Philadelphia 76ers

Sixers Notes: Dario Saric 'so happy' to finally beat Celtics; Jahlil Okafor update

Sixers Notes: Dario Saric 'so happy' to finally beat Celtics; Jahlil Okafor update

After three games, Dario Saric had enough.

He was barely halfway through his rookie season in the NBA and already he was tired of losing to the Celtics. The Sixers competed hard against the Celtics in their first three meetings but had fallen short.

Saric didn't feel like waiting until next season to get a win. He poured a team-high 23 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals into Sunday's 105-99 victory.

"Finally, we beat them," Saric said. "I'm so happy because I want to beat them so, so, so bad because we are like three games until now, we were so close, we give all the games a hundred percent and we lost and today finally we won. We deserved it and better team won today."

What happened to Okafor?
Jahlil Okafor did not play in the second half because of right knee soreness. He missed two games earlier this month with the same injury.

"He was sore," Brett Brown said. "We knew that going into the game. We judged it. No player likes to come to the head coach and say, 'I can't go tonight. I'm struggling.' He didn't say that.

"I reminded him, 'We're not playing in the Eastern Conference championship this year. It's OK. If you're hurting, we will take you and we'll sit you. It's OK. Because we have so many games now coming up and that was my call more than anybody's. We just decided to sit him."

Okafor scored four points with one rebound in 12 minutes. He is traveling with the Sixers to Orlando. His status for Monday's game against the Magic is to be determined as the team will further evaluate him once they arrive in Florida.

Brown sees both sides
One of the hottest topics in the NBA right now is the sitting of starters in nationally televised games. On Saturday, the Cavaliers came under criticism for not playing LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in their matchup against the Clippers.

Brown knows that scenario well. Back in December 2012, he was an assistant coach on the Spurs' team that was fined $250,000 by the league for benching four key players.

"It was my job in Miami to escort (Tim) Duncan, (Manu) Ginobili, (Tony) Parker, Danny Green and Kawhi (Leonard) back to San Antonio and not play in Miami," Brown recalled before Sunday's game. "We played in Orlando, charter plane had a problem. I went to a commercial airport with those five profile people and navigated through turnstyles and lines and all that to go back and not play because we felt they're injured, they're not healthy, and the league spoke. All over the place you understand kind of the whole situation. You get both sides of the argument."

Brown, who coaches a very sports science-minded program, sees the teams' point of view in wanting to maintain the health of their players. He also gets where the fans are coming from. Brown considers the fans when he is unhappy with the Sixers' performance, so he can appreciate how they would feel if they couldn't see their favorite players either.

"You see a dad that's brought his three children and middle-income wage," Brown said. "This is a blue-collar city, and [if] you don't come and bring it, you feel that you have a responsibility. I share this freely with my players in timeouts when it's not going on, and you guys know this. When you think of those fans that come and look forward to seeing players play, you understand that."

Give and Go: Our predictions for the Sixers this season

Give and Go: Our predictions for the Sixers this season

With training camp starting next week, our resident basketball analysts will discuss some of the hottest topics involving the Sixers.

Running the Give and Go are CSNPhilly.com Sixers Insider Jessica Camerato and producer/reporters Matt Haughton and Paul Hudrick.

In this edition, we discuss our predictions for the Sixers going into the 2017-18 season.

Camerato
My prediction for the 2017-18 season has to do with an issue nagging the Sixers for years now. I expect the team to figure out the frontcourt logjam and establish more clearly-defined rotations.

The utilization of the bigs has not been consistent. Joel Embiid started when healthy. Jahlil Okafor started when Embiid was unavailable and was benched other times. Richaun Holmes’ season was a mix of starts, DNPs and G League appearances. And (there’s more), Nerlens Noel was on the roster up until the trade deadline. 

How much longer will this overcrowding at the five spot last? The situation is a bit tricky because of Embiid’s health. He has not been cleared for 5-on-5 and it remains to be seen how many games and minutes he will play. Okafor, in that case, has been the go-to fill-in starter. The Sixers remain open to trading Okafor. The current situation isn’t, and hasn’t been, beneficial for either team or player. 

Holmes’ improvements should not be ignored this season just because he had accepted that backup-to-the-backup role. He made a strong case to become the backup center last season and the Sixers should give him the opportunity. 

The Sixers also will have to address the shooting guard position, where they are stacked since the addition of J.J. Redick, who will see major minutes. Markelle Fultz, a point guard, also will play at the two spot. So what will that mean for Nik Stauskas or Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot? (Furkan Korkmaz is expected to spend time in the G League.) 

In enhancing their team this offseason, the Sixers now have to become a more balanced roster. My prediction is they will make moves to accomplish that.

Haughton
By now you’ve heard just about every prediction for the Sixers. So what’s one more?

The talk this summer has been about the Sixers finally getting through “the process” and reaching the postseason. Both current and former Sixers have guaranteed a playoff berth.

While I tend to agree, I also know it won’t be as easy as they are making it seem.

The Sixers are loaded with talent and potential. Neither of those qualities actually guarantee wins. Just ask the 2016-17 Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Sixers will have to incorporate several new key players and adopt an entirely different mindset of expecting to win instead of hoping to come out on top each night.

Then there’s the competition. The Eastern Conference remains top heavy with the best four squads likely still holding firm (Cleveland, Boston, Toronto, Washington).

After that, things get a little more wide open. Three of the bottom four seeds from last season’s playoff participants in the East lost their best players either to free agency or via trade (Atlanta: Paul Millsap, Indiana: Paul George and Chicago: Jimmy Butler).

That should definitely clear up some room for the Sixers to make a push for one of those back-end playoff spots, but don’t expect them to jump from the basement to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Hudrick
My prediction for the Sixers, much like everyone else's, is that they'll make the playoffs.

There is a caveat, however. If they don't make the playoffs, it's not the end of the world.

The Cavaliers and Celtics are the class of the East. And really it's not very close. After them, the second tier is the Raptors and Wizards. After that it gets a little murky. Given the landscape of the Eastern Conference it's certainly realistic to say the Sixers could make the playoffs.

But the Sixers shouldn't be worried about that. It would be outstanding for this young team's confidence (and how could you not feel great for Brett Brown after what he's dealt with the last four years) to make the playoffs, but their goals should be improvement and health. This team has some serious work to do to jell together and Brown has serious questions to answer about his rotation. It won't all be sorted out over night.

Having the NBA playoffs back in Philly is going to be a blast, but let's focus on this team's development above all else. 

Sixers reportedly ink Kris Humphries to non-guaranteed deal; sign Jacob Pullen

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USA Today Images

Sixers reportedly ink Kris Humphries to non-guaranteed deal; sign Jacob Pullen

The Sixers are busy just days before the start of training camp. 

The team plans to sign veteran forward Kris Humphries to a non-guaranteed deal, according to The Vertical

Humphries fits with the Sixers’ plan for a versatile system. At 6-foot-9, he can knock down a long-range shot. Last season on the Hawks, he averaged 42.9 percent from 16 feet from the rim to the three-point line and 35.2 percent from three, according to Basketball-Reference.com. 

Humphries also averaged 3.7 boards in 12.3 minutes. The 32-year-old is entering his 14th NBA season and will add to the Sixers’ growing group of veteran players. 

The Sixers also signed 6-foot-1 guard Jacob Pullen, who was a member of BC Khimki in the VTB United League (Russia) last season. Pullen, 27, also has played in Italy, Israel, Spain, and Croatia. He was a standout at Kansas State (2007-11) and reached the NCAA Tournament in three of his four seasons. 

Pullen has been getting acclimated to the city. Earlier this month, he tweeted:

The Sixers will hold their media day Monday and open training camp Tuesday.