Philadelphia 76ers

Markelle Fultz, amid trade rumors, works out for Sixers

Markelle Fultz, amid trade rumors, works out for Sixers

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Markelle Fultz arrived for a pre-draft workout Saturday evening at what could be his home for the foreseeable future.
 
The projected No. 1 pick traveled from Maryland to the Sixers' training complex as trade talks buzzed around the Celtics and Sixers swapping the first and third selections.
 
The two teams have agreed to a deal that will be finalized Monday, four days before the draft, as first reported by TNT’s David Aldridge. According to The Boston Globe's Adam Himmelsbach, the Sixers will send the Celtics this year's No. 3 pick and one protected future first-round pick from the Sixers for the top selection in Thursday's draft (see story).
 
In the midst of all this, Fultz took the court in front of a packed house of Sixers executives, coaches and players, including Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Robert Covington. Basketball is about all he can control right now. 
 
“I don't really pay attention to everything that's going on,” Fultz said. “I'm truly blessed to be in this position. Whatever happens, I'm looking forward to taking my talents to wherever I go.”
 
The 6-foot-4, 195-pound Fultz went through individualized drills in the portion of his workout open to the media. He struggled to hit his shots consistently in a three-point exercise. Fultz looked as though perhaps he was affected by the three-hour car ride to Camden, which had been slowed down by traffic and delayed his scheduled start time. Fultz said he didn’t mind the travel, though, and slept during the trip. 
 
“It's almost like AAU, driving out of town,” he said. “Any chance I get an opportunity to (play basketball), I'm going to be excited.”
 
One showing wasn’t going to be enough to deter NBA teams that had watched Fultz average 23.2 points (47.6 percent from the field, 41.3 percent from long range), 5.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists last season. He led the Pac-12 in scoring and was first among all freshmen in the nation. 
 
Part of the pre-draft process is for teams to learn about a prospect’s medical history. Fultz sat out five of the last seven games last season because of right knee soreness. He said he is fully recovered. 
 
“My knee is great,” Fultz said. “As you can see, I'm jumping pretty high and everything like that.”
 
Following the workout, Embiid, Simmons and Covington talked with Fultz and posed for a photo. That moment was likely a glimpse into the Sixers' future, one that Fultz easily sees himself fitting into. 
 
“It would be great,” he said. “Get up and down. They're big on defense so I think the tools that I have to be a defensive player I think would help them get out in transition. I'm a pretty good shot blocker for a point guard, so I think helping them with that, everything would pretty much help with that.”

Fultz would be part of an untraditional backcourt with Simmons, wherein the Sixers plan to start a 6-foot-10 point guard. The team has been looking for a guard that can play off the ball in a combo role to complement Simmons, who is more of a facilitator than an outside shooter. 
 
“I play with great players all the time, so whatever he needs me to do,” Fultz said. “If I'm running the floor or I'm setting the screen for him or giving it back, it doesn't matter. I'll be a great teammate.”
 
Fultz already is familiar with Philadelphia, so familiar he named Larry's as his favorite cheesesteak spot. He entered the training complex wearing a Sixers hat to show appreciation for the place he has frequented. Last season, Fultz attended a Sixers home game as part of his own scouting of potential landing spots. 
 
“I saw the team still fighting hard,” he said. “The most important thing was the fans in the building were still there no matter what. That was big. Of course being out there, I could imagine myself on the court, helping the team out for sure. 

"That's what I do every game. I watch, just think about if I was on the team, what could happen?”
 
He will find out when his name is called Thursday. 

How Brett Brown got Sixers through 'The Process'

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How Brett Brown got Sixers through 'The Process'

Nineteen wins. Eighteen wins. Ten wins.

As the 47-199 record mounted over his first three seasons as head coach, the same question arose loss after loss: How does Brett Brown keep the Sixers together?

Those who played for Brown during this time could have given generic answers. They simply could have been happy for the chance to play in the NBA and commented on his optimistic demeanor.

When Henry Sims told the story about Brown dancing, though, it was clear there was more to their experiences with the coach than just going through the motions of losing basketball. Other players were quick to offer their enthusiastic responses, whether they had been on the Sixers for multiple years or 10-day contracts. 

Brown has the opportunity to coach a team on the rise next season. The Sixers are coming off a 28-win season. They have young talent, at least one future All-Star, a pair of No. 1 picks nearing their NBA debuts and a highly-coveted veteran free-agent signing. The playoffs even are in reach. 

To get a better sense of how Brown got his team to this point after the early years of “The Process,” the players explained it themselves. 

Henry Sims
Two years have passed since Sims played for the Sixers, yet one specific afternoon stands out vividly. Sims played 99 games for Brown during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons. 

“We had went on a road trip and lost like four straight. They were pretty bad losses. We got home and Brett Brown came in the gym dancing with the assistants. They had some song. It lifted guys’ spirits — life isn’t so hard playing basketball. 

“I give a lot of credit to Brett Brown because he kept everybody positive and in a good attitude. I know it was tough for him to walk in that locker room every day. As a coach, you want to win. He kept us going, he kept us working hard. If you were watching our practices, you would have thought we were one of the top teams in the NBA because of how hard we were playing in practice.”

JaKarr Sampson
Brown had a fondness for Sampson, exhibited when Brown said “I miss JaKarr” a day after Sampson had been waived. Brown admired Sampson’s spirited attitude, and the sentiment was mutual. Sampson suited up for 121 Sixers games over the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. 

“The energy he brings is natural. He’s very good with the young guys and keeping us energized and motivated when things aren’t looking good, he’s always there motivating us. He really cares about his players, that’s what makes him a good coach. Even now, he texts me sometimes now and then. He cares, that’s the key with him. 

“[He organized] a lot of team stuff, team dinners, we had a Christmas gift swap. He was really good at keeping us together and keeping us liking each other during that time. We never turned on each other. He kept the locker room a good atmosphere. Things are looking bright for him right now.”

Larry Drew II
Before Drew was on the Sixers summer league roster this year, he was with the team for a pair of 10-day contracts during the 2014-15 season (he played in 12 games). While Brown made an impact on the court, Drew remembers very unique conversations away from the game. 

“A lot of people don’t know, I don’t watch too much television and when I do, I watch a lot of National Geographic, the History Channel, Discovery Channel. One of the first non-basketball conversations I had with Coach Brown was actually about the universe and the stars and the galaxy. That was one of the things that stood out to me. I’m a huge geek when it comes to stuff like that, and just the fact we were able to have an open dialogue about theoretical physics and what not, it was cool. He has a very open mind and he’s very easy to speak to.

“His spirits were never down. Even after losses, he never made it feel like we were doing anything wrong, per se, but that we were headed in the right direction and that it was a couple of little things we needed to tweak. I think that’s huge for a coach to be able to speak to his team in a way to make them feel that it’s going to be ok at the end of the day.”

Hollis Thompson 
Thompson was one of the longest-tenured players under Brown (Sept. 2013 to Jan. 2017). The two shared an interest for deep conversations about education and world events. Thompson played 256 games for Brown.

“He’s got a great attitude, a positive spirit. Even when you’re going through a tough year and losing a lot of games, he finds a way to get everybody going, get everybody excited to play. Even in the midst of a tough game, a tough losing streak, he finds a way to make you laugh or finds the positive in it. … You could see him for who he is as a man [talking about shared interests]. He’s a great coach, but he’s a great human being. I love that dude and I wish him the best.”

Kendall Marshall
Marshall’s stop in Philadelphia was filled with injuries and a crowded point guard position that kept him off the court. He played 30 games during the 2015-16 season. Nonetheless, Marshall barely had finished hearing the question about Brown when he jumped to answer with a strong tone of emotion. 

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Brown as a coach, from what I’ve seen as a father, as a competitor. His ability to come to that practice floor and game arena every single day with the intensity, passion, willingness to teach in those circumstances winning 10, 15, 20 games every single year, that’s one of the most impressive things that I’ve seen in the pro level … He was always in a great mood, unless we were messing up (laughs). He’s always joking, that Boston accent is always strong.”

Chris Johnson
Johnson played for Brown during training camp and saw how he prepared the team for the regular season, even though the odds of winning were against them. His time with the Sixers spanned nine games over less than two months in the Fall of 2014. 

“He brought a positive attitude to practice. He kept everybody’s spirits together. We kind of knew what was going on, but Brett was a great coach, he was a smart coach, and he had the best interest for his team and the players. In preseason, two-a-days, guys were tired, but one thing I always remembered was he always came in and tried to keep everybody’s spirits together, let everybody know it’s part of the grind and it makes you better.”

Joel Embiid, T.J. McConnell win NBPA Players Voice Awards

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Joel Embiid, T.J. McConnell win NBPA Players Voice Awards

Joel Embiid was a big winner in the 2017 NBPA Players Voice Awards.

He earned honors for Comeback Player of the Year and, in what seemed like a lock all season, Best Social Media Follow.

Embiid made a huge impact in only 31 games after missing his first two seasons because of foot injuries. He averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks, all while being capped on a minutes restrictions and held out of back-to-back games. Embiid was on pace to win Rookie of the Year before suffering a season-ending knee injury. He underwent surgery in March. 

His influence was just as big on social media. Embiid became a Twitter star before he even played an NBA game. Now with over 857,000 followers, he has kept fans entertained with everything from his admiration of Rihanna, an All-Star campaign to get a date, and his recent beef with LaVar Ball. Embiid frequently posts videos engaging with fans (who usually are chanting "Trust the Process") and puts a creative spin on his Instagram locations.

Embiid wasn't the only Sixer to win an award. T.J. McConnell earned the well respected "Best Teammate" award, presented to one player from each NBA team. McConnell’s hard-nosed approach and relentless hustle earned him the starting point guard role in late December. The underdog has fought to establish his place in the league for the last two seasons and has made an impression on the Sixers' staff, fan base and his peers while doing so.  

NBA players voted on these awards at the end of the regular season. The winners were announced on the NBPA's Twitter Friday morning.