Sixers end camp, take classroom overseas

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Sixers end camp, take classroom overseas

Sixers training camp, the first under new head coach Brett Brown, is complete.

Players seemed relieved that the eight practices over the past five days were in the books.

“It went well,” Thaddeus Young said. “It is an unfortunate situation us having so many guys down as far as the bigs, but for the most part each guy came out here having something to prove and they showed what they can do and had great impression of all the coaches.”

Spencer Hawes is among the frontcourt players ailing for the Sixers. However, the center’s sore knee is progressing each day.

“It feels good,” Hawes said. “I went through non-contact drills today and I had no restrictions there. I am going to keep at it and hopefully be full-go when we get over there.”

Hawes was referring to the Sixers’ upcoming trip overseas. The team departs for Bilbao, Spain on Thursday morning. The Sixers will play a Spanish professional team on Sunday before facing the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday in Manchester, England.

Brown thinks his team is where it should be for this overseas portion of the preseason given all the new faces from management to coaches to players.

“We have a side out-of-bounds play, underneath out-of-bounds [play]. We have a semblance of running. We have a little bit of defensive principles in place,” Brown explained. “At this stage, I think they have done a remarkable job of absorbing a lot in a short period of time.”

That said, there are still youthful mistakes that Brown is demanding be diminished.

“I am always trying to walk that line, avoiding talking all the time. You want to cut to the chase and get to the point, but you want to teach,” Brown said. ‘“Hey, that’s not the way we do it. We just got done telling you this. We showed you on the tape, we showed you on the floor. At what point is this enough for me to give you for you to do it right?’ There is a responsibility on their part to pick it up, too.

“You could stop at every play with us and say something that is crucial. These are the kinds of assessments you make between every practice and when you go to bed. How do I make things a little bit better?”

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.”