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.”

Best of NBA: Magic overcome Wall's 52 points to beat Wizards

Best of NBA: Magic overcome Wall's 52 points to beat Wizards

WASHINGTON -- Elfrid Payton scored 22 of his season-high 25 points in the first half and the Orlando Magic overcame John Wall's 52-point performance to beat the Washington Wizards, 124-116 on Tuesday night.

Wall had the highest-scoring game of his career and kept Washington in it with 33 points in the second half as the Wizards cut the lead below 10 in the fourth quarter. The guard made 18 of 31 from the field and added eight assists.

Payton went 8 for 8 from the field and 3 for 3 from the line off the bench in that first half, nearly matching his previous season best of 23 points in the first two quarters alone. Payton finished 9 for 12 and handed out nine assists.

Orlando won its third straight game and its 124 points were a season high (see full recap).

Spurs trounce Timberwolves to reach 13-0 on the road
MINNEAPOLIS -- Kawhi Leonard scored 31 points and the San Antonio Spurs improved to 13-0 on the road this season with a 105-91 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night.

Leonard hit 11 of 15 shots after not scoring at all in the first quarter and Patty Mills scored 15 points off the bench for the Spurs (18-4), who played without Tony Parker after he bruised his left knee against Milwaukee on Wednesday night. San Antonio overcame a slow start to shoot 52.7 percent.

The Spurs moved past the 1969-70 New York Knicks to take sole possession of the second-best road start to begin a season in NBA history. The Golden State Warriors started 14-0 last year.

Zach LaVine scored 25 points for the Timberwolves. Karl-Anthony Towns had 11 points and 14 rebounds, but shot just 3 of 16 (see full recap).

Anthony, Knicks blow past depleted Heat
MIAMI -- Carmelo Anthony matched a season high with 35 points, and the New York Knicks beat the injury-ravaged Miami Heat 114-103 on Tuesday night.

Kristaps Porzingis had 14 points and 12 rebounds for New York, which is three games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2012-13 season. The Knicks lost Derrick Rose to back spasms in the third quarter.

Goran Dragic scored 29 points and Hassan Whiteside finished with 23 points and 14 rebounds for the Heat, who fell to 2-8 at home.

The teams were tied at 68 late in the third quarter, when the Knicks went on a 27-13 run over the next eight minutes to take control. Anthony finished 13 for 27 from the field, and Porzingis and Joakim Noah combined for 22 rebounds (see full recap).

Sixers' gutsy effort not enough in tight loss to Grizzlies

Sixers' gutsy effort not enough in tight loss to Grizzlies

BOX SCORE

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The ice bucket where his feet were chilling, the ice bags on both knees, the tired, almost resigned look on his face — and the very full stat line — were proof positive that Ersan Ilyasova gave it everything he had, and then some, Tuesday night for the Sixers.

Yet in the end — again — it was not enough to keep Memphis' All-Star bigs, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, from pummeling their way to a ninth straight win over the Sixers, 96-91, before 13,521 at FedEx Forum (see Instant Replay).

Both teams were in the second game of back-to-backs. Both benches were severely depleted by injuries and illness. Randolph had not played since a double-overtime win in Philadelphia Nov. 23, just hours before his mother suddenly died. Star point guard Mike Conley is out with two fractured vertebra, leaving the point to a pair of rookies.

On the Sixers’ side, rookie star Joel Embiid was tethered to the bench for mandatory rest in the second game of a back-to-back. Jahlil Okafor (illness), Nerlens Noel (knee), Jerryd Bayless (wrist) and, of course, Ben Simmons (foot) were all out.

The Sixers had lost seven straight since that first meeting with the Grizzlies this season at the Wells Fargo Center.

Ilyasova did his part that night with season highs of 22 points and 12 rebounds. Thin up front on Tuesday, Brown relied on Ilyasova’s tenacity inside along with the ability of the veteran and Dario Saric to hit the three and drive to the hoop. Ilyasova, a pending free agent from Turkey, stepped up again with 23 points, including four threes, 17 boards, four assists and two blocks.

“That’s the only way we’re going to win,” Ilyasova said. “Come out with more energy and give it 110 percent. That, and play smart.”

Sixers head coach Brett Brown said, “There is a toughness to him. He’s an acquired assassin. He goes about his business. He does it without emotion.”

Saric added 17 points, including the trey that helped give the Sixers a 77-76 lead after three quarters and the bucket that put them up, 91-89, with less than two minutes to play.

Gasol, coming off a triple-double with 28 points, 11 rebounds and as many assists in a double-OT win at New Orleans on Monday, had 26 points and 12 boards. Randolph struggled until the fourth quarter. He parked down low for eight of his 12 points in the frame. Randolph also finished with 14 rebounds and had a loving crowd wanting to give him a giant bear hug.

“He rebounds in his sleep,” Brown said of Z-Bo. “Any 50-50 balls that are close to the rim … he’s done that his whole life. … Zach and Marc are obviously NBA veterans very capable of closing out games.”

The Sixers, who stayed in the game by hitting 14 of 41 three-point tries, had two of their 16 turnovers in the final 1:06. They also hit just 13 of 26 free throws, were outrebounded, 53-45, and outscored in the paint, 52-34.

“We’ve got to play smarter and take care of little things like free throws and the glass,” Ilyasova said.

Still, Randolph left the door open. With the Grizzlies up 94-91, he missed two free throws with nine seconds left. The Sixers set up Nik Stauskas (12 points) for a left-wing three. But he missed the shot and was 1 of 8 from distance on the night.

“I got a really good look, it just didn’t fall,” Stauskas said. “That’s been the theme the last two years. We fight, we fight and things just don’t go our way. We make a few mistakes and teams capitalize.”

The Grizzlies came through again in “clutch time” and are now 11-0 in games decided by five points or less or that reached overtime. 

The Sixers are 4-18 for the season and losers of eight straight going into Thursday’s game at New Orleans.

Brown said he told his team after the loss that the group “showed tremendous character. Fourth game in five nights. We came down with nine guys, are playing a tough, playoff, hard Memphis team. We had a chance to win the game and I was proud of their effort.”

Still, Stauskas said effort without results “gets old. It really gets old.”