Sixer Big Man Update: Dedmon in, Moultrie on his way, Noel on the horizon

Sixer Big Man Update: Dedmon in, Moultrie on his way, Noel on the horizon

It's been a situation in flux behind Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes in the Sixers' frontcourt rotation this season. Royce White, Gani Lawal, Daniel Orton have all come and gone, Lavoy Allen has shuttled in and out of the lineup with various maladies, and the only guy who seems to be able to nail down consistent minutes is the thusfar execrable Brandon Davies.

Help, however, would appear to be on the way. We've already gotten minor reinforcements in the form of Dewayne Dedmon, an undrafted rookie center out of USC that had been playing for the Santa Cruz Warriors of the D-League before being signed to a ten-day contract by the Sixers. Dedmon isn't billed as much of a scorer--though he did average 15 a game with the Warriors--but is said to be a rebounder and a shot-blocker, and in last night's win over the Bobcats, he provided that, grabbing seven boards and swatting two shots in 14 minutes of game action.

He may be joined on the front lines soon by second-year forward Arnett Moultrie. There was some thought that Moultrie would likely be cleared to play last night against Charlotte after missing the season's first two-and-a-half months after undergoing ankle surgery, but he apparently isn't quite in good enough shape for Coach Brown's liking just yet to get in game action.

"There are some medical tests and fitness tests that he has to pass so we don’t re-injure him,” CSN's Dei Lynam reports Brown explaining. "I am excited to see him play but there is criteria with regards to body-weight goals and fitness tests that just have not been met...to go this duration and shortcut it and re-injure him would just be reckless and irresponsible, so we are going to be patient with him." (Brown also says that Lavoy will likely be back and ready to go for the Ballers before Arnett.)

Much more exciting than any of this, though, is the revelation yesterday that it might not be too long before we get an extended look at prized rookie acquisition, Nerlens Noel. After spending the better part of the season recuperating from ACL surgery he underwent in early 2013--with Coach Brown wisely telling reporters that he expected Noel not to be back this season, thus taking the pressure off him to return--the infamous Dr. James Andrews has now reported that Nerlens has been cleared to begin basketball activities.

So when does that mean Nerlens will finally suit up for the Sixers? Well, that's still a ways away from being determined, and the answer might still be "not this season" if Brown and the rest of the staff get a look at Noel on the court and don't quite like what they see. But sources tell ESPN that if he stays on schedule and doesn't suffer a setback, the big man could be game-ready in 4-6 weeks, likely placing his return sometime a week or two after the All-Star break.

But again, just because he's been cleared by his doctors doesn't mean he's been cleared by the team, and given how conservative they've been with matters of health this year (and given how low a priority winning ballgames is this year) it'd probably be prudent not to get too excited just yet. Still, you watch video like this, and it's hard not to get a little antsy:

At the very least, our Brandon Davies-related suffering should be greatly reduced in the upcoming weeks. For that, we should be thankful.

Elton Brand on national anthem protests: Sixers working with NBA, having 'discussions internally'

Elton Brand on national anthem protests: Sixers working with NBA, having 'discussions internally'

CAMDEN, N.J. — Pockets of NBA players have increasingly started to speak up about what they believe to be racial and social injustices taking place in the United States.

With San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's decision to kneel during the national anthem sparking protests from other players around the NFL and various sports, now the NBA as a whole is preparing for potential protests prior to games.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver and National Basketball Players Association union executive director Michele Roberts came together last week to formulate a joint letter to players to express how the two sides plan to take "meaningful action."

Whatever that action is, Sixers veteran Elton Brand is all for it and the overall discussion of issues going on around the country.

"There are e-mails and direct texts from the NBPA. We’re working with the NBA. They’re going to talk to us soon,” Brand said. “My thing is if you want to stand up for something, that’s a good thing. Especially in America, the tensions and the injustices that are going on right now. 

“Even in our locker room we’re discussing who feels like this, who feels like what and ways that we can display how we feel about things. I’m all for it. I stand behind it and stand with other athletes and people that want to stand for a cause. Whatever their cause is, they want to stand for a cause. Our cause may be different.”

The NBA is significantly more diverse than the NFL, and Brand even admitted it’s been an eye-opening experience having talks about issues affecting African Americans inside a locker room with players from around the globe.

“We have a lot of international players,” he said. “I’m looking around the room and there are seven people that aren’t from this country. So you talk about the flag, talk about the constitution and to them it’s like, ‘I represent America because I’m working here, but I’m pro-Spain and I have problems there, too.’ We’re all sorting it out. We’ve had discussions internally also. I’m looking forward to what the NBPA and the NBA have to offer."

What the league and players association come up with will likely serve as something other than protesting during the actual anthem. Unlike the NFL, the NBA has a rule in place that explicitly states players, coaches and trainers must stand on the foul line or sidelines in a dignified posture during the playing of national anthems.

If Sixers players do ultimately decide on some sort of protest before games, they will have the support of the organization to express their rights.

"We haven't been together collectively long enough to have a real robust discussion about it," Sixers president Bryan Colangelo said. "I think we just addressed it briefly this morning with the players in an opportunity to say the following. Basically, we as an organization are going to be supportive of the views of our players. As the league and the players association formulate perhaps an approach, they've already circulated some information to teams. Things are probably still at the discussion phase. I hope to think that's where things are with our players, that they're still at the discussion phase. 

"Once again, I'm assuming that there will be a desire to express an opinion or viewpoint. I've always been supportive of people in society having freedom to express a viewpoint. Again, going back to the league and the players association, in a positive way I think they've always been out in front of some of these social issues and if they can affect social change in a positive way they probably will. You can just anticipate that there's still some unknowns to this, but you can estimate that we will be supportive as an organization as to how our players want to express their views."

Joel Embiid expects to play in Sixers' preseason opener

Joel Embiid expects to play in Sixers' preseason opener

CAMDEN, N.J. — The long wait could be over next week.

Joel Embiid expects to play in the Sixers' first preseason game Oct. 4 at UMass-Amherst against the Celtics, he said Monday at media day.

“The first thing for me is just get back on the court,” Embiid said of his expectations this season. “It looks like in a couple days I’m going to have the chance to do that.”

Embiid has missed the past two seasons since being drafted third overall because of foot injuries. Even though he is taking his rookie year one step at a time, he has a positive long-term outlook given how healthy he feels. 

“I’m confident that I’m going to have a long, successful career,” he said. “From what it looks like right now, I’m going to have a 20-year career.”

Embiid has grown as a player and a person during his recovery. He noted had he been competing in an 82-game season, he would not have had as much time to dedicate on his development. As a result of the specialized workouts and the hours he has spent in an individual practice format, he has improved his shooting and gained strength and speed. 

“What I was two years ago, I’m not even close to what I am right now,” he said. “My game has gotten so much better ... I’m not the same guy. I’m different.”

Embiid has been following a well-mapped out rehab plan during which he has had to adhere to restrictions, and will continue to do so this season. He admits the restrictions have been frustrating, but he now understands they are being implemented for his best interest long term. The lengthy recovery has forced him to change his outlook on maintaining his health. 

“The main thing I learned about myself is, I could be patient,” Embiid said. “When I was first doing my rehab, going through that, the only thing I thought about was getting back on the court. I would try to get back on the court and play more than I was supposed to. After the doctor [said] you had to heal well and I needed the second surgery, that’s when I told myself be patient and do whatever I can and make sure I listen to what people have to say.”

Head coach Brett Brown wants Embiid to become the “crown jewel” of the defense. Embiid, who stands at a towering 7-foot-2, 275 pounds, is ready to embrace those expectations. He has studied tape of Tim Duncan, Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing, among others. Embiid likes the game of Marc Gasol and appreciates how DeAndre Jordan communicates as a big man. 

“I love playing defense,” he said. “I hate when the other team scores.”

Embiid's debut will be the culmination of years of work. Now that the season is approaching, he is eager to count down the days. 

“I’m really excited,” Embiid said. “I’ve gone through a lot and it’s been two years. The fact that I’m healthy now and ready to get back on the court, I just can’t wait.”