Sixers can learn from growth of Wall, Wizards


Sixers can learn from growth of Wall, Wizards

It has been more than two weeks since the Sixers ended their 19-win season, the third-fewest win total in franchise history.

As difficult as it was at times to watch the Sixers this past season, viewing the current NBA playoffs should give plenty of hope for what Brett Brown’s team can do in the future with more talent and development.

The Sixers can only hope it won’t take them as long as it took Washington to start enjoying postseason success again. The Wizards won just 19 games in the 2008-09 season, tied for the second-worst mark in the league.

The Wizards did improve to 26 victories the following season and then landed point guard John Wall with the No. 1 overall pick in the ensuing NBA draft.

They actually took some steps backward to 23 and 20 wins in Wall’s first two years. The Wiz recorded 29 wins in 2012-13 before they jumped to 44 this season as Wall blossomed into an All-Star and led the club to a first-round playoff win over the Chicago Bulls.

Wall played in all 82 games this season for the first time in his career. He also averaged 19.3 points and 8.8 assists per game, both career highs.

However, it’s Wall’s numbers as a rookie that are interesting as he laid the groundwork for the player he is now. Wall averaged 16.4 points, 8.3 assists and 4.6 rebounds during his first professional season.

Those numbers are very similar to Michael Carter-Williams’ stats from this season. Carter-Williams put up 16.7 points, 6.3 assists and 6.2 rebounds a night for the Sixers.

The Wizards added pieces through the draft (Bradley Beal and Trevor Booker) along with players via trade (Nene and Marcin Gortat) to get them back in the playoff mix. Still, it all starts with Wall’s development into a franchise player.

The NBA is a point guard’s league these days. The game is run by elite PGs such as Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo and Stephen Curry.

Three of the last five Rookie of the Year winners have been point guards in Damian Lillard (2012-13), Kyrie Irving (2011-12) and Derrick Rose (2008-09).

When it becomes official that Carter-Williams wins the 2014 ROY award -- which we fully expect to happen -- it will mark a great accomplishment for him.

If MCW continues to progress in the right direction, he might just lead his team to a postseason meeting with Wall’s Wizards in the near future.

Jahlil Okafor eager for more minutes as knee heals

Jahlil Okafor eager for more minutes as knee heals

CAMDEN, N.J. — Jahlil Okafor has been patient with his right knee. He was disciplined with restrictions and recovery during the preseason, recognizing the goal of being ready for opening night. 

At the same time, once he got back on the court he wanted more. Okafor played eight minutes Friday against the Heat, his first game since Feb. 28 before undergoing surgery to repair a right meniscus tear. 

“I don’t think I’m going to do eight again,” Okafor said Sunday. “They kind of heard me complain about that a lot. I think it’ll definitely be more than eight, but it won’t be much more.” 

Okafor has been limited since aggravating his knee during the final day of training camp. He practiced “to tolerance” on Sunday, according to the Sixers. Okafor did not participate in the team scrimmage and worked out individually with assistant coach/head of strength and conditioning Todd Wright. 

The second-year big man did not feel soreness on Saturday following the game. On Sunday, he felt “kind of stiff” during practice. Brett Brown has been watching Okafor’s movement closely. While Okafor considered it to be “good,” Brown was a tougher critic. 

“I think he looked OK,” Brown said. “He didn’t look great to me today. I’ll give him a B-minus … It’s always how do you move? East, west, north, south, how do you move?” 

Okafor scored four points and had one rebound, one assist, one block and one turnover in Miami. He focused on his defense during the game. When he subbed out, he checked in with Elton Brand on the bench to receive feedback from the now-retired veteran. Okafor plans to continue to tap into him for advice throughout the season. 

With opening night three days away, Okafor still plans to be on the floor for it.

“I am optimistic about it,” he said. “I should be ready to go.” 

Robert Covington sprained his right ankle in Friday’s game and did not practice Sunday. Brown anticipates Covington, who has been starting at small forward, also will be ready to go Wednesday. 

“I do (expect him to play),” Brown said. “But we won’t know that for sure yet.” 

Sixers waive retired Elton Brand
The Sixers waived Brand on Sunday, making his retirement official. Brand announced his intentions to walk away from the game Thursday. The Sixers' request of waivers was a procedural step. The roster currently stands at 19. 

“It’s been an honor, it’s been a privilege to play this game, the game that I love, and I’m certainly going to miss it,” Brand said last week (see story). “But it’s definitely time now.” 

Brand celebrated his career with his teammates at Komodo in Miami on Thursday night ahead of their preseason finale against the Heat. 

Report: Nerlens Noel expected out 3-5 weeks after left knee surgery

Report: Nerlens Noel expected out 3-5 weeks after left knee surgery

It appears the Sixers' frontcourt logjam may not be an issue early on.

Nerlens Noel, who is having surgery Monday for an inflamed plica in his left knee, will miss the first three to five weeks of the season, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Noel suffered a left groin injury in the first preseason game against the Celtics and missed the rest of the preseason. While undergoing treatment, Noel reported left knee soreness, which led to the discovery of the inflamed plica.

It's been an odd start to the season for Noel. The big man was outspoken about his displeasure with the Sixers' frontcourt situation early in camp. With the deadline for Noel's rookie contract extension approaching on Oct. 31, the team has not had conversations about it, according to a report.

The Sixers are already without No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons as he recovers from surgery to repair a Jones fracture in his right foot. The team will also be without their starting point guard Jerryd Bayless who is dealing with a ligament issue in his left wrist. Bayless won't require surgery and will be reevaluated in two weeks.