Dedmon brings defense, energy to Sixers

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Dedmon brings defense, energy to Sixers

Dewayne Dedmon appeared to be getting a crash course at the conclusion of the Sixers' practice on Tuesday. Dedmon had gone through his first practice with the second NBA team to call him up this season from the Development League.

Dedmon appeared in four games for the Warriors this season. 

“It is a grind,” Dedmon said of playing in the NBDL and waiting for an opportunity to play in the NBA. “Everyday you don't know when it is going to happen, so you have to mind your P's and Q's, especially in the D-League. You have to stay on top of your game.”

Dedmon put up impressive numbers while playing for the Santa Cruz Warriors in the D-League. In 15 games, the center averaged 15 points, 13.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots per game. He also shot 54 percent from the field.

“The thing that we like most about him is that he is polishable,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. “His youth and his athleticism make it interesting. He runs. You can put him behind the scenes and he can put out fires and block some shots and we have some rim protection when we put him in. He is wide-eyed and grateful for the opportunity.”

Dedmon agrees that defense is his forte.

“I am a high-energy player,” Dedmon said. “On the defensive end I do what I do, rebound and block shots.”

Dedmon only started playing basketball his senior year of high school. In two seasons at USC, Dedmon posted modest numbers. Last year for the Trojans he averaged 6.7 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game before entering the NBA draft. He went undrafted.

Dedmon fills a roster spot that opened up when the Sixers waived Daniel Orton last week. Orton had appeared in 22 games for the Sixers averaging 3.0 points and 2.8 rebounds in 11.4 minutes a game.

“Daniel is fairly athletic for a man of his size,” Brown said. “But when you look at the body composition, Dewayne is probably more lean, more up and down. He has no problem running rim to rim.”

The Sixers have a rim-to-rim player in Nerlens Noel, but he is still on the road to recovery (see story). That type of big man seems tailor made for the Sixers' style of play, as they continue to have the fastest pace in the league.

Brown said he just might play the seven-foot Dedmon in Wednesday's game against the Bobcats.

Frontcourt players Lavoy Allen and Arnett Moultrie participated in Tuesday’s practice, but their availability for Wednesday is an unknown.

“Dewayne had a full practice. Arnett was in it [and] Lavoy was in it. You actually felt like you had a big team,” Brown joked. “I had no idea who I was coaching today.”

Allen missed the last two games with a calf injury. Moultrie has been sidelined all season after undergoing ankle surgery just before the start of training camp.

Sixers respond to blowout with skid-snapping road win over Bulls

Sixers respond to blowout with skid-snapping road win over Bulls

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO -- The Sixers' win over the Bulls on Friday was a culmination of recent successes, losses and learning experiences.

One could call it a makeup for Wednesday's 25-point defeat to the Thunder; a lesson learned from blowing late leads against the Warriors and Magic; or a carryover from maintaining their poise in a victory over the Celtics. 

Take those games (and more) and roll them into a 117-107 victory (see Instant Replay). It marked the Sixers' first win over the Bulls since Nov. 2, 2013, to snap a 12-game skid.

That victory included coming back from a 10-point first-quarter deficit, pushing a lead up to 26, and holding on for a win when the Bulls got back within 10 in the fourth. They also withstood 36 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds from Jimmy Butler. 

"The better team wins today," Dario Saric said. "We controlled the game like 45 minutes maybe or all the time and we deserve this win. A little bit scared in the end when they came within 11, 12 because we lost a couple games like that this season. We were up around 15 points, 20 and we lost because sometimes a young team, we don't have experience, but I think we will learn something from that and I think this will be something that's good for us."

There were key performances throughout the game that impacted the Sixers' success in different ways (see highlights).

Saric scored a career-high 32 points. He made it a double-double with 10 rebounds. Saric scored 13 in the fourth, including a late three-pointer that halted the Bulls' momentum. 

The rookie said he tried to play smarter, including shooting with more balance, finding his spots on the floor and dribbling more frequently. That seemed to be accurate as Saric shot 12 of 19 from the field.

"Huge," Brett Brown said of Saric's game. "I thought in that fourth period he sort of willed his way to the basket and found multiple ways to score and at big times when the game really fell in the balance."

On the opposite end of the court, Brown praised Sergio Rodriguez for his defensive efforts in the second quarter. Rodriguez was a plus-17 as the Sixers held the Bulls to just 18 points in the quarter. 

"Defensively is where we have been on him relentlessly," Brown said. "He has taken it, he has allowed us to coach him. He has improved and so we rode him out in that second period and he really set the table, I think, for the rest of the game."

And sometimes it's an unlikely player who provides that extra spark needed to defeat a team with playoff aspirations. Shawn Long, who spent most of the season in the D-League, scored a career-high 18 points along with seven rebounds in only 19 minutes off the bench. How efficient was he? Long finished a massive plus-31. 

"I think the main reason maybe is because Shawn Long, where he comes in from the bench, he gave some kind of energy. He was tough," Saric said. "I think he is the guy who brings us some changes than the game before."

The Sixers have been through the ups and downs of wins and losses in just a week. Their victory over the Bulls was a high mark in the roller coaster of results. 

"I think how teams respond is always an interesting litmus test for coaches," Brown said. "We responded in a way that I expected them to. We played well against a team that is fighting to get into the playoffs, and all over the place, we leave here proud of our guys."

Jahlil Okafor gives special treat to his high school team in return home

Jahlil Okafor gives special treat to his high school team in return home

CHICAGO -- Jahlil Okafor was not able to play in front of friends and family on Friday because of right knee soreness. He did, however, have a special evening in his hometown the previous night.

Okafor took the entire boys basketball team from his alma mater, Whitney Young High School, to dinner to celebrate its recent state championship. He estimates there were 35 people with him at Fogo de Chao, a Brazilian steakhouse.

"It was pretty cool," Okafor said. "Two of the guys that were on that team were guys I actually played with, they were freshmen when I was a senior. They already had one state championship (with Okafor). It was cool for me to go back and do something like that for the team."

Okafor won a 4A state title as a senior before playing one season at Duke. His career has been so fast-tracked that Okafor, 21, is only three years removed from high school. He encouraged the players to be in the moment and enjoy every game and accomplishment as they happen.

"My message is just enjoy it," Okafor said. "Just enjoy high school. To the seniors, enjoy going to college. Just enjoy it all. My process went by a lot faster than the average person, so I told them to just enjoy everything."

Okafor would have enjoyed playing Friday. He banged his knee against Victor Oladipo in Wednesday's game against the Thunder. Okafor remained in that game but experienced soreness later. Friday was his eighth game missed this season because of the injury.

"I was in discomfort but I was just thinking I didn't want to miss another game," Okafor said. "I know against Boston (on Sunday) I didn't play the second half and I didn't want that to be the same case. So I was pretty much just trying to tough it and just trying to play."

Richaun Holmes got the start in place of Okafor. He scored eight points and grabbed three rebounds in 29 minutes of the Sixers' 117-107 win over the Bulls (see Instant Replay). Backup Shawn Long had another efficient game, scoring a career-high 18 points off 8 for 10 shooting. He also pulled down seven rebounds in just over 19 minutes.