Sixers making sure intriguing White feels at home

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Sixers making sure intriguing White feels at home

When Spencer Hawes heard that the Sixers had acquired 6-foot-9 power forward Royce White from the Houston Rockets, he was intrigued. Like everyone who follows the NBA closely, Hawes heard all about White and knew the story from what he had heard second hand and read in the papers.

White, it was reported, was troubled and talented. Suffering from a generalized anxiety disorder, the narrative indicated that White was more trouble than he was worth. If he could just get his act together, the conventional wisdom suggested White would be something else.

But Hawes wanted to learn the truth for himself, so he dialed up White and invited him out to dinner.

“You’ve seen his story,” Hawes said. “It obviously got a lot of coverage.”

Selected with the No. 16 overall pick in the 2012 draft by the Rockets out of Iowa State, White did not appear in a game last year. The perception was because White’s anxiety prevented him from flying, which made it difficult for him to get to half the games.

That wasn’t the case at all, White said.

“I think the most glaring one from listening to public opinion is that I can't fly -- that I don't want to fly and that I won't fly by choice,” White said last week. “Those are probably big ones. Other than that, I think a lot of the people think me and the Rockets went through a situation that was hostile, and it really wasn’t. It was more so a legislation thing and a [collective bargaining agreement] thing. I had to wait it out and get things right.”

Still, White did not travel with the Sixers on their trip to Spain and England for two exhibition games. Initially, White said he would accompany the team to Europe, but reports from the Sixers indicated that the team’s medical staff thought it would be best for the player to stay home.

“It really was just based on our team doctor giving me and [general manager] Sam [Hinkie] and the club advice that it may be best for him to remain at home," Sixers coach Brett Brown told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “You know we are with him. We will support and help him.”

Besides, there was plenty for White to do in Philadelphia. At age 22, White is a bit behind in his development as a player. Yes, Brown and Hinkie like White’s talent, but his fitness needs to improve.

Then again, White is still new at all of this. He played just a handful of games in the D-League last season and did not take part in the Rockets’ training camp. Essentially, White is starting over from scratch.

“I’m just getting back into the feel thing,” White said last week. “The feel thing has to become a repetition. I’ve been away for a while, so I’m still not making plays that are usually routine for me.

“At the same time last year, I wasn’t even in training camp. So this is a big improvement from eight, nine months ago. I’m just happy to be here right now, happy my body’s holding up.”

The Sixers could get a better gauge at how White holds up when they return from Europe to play the Celtics on Friday at the University of Delaware. If it’s anything like the way White had been practicing with the team, the Sixers will be pleased. According to Hawes, White was one of the standouts of the team’s training camp at Saint Joseph’s University, using his versatility and passing ability to turn some heads.

Brown agreed with Hawes’ assessment. However, Brown wants the Sixers to play a running, up-tempo style and White’s fitness level might prevent him from contributing much at first.

“I see a talented player that wants to do everything,” Brown said last week. “We want to try to put him in a clean role initially and then let him use his creative instincts. It’s based again on his fitness because he’s not in shape weight-wise and he knows it. He’s getting there.”

Maybe White will be a bit fitter when the Sixers return from Europe. In the meantime, White says his situation with the Sixers has left him in a good place.

That seems like the first step.

“I’m feeling great, feeling confident and having a great time with these guys,” White said. “I’m happy. The workout that I’m getting now and the support that I have feels good.”

White seems to be fitting in, too. After that invitation to dinner, Hawes has been impressed.

“He’s been nothing but good so far,” Hawes said. “He’s an interesting personality, that’s for sure.”

Adjusting to new home, Ben Simmons plays role model at Sixers Camp

Adjusting to new home, Ben Simmons plays role model at Sixers Camp

WAYNE, Pa. — Three steps. 

That’s all it takes before Ben Simmons is recognized walking through the streets of Philadelphia. 

This year’s No. 1 pick has been in the spotlight long before the Sixers drafted him in June, and now he's experiencing what it's like to be known as an NBA player in his new city. 

“I’ve been enjoying walking around South Street, getting some Ishkabibble's,” Simmons said Tuesday after a special appearance at the Sixers' Camp at Valley Forge Military Academy. 

At 6-foot-10, Simmons towers above most on the court, let alone on the sidewalk. Fans have been eager to welcome him to Philadelphia for a new chapter of the organization after three years of struggle. 

“Positive things,” Simmons said of the comments he receives. “I think a lot of people are excited, so I’ve been looking forward to it.”

Simmons understands the impact a professional athlete can have on young fans, and was excited to be at camp Tuesday.

Growing up in Australia, he never had the opportunity to hear from NBA players when he attended basketball camps. Now that he's in that position, the 20-year-old was glad to provide that memory to the 240 campers. 

“That would mean a lot if I was able to experience that,” Simmons said. 

Simmons demonstrated skill drills, such as passing fundamentals, interacted in a Q&A session and signed autographs for each camper. He also took individual photos for those who traveled internationally, including from Nigeria, Italy and Greece. 

“I’m just like them, but older,” Simmons said. “I’m just trying to be a good role model to them.”

Simmons plans to spend most of the offseason in Philadelphia as he gets settled into the city. He still has to move into his new home, but at least he knows where to get a cheesesteak in the meantime. 

NBA Notes: Dion Waiters signs 1-year deal with Heat

NBA Notes: Dion Waiters signs 1-year deal with Heat

Two people with knowledge of the situation tell The Associated Press that the Miami Heat have agreed to terms on a one-year deal with free agent guard Dion Waiters.

The two sides came to agreement on Monday. Waiters will make $2.9 million. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not announced the deal.

Waiters averaged 9.8 points for the Oklahoma City Thunder last year, but had several big games in the playoffs. He played particularly well against Dallas and San Antonio in the playoffs before his role was reduced in the seven-game loss to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals.

Waiters will give the Heat another scorer off the bench (see full story).

Blazers: C.J. McCullom inked to four-year extension
PORTLAND, Ore. -- A person familiar with the deal confirms that guard CJ McCollum has agreed to a four-year, $106 million contract extension with the Portland Trail Blazers.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on Monday because the deal hadn't been formally announced by the team. It was first reported by Yahoo Sports.

McCollum, who was named the NBA's Most Improved Player, averaged 20.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists for the Blazers during the regular season. He raised his scoring average by more than 14 points over the previous season.

As the 10th overall pick for the Blazers in the 2013 draft, McCollum bided his time on the bench for his first two seasons. He became a starter in the backcourt with Damian Lillard last season after four of the team's starters departed in the offseason (see full story).

Michael Jordan donates $2 million to ease racial tensions
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Michael Jordan is trying to help ease tension between African-Americans and law enforcement.

The NBA great and Charlotte Hornets owner said Monday he's giving $1 million to the Institute for Community-Police Relations and $1 million to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The aim is to help build trust following several shootings around the country.

Jordan says in a statement to The Associated Press on Monday that "as a proud American, a father who lost his own dad in a senseless act of violence, and a black man, I have been deeply troubled by the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement and angered by the cowardly and hateful targeting and killing of police officers," (see full story).

Sixers officially sign guard Brandon Paul

Sixers officially sign guard Brandon Paul

The Sixers continued to add to their roster Monday, announcing the signing of guard Brandon Paul. 

Paul participated on the Sixers' summer league squad in Las Vegas, where he averaged 10.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 0.7 assists in 19.5 minutes. He also played for the Hornets in Utah. 

The 25-year-old went undrafted out Illinois in 2013 and has been playing overseas and in the D-League since then. Last season, he led FIATC Joventut (Spain) in scoring with 13.2 points per game. Paul also has been a member of the Canton Charge (D-League) and Nizhny Novgorod (Russia). 

Next season he could play for the Sixers' Development League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers. 

Paul is one of several offseason additions for the Sixers. The team has signed Ben Simmons, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless, Gerald Henderson, Sergio Rodriguez, James Webb III and Shawn Long. The Sixers also have reportedly agreed to a deal with Cat Barber.