Royce White prepared to fly, play in the post

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Royce White prepared to fly, play in the post

Royce White is smart enough that the questions aren’t going to stop. So with the Sixers prepared to fly to Charlotte on Wednesday for an 11 a.m. game against the Bobcats on Thursday, White is getting himself ready.

Asked about the trip to Charlotte, White pointed out that it was an eight-hour drive from Philadelphia. However, he said he was hoping to make the trip with his teammates in the chartered plane.

“I want to get some practice flying,” said White, who has a generalized anxiety disorder. “I want to be there with my teammates.”

White did not travel with the Sixers to Europe for a pair of exhibition games in Spain and England even though he said he was prepared to go. However, White played in the Sixers’ last two exhibition games against the Celtics and Nets, combining for 28 minutes, 11 points on 4-for-10 shooting, six rebounds and nine fouls.

In the undersized Sixers’ lineup, White, at 6-foot-9, has been spending time playing center. In Monday’s game against the Nets, he found himself matched up against Reggie Evans, Brook Lopez and Kevin Garnett.

“I actually like playing the five,” White said. “It’s tough right now after these two games because I’m worried about the fouls and I can’t play as strong as I want to. But I think down the stretch we’ll handle that.

“I like playing against those guys like Lopez or [Houston’s Dwight] Howard. I like testing my strength down there. I don’t mind that.”

No post?
In the Sixers’ offense, however, there wasn’t much in terms of traditional posting up. With Lopez and Garnett handling the middle for the Nets, White and big man Spencer Hawes did not present a favorable matchup.

Still, post-ups in a half-court offense were few and far between for the Sixers. So too were the rebounds. On the defensive glass, the Sixers pulled down 18 boards. That’s the same amount of offensive rebounds the Nets got.

Since the Nets shot well and grabbed a ton of their own missed shots, the Sixers’ ability to get out on the fastbreak was nullified.

For head coach Brett Brown, the rebounding deficiencies present a challenge. They also present a chance for some teaching in practice when the coach can pull out some old tricks and box-out drills.

“It’s like the old high school drill where the coach would put a lid on the rim and you got a point if the ball hits the floor. It’s something like that,” Brown said. “When you look out there and see Thaddeus (Young) is working and Spencer is working … that’s the landscape. It’s the NBA. We better spend some time and admit some things in relation to defensive rebounding.”

White led the Sixers with three defensive rebounds and instead of turning and throwing an outlet pass to start the break, the big forward put his head down and took off up court with the ball.

That’s one way to get things started.

“It scared the hell out of me,” Brown said. “He is a runaway train, but that's OK right now. Because when he starts making good decisions, he's dangerous. Right now, it's hit or miss. It's something we'll have to bite our lip a little bit with. But he’s got a lot of game.”

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."