Wyatt recognizes he's still a work in progress

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Wyatt recognizes he's still a work in progress

Former Temple standout Khalif Wyatt will make his first trip out of the country when the Sixers travel to Spain and England for two preseason games.

He intends to take a lot in, both on and off the court.

“I have never been out of the country, so that will be a good experience,” Wyatt said after Sixers training camp ended on Wednesday. “Then I hope I go out there and get me some minutes and play and show that I belong. You are never done proving yourself, so this will be another opportunity to show people what you can do.”

Wyatt went undrafted in June. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound guard then joined the Sixers’ summer league team before being given a contract last month.

Head coach Brett Brown sees potential in Wyatt, but warns that he, like a lot of players on the current roster, has a long way to go in the development process.

“We keep talking about him getting as fit as he can be because he gets quicker and faster,” Brown explained. “I think he is starting to get a little bit of a swagger and toughness, and those are the areas that I will always challenge Khalif.

“He has a long way to go like everybody else, but at times you see things that make him unique.”

Wyatt is 15 pounds lighter than he was when the Owls were ousted from the NCAA Tournament back in March in his final collegiate game. He knows fitness will be a major point of emphasis playing under Brown.

“He harps on fitness and conditioning and your body fat and your weight,” Wyatt said. “He looks into it a lot. He wants to make sure I am in the best shape possible and he is definitely pushing me.”

Wyatt considers himself a combo guard and saw time at both backcourt positions throughout camp. If Wyatt can indeed play both ends of the floor and at both positions, his chances of having a lengthy NBA career increase dramatically.

“That helps me out more. If the point guard gets tired, I can play point,” Wyatt said. “If they need a scorer, I can do that. It helps me out that I am not limited to one position.”

The greatest concern for Wyatt at the NBA level is his defense. Will he be able to keep up players on the court who are far more athletic than he is?

“Coach Brown wants to see me defend,” Wyatt admitted. “He knows I can shoot and score a little bit, but he wants to see if I can defend. I think I competed at the defensive end all week. I got better. I watched film with coaches just of myself on defense. I am just trying to get footwork down and give him my maximum effort on defense every time down.

“The one or the two is going to be hard to guard. There are great ones and twos in this league, and it is going to be tough,, but you have to get better and keep pushing and compete. As long as you compete and have confidence in yourself, that is the main thing.”

The Owls posted a 24-10 record last year in Wyatt’s senior season. It is quite possible that the Sixers could be hovering around the same win total this season.

Wyatt isn’t discouraged by the prospect of mounting losses, so long as the team shows growth.

“As long as a team we keep getting better and individually keep getting better, the wins and losses will come,” he said. “We have to buy into the stuff that Coach Brown has to teach. We are trying to lay a stepping stone for the next couple of years.”

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."

Sixers being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

Sixers being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The Sixers lost Jahlil Okafor for the final 23 games last season because of a small meniscus tear in his right knee. Now they are being cautious as he prepares for his second year.

As part of the Sixers’ prescheduled load management for Okafor, he participated in a portion of practice and then worked out individually with head strength and conditioning coach Todd Wright.

“They just told me to relax once I did what they wanted me to do today,” Okafor said. “I was off to the sidelines. I feel fine. I’ll be good tomorrow.”

Okafor learned during his first NBA season that he should speak more openly with the staff about his body.

“Communication is key,” he said. “I think last year I didn’t really communicate how I was feeling, so I wasn’t able to get the help I needed.”

The team held three practice sessions in the first two days of training camp. Okafor said he knew the Sixers would be cautious with his workload. He is poised to improve upon his rookie year in which he averaged 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in 53 games last season.

“I’m 100 percent healthy,” he said. “I’m all good.”