Wroten's versatility impressing at Sixers camp

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Wroten's versatility impressing at Sixers camp

At Garfield High in Seattle, Wash., the alumni rolls are very impressive. Bruce Lee and Jimi Hendrix were students at the school at the same time, making Garfield the breeding ground for groundbreaking hipness.

Quincy Jones also went to Garfield along with Irvine Robbins of Baskin & Robbins fame. From the NBA, All-Star Brandon Roy nearly jumped to the pros straight out of Garfield before settling in for four years at the University of Washington. That’s nearly the same path followed by Tony Wroten.

The difference is Wroten spent just one year at the University of Washington -- just like Sixers teammate Spencer Hawes -- but that’s not where the similarities end.

Roy was a big guard who could handle the point, defend against bigger players and could get to the basket seemingly at will. Wroten, at 6-foot-5, is also a big guard who reminds coach Brett Brown a little of Tyreke Evans, the Chester, Pa. native playing for New Orleans. It was during Monday’s scrimmage during the Sixers’ training camp at Saint Joseph’s University where Wroten let the fawning comparisons commence with some high-energy and spirited play.

“Tony was the star of the day,” Brown said after the scrimmage.

Matched up against rookie guard Michael Carter-Williams, Wroten was a blur in the open floor. He got to the rim easily in transition where he was able to make some impressive passes to teammates for dunks or finish it off himself.

On a young team with a slight, rookie point guard, chances are Brown will call on Wroten a lot come game time, not so much because of his energy and ability to play the point, but also because of his versatility.

“I think he’s just a big wing,” Brown said. “He passes so well, I suppose like a Tyreke Evans type. He's just a big player. He can play some two and some one and you instinctively think he can play the one because he sees the court so well. And I love that he can pick up full court and harass other point guards.”

Brown intends on having the Sixers play an up-tempo, running offense, which suits Wroten fine. Actually, after appearing in just 35 games for an average of 7.8 minutes per game for the Memphis Grizzlies last year, Wroten won’t have to blend in and wait for his shot behind veteran players.

Instead, it seems as if Wroten will be an integral part of the Sixers whether it is as a starter or as a sixth man.

Either way is fine by Wroten.

“I’m going to do whatever it takes, whatever my role is. Whether it’s coming off the bench or if I’m starting, I’m going to try and change the game every chance I get,” Wroten said.

That could even be while playing at the three spot, which is another position Wroten says he can handle. Wroten might be a little undersized at the three, but because of his athleticism, Brown says he has a pretty versatile wing man.

“He plays with tremendous energy when he stays focused,” Brown said. “And when he stays focused and in the game, he really can do some things because he’s so physically gifted. He’s an excellent athlete.”

Wroten was all over the place on the floor during Monday’s workout session and when he hit the floor with what looked like a sore shoulder from a blindside pick, Brown whistled practice closed for the day.

When the star of the day goes down, that’s a good time to wrap it up.

Best of NBA: Grizzlies dominate throughout, crush Warriors

Best of NBA: Grizzlies dominate throughout, crush Warriors

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Marc Gasol and Tony Allen scored 19 points each and the Memphis Grizzlies rolled over the Golden State Warriors 110-89 on Saturday night for their sixth straight win.

The Grizzlies led by as many as 30 points in the second half - the biggest advantage by any Warriors opponent this season. Seven Memphis players finished in double figures.

Kevin Durant led Golden State with 21 points, while Stephen Curry added 17 points and Ian Clark finished with 10 points. Curry and backcourt starter Klay Thompson (eight points) were a combined 8 of 28 from the field, including 3 of 14 outside the arc.

Memphis built a double-digit lead early, led 61-38 at halftime and kept building in the third quarter (see full recap).

Butler, Wade lead Bulls to 105-100 win over Heat
CHICAGO -- Jimmy Butler scored 31 points, Dwyane Wade added 28 against his former team and the Chicago Bulls held off the struggling Miami Heat 105-100 on Saturday night.

Butler scored Chicago's final 10 points to help the Bulls come out on top after Miami pulled within one.

Wade keyed a big third-quarter run in his second game against the Heat, and the Bulls hung on after handing San Antonio its first road loss two nights earlier.

Goran Dragic led Miami with 21 points and 11 assists. An energetic Hassan Whiteside added 20 points after being benched for part of Friday's blowout loss in Cleveland. Tyler Johnson scored 15, but the Heat dropped their fifth straight (see full recap).

LeBron scores 44, reaches assist mark as Cavs down Hornets
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 17 of his season-high 44 points in the fourth quarter and reached another career milestone as the Cleveland Cavaliers won their fourth straight, 116-105 over the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night.

James did it all, adding 10 assists and nine rebounds in 43 minutes. He took over in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 straight during one stretch to help the Cavs hold on.

As the final seconds ticked off, James stood at midcourt and spun the ball on his index finger as the crowd roared.

James, who moved into ninth place on the career scoring list Friday, recorded his 7,000th assist in the first half, becoming the first frontcourt player in NBA history to reach the plateau. James is the only player with 27,000 points and 7,000 assists (see full recap).

George has 37 points to lead Pacers over Blazers 118-111
INDIANAPOLIS -- Paul George scored a season-high 37 points to lead the Indiana Pacers over the Portland Trail Blazers 118-111 on Saturday night.

George made five 3-pointers, and Thaddeus Young hit six 3s while getting 24 points and nine rebounds. Myles Turner added 14 points for the Pacers, who had lost five straight regular season games to Portland.

C.J. McCollum made a career-high seven 3-pointers and had a season-best 34 points for the Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard had 33 points behind five 3s.

George scored 13 straight points in the fourth quarter for Indiana. He was fouled on the go-ahead basket with 4:36 remaining and completed the three-point play to give the Pacers a 108-105 lead (see full recap).

Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor to play Sunday, Joel Embiid out (right elbow)

Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor to play Sunday, Joel Embiid out (right elbow)

CAMDEN, N.J. — Two bigs back, one big out.

Nerlens Noel will make his regular-season debut Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Noel has been out since the preseason after undergoing elective arthroscopic left knee surgery in October.

Jahlil Okafor also will return following a bout of gastroenteritis, which sidelined him for the last three games. Neither Noel nor Okafor will have minute restrictions. 

Joel Embiid, on the other hand, will not play Sunday. He will miss the game because of minor inflammation in his right elbow, which he suffered in Thursday’s game against the Pelicans. The decision also is in conjunction with the load management plan the Sixers have mapped out for him. Embiid did not practice Saturday and will not travel to Detroit. 

“It’s very minor and we expect him back soon. Not much concern at all,” Brett Brown said of Embiid, adding, “I think it’s far more precautionary than anything people should get nervous about.”

With Embiid out, the addition of Noel will help the Sixers when they battle the Pistons and big man Andre Drummond, who is averaging a dominating 15.0 points, 13.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks this season. Noel will come off the bench as he gets reacclimated to the team and the flow of the game. 

“I felt great [to be cleared to play],” Noel said. “I was anticipating it so I got my mind right and this is what I’ve been working for throughout the whole rehab process. I’m feeling good and looking forward to it.” 

The Sixers are mindful of the fact Noel has not played in a regular season game since the finale last April. He has been working on getting his wind back up, and the Sixers will watch it closely in-game when determining his playing time. Noel said he has a “good starting foundation” with his conditioning. 

“You can do as much as you want on a treadmill,” Brown said. “You can do as much as you want one-on-zero … but there is nothing that’s like an NBA game. Everything goes faster, everything goes quicker, you have emotions involved which can also drown how fast and how long you can go. Those things are just part of him coming back into it, and we’ll manage him accordingly.”

Noel’s debut is the first step for him, regardless of how many plays. His athleticism will give another look to the lineup. Brown foresees having Noel back will allow the Sixers to play faster and protect the rim with a greater “bounce.” 

“We miss playing with Nerlens, just his presence,” Okafor said. “He’s an athlete. Obviously we miss him on the defensive side. We miss him as a leader vocally. It’s just going to be great having him back on the floor.”

The Sixers could counter the Pistons with the combination of Noel and Okafor, a duo they struggled to utilize together last season. Brown’s decision will be based on matchups. He pointed out a situation in which Drummond and Jon Leuer are on the court would be more favorable than one in which Tobias Harris is playing power forward. 

“You just try to pick your moments where you can maybe pair those guys up,” Brown said. “I think it will be a more genuine conversation as Nerlens starts playing more with us. He’s just really come back into it. But we come back and you play Toronto and you have all three bigs available, then it becomes another level of a conversation. I do look forward to it when we have an opportunity to intelligently match up with other people and we’ll play it out like that.”

The Sixers' next game after Sunday is Wednesday against the Raptors, when they expect to have their bigs ready to go.