Carmelo Anthony glad Joel Embiid is 'trusting the process'

Carmelo Anthony glad Joel Embiid is 'trusting the process'

Carmelo Anthony is a Joel Embiid fan.

"I'm glad to see him back out there playing. It's been a while," Anthony said at the Knicks' shootaround Wednesday morning before their game against the Sixers at the Wells Fargo Center. "There's been so much speculation about him."

Finally, the speculation about Embiid's health has been replaced by how far he can take this team. Especially once Ben Simmons returns.

"To see him out there, to see him healthy — what's the saying, trust the process? To see him trusting the process and the Philadelphia organization and the fans as a whole," the 32-year-old Anthony said, "for me as a fan, it's good to see him back out there. We need young guys like that as a part of this league."

Losers of eight of their last nine (see game notes), Anthony and the slumping Knicks are 17-21 and in third place in the Atlantic Division, one spot ahead of the 10-25 Sixers, who have won three of their last four. They didn't win their 10th game last season until April 5 (much more on that here).

"They're going to come in with a lot of confidence," Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek said. "Embiid's a big factor in there with his size, his abilities to clog the lane defensively, and then offensively to make you do things that you have to to keep him out of the paint. He's long — he's going to finish in there.  They're getting better. They're a team — you can't just show up and win."

Not anymore, thankfully. 

Examining how Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons could mesh together on court

Examining how Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons could mesh together on court

No sooner did the Sixers draft Washington point guard Markelle Fultz on Thursday night than coach Brett Brown started talking about “ballcarriers,” a rather curious way to describe NBA playmakers.

This came up because Brown long ago said he intended to use Ben Simmons, a 6-10 forward with an unselfish bent, at the point this season — an interesting experiment, not only because Simmons missed his entire rookie year with a broken foot but also because other responsibilities would have to be divvied up differently than they are on most teams.

Surely, the thinking went, Simmons would be hard-pressed to guard opposing lead guards. Surely, the Sixers would have to play a shorter, quicker guy next to him to perform that defensive task — and it would no doubt help if that guy could knock down a shot or two as well.

The 6-4 Fultz, while a defensive cipher last year for the Huskies, has those capabilities. But there’s little question that he operates best with the rock in his hands.

For the record, Brown said the addition of Fultz “really doesn’t” change his plan. He still intends to make Simmons the point guard and let the chips fall where they may.

Or, as he put it, “We’re excited to use him as the primary ballcarrier.”

At the same time, he added, Fultz “has the ability to be a significant ballcarrier.”

“When we study what he did in college,” Brown added, “you recognize very quickly that he has the ability to play that position and be one of the main ball distributors as well.”

Which means there will be some sorting out to do when training camp begins.

Fultz didn’t seem concerned when the topic was raised. He knows Simmons a little bit since both attended high school powers — Fultz at DeMatha Catholic in Hyattsville, Md., Simmons at Montverde (Fla.) Academy. They connected a while back on social media, then exchanged numbers.

“And,” Fultz said, “I've been texting him through the college process, and just getting advice through college and just wishing him good luck.”

He expects the on-court mesh to be just as smooth.

“Great players know how to play with each other,” he said. “Really it's just do whatever you need to do to win. It's going to be times where maybe Ben brings up the ball or times where I'm bringing up the ball. It's going to do whatever we need to do to win.”

Brown, for his part, sees Fultz as a “perfect complement” not only to Simmons but also to Joel Embiid, who, unsurprisingly, has also reached out to Fultz on social media.

It is far from unprecedented for a team to employ two playmakers. Six NBA clubs featured a duo that averaged five-plus assists a game in 2016-17. That includes the Sixers, who saw both of their primary ballcarr ... er, point guards, T.J. McConnell (6.6) and Sergio Rodriguez (5.1), reach that plateau.

The best analog for the upcoming season might be Charlotte, which features a lanky forward (Nic Batum, 5.9) and high-usage point guard (Kemba Walker, 5.5). The Holy Grail is, of course, Golden State, which has turned basketball into ballet. Draymond Green (7.0) and Stephen Curry (6.6) both exceeded five assists a night, and Kevin Durant (4.8) was close.

In all, the Warriors averaged 30.4 assists — exactly one shy of the NBA record established by the 1984-85 Lakers — and 43.1 field goals. Curry and Green most often initiated their offense, but ex-Sixer Andre Iguodala, a reserve, also did so at times. (Durant was more likely to bring the ball up and do something like this.)

So that’s the ideal, the summit that every team can only hope to reach. The Sixers, still in the baby-steps phase, will inch along behind two playmakers who have yet to play an NBA minute. Embiid will certainly join them in the starting lineup, and probably Robert Covington as well, though both are coming off meniscus tears and will be monitored closely.

It remains to be seen how Dario Saric, another excellent passer, is used. Certainly, the ball would hop around if he were on the court with Fultz and Simmons, but Saric could also serve as the distributor for a potentially interesting bench mob (Jerryd Bayless, Richaun Holmes, et al.).

That’s something else to sort out in September. But Job One for Brown is figuring out how best to use his ballcarriers.

Not the worst problem to have.

Sixers expect Markelle Fultz to play in summer league

Sixers expect Markelle Fultz to play in summer league

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers expect Markelle Fultz to compete in summer league next month. The team will participate in both Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, beginning on July 3 in Utah.
 
"It's anticipated that Markelle will play," president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said Friday.
 
The Sixers still have to finalize things off the court before the No. 1 overall pick plays, just as they did with Ben Simmons last summer. Simmons appeared in limited games. Fultz's playing availability remains to be determined.
 
"There's other things that need to be worked out, first and foremost, in terms of protecting Markelle, contractually and otherwise," Colangelo said. "I think no different than Ben last year, we took care of our business first before he took the floor."
 
The status of the Sixers' other five draft picks for summer league is uncertain. Anzejs Pasecniks, Jonah Bolden and Mathias Lessort currently are under contract with teams overseas.
 
"The international players are all subject to agreements with their clubs," Colangelo said. "That can be a little bit tricky with respect to getting authorization or permission to do so. We're going to have those discussions and negotiations further."
 
The Sixers still are still working to see if last year's No. 26 pick, Furkan Korkmaz, will play in summer league. The Sixers would like him to participate but the schedule could overlap with international competition.

Undrafted guard Melo Trimble will play for the Sixers in summer league, according to a source. Isaiah Briscoe and James Blackmon Jr. reportedly are going to be on the summer team as well.
 
The Sixers also drafted Jawun Evans (No. 39) and Sterling Brown (No. 46). Neither attended the introductory press conference as the Sixers are reported to be trading them, according to The Vertical.
 
"There's been some movement and discussion about their draft situation and draft rights," Colangelo said. "That's subject to further discussion at a later date. We'll get back to you when dust settles on all of that."