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.

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

NEW ORLEANS -- Of all the players Joel Embiid could be compared to, a similarity between a 7-foot-2, 270-something-pound center and a 6-foot-3, 190-pound point guard wouldn’t seem like a match.

That’s exactly what Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry sees, however, when looking at Embiid and reigning MVP Steph Curry.

“He’s different than anybody that’s been in this league in a long, long time,” Gentry said Thursday before the Sixers win over the Pelicans. “He’s a tremendous talent, he really is. I’ve never seen a guy that size, and with that kind of strength, that’s got such a soft touch. He shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry. It’s so soft when it leaves his hand.”

Curry is shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 40.1 percent from three. Embiid is 45.8 percent from the floor is 44.2 percent from long range.

Embiid flashed a big smile and paused to react when hearing of Gentry’s praise. He had been feeling hard on himself after going 0 for 5 beyond the arc against the Pelicans (see story).

“Steph is probably one of the best shooters in the league right now," Embiid said. "So that compliment means a lot."

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

NEW ORLEANS -- The weeks and months have quickly piled up. Nerlens Noel has not played an NBA regular-season game since last season ended for the Sixers on April 13. Nearly eight months later, Noel is nearing the return he has been eyeing for quite some time now. 

“It’s always an excitement to be able to play basketball after this amount of time, including the summer, not being able to play organized basketball at a competitive level,” Noel said Thursday. “I’ve been really looking forward to this. I think I’ve gained some momentum coming back from this minor surgery, and I think I’m in a really good place and I’m feeling good with my body. Everything is on point.”

Noel has been sidelined since undergoing elective left knee surgery in October to address an inflamed plica. He traveled to New Orleans on Wednesday to join the Sixers ahead of their 99-88 win over the Pelicans (see game recap). Noel continued his rehab Thursday while the team prepped for the game. 

“I’ve been able do five-on-five, full contact,” Noel said. “I’ve tried to maximize my opportunities of that with the team being gone on the road. I came down here and went through most of shootaround and it went well. Now these next couple of days, [I will be] going through practice, still working on my wind. I do like where I’m at now.”

The Sixers’ next game is Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Brett Brown had given Noel’s availability for that game a “maybe” (see story)

“I’m not sure,” Noel said of playing Sunday. “I’m ready to go with these next couple of days and see how my wind feels and how my body feels, which I have been feeling good. So it’s a possibility.”

When Noel does return, there is a scenario in which he could be paired with center Joel Embiid. Last year, the Sixers struggled finding the best way to utilize Noel and Jahlil Okafor, also a center, at the same time playing the four and five positions. As Okafor has said of playing with Embiid, Noel also believes his off-the-court friendship with the towering rookie would translate onto the court. 

“I think it would be something that’s experimented,” Noel said. “It’d definitely be interesting.”

Noel candidly expressed his opinion of the Sixers’ logjammed frontcourt at the start of the season. Since speaking to the media after his surgery, Noel has mentioned he is in a good mental place (see story). For him, that means being out on the court again. 

“I love myself and I love the game of basketball,” Noel said. “When I step out here to come and play, it just brings a lot of enjoyment and excitement to me. Regardless of what the details of it are, I just love the game and I’m happy to just be playing.”