Jerry Colangelo talks Joel Embiid's progress, 'guarded optimism' for Sixers

Jerry Colangelo talks Joel Embiid's progress, 'guarded optimism' for Sixers

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Jerry Colangelo is no stranger to the most elite NBA talent. With roles including chairman of the board for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and USA Basketball Board of Directors Chairman, he is around the best in the game, past and present.

Colangelo has the same objective of success in his position as a special advisor for the Sixers. Following a disappointing 10-win season, the Sixers looked to change directions by landing Ben Simmons with the first overall pick and signing experienced veterans in free agency. They also are anticipating the long-awaited debut of Joel Embiid. 

Rather than making a complete overhaul and throwing mega-dollars at star free agents like Kevin Durant, the Sixers took a step-by-step approach this offseason in building a foundation for their young, developing players. It is a method that can take time, but it's designed with long-term goals for winning. 

"I'm sure that everyone should have optimism," Colangelo told CSNPhilly.com at the Basketball Hall of Fame. "But there's a word I've always used over the years about optimism. It should be guarded optimism because things take time. When you're building teams — and I've had the privilege of doing that quite a few times in my career — you're adding pieces here and there, and then once in a while you strike out and get that last piece. I think where the Sixers are today is, this is the beginning of that particular process, and that is building what everyone would hope to be a championship team."

Two focal points of the Sixers' future are Simmons and Embiid. Simmons, a 6-foot-10 point-forward, is ready to make an impact as a rookie. Embiid, on the other hand, has been waiting two years to play following foot surgeries. Last month Embiid said he feels "100 percent" and plans to participate in training camp. 

"With all of the reports that I've seen and all the footage I've seen in terms of video, it appears that he's headed in the right direction," Colangelo said of Embiid. "I know that everyone's excited about training camp because of all of the new faces. ... The fortunate ability to have the first pick and select Ben Simmons, you put all those new players on paper and to add that to a roster, it's going to be really interesting, exciting to see how it all plays out."

When it comes to incoming international players, Colangelo's involvement with Team USA gave him the opportunity to meet with Dario Saric and Sergio Rodriguez in Rio during the Olympics. Saric, who signed with the Sixers two years after being drafted, had a solid showing for Croatia, while Rodriguez helped Spain win bronze. 

"I thought [Saric] played very well and I complimented him on his performances," Colangelo said. "Both of them showed great enthusiasm about coming to training camp. I think it's going to be exciting to have them in Sixers uniforms very shortly."

In building a roster, teams hope they have a star (or stars) in the making in their organization. The Sixers had just that for over 10 seasons with Allen Iverson, one of the inductees in this year's Hall of Fame class. 

"What sets him apart from so many is that he did it his way," Colangelo said. "It may have been a little counter to what other people would have expected, but give him credit for being a big man as a little man in a big man's game. He made himself known. His presence was felt by anyone on the court, and his numbers speak for themselves. They're off the charts. A long career, a very successful career, and someone who justifiably deserves to be in."

NBA Playoffs: Marc Gasol's GW jumper ties Grizzlies-Spurs series at 2

NBA Playoffs: Marc Gasol's GW jumper ties Grizzlies-Spurs series at 2

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Marc Gasol hit a 12-foot floater with 0.7 seconds left in overtime, and the Memphis Grizzlies beat the San Antonio Spurs 110-108 Saturday night to even up their first-round series at 2-2.

The Grizzlies won despite blowing a 10-point lead with 7:38 left in regulation and 23 turnovers that San Antonio turned into 31 points.

Mike Conley set a franchise postseason record with 35 points, and Gasol finished with 16 points after shooting 5 of 12 for the game. He also had 12 rebounds.

The Grizzlies overcame another postseason personal best from Kawhi Leonard who had 43 points. He rallied the Spurs by scoring the last 16 points of regulation, but missed a 21-footer short of the rim with James Ennis defending him just before the buzzer. Leonard tied it at 108 with 17 seconds left with a 3 from the left corner.

Game 5 is Tuesday night in San Antonio (see full recap).

Raptors beat Bucks 87-76 in slugfest, tie series at 2-2
MILWAUKEE -- DeMar DeRozan scored 33 points, and the Toronto Raptors beat the Milwaukee Bucks 87-76 in a defensive slugfest on Saturday to tie their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series at two games apiece.

Kyle Lowry had 14 of his 18 points in the second half for the Raptors, who turned up their intensity before a hostile road crowd after getting embarrassed in a 27-point loss to Milwaukee in Game 3.

Toronto's tested backcourt reverted to its playmaking form, especially the resurgent DeRozan. He was 12 of 22 from the field after missing all eight of his attempts in Game 3.

The Raptors seized home-court advantage back in the best-of-seven series. Game 5 is Monday at the Air Canada Centre.

The game was tied at halftime before Toronto slowly edged away in the second half, building a 10-point lead with 4 minutes left on Norman Powell's 3-pointer.

Tony Snell led Milwaukee with 19 points (see full recap).

Hawks deliver early playoff KO, romp past Wizards 116-98
ATLANTA -- Paul Millsap scored 29 points, Dennis Schroder had 27 and the Atlanta Hawks delivered an early knockout blow against Washington, cruising to a 116-98 victory Saturday that sliced the Wizards' lead to 2-1 in the opening-round playoff series.

After two tight losses in Washington exposed some bad blood between the teams, Atlanta returned home and built a 25-point lead by late in the first quarter.

The Hawks were never seriously challenged by the Wizards, who were essentially a one-man team. John Wall kept up his dazzling play in the series, scoring 29 points, but the point guard got no help from his teammates.

The other Washington starters combined to score 30 points on 14-of-45 shooting.

Millsap also had 14 rebounds, while rookie Taurean Prince chipped in with 16 points.

Game 4 is Monday night in Atlanta (see full recap).

Sixers 2016-17 player evaluation: Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot

Sixers 2016-17 player evaluation: Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot

Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot
 
Position: Shooting guard/small forward
 
Status for 2017-18: Guaranteed -- $1,386,600
 
Luwawu-
Cabarrot in 2016-17
Nobody was quite sure what to expect when the Sixers took the Frenchman 24th overall. There was speculation he could stay overseas for a little more seasoning. When more details of Luwawu-Cabarrot's possible buyout surfaced, it made sense for the Sixers to bring him over.
 
Still, Luwawu-Cabarrot would have to practice a little patience while he waited his turn for a shot with the Sixers. He barely saw the court in his first 30 games. He also saw a three-game stint in the D-League. As his progression continued and the team was hit with a rash of injuries, the 21-year-old swingman seized the opportunity.
 
Over the last nine games of the season, Luwawu-Cabarrot flashed the athleticism and skill that made him a first-round pick. In that span, he averaged 16.8 points and 1.4 steals in 34.5 minutes a game. His aggressiveness was evident, taking 7.1 threes a game and attempting four free throws a contest. He only shot 31 percent from three during the run, but he hit 92 percent from the charity stripe.
 
Signature game
In the Sixers' home finale against the Pacers, Luwawu-Cabarrot shined. Some of that shine was taken away by the spat between Paul George and Gerald Henderson, but it gave fans a glimpse of what Luwawu-Cabarrot could become. He totaled 24 points in that game, going 8 of 12 from the field. He went 4 of 5 from three, tying a career for threes made. He also added five boards, three assists and a steal.
 
Looking ahead to 2017-18
Both president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo and head coach Brett Brown went out of their way to praise Luwawu-Cabarrot. Brown referred to him as a "keeper." It'll be interesting to see what Luwawu-Cabarrot's role will be next season.
 
With Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid (hopefully) returning to full strength, the Sixers need shooters and players that can play off the ball. Luwawu-Cabarrot showed all season that he is an excellent player off the ball. His cutting and slashing ability is far beyond the typical 21-year-old.
 
The shot will need to be developed. He shot just 31 percent from three for the season but 85 percent from the line. That leads you to believe his jump shot still has room to grow.
 
On Luwawu-Cabarrot
"He really kind of grew up in front of our eyes these last couple months. He's got a great work ethic and he's a good kid so he's got a chance to be a really, really good player."

- Sixers guard Gerald Henderson