Lynam: Impending separation of the Morris twins

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Lynam: Impending separation of the Morris twins

Thursday, June 2, 2011
Posted: 10 a.m.
By Dei Lynam
CSNPhilly.com

The NBA draft in 2004 featured a home grown talent that was available when the Sixers selected with the ninth pick.

That talent was Jameer Nelson, who played his high school basketball at Chester High and then moved on to Saint Josephs University, where he had a marvelous career. It culminated with him leading the Hawks to an undefeated regular season and being named the Naismith College Player of the Year.

Now, Marcus and Markieff Morris are local kids who will hear their names called in the 2011 draft. Unlike Nelson, the Morris brothers left Philly when it came time to play college basketball and attended the University of Kansas.

There is a chance that Markieff will be on the board when the Sixers select at 16 in the first round of the draft, which takes place later this month. Why Markieff and not Marcus? Because Marcus is, by all accounts, going to be a lottery pick because of his more potent offensive skills.

Strange no, different yes, Marcus said of potentially playing basketball without his twin as his teammate come next fall. We dont expect to be drafted by the same team. We hope it happens but if it doesnt, it doesnt. We are looking forward to going our separate ways and maturing without each other which will actually make us grow as men.

Oh, but what if NBA commissioner David Stern steps to that podium on June 23 and says with the 16th pick the Philadelphia 76ers select...

That would probably be the best thing that ever happened, Marcus said, cutting off the sentence before the question could specify his name or Markieffs. Going and playing in your hometown, where you grew up with the people who watched you come up through the years and watched you play basketball through the years and representing, as well as having a Philadelphia jersey on, would definitely be special.

Markieef concurred with his twin brother. He often finds himself being agreeable because Marcus is the more outspoken of the two.

He is more aggressive, Markieff described his twin sibling. At times he can be mean. I am much more easy going and laid back.

Marcus averaged 17 points while shooting 57 percent his final year with Kansas. Markieff, on the other hand, is better known for his rebounding and shot blocking, as well as his three-point shooting, which he demonstrated playing both the power forward and center positions for the Jayhawks.

Markieff averaged 8.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks on 42 percent shooting from behind the arc as a junior. The combination of those numbers have some projecting Markieff, best case scenario, has Rasheed Wallace potential.

Wallace, who was a Simon Gratz graduate, finished his 15 year NBA career averaging 6.7 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, while being a 34 percent three point shooter.

After being selected fourth overall in 1995, Wallace became a four time All-Star.

Markieff Morris likely wont hear his name called until the middle of the first round and expects his role at the next level to be a garbage man. With the 16th pick, you are probably saying you want more then a garbage man -- you want a contributor.

Markieff believes he is ready to step in and do that, but he wants teams considering drafting him to know that he is willing to do whatever they ask.

Wearing a Sixers jersey or not, Markieef looks forward to circling the date on his calendar next season when his brother will be the opponent.

That will be a first for the both of us, Markieef said. It will be a great feeling just to see him or even guard him on the court.

Markieff did talk with the Sixers brass before leaving the Chicago pre-draft combine. The Sixers havent said they will select a big man, but this past season they certainly did not have a shortage of perimeter players, while rebounding and shot blocking were hardly their strengths.

The last time the Sixers used a first round selection on a native Philadelphian was 1966 when they selected Matt Guokas with the ninth overall pick. It was not unusual then, when the draft was 10 rounds deep, that the Sixers would pick local players, as they did in 1976 when the franchise selected current general manager Ed Stefanski in the 10th round with the 168th overall pick.
Brotherly Love
Brothers, roommates, teammates and soon to be co-homeowners. The Morris brothers arent going to let entering the workforce keep them from being together.

We are going to see each other for sure, Marcus said. We are going to buy a neutral house somewhere and make sure we meet up a lot.

Sharing an identical face could take its toll over two decades, but apparently not for the Morris brothers.

I enjoy it. That is my best friend. We like being twins, Marcus said. We dont want to look different, we want to look the same. Thats why we are twins. Thats why we have the same tattoos and the same type of haircut, like the same food -- it just happened that way.

Each twin has 14 tattoos, all exactly the same and none fall below their elbows in an effort to stay in Moms good graces. Of the 14 tattoos, Marcus says he probably selected 12 of them and Markieef had the honors of picking the other two.

It is not unusual, says Marcus, for one of the twins be more dominant or vocal -- he is that guy in this twosome. Furthermore, Marcus, more so then Markieef, enjoys sharing stories of being look a likes.

We switched classes when we were younger, Marcus explained. 'Kieef was better at math and I was better at reading so we switched. I did his reading test and he did my math test.

It was a simple middle school prank, no harm no foul.

Ironically despite Marcus dominant personality, Markieef made arguably the biggest decision to date for the duo.

He made the decision what college we went to, Marcus recalled. There are a couple big decisions he made, but I make majority.

So far so good for the 21-year-olds who, in less then a month, hope to transfer their basketball successes to the pro hardwood.
E-mail Dei Lynam at dlynam@comcastsportsnet.com

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Sixers being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

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GALLOWAY, N.J. — The Sixers lost Jahlil Okafor for the final 23 games last season because of a small meniscus tear in his right knee. Now they are being cautious as he prepares for his second year.

As part of the Sixers’ prescheduled load management for Okafor, he participated in a portion of practice and then worked out individually with head strength and conditioning coach Todd Wright.

“They just told me to relax once I did what they wanted me to do today,” Okafor said. “I was off to the sidelines. I feel fine. I’ll be good tomorrow.”

Okafor learned during his first NBA season that he should speak more openly with the staff about his body.

“Communication is key,” he said. “I think last year I didn’t really communicate how I was feeling, so I wasn’t able to get the help I needed.”

The team held three practice sessions in the first two days of training camp. Okafor said he knew the Sixers would be cautious with his workload. He is poised to improve upon his rookie year in which he averaged 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in 53 games last season.

“I’m 100 percent healthy,” he said. “I’m all good.”

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- With Joel Embiid's excitement to be on the court following two years of injuries comes the reality of his lengthy setback.

Embiid is participating in his first NBA training camp this week. While he has impressed with his natural abilities and improved skills, Embiid is facing challenges as he gets accustomed to the league.

"Everything is kind of off right now as far as catching the ball or shooting," Embiid said after practice Wednesday. "I've still got to get in the flow of the game."

Embiid has yet to play since being drafted in 2014. For the past two years he has worked out individually and in controlled settings. Practices, even in training camp, are different. 

"You see all the time when you realize he hasn't played basketball for a long time," Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. "He's trying to gather his feet and find his balance, he's trying to figure out stuff in real time speed on defensive assignments and rotations."

On Wednesday, Embiid went through practice without any minute restrictions and was feeling healthier from the cold and virus he had been battling (see story). Teammates have praised his physical presence and eagerness to compete. He makes an impact with his 7-foot-2 presence alone, but there is more he wants to improve. 

Embiid is adjusting to the speed of the game. He has been facing challenges with getting the ball in the post and spoke to the coaches about his frustrations. The staff explained they are focusing on pick-and-roll defense and getting out to run during training camp, but he will get that desired location in game situations. 

“You continue to see the size of Joel Embiid,” Brown said. “He's a big man and he's got a mindset to back up his physical gifts. He really wants the ball. He wants to get deep catches. He wants to dunk on people.”

Embiid always has been realistic about his transition to his rookie season. He has pointed out many times that he is a fast learner, and is anxious to soak up new knowledge and apply it to the court.

"It's really frustrating," he said. "But like I've said, you've got to trust the process, which I've been doing."