Sixers rebuilding Noel's 'future' -- his jumper


Sixers rebuilding Noel's 'future' -- his jumper

The Sixers and their fans obviously enjoyed the 3-0 beginning to the 82-game season, despite that coming to a screeching halt Monday night with a 20-point loss to Golden State -- a game the Sixers trailed in by as many as 39 points.

There were no long faces when the team gathered for Tuesday’s practice. Brett Brown’s team simply went back to work, addressing its shortcomings and continuing the development of its young players.

“The peaks and valleys of the NBA are dangerous,” Brown said. “We love you, we don’t. We love you, we don’t. We are good, we’re really terrible. And you have to be so careful and none of it is true.

“You are never as good as you thought you were and you are not as bad as you think you are. I hope I walk an even line throughout this year knowing the realities of our team.”

Off in the corner of the Sixers’ practice facility stood another reminder of reality in Nerlens Noel. The rookie is still a ways from participating in up-and-down basketball action and he’s currently in “project” mode.

During this mode, the Sixers’ coaching staff has decided to take rebuild Noel's jump shot.

“I think we have the perfect environment to do it because we have a whole year,” Brown said. “We have taken him back to doing a lot of one-handed shooting. I can sense that he is shooting with two hands behind my back. But when he does that, the off hand comes in and elbows start flying. But when he does just one hand, he gets his elbow under it and it is a good looking shot.”

In his one season at Kentucky, Noel shot 59 percent from the floor but much of his scoring was around the rim. The goal is to have him become a fundamentally-sound shooter from 15 feet and in.

“It is his future,” Brown said of Noel investing time in his shooting technique. “The first place you start is the free throw line because now he is going to turn and face. He really likes Kevin Garnett, a turn-and-face, jump-shooting big, and he aspires to be one of them even though he is a post player initially. I think the free throw is what carries over to the other parts of the game. And I hope we can get that right.”

Interestingly enough, Noel shot just 53 percent from the foul line in college. It behooves both Noel and the organization to help the 6-foot-10 forward improve in that category.

Dwight Howard has always struggled at the charity stripe. This season, he’s 18 of 36 (50 percent) at the line. And Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan has made just 11 of 25 (44 percent) free throws.

A big man who is not a liability being fouled in the guts of a close game is a tremendous lift for a team.

Noel by no means is the only player on Brown’s roster that needs a jump-shot makeover -- Noel may just need it a little more.

“I think everyone is tweakable,”Brown said. “I think Nerlens is a total rebuild. You would do something with [Evan Turner’s] footwork and we have done that. You would do things with different release points. You would exaggerate the follow through with Tony Wroten’s shot because everything is a hot stove.

“Everything is tweakable -- Nerlens, though, is a total rebuild.”

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

CAMDEN, N.J. — If all goes as planned, a time will come when the Sixers can roll out a dominating frontcourt duo with Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor sharing the court in lengthy stretches.

That moment has to wait, though, as both Embiid and Okafor are on minute restrictions. As he returns from a knee injury, Okafor currently is coming off the bench and backing up Embiid.

“This conversation with Jahlil and Joel is more intelligent and applicable at a later date,” Brett Brown said at practice Friday. “When Jahlil’s minutes start going up and Joel can, then it’s a real conversation. I do think you may see them sooner than even I thought together. But as far as making it a real constant part of a strategy or rotation, it’s beyond too early days.”

In an ideal world, Brown could pair the two bigs now and use all of their allotted minutes (Embiid 20, Okafor 14) at once. That would leave an extensive workload on second-year bench player Richaun Holmes.

“This is a hot topic,” Brown said. “I will say it one more time: If I play Jahlil and Jo together, I hope Richaun can play 35 minutes.”

It’s an unrealistic expectation for Holmes, who averaged 13.8 minutes in 51 games last season. Brown caps the majority of the Sixers at six-minute segments to keep them competing at a high energy level.

“Right now, he’s a backup,” Brown said of Holmes. “I think he’s going to be an NBA player for a very long time. I just feel like in the role, he’s a second-year player that didn’t really have much of a role last year. He’s shown everybody that he’s for real. He really can play a role. At this early stage, that is the key word.”

Embiid and Okafor have been envisioning competing together since Okafor was drafted two years ago. They became friends long before they were NBA players and have an easy chemistry on the court as a result.

“I think it’s going to be exciting,” Embiid said. “We played a little bit together today in practice. We’re figuring out how to play with each other. It’s a process and we’ve got trust it.”

Yes, the players know they have to wait, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for them to resist an opportunity to play with one another.  

“I think once we figure it out, we can really dominate together,” Okafor said. “We were able to flirt with it again today. We accidentally keep ending up on the same team even though Coach keeps telling us to make sure we alternate. But we’re having fun. We’re trying to put some pressure on it because we want to play together.”

Is that accidentally with air quotes?

“Yeah, exactly,” Okafor said with a laugh.

'Trust the process' has a different, more personal meaning to Joel Embiid

'Trust the process' has a different, more personal meaning to Joel Embiid

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid is all about trusting the process.

He manages to insert the well-known phrase into just about every interview, hashtags it on social media and soaks in the chants during games. 

While “trust the process” is commonly associated with former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie’s patience-required approach to building the team — which resulted in three years of dismal losing and suffering setback after setback — Embiid has his personal take on the mantra.

“I think I have my own process,” Embiid said Friday at practice.

Embiid is playing for the first time this season after waiting two years to recover from foot injuries. His long-anticipated debut was a focal point of “the process,” and his return to the court marked a new chapter in the organization.

“I went through two surgeries, lost my brother, thought about some stuff I shouldn’t have thought about, so that’s my own process,” he said. “And then the process of going through the rehab and finally getting back on the court and getting the chance to finally play in the league, that’s my process.”

Embiid is now synonymous with the word. He credits Sixers fans for the moniker, which he added to his Instagram profile. 

“I don’t think it came from me,” he said. “Fans just started and then I just went along with it.”

Wednesday marked the next step in the process, both for the Sixers and Embiid. His regular-season debut (20 points, seven rebounds, two blocks) was a long time coming and garnered buzz all over the NBA world.

“I was the third pick and then I missed two years,” Embiid said. “The excitement in the city, everybody’s happy to finally see me play. Even though it was weird because a lot of people kind of wrote me off a long time ago saying that I’d never play as a Sixer, I’d never play in the league. So it’s all fun. Everybody’s going to have an opinion.”

He’s just got to trust in his own.