Casper Ware out to prove himself all over again

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Casper Ware out to prove himself all over again

With just four days of practice before diving into a full summer league slate of games, there isn’t much time to install an offense -- let alone practice it.

Nevertheless, the Sixers could have an advantage when the action in the Orlando Pro Summer League tips off this Saturday. Not only will the Sixers have talented big man Nerlens Noel patrolling the paint, and wingman Hollis Thompson back from appearing in 77 games for the team last season, but also Casper Ware will be back.

Remember Casper Ware?

Though the Sixers had something of a revolving door of players coming and going on 10-day contracts, Ware was one of the few who stuck around. He appeared in just nine games and averaged 5.3 points in nearly 13 minutes per game, but Ware impressed the Sixers’ brass enough to earn a second 10-day contract and an invitation to hang around and work out at the team’s training space.

Despite the residency, of sorts, in the Sixers’ practice gym, Ware knows he constantly has to prove himself to the coaches and executives.

“It’s been important just to get some of that NBA experience and to work on my game,” Ware said about working out with the Sixers for the past four months. “Plus, it helps you develop your game and get to know the coaches on a personal level.

“I have to show that I can contribute to the team, shoot and be a pest on defense -- be the energy guy coming off the bench.”

Though he’s just 5-foot-10 with a scorer’s mentality, Ware is hoping the work leads to a job with the team next season.

“Casper has been great,” summer league head coach Lloyd Pierce said. “As a coach in summer league, the one thing you want is a point guard who knows your offense. For him to be here for three or four months, he’s helped me out and he’s going to help the rest of the players that are coming into the gym for the first time to get organized. He’s been great. He’s made shots, he’s in great shape and he knows our sets.”

Ware will have his work cut out for him, though. The Sixers also have second-round pick Pierre Jackson on the roster, who is another scoring point guard. The difference is while Ware averaged 11.7 points per game playing in the Italian League, Jackson set scoring marks playing in the NBA Developmental League.

Moreover, Jackson is also just 5-foot-10. Would the Sixers open the NBA season with two scoring point guard under six-feet tall?

Though Ware has spent time with the Sixers during the NBA season, he went undrafted out of Long Beach State in 2012.

“I don’t know if there is anything he needs to do that’s different than any other guy,” Pierce said about Ware. “He’s going to work and be a better shooter and to give us a spark as a point guard backing up Michael [Carter-Williams]. He’s going to work to be able to guard other point guards in the league, especially second-team point guards.

“What he’s doing now is what we’re going to ask of him -- stay in the gym and work, provide energy, get in the paint, provide opportunities for other guys. It’s the same stuff he does, we’re just going to ask him to do it better.”

Summer league II
With the Orlando summer league to begin this weekend, the Sixers are piecing together a roster for the Las Vegas summer league that runs from July 11 to 21.

A league source confirmed second-rounders K.J. McDaniels, Jordan McRae and 2013 second-round pick Arsalan Kazemi from Iran will join the Sixers’ team. So too will Tim Frazier, a four-year player from Penn State. Additionally, Noel will be on the roster for the Las Vegas league as well as Orlando.

Shawn Long the latest of Sixers to seize opportunity

Shawn Long the latest of Sixers to seize opportunity

CHICAGO -- Injuries have been creating opportunities for different players on the Sixers all season.

Just last week, we took a look at the emergence of Richaun Holmes and how he has moved up the depth chart and proven himself to be a reliable first backup center next season (see story).

Shawn Long has been capitalizing on the same opportunities since earning a call-up from the Delaware 87ers. The Sixers signed Long to a multi-year deal on March 16 following the end of his 10-day contract. His contract is guaranteed for the remainder of this season but partially guaranteed after that, making every game an audition for the future.

The Sixers are down to three centers since the season-ending injury of Joel Embiid (see story), and just two when Jahlil Okafor is out. Long has slid into the backup (and sometimes backup-to-the-backup) role Holmes previously held.

"I think that Shawn Long has really grabbed his brief opportunities and been more than serviceable," Brett Brown said this week. "He's shown reasons why he should be considered a genuine NBA player."

Long's numbers, standing alone, aren't jaw-dropping. Taking a closer look, though, they are efficient. In seven games this month, Long is averaging 5.8 points (shooting 59.3 percent from the field) and 3.5 rebounds in 9.0 minutes.

In Wednesday's loss to the Thunder, Long led the Sixers with six rebounds (in a game they were held to a season-low 25 boards) and 13 points in 15 minutes off the bench. Seven of those minutes came in the first half, so this wasn't just a case of getting a run in a fourth-quarter blowout situation.

On Monday, Long spread his contributions across the stat sheet in the Sixers' overtime loss to the Magic: four points, two rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks in 11 minutes.

Going back to Sunday's 105-99 win over the Celtics, he played a key role in the Sixers' third-quarter push that cut a double-digit deficit to only three points heading into the fourth. He posted eight points and three rebounds in 5:52 during the third.

Long has to watch his foul trouble as he gets adjusted to defending NBA opponents. He is averaging 4.7 personal fouls in 11.0 minutes over the last three games.

Long also continues to focus on his three-point shooting to stretch the floor. He is just 2 for 3 from three as a Sixer. On Wednesday, he worked on long-range drills with Holmes after shootaround.

With the skills he has and those he is honing, Long could be the latest member of the Sixers to make a name for himself by maximizing playing time when he receives it.

"Isn't it fantastic -- as we've seen over the years, opportunity uncovers different qualities in people," Brown said.

Now with Thunder, Jerami Grant still considers Sixers family

Now with Thunder, Jerami Grant still considers Sixers family

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Jerami Grant was the first familiar face to be traded in a season that has seen Nerlens Noel and Hollis Thompson exit town as well.

The Sixers dealt Grant to the Thunder on Nov. 1 in exchange for Ersan Ilyasova and a protected draft pick. The Thunder had already played the Sixers on opening night in Philadelphia, and nearly five months passed before Grant faced his former (and only other) team.

"It's still family, everybody in the organization," Grant said. "They're doing well, they're playing a lot better, so I'm happy for them."

Grant's life was thrown into a tailspin when he was traded. In a flash, he had to leave the city he had called home since 2014. So quickly, in fact, his family had to move out of his home in Philadelphia for him.

"I had to pack my bags and things in two hours," Grant recalled. "I had to get a physical so I could play the next day in L.A. At first it was a little shock, but once you settle down, it's OK."

Grant quickly found a role with his athleticism. He averaged 6.1 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 21.2 minutes before the All-Star break. The reunion with childhood best friend Victor Oladipo was an added bonus to the adjustment period.

"I settled in well," Grant said. "I think everybody did a great job of just bringing me in. I think the fans have done a great job of embracing me. Whenever I get on the court, they give me a standing ovation, so that's great. My teammates are great, too."

Grant's playing time waned when the Thunder acquired Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott from the Bulls. Grant is averaging 3.4 points, 1.5 rebounds and 0.2 blocks in 12.3 minutes since the break. He continues to stay focused on improving his three-point shot every day in practice, which was a focal point with the Sixers.

Grant played 11 minutes against the Sixers and scored three points (a trey, nonetheless), along with three rebounds and two assists (see game recap). Brett Brown has seen Grant play enough games to believe in spite of his lessened role on the Thunder, he will have a place in the league for years to come.

"He lives right, he's prideful, he wants to be good," Brown said. "He's athletic enough to feel like there's potential there. He's a wonderful person and a great teammate. There's a cleanliness, there's a wholesomeness to Jerami Grant along with pedigree, his family tree ... that makes him for sure to me an NBA longtime player."