Again With the Short People: Hawes and Vuc Still Out vs. Nets

Again With the Short People: Hawes and Vuc Still Out vs. Nets

Healthy by next week. That appears to be—or at least, we hope it is—the
approach the Sixers are taking, with neither of our top two big men
(Spencer Hawes or Nik Vucevic) cleared to play for tonight's game
against the Nets, nor with either looking likely to come back for any of
the remaining games this week. Fair enough—the next two games are
against the Bobcats and Pistons (combined record: 7-29), and tonight's
game is against a 5-13 Nets squad still missing touted center Brook
Lopez, and possibly rookie sensation MarShon Brooks as well. It's more
important to rest our gimpy dudes against this soft run of competition,
to prepare for the brutal two-week stretch we have coming immediately
after.

Still, it never feels good to be going into a game against any
professional basketball team so short-handed. The Nets' starting
front-line of Kris Humphries and Mehmet Okur aren't the most threatening
in the league, exactly, but Humph can certainly crash the boards, and
Okur has size that must be contended with, creating certain matchup
problems for the Sixers if we have to rely on Thaddeus Young and Elton
Brand to play the middle. Meanwhile, the best player on the court for
most of the game will belong to the New Jersey—star point guard Deron
Williams, whose penetration will cause plenty of problems of its own if
the Sixers can't protect the paint.

Expect to see a lot of Tony Battie, and for the second time this season,
a healthy dose of rookie big Lavoy Allen. Sixers fans would of course
be well-advised to not expect another 5-5, McDonalds-earning performance
out of Lavoy this time out, but it'll be interesting to see if he can
prove to be a contributor to the team tonight, either by excelling in
the pick-and-pop as he did Wednesday, or just by hitting the boards and
playing good help defense on Deron and Jordan Farmar and company. Doing
so would go a short way towards allaying Sixer fan fears about the
team's depth up front, though as Michael Levin suggested in our recent
discussion, it's hard to see the team going too long without making a
move for a big man, and indeed have even brought one-time Sixer (for
about five minutes) Francisco Elson in for a workout, to that end.

7:00 tip from the WFC. “We’re trying to win every game and take
advantage of everything and take
advantage of that home court,” Evan Turner said of the team's stellar
play against sub-par competition in Philly this year. Keep up with that
trying, guys—though don't think it's gonna be this easy for too much
longer.

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.”

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- With Joel Embiid's excitement to be on the court following two years of injuries comes the reality of his lengthy setback.

Embiid is participating in his first NBA training camp this week. While he has impressed with his natural abilities and improved skills, Embiid is facing challenges as he gets accustomed to the league.

"Everything is kind of off right now as far as catching the ball or shooting," Embiid said after practice Wednesday. "I've still got to get in the flow of the game."

Embiid has yet to play since being drafted in 2014. For the past two years he has worked out individually and in controlled settings. Practices, even in training camp, are different. 

"You see all the time when you realize he hasn't played basketball for a long time," Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. "He's trying to gather his feet and find his balance, he's trying to figure out stuff in real time speed on defensive assignments and rotations."

On Wednesday, Embiid went through practice without any minute restrictions and was feeling healthier from the cold and virus he had been battling (see story). Teammates have praised his physical presence and eagerness to compete. He makes an impact with his 7-foot-2 presence alone, but there is more he wants to improve. 

Embiid is adjusting to the speed of the game. He has been facing challenges with getting the ball in the post and spoke to the coaches about his frustrations. The staff explained they are focusing on pick-and-roll defense and getting out to run during training camp, but he will get that desired location in game situations. 

“You continue to see the size of Joel Embiid,” Brown said. “He's a big man and he's got a mindset to back up his physical gifts. He really wants the ball. He wants to get deep catches. He wants to dunk on people.”

Embiid always has been realistic about his transition to his rookie season. He has pointed out many times that he is a fast learner, and is anxious to soak up new knowledge and apply it to the court.

"It's really frustrating," he said. "But like I've said, you've got to trust the process, which I've been doing."