Sixers Notes: Veteran Wilkins back to looking for work

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Sixers Notes: Veteran Wilkins back to looking for work

INDIANAPOLIS -- It wasn’t until Damien Wilkins moved into the starting lineup that Sixers head coach Doug Collins finally figured out his best rotation. With Wilkins the Sixers had veteran wisdom, a solid defender and a guard who could hit an open shot if need be.

So after going from the bench to a spot in the starting lineup, one would assume that Wilkins would be a sure bet for a roster spot next year. Right?

Guess again.

Playing out a one-year, $1.2 million contract for the veteran minimum, Wilkins heads into another offseason of uncertainty and, worse, waiting. The only thing Wilkins knows is that he doesn’t have a job now that the season has ended.

“It’s a waiting game and you just have to be patient,” Wilkins said. “You just have to hope that you did yourself some justice by your play. We’ll see what happens. It’s always nice to be wanted and it only takes one team.”

In 61 games this season, Wilkins averaged 6.2 points per game and started 21 times. But in 40 games after the All-Star break, Wilkins averaged 11.2 points in 27.3 minutes, while shooting nearly 50 percent from the field.

For a nine-year vet who had 21 DNPs during the season, it would have been easy to ride the bench and collect a check.

That way would not have worked for Wilkins.

“It speaks to your professionalism. You’re paid to play,” Wilkins said. “Whether the chips are down or things are going great for you, you can always play your hardest. That should be the attitude of everyone involved because at the end of the day, all the NBA is watching. And the logo on the top of your jersey is the biggest one on the uniform and every night you go out there it’s a (job) interview.”

Swaggy and Kwame
Kwame Brown wasn’t saying whether he would exercise the player option for a second year on his contract. If he chooses to pick up the option, Brown will take home $2.9 million for next season.

That’s not bad work for a guy who didn’t play since the first game after the All-Star break and took 30 straight DNP-CDs.

Meanwhile, Nick Young played just six forgetful minutes in the season finale in which he missed both of the shots he took, committed a turnover and was a minus-6.

A free agent, Young was a DNP-CD for 18 of the final 25 games.

Though he didn’t rule out a return to the Sixers next season, Young, a six-year veteran, said he will be seeking the best contract he can find.

Good luck.

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

The Sixers finished in the basement of the NBA standings last season with a league-low 10 wins. But with the influx of young talent and addition of a couple veterans to the roster, the Las Vegas oddsmakers are betting on the Sixers to make some strides upward in the 2016-17 standings.  

Last week, the WestGate Superbook in Las Vegas set the Sixers' over/under for wins this season at an optimistic 27½, which was the fourth-lowest projection in the league.

Similarly, while Bovada is projecting another season of basketball filled with mostly losses in Philadelphia, the sportsbook doesn't view the Sixers as a shoo-in to finish as the league's worst team for the second consecutive year.

Per Bovada, the Sixers have the fourth-longest odds (125/1) to capture the Atlantic Divison title for the first time since 2001-02, beating out the Nets (250/1) by a considerable margin.

The favorite to win the division is the Celtics at 20/21, trailed closely by the defending division champion Raptors (21/20). The Knicks are between the Raptors and Sixers at 10/1.

The Sixers (150/1) also edged out the Nets (200/1) in odds to win the Eastern Conference championship. The two teams in the conference directly ahead of the Sixers in that futures bet are the Hornets (100/1) and Magic (50/1).

The Cavaliers are the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference at 5/11, followed by the Celtics (5/1) and Raptors (14/1).

Least surprising of all futures odds, Bovada has the Sixers tied with four other teams for the longest odds to win the NBA title. The Nuggets, Kings, Nets and Suns were tied with the Sixers at 500/1 odds to win the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy.

The early favorites to win it all are the same two teams that met in the 2016 Finals. The Warriors are alone at top with the shortest odds at 4/5 trailed by the Cavaliers at 3/1.

Sixers take lasting lessons from talk with Will Smith at team dinner

Sixers take lasting lessons from talk with Will Smith at team dinner

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The sprawling city skyline could have been the highlight of the Sixers' team dinner at One Liberty Place on Monday night. Instead, it was a surprise celebrity appearance that left them in awe.

Will Smith, who is part of the Sixers’ ownership, caught the players off guard when he visited with the team to offer advice and answer questions.

“Man, that’s one of my idols,” Nerlens Noel said Tuesday following the first training camp session at Stockton University. “Everything he said I really took in and all the guys did too.”

Rather than entertaining the group with his acting or musical skills, Smith imparted important lessons that are applicable in sports. The 48-year-old has had decades of success across multiple platforms, and he offered pieces of wisdom that can resonate in any situation. 

“If you have bad people around you, that’s how people see you and that’s how you are,” Joel Embiid said. “He said to have good people around. That’s the main thing I got from that.”

The Sixers had differing memorable moments the morning after Smith’s visit, which demonstrated how many topics he addressed with the team. 

“He’s a good guy,” Ben Simmons said. “I definitely learned a lot from hearing him talk. … You’ve got to look at things from a positive and negative with every situation.”

Jahlil Okafor was especially caught up in Smith’s appearance. Smith is Okafor’s favorite actor, most notably for his role in "I Am Legend," and impressed Okafor with his character. 

“We already know about his accolades and how smart he is and obviously he’s an entertaining person,” Okafor said. “But it just seemed like he really wanted to be there to help us out. I just took away that he was a great person.”

Okafor also added, “It just helps [to hear from him] because the road to success is pretty much the same. It’s about being focused, it’s about knowing that you’re going to be knocked down, you’re going to fail. That was one of the messages that Will Smith shared, was expect failure but the main thing is to get back up.”

Noel previously had seen Smith courtside at Sixers games, and this was his first opportunity to hear directly from him. Noel listened to everything Smith had to say, from how to deal with the media to ranking his best and worst movies. 

“Never get caught up in too much of the negativity,” Noel recounted. 

While people view professional athletes as celebrities, the Sixers were on the opposite side Monday evening. 

“It’s hard to get starstruck nowadays,” Noel said. “But when you see Will Smith, it’s a whole different ballgame.”