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.”

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

NEW ORLEANS -- Of all the players Joel Embiid could be compared to, a similarity between a 7-foot-2, 270-something-pound center and a 6-foot-3, 190-pound point guard wouldn’t seem like a match.

That’s exactly what Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry sees, however, when looking at Embiid and reigning MVP Steph Curry.

“He’s different than anybody that’s been in this league in a long, long time,” Gentry said Thursday before the Sixers win over the Pelicans. “He’s a tremendous talent, he really is. I’ve never seen a guy that size, and with that kind of strength, that’s got such a soft touch. He shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry. It’s so soft when it leaves his hand.”

Curry is shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 40.1 percent from three. Embiid is 45.8 percent from the floor is 44.2 percent from long range.

Embiid flashed a big smile and paused to react when hearing of Gentry’s praise. He had been feeling hard on himself after going 0 for 5 beyond the arc against the Pelicans (see story).

“Steph is probably one of the best shooters in the league right now," Embiid said. "So that compliment means a lot."

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

NEW ORLEANS -- The weeks and months have quickly piled up. Nerlens Noel has not played an NBA regular-season game since last season ended for the Sixers on April 13. Nearly eight months later, Noel is nearing the return he has been eyeing for quite some time now. 

“It’s always an excitement to be able to play basketball after this amount of time, including the summer, not being able to play organized basketball at a competitive level,” Noel said Thursday. “I’ve been really looking forward to this. I think I’ve gained some momentum coming back from this minor surgery, and I think I’m in a really good place and I’m feeling good with my body. Everything is on point.”

Noel has been sidelined since undergoing elective left knee surgery in October to address an inflamed plica. He traveled to New Orleans on Wednesday to join the Sixers ahead of their 99-88 win over the Pelicans (see game recap). Noel continued his rehab Thursday while the team prepped for the game. 

“I’ve been able do five-on-five, full contact,” Noel said. “I’ve tried to maximize my opportunities of that with the team being gone on the road. I came down here and went through most of shootaround and it went well. Now these next couple of days, [I will be] going through practice, still working on my wind. I do like where I’m at now.”

The Sixers’ next game is Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Brett Brown had given Noel’s availability for that game a “maybe” (see story)

“I’m not sure,” Noel said of playing Sunday. “I’m ready to go with these next couple of days and see how my wind feels and how my body feels, which I have been feeling good. So it’s a possibility.”

When Noel does return, there is a scenario in which he could be paired with center Joel Embiid. Last year, the Sixers struggled finding the best way to utilize Noel and Jahlil Okafor, also a center, at the same time playing the four and five positions. As Okafor has said of playing with Embiid, Noel also believes his off-the-court friendship with the towering rookie would translate onto the court. 

“I think it would be something that’s experimented,” Noel said. “It’d definitely be interesting.”

Noel candidly expressed his opinion of the Sixers’ logjammed frontcourt at the start of the season. Since speaking to the media after his surgery, Noel has mentioned he is in a good mental place (see story). For him, that means being out on the court again. 

“I love myself and I love the game of basketball,” Noel said. “When I step out here to come and play, it just brings a lot of enjoyment and excitement to me. Regardless of what the details of it are, I just love the game and I’m happy to just be playing.”