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.”