Sixers-Pistons: 5 things you need to know


Sixers-Pistons: 5 things you need to know

The Sixers (6-11) look to snap their three-game skid when they kick off December against the Detroit Pistons (6-10).

Tipoff is set for 3:30 p.m. (CSN) at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

Let’s take a closer look at the matchup:

1. Feeling homesick
The Sixers have had their share of problems lately and things have been even worse on the road.

The team has just a 1-6 record away from home this season with its lone road win coming in the second game of the year over Washington.

While the Sixers are allowing a league-worst 109.8 points per game, that number has reached 113.8 during their six straight road defeats. They rank 28th in the NBA in defensive efficiency coming into Sunday’s meeting.

The Sixers should be able to find their footing against a Detroit squad that’s had its own issues on the offensive end. The Pistons are 18th in the league in scoring at 98.3 points per game. Also, in the three-point department -- where the Sixers have struggled all season long -- the Pistons are dead last with a woeful 28.8 percent.

2. All hands on deck
A big reason the Sixers have struggled recently is the shuffling of their lineup.

Due to injuries (Spencer Hawes and Michael Carter-Williams) and personal reasons (Thaddeus Young), the Sixers have been without their usual slate of starters. Friday’s home loss to the New Orleans Pelicans was the first time in nine games that the Sixers trotted their regular starting lineup onto the court.

In nine games with head coach Brett Brown’s normal lineup, the Sixers posted a 4-5 record and reached the 100-point mark six times. In the other eight games, the Sixers are 2-6 and hit the 100-point mark just three times.

3. Get on the glass
The Sixers rank third in the NBA in rebounding, but they might have their hands full on the boards against the Pistons.

The Pistons only rate 14th in rebounding. However, they boast a trio of big men that can clean the glass with anyone in Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith.

Drummond’s 11.8 rebounds per game are fourth-best in the league. Monroe grabs 8.6 boards a game and Smith hauls in 7.3.

All of that talent and length in the paint helps the Pistons grab a league-best 13.6 offensive rebounds per game.

4. Injuries
Nerlens Noel (knee), Arnett Moultrie (ankle) and Jason Richardson (knee) are all out.

Detroit’s Will Bynum (hamstring) is day to day. Chauncey Billups (knee) is out.

5. This and that
• Young averages 20.7 points per game on the road, up from 11.1 at home.

• The Pistons have lost four of their last six overall.

• In their loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, the Pistons scored the NBA’s season high for points in the paint with 76. That passed the Sixers’ mark of 74 against the Wizards on Nov. 1.

• Monroe averaged 22.7 points, 13.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists in three games against the Sixers last season.

• The Sixers and Pistons are among the league’s worst teams at the free throw line. The Sixers are 28th at the stripe (69.3 percent) and the Pistons are last in the NBA (66.8 percent).

Sixers to ease in Jahlil Okafor off bench, expect more from him on D

Sixers to ease in Jahlil Okafor off bench, expect more from him on D

The Sixers struggled to carve a clear role for Jahlil Okafor last season as he and Nerlens Noel split time out of position in the frontcourt. Brett Brown has a more clear picture of how to utilize Okafor in his second year, highlighted by goals and a shift to the bench. 

Okafor has been sidelined from preseason action because of his right knee. He underwent surgery to repair a meniscus tear in March and aggravated it during the final training camp scrimmage. 

Okafor said he felt “pretty sore” after scrimmaging Monday, his first since camp, and he was better after going through individualized training and work in the water on Tuesday. This setback has forced him to exercise patience. 

“I know I told you guys I wasn’t frustrated a few weeks ago, but at this point it has been frustrating because I’ve been doing all the right stuff and I want to see me back out there sooner,” Okafor said after practice Thursday. “But I can’t rush my body, I can’t rush my health. ... I would love to have the opportunity to be there for opening night and play in front of our fans. Right now it’s looking like that’s probable."

The Sixers plan to use Okafor in a reserve role to start the season. Okafor expects to be on a 12- to 15-minute restriction, similar to Joel Embiid, when he is cleared to play. 

“I think about it all the time, but I talk to him. We’ve talked about this for months,” Brown said of Okafor's coming off the bench. “It’s not anything that is going to surprise anybody. He’s been fantastic. ... I talked with Jahlil about a lot of things and that could be, to start the year it will be, a scenario.”

Okafor, the third overall pick in 2015, started 48 of his 53 games last season. He is approaching this year with realistic expectations given his restrictions and is not concerned about being out of the starting five. 

“I’ll be fine,” Okafor said. “That won’t be a tough adjustment for me. I came off the bench a couple of times last year.”

Brown’s focus is not necessarily on how Okafor starts the game, but how he finishes. He would like Okafor and Embiid to be able to play together at the end of games to give the team a fourth-quarter boost.

“If it ends up you’ve got Jahlil coming off the bench and he’s going against backup five men, you think you probably have an advantage there,” Brown said. “If he does anything, he scores the ball, he scores buckets, he gets points. You can see how that can be a really nice role for him and for us.”

Okafor led the Sixers in scoring last season with 17.5 points per game. Brown, though, is focusing on his defensive improvements. The Sixers are looking to play an uptempo system in which they will need Okafor to hustle on defense each possession. Okafor slimmed down and added muscle this summer to prepare for the season. 

“He has to be elite in two areas to me,” Brown said. “Transition defense first — A-plus-plus-plus, get back. If you’re tired, if you’ve got to conserve energy, it’s not that way. It’s running back on offense. We have to get him back on defense.

“Then he has to be better skilled, better drilled by me, [a] high level of accountability with pick-and-roll defense. ... You can go over to defensive rebounding (as) a close third, but those two things happen the most.”

Okafor expects to be more effective on the defensive end after getting adjusted to it as a rookie. 

“(I want) to be smarter on defense, knowing where to be,” Okafor said. “My first year playing in the NBA, it was just a lot going on. Everybody was so fast.” 

Brown sees a focused 20-year-old who is more disciplined and ready to embrace whatever role he is given this season. 

“I can’t wait to coach him this year," Brown said. "I think he’s going to come back and have a great year. His body tells me that, his attitude tells me that. He’s in a good place personally."

Sixers eyeing players waived by other teams before finalizing roster

Sixers eyeing players waived by other teams before finalizing roster

CAMDEN, N.J. — As the Sixers decide who to keep on their roster and who to waive before the regular season, they also are keeping an eye on moves around the league.

Teams have been making cuts as the preseason winds down. In addition to assessing their own group of players, the Sixers are watching who becomes available. 

"There's always stuff that comes in late. You think you know a few days out and sometimes something happens," Brett Brown said after practice Thursday. "There are other teams that are releasing people too, and so the table is very fluid. The marketplace forces you to pay attention and make sure you're doing your job and growing your team. It's hard to say honestly (that) everything's in place and it's set, you know exactly [who] the 15 (players) are going to be. That is not true."

The Sixers' needs have shifted since the start of training camp. Once deep in the frontcourt and at the one spot, the Sixers have been hit by injuries to point-forward Ben Simmons (right Jones fracture), projected starting point guard Jerryd Bayless (sore left wrist), big man Jahlil Okafor (right knee) and center Nerlens Noel (left groin strain). They reportedly expressed interested in Timberwolves point guard Tyus Jones, according to The Vertical.

The roster stands at 20. Elton Brand announced he will be retiring, which clears up a spot. Cat Barber, Shawn Long, Brandon Paul and James Webb III, who signed with the Sixers this offseason, are those likely to be waived. Players that don't make the Sixers still could end on their D-League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers.

The Sixers will play their final preseason game on Friday against the Heat in Miami. Brown does not foresee a huge change to happen from the finale. He has been observing many of the Sixers since Summer League, and others returned to Philadelphia to work out ahead of training camp.

"I think it all adds up," Brown said. "We've seen a body of work. We've seen a lot. I think that it will play out more with that in mind than a dramatic performance on the last game of an NBA preseason."

When it comes time for Brown to make the final decision, the conversations don't get easier over the years. 

"It's always hard for me," Brown said. "A lot of these guys were with us over the summertime, so it's not like you just met him. It's never an easy time. But it's also a time, you feel like you've done your best to help them. They'll be better off, I think, for having spent time with us."

The Sixers begin the regular season on Oct. 26 at home against the Thunder.