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 burned by yet another point guard in loss to Celtics

Sixers burned by yet another point guard in loss to Celtics

The Sixers had been burned by point guards before. Many times, actually. 

Just a week ago, Kyrie Irving dropped 39 points in the Cavs' 112-108 win. Nineteen came in the decisive fourth quarter. 

On Saturday Isaiah Thomas did the same damage. The undersized All-Star tied his season-high with 37 points in the Celtics' comeback 107-106 victory (see instant replay).

“Isaiah’s an All-Star,” Jahlil Okafor said. “He showed us why tonight. He’s the head of their team and came up big for them like he usually does.” 

Thomas made his impact in spurts. During the Celtics' 9-0 second quarter run, he scored six of those points. In the fourth quarter, in which the game was decided, he dropped 12 straight Celtics points. Thomas finished the night 11 for 19 for the field and only 2 of 3 from three. 

The most telling stat was at the free throw line. Thomas shot 13 for 15 after attacking and drawing fouls, a point of emphasis by head coach Brad Stevens for the second half. 

Thomas scored 15 points in the first half. He noticed a change in the Sixers defense in the second and capitalized on it. The Celtics ability to stretch the floor with their three-point shooting bigs also created opportunities for Thomas to get to the rim. 

“In the second half they sat back a little bit and they were switching a lot,” Thomas explained, also noting, “We wanted to put Okafor in a pick-and-roll. He sits far back. I just wanted to attack him downhill. It’s hard for bigs to move those bigs legs they’ve got. So I just tried to stay in attack mode and I saw we were in the bonus.”

The Sixers have had problems defending the one spot all season. Isaiah Thomas is the fifth starting point guard to score 30 points or more against them. He joins Russell Westbrook (32), Jeff Teague (30 in overtime), James Harden (33) and Irving. Another five (Kemba Walker, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Mike Conley and Kyle Lowry) have scored 20 or more points. 

The oneness of these high-scoring point guards doesn’t fall solely on the Sixers backcourt, where Sergio Rodriguez has been assuming the starting role in place of the oft-injured Jerryd Bayless. These opponents have been doing their work inside the arc. Of the five who have scored 30, only two (Harden and Irving) attempted more than three treys. 

“We’re all working hard trying to stop them, but it’s easier said than done,” Okafor said. 

The next point guard the Sixers will face is Emmanuel Mudiay when they take on the Nuggets Monday. Last season Mudiay hit the game-winning, buzzer-beating three in Denver. 

Instant Replay: Celtics 107, Sixers 106

Instant Replay: Celtics 107, Sixers 106

BOX SCORE

Rewind 24 hours.

The Sixers were walking off the court Friday night after a dismal blowout loss to the Magic that left Brett Brown reflecting on Saturday, “Here in Philadelphia, at home, that’s not good enough.”

The Sixers had lacked fire and grit, especially with Joel Embiid on the floor against a sub-.500 Magic team that had played the night before in Memphis. 

They had a day to turn it around. A playoff contending Celtics squad was coming to town and Embiid wasn’t available because of his back-to-back limitations. The shorthanded Sixers (see below) had a tall task ahead of them. 

The Sixers reacted by jumping out early and kept the Celtics at bay in the first half. Even when the Celtics cut their lead to three midway through the second quarter, the Sixers responded with an 8-0 burst to go up by a game-high 11 points. 

The Celtics exposed the Sixers' defensive void in the paint without Embiid in the third. With the Sixers up 65-58, Isaiah Thomas drew a foul against Jahlil Okafor. That play sparked a 9-0 Celtics run over the next two minutes, in which Thomas scored six of those points (including four at the line). The Celtics took back the lead during that stretch and forced the Sixers to play catchup.

The Sixers cut the Celtics lead to one in the fourth with a three from Dario Saric, who played one of his most aggressive games of his short NBA career. After the Celtics jumped back up by seven, the Sixers kept fighting and tied the game 100 apiece. The Celtics were able to pull away and finished with a one-point win, 107-106, after Ersan Ilyasova drained a three at the buzzer. 

Inside the stats
Thomas exploded for 37 points (11 for 19 from the field, 2 for 3 from three, 13 for 15 from the line), four rebounds, and seven assists.

Saric recorded a double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds off the bench, both tying career-highs. 

Ersan Ilyasova dropped 18 points, including three treys, and six rebounds.

Okafor and Sergio Rodriguez scored 15 apiece, with Rodriguez adding eight assists. 

Avery Bradley dropped 20 points and nine rebounds. 

Stauskas starts in place of Covington
Brown turned to shooting guard Nik Stauskas to slide over to the three spot in place of the injured Robert Covington (see below). 

“Boston’s perimeter defense is as good as it is in the NBA,” Brown explained. “I think you need to have more ball handlers, people who can make a play, on the perimeter … I feel that Nik has that ability to put it to the floor and disrupt that aggressive pressure that the Celtics backcourt can put on you.”

Broken ankles
Saric came up with the Sixers' highlight play of the game when he did this to Jonas Jerebko in the third quarter for an instant highlight reel moment. 

Always a student
Not playing, still learning. Embiid has been praised for being an eager student of the game. During warmups he sat courtside to watch film on a laptop even though he wasn’t suiting up. 

Injury updates
Joel Embiid is not playing in back-to-back games and sat out the back end of this home-home series for rest … Robert Covington sat out with a sprained left knee he suffered on Friday after colliding with T.J. McConnell chasing a ball out of bounds … Jerryd Bayless missed his fourth straight game with left wrist soreness. 

Up next
The Sixers host the Nuggets on Monday night.