Even though Simmons has yet to play an NBA game, Noel already envisions how he can help the Sixers.

"He just plays basketball the right way," Noel said. "When your big man does that, it makes it a lot easier because he is very versatile being a point-forward type. That opens up a lot of things for him to be able to open up for his teammates."