Philadelphia 76ers

Joel Embiid in favor of changing All-Star ballot to bring back centers

Joel Embiid in favor of changing All-Star ballot to bring back centers

Joel Embiid already is on a path to becoming an All-Star. He's not alone in the young group of emerging centers with the potential to reach that caliber. 

Embiid sees a bright future for the center position in the NBA. He would be in favor of changing the All-Star voting to reflect that. 

"You've got KAT (Karl-Anthony Towns), you've got Myles Turner, you've got Kristaps (Porzingis), so a lot of young guys, a lot of dominant big men, Andre Drummond. I'm hoping they bring back the center position for All-Star," Embiid said after battling Hassan Whiteside in the Sixers win over the Heat. "Around the league, there's a lot of young big men and I think we're starting a comeback."

The NBA removed the center position from the ballot in October of 2012. The league changed the voting criteria from two forwards and one center to three frontcourt players. 

"It made sense to our Competition Committee," former VP of basketball operations Stu Jackson said at the time.
 
"Having a center is the only specific position that was singled out on the ballot. It just seemed a little outdated and didn't represent the way our game has evolved. By the same token, it also affords the same opportunity, if you have two good centers in a given year, pick 'em both. They both can be selected. Which is impossible right now."

In a league where many teams are trending toward small ball, Embiid believes the five-man is imperative to success.

"First of all, defensively, without a big man I think you can't be a good defensive team," he said. "I think the big man is the main piece. Offensively, getting rebounds, and when you've got a big man that can score down low and do everything else is always good for the team."

Embiid is having a standout rookie season, averaging 18.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in his first 10 games, all while being restricted to 24 minutes.

On Monday, Whiteside scored a career-high 32 points along with 13 rebounds in the Heat's loss to the Sixers.

"I told him, ‘Keep killing it,'" Embiid said. "As big men, we all want each other to do good. I've always thought, even in the past, it's always been a big man league. I want it to stay like that."

Emeka Okafor, Kris Humphries want to be more than just camp bodies for Sixers

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Emeka Okafor, Kris Humphries want to be more than just camp bodies for Sixers

CAMDEN, N.J. — There were few surprises when the Sixers’ training camp roster was released on Monday.

Unless you don’t count adding 22 years of NBA experience from the 2004 draft to the frontcourt as a surprise.

The Sixers signed veteran big men Emeka Okafor and Kris Humphries to deals prior to the start of camp.

Okafor’s presence is particularly surprising when you consider the nine-year veteran hasn’t played in the league since the 2012-13 season.

“You guys have trust the process slogan and I had my own little process going,” Okafor said during media day. “The timing just worked out now.”

Okafor, who turns 35 on Thursday, downplayed the severity of his situation by calling it a “little process.” In September of 2013 while with the Washington Wizards, he underwent an MRI after experiencing discomfort in his neck while preparing for the upcoming season. The former No. 2 overall pick was diagnosed with a herniated C4 cervical disc and ruled out indefinitely.

“Four years ago, I had a herniated disc in my neck. Surgery was recommended, but I opted to just go the natural path, which is rest and rehabilitation,” said Okafor, who has averaged 12.3 points and 9.9 rebounds during his career. “There was that, just letting things heal, taking time off and making sure that I felt that I was as healthy and strong and ready to come back and play the way I want to play.”

Humphries’ journey hasn’t been nearly as rocky from a physical standpoint. However, the forward with career averages of 6.7 points and 5.4 boards has still been through the rigors of the NBA business.

After spending the first five seasons of his career split between the Utah Jazz and Toronto Raptors, Humphries has now been with six different teams in the past eight years.

Some familiar faces in the front office led to Philadelphia being the latest stop for Humphries.  

“I came in like last week and worked out. It went well,” he said. “Kind of a fit, so it just went from there. I was with (Sixers president) Bryan Colangelo and (vice president of player personnel) Marc Eversley in Toronto from ’06-09, so I was familiar with those guys. It just kind of worked out.”

With Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor both limited by injury rehab entering training camp, it would appear the Sixers simply signed Emeka Okafor and Humphries to have enough healthy bigs for the preseason.

Just don’t tell the two veterans.

“In terms of my conditioning and my ability, especially after going down and playing with various teams, there’s no doubt in my mind I can play in this league and still contribute,” said Okafor, who chose the Sixers after working out for a handful of other organizations. “I can contribute a lot both on and off the court.”

“I just want to come in and continue to work hard,” Humphries said. “It’s a new challenge. I haven’t been on a non-guaranteed contract before, so it’s a challenge. I’m going to let it play out on the floor, compete a little bit.

“For me, I just want to play basketball and have fun as long as I can. I love basketball. It’s a good spot, good organization. I’m excited to be here.”

Ben Simmons on being forgotten in rookie poll: 'They'll remember'

Ben Simmons on being forgotten in rookie poll: 'They'll remember'

CAMDEN, N.J. — If Ben Simmons made one thing clear Monday, it's that he's ready to play.

The Jones fracture in the fifth metatarsal of his right foot that cost him his 2016-17 season has healed. He's been playing 5-on-5 and "dominating the gym." He has no restrictions heading into the first day of camp Tuesday.

And he's eager.

"I'm ready to go," Simmons said during Sixers media day. "100 percent. Cleared to play."

Simmons' answers were matter-of-fact and the 21-year-old's confidence was evident. 

Simmons came into the league with plenty of hype — and the skill to back that swagger. He was the No. 1 overall pick after just one season at LSU. Then the injury to his foot brought the hype train to a screeching halt and would eventually keep Simmons sidelined for the entire season. 

But the year off the court wasn't a total waste. Simmons said the time away allowed him to look in the mirror and mature.

"I just had to grow," Simmons said. "That took time. Different experiences. Obviously breaking my foot I had a lot of time to myself to grow as a person and just really looked at who I wanted to be as a player and a person. I had a lot of time off, so I think I've grown on and off the floor."

One of the things Simmons said he thought long and hard about was becoming a leader. Though Simmons is the third-youngest player on the roster, he's ready to accept that challenge. 

Becoming a leader will certainly help Simmons as he transitions to playing the point guard position. The 6-foot-10 Australian has been playing forward his whole life. Now, head coach Brett Brown has put the ball in his hands.

How does it feel to run the offense?

"It feels normal to me," Simmonds said. "[Brown is] the first coach to finally give me the opportunity. He obviously sees something in me. I believe in myself and I believe I can do it. There's not many people that can guard me off the dribble the full length of the court. It's going to be a mismatch problem a lot of the time."

There goes that confidence again.

It took Simmons a season away to get to this point though. He said he's a much better player than he was at this time last year and "it's not even close." 

Not everyone is convinced of Simmons' success, however. In a recent NBA.com poll of NBA rookies, Simmons barely received any votes for things like "Who will be the Rookie of the Year?" and "Which rookie will have the best career?" In fact, this year's No. 1 pick, Markelle Fultz, was thought of more highly than Simmons.

Maybe some of the rookies forgot about Simmons since he missed all of last season.

"I think that happens," Simmons said when asked about being out of the spotlight. "From social media — the hype or whatever it is. But if you would've said this a year ago you guys would've been putting me at the top of the list. I had a whole year to get better. But I'm fine with that. 

"When I came to the States I was 15 and nobody knew who I was so I feel like I'm kind of back in that stage. I have to prove myself again, which is fine. I'm looking forward to that part."

When pressed on the question of being "forgotten" by other NBA rookies, Simmons' answered confidently:

"They'll remember."