Sixers' Richardson slowly making strides in rehab

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Sixers' Richardson slowly making strides in rehab

There were so many new faces in the gym at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine for Friday’s Sixers’ media day that it was a good thing the players had their names on the backs of their uniforms.

Tony Wroten, Darius Morris, James Anderson, Rodney Williams, Vander Blue, Tim Ohlbrecht, Hollis Thompson … where did all those guys come from?

But wearing No. 23 was a familiar, though unexpected, face walking around the gym, which may be the only chance he has to touch the hardwood for another month or so.

Jason Richardson, the remaining piece of the deal that brought Andrew Bynum to Philadelphia, turned up for media day despite the fact that he probably will not play again until January at the earliest.

Recovering from cartilage-graft surgery to repair the quarter-sized hole behind his knee that allowed him to play just 33 games last year, Richardson said he hasn’t been able to run yet. The extent of his exercise has been on a stationary bike, the weight room, or in a swimming pool where the impact on his legs is minimal. As a result, the 12-year veteran added some more muscle to his frame.

The comeback is a slow process, Richardson said, because he opted for the cartilage transplant instead of the ever-popular microfracture surgery. Microfracture surgery is a short-term fix and many players who get it have to undergo it again in a few years. Though the recovery takes longer for the transplant, at least Richardson will be able to walk when he’s older.

“We are pushing late January, early February, hopefully to see how mentally I’m doing and how physically I’m doing,” Richardson said. “But right now, we are in a slow process.”

There’s no rush. The Sixers have time and chances are Richardson won’t be needed for a late-season playoff push. With an overhauled roster and the plans for a rebuilding year, Richardson can take his time. Besides, Richardson has another year left on his deal. With $6.2 million owed to him this season, Richardson has a player option for next year at $6.6 million.

“I’m just taking my time right now and taking a slow approach to it,” Richardson said.

Nerlens Noel thinks he and Ben Simmons can be a lockdown defensive duo

Nerlens Noel thinks he and Ben Simmons can be a lockdown defensive duo

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The Sixers' abundance of big men lends itself to numerous combinations in the frontcourt.

On Thursday, Nerlens Noel had his first experience playing with Ben Simmons. The center gelled with the rookie forward.

"It's a great duo, I think," Noel said following the morning practice session of training camp at Stockton University.

Noel has been paired with many big men during his career with the Sixers. Last season, he faced the challenge of playing out of position at times with Jahlil Okafor. The logjam prompted him to speak out about the current makeup of the roster (see story).

After playing with Simmons, Noel saw how the two can share the court.

"I think we complement each other very well, especially on the defensive end," Noel said. "He's definitely a lockdown type defender that digs in."

Even though Simmons has yet to play an NBA game, Noel already envisions how he can help the Sixers.

"He just plays basketball the right way," Noel said. "When your big man does that, it makes it a lot easier because he is very versatile being a point-forward type. That opens up a lot of things for him to be able to open up for his teammates."

Sixers intend to use Ben Simmons, Dario Saric in same lineup

Sixers intend to use Ben Simmons, Dario Saric in same lineup

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Training camp is an opportunity for Brett Brown to assess all the pieces he has available to construct the best roster possible. There are no clear-cut formulas to create the most successful lineups, not when the team has so many players that can be utilized at multiple positions. 

“There are a lot of moving parts,” Brown said Wednesday after Day 2 of training camp. “You’re going to see a bunch of different looks, blue and white. That’s part of my job. That’s part of what I’ve got to get done when we play on opening night.” 

Among these combinations is pairing Dario Saric and Ben Simmons. Given their versatility, the rookies can play multiple positions to share the court. Brown has eyed their size and skills at the two- and three-spots.

“The pluses are you have 6-10, do-alls that really can jump into a very versatile defensive world with perhaps a lot of switching,” Brown said. “I think they’re elite defensive rebounders that can rebound and lead a break and take off. ...

“The disadvantages are, you’re playing two guys out of position that’ve never played a second of NBA basketball and have never played together. It comes down to familiarity, it comes down to some type of comfort level that they’re going to have to navigate and figure out each other a little bit more.”

Saric and Simmons, like the rest of the Sixers, are learning one another’s games in training camp. Saric described Simmons’ skill set as “amazing” considering his stature and speed, noting, “I never played with somebody who’s that [many] kilograms.” 

“I think we will find a way to play together,” Saric said. “I think we can do it. Coach said most of the time we will play together. Maybe I can push the ball, he can push the ball too. ... He’s an unbelievably good passer and I think we’ll find a way how to play and I’m very happy because of that.”

Simmons entered the league touted as a point-forward. Exceeding the combo position, Simmons has played pure point at times, both on the offensive and defensive ends. He has been tapping into the Sixers' guards and veteran leader Elton Brand to help enhance his communication running the floor.

“[The] challenge is probably guarding the point guard position. They’re a lot quicker,” Simmons said. “But I also have a lot more length and strength. I think just being able to get to the rim. Also, if I have a smaller guy I can post it up.”

Saric also has ball handling skills in his arsenal. He grew up playing point guard from ages 8 to 14 before hitting a growth spurt. Saric looked up to Magic Johnson at the position. 

“To make other players happy and to make other players better, I think that’s the role of point guard,” Saric said. 

Brown will use the next four weeks as a trial period to maneuver different combinations and looks, including a towering duo of rookies.  

“Now is the time to do that," Brown said, "with the end game being whenever that type of thing happens, you have something quite special if they’re paired — when they’re paired, because I’m going to play them together — when they start really feeling each other’s game out in the environment that I've put them in a lot better."