Flyers Cont'd: Versteeg Traded, Leino and Boucher Move On

Flyers Cont'd: Versteeg Traded, Leino and Boucher Move On

So much for an easy Friday to lead us into a light holiday weekend. The Flyers continued to be aggressive on the first day of free agency, shipping Kris Versteeg off to the Florida Panthers for draft picks. Meanwhile, Ville Leino's and Brian Boucher's tenures in orange black are officially over, as the winger signed a long term contract with the Buffalo Sabres, and the netminder heads to the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Versteeg trade signals the end to that experiment, and while some fans were willing to ride it out and give the young hand a chance to learn coach Peter Laviolette's system, the front office indicated it was a failure.

The Flyers received a second round pick from Florida, in either the 2012 or 2013 draft, as well as San Jose's third in '12. Unfortunately, this is less than they originally paid when they acquired the 25 year old in February, sending a first and a third to Toronto. The move was certainly in part to create some much needed salary cap relief, but accepting a return that was less than their initial investment has to sting.

And up north, Leino found a partner willing to pay. The Sabres agreed to a 6-year deal with the Finland native worth $27 million, averaging $4.5 mil per season. It's a steep price for Leino, who had a career year in 10-11 with 19 goals and 34 assists, but at times was maybe a little too fancy for his own good. [See "Update" here for how this relates to the Jagr deal]

Boucher's departure comes as no surprise however, as he agreed to a two-year deal with Carolina.

There's no telling if the moves are over--is an extension for recently acquired Wayne Simmonds on the way?--but I hope they are, if only because we would like to get into holiday mode (parrrtayyy!). There's no doubt this has been an exciting couple of hours though, and for that matter, last few weeks in Flyers-land.

A Brief Summary of the Flyers' Moves on Day One; Voracek, Jagr, Lilja, Talbot
Jaromir Jagr, Philadelphia Flyer

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

CAMDEN, N.J. — If all goes as planned, a time will come when the Sixers can roll out a dominating frontcourt duo with Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor sharing the court in lengthy stretches.

That moment has to wait, though, as both Embiid and Okafor are on minute restrictions. As he returns from a knee injury, Okafor currently is coming off the bench and backing up Embiid.

“This conversation with Jahlil and Joel is more intelligent and applicable at a later date,” Brett Brown said at practice Friday. “When Jahlil’s minutes start going up and Joel can, then it’s a real conversation. I do think you may see them sooner than even I thought together. But as far as making it a real constant part of a strategy or rotation, it’s beyond too early days.”

In an ideal world, Brown could pair the two bigs now and use all of their allotted minutes (Embiid 20, Okafor 14) at once. That would leave an extensive workload on second-year bench player Richaun Holmes.

“This is a hot topic,” Brown said. “I will say it one more time: If I play Jahlil and Jo together, I hope Richaun can play 35 minutes.”

It’s an unrealistic expectation for Holmes, who averaged 13.8 minutes in 51 games last season. Brown caps the majority of the Sixers at six-minute segments to keep them competing at a high energy level.

“Right now, he’s a backup,” Brown said of Holmes. “I think he’s going to be an NBA player for a very long time. I just feel like in the role, he’s a second-year player that didn’t really have much of a role last year. He’s shown everybody that he’s for real. He really can play a role. At this early stage, that is the key word.”

Embiid and Okafor have been envisioning competing together since Okafor was drafted two years ago. They became friends long before they were NBA players and have an easy chemistry on the court as a result.

“I think it’s going to be exciting,” Embiid said. “We played a little bit together today in practice. We’re figuring out how to play with each other. It’s a process and we’ve got trust it.”

Yes, the players know they have to wait, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for them to resist an opportunity to play with one another.  

“I think once we figure it out, we can really dominate together,” Okafor said. “We were able to flirt with it again today. We accidentally keep ending up on the same team even though Coach keeps telling us to make sure we alternate. But we’re having fun. We’re trying to put some pressure on it because we want to play together.”

Is that accidentally with air quotes?

“Yeah, exactly,” Okafor said with a laugh.

'Trust the process' has a different, more personal meaning to Joel Embiid

'Trust the process' has a different, more personal meaning to Joel Embiid

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid is all about trusting the process.

He manages to insert the well-known phrase into just about every interview, hashtags it on social media and soaks in the chants during games. 

While “trust the process” is commonly associated with former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie’s patience-required approach to building the team — which resulted in three years of dismal losing and suffering setback after setback — Embiid has his personal take on the mantra.

“I think I have my own process,” Embiid said Friday at practice.

Embiid is playing for the first time this season after waiting two years to recover from foot injuries. His long-anticipated debut was a focal point of “the process,” and his return to the court marked a new chapter in the organization.

“I went through two surgeries, lost my brother, thought about some stuff I shouldn’t have thought about, so that’s my own process,” he said. “And then the process of going through the rehab and finally getting back on the court and getting the chance to finally play in the league, that’s my process.”

Embiid is now synonymous with the word. He credits Sixers fans for the moniker, which he added to his Instagram profile. 

“I don’t think it came from me,” he said. “Fans just started and then I just went along with it.”

Wednesday marked the next step in the process, both for the Sixers and Embiid. His regular-season debut (20 points, seven rebounds, two blocks) was a long time coming and garnered buzz all over the NBA world.

“I was the third pick and then I missed two years,” Embiid said. “The excitement in the city, everybody’s happy to finally see me play. Even though it was weird because a lot of people kind of wrote me off a long time ago saying that I’d never play as a Sixer, I’d never play in the league. So it’s all fun. Everybody’s going to have an opinion.”

He’s just got to trust in his own.