For the Division, Pt. II: Sixers-Celtics at the Wells Fargo Center

For the Division, Pt. II: Sixers-Celtics at the Wells Fargo Center

Well, that game against the Knicks sure sucked. Spencer Hawes looked
legitimately rusty for the first time all season, Bad Evan Turner
appears to have fully taken over for the time being, and Andre Iguodala
again played an excellent first three quarters but came up well short in
the clutch, missing an open layup late in the game that effectively
doomed the team's chances. Not only did the 82-79 loss allow the
suddenly surging Knicks to gain another game on us in the Atlantic, it
also opened the door for the Celtics to take the division lead from us
tonight at the WFC, as the Boys in Green are now just a half-game behind
us in the standings.

It gets worse. With a loss tonight, we
don't just cede lead in the division, we could drop all the way to the
seventh in the standings—in other words, exactly where we were last year
when we got steamrolled by the Miami Heat in the first round. And if
you wanna get really doom and gloom about it, a loss tonight
combined with a Milwaukee win in Charlotte—the latter an all-but-certain
occurrence given the Bobcats' dismal season—would put the Sixers just
3.5 games above water in the Eastern post-season hunt, suddenly fearing
not only for home-court advantage playoffs, but just getting there at
all. Yikes.

So, we must ask: Where have you gone, Good Evan Turner? The
Extraterrestrial all but resurrected our season a little over two weeks
ago against this team in this building, when he went off for 26 points
in three quarters against the Celtics, kicking off a stretch of play
that almost made us believe we might have actually gotten the
second-best player in the 2010 draft after all. But the last four games
have been nearly as bad as that was good, making us worry about ET's
apparently bi-polar nature, on and possibly off the court. Can he get
his form back against the opponent that helped start it all? Lord, are
we hoping so.

8:00 tip from the WFC, in yet another nationally televised contest. San
Antonio coming up next (in San Antonio), and we're catching Boston on
the second night of a back-to-back, so a win tonight is all but
imperative to keep the team afloat in the Atlantic. There's still a good
team in here somewhere, and Coach Collins has 19 games left to figure
out how to locate it.

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."