Closing Time: Game 66 for the Sixers in Detroit

Closing Time: Game 66 for the Sixers in Detroit

Well, both the Sixers and Knicks won last night, meaning that the
seventh and eighth seeds are still uncertain going into play tonight.
Presumably both teams would prefer falling to eight and playing the more
manageable Chicago Bulls—Clyde Frazier said on the MSG broadcast last
night that the Knicks would have an easier time against the Miami Heat,
but I doubt anyone actually believes that—but both teams will have their
work cut out for them if they plan on losing tonight. Even with resting
arguably their top five guys tonight—Jrue Holiday should be joining Lou
Williams, Elton Brand, Thaddeus Young and Andre Iguodala on the
bench—the Sixers still have a shot against the 24-41 Pistons, though Detroit
does somehow have a 17-15 record at the predominantly empty Palace at
Auburn Hills this year.

The result of Philly's game won't matter, though, assuming New York can
manage to take care of business against the worst team in NBA history.
Normally, you'd expect that the surging Knicks would have no problem
sweeping up the 7-58 Bobcats, but with no real incentive to win (Orlando
clinched the #6 seed by beating Charlotte last night), you can expect
that New York will be sitting at least a handful of regulars. Of course,
the Knicks' second-stringers are probably still superior to the
Bobcats' A Squad, but Charlotte will be looking to avoid history—by
winning one more game, they can avoid ending the season with the worst
winning percentage in NBA history, a mark still held by our proud
'72-'73 Sixer squad. Could be a toss-up, though you'd like to believe
that the team that's lost 22 games in a row will find a way to squeak
out just one more L before season's end, and allow us to slink
comfortably back to the 8th seed.

Tonight's Sixers matchup will be interesting beyond the playoff
implications, if only for the added freedom for Evan Turner. Last night,
Turner quickly emerged as the team's go-to scoring option with all
their, uh, more traditional scorers on the bench, and he did a fairly
decent job at it, posting 29 points (though he needed 29 shots to do
it), 13 rebounds and six assists, carrying the team to victory against a
somehow-even-more-undermanned Milwaukee Bucks team. If the team trades
Iguodala and lets Lou walk in the off-season—which they really, really
well should—this is the kind of role we're going to be seeing Evan in a
lot more, and if he can build on games like last night's, that's a good
way to get the post-Lou/Dre era started. (NO JINX NO JINX NO JINX NO
JINX)

8:00 tip from the Palace. No matter who they play in the first round,
the Sixers will play their Game One on Saturday. Evan Turner hopes it's the Bulls. Needless to say, you should too.

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."