Temple's Allen headlines 'big' workout with Sixers


Temple's Allen headlines 'big' workout with Sixers

Saturday, June 4, 2011
Posted: 5:12 p.m.

By John R. Finger

As its turned out, the Philadelphia 76ers havent had the easiest time getting potential draft picks to show up and work out for them. Its nothing personal, mind you. Certainly guys like Doug Collins and the Sixers personnel of Ed Stefanski, Rod Thorn and Courtney Witte are well-respected around the league.

Its just that there are a lot of teams with picks ahead of the Sixers in the June 24 draft.

Its amazing. Im not a mathematics major but right now there are about 20-plus people who think they are going in the top 15, said Witte, the Sixers director of scouting. Theres not a lot of separation, so that lends itself to a lot of people thinking they are going to go in front of us.

Of course, its still early. As draft day approaches, there surely will be a better gauge of what lies ahead for some of the prospects and some will be more interested in working out for a bunch of teams, including the Sixers. Until then, however, the Sixers worked out a bunch of players labeled as second-round types on Saturday morning at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

The biggest names there were Lavoy Allen from Pennsbury High and Temple University, and Rick Jackson from Neumann-Goretti High in South Philly and Syracuse. They were joined in the workout by Delvon Johnson from Arkansas, Vernon Macklin from Florida, Greg Smith from Fresno State, and Croatian Tomislav Zubcic.

We were very impressed, Witte said of Saturdays workout.

The players ranged in height from 6-foot-9 (Allen and Jackson) to 6-10 (Macklin and Smith) to 6-foot-11 (Zubcic), further lending substance to the notion that the Sixers are looking for a defensive-minded big man to play on the low block. Pushing that idea even a little more is the fact that the team will work out five more big men at PCOM on Monday morning, including Villanovas Antonio Pena.

Sure, the Sixers might grab the best athlete available when their turn comes up at pick No. 16, and chances are that guy hasnt yet worked out for the club, but typically things dont happen by accident. The Sixers need a big guy and so far they have only worked out players who play in the paint.

Coincidence? Probably not.

I dont want to characterize them as second-round picks. The guys we had out here Saturday all have similar games, Witte said. But each one of them has different elements they are better at, so its interesting to see them in a different environment like we did today.

In addition to the No. 16 pick, the Sixers also select again at No. 50 in the second round. Based on history at those particular draft spots the team likely wont find the answer needed to solidify the frontcourt. After all, the Sixers drafted Marreese Speights at No. 16 three years ago and got the No. 16 pick in Rodney Carney on draft day in 2006.

Over the past decade, the Sixers also used the No. 16 pick to get Jiri Welsch and immediately packaged him in a three-team trade that brought back Derrick Coleman on draft day in 2002. Welsch lasted all of eight games in his NBA career.

Still, there have been a few gems mined out of the 16th spot. Recently, the Wizards got Nick Young in 2007 and Hedo Turkoglu was a No. 16 pick in 2000. The year before, Ron Artest was available midway through the first round, while in 1984, John Stockton was taken by Utah at 16.

For now, though, the No. 16 still looks like a crapshoot.

There are some quality players, Witte said about this years crop of talent. I think you can get quality players as you go down the draft.

Nevertheless, local kids Allen and Jackson were two of the players Witte and the Sixers have seen a lot through the years. Allen, of course, played alongside of T.J. DiLeo, the son of former Sixers coach and current senior vice president and assistant general manager. By that fact the Sixers management may have seen Allen play a lot simply by default.

Even still, there is a lot to like about Allens game. He finished his career as the all-time leading rebounder in Temple history and was the first Owl to average a double-double in a season since Ollie Johnson in 1970-71. He briefly flirted with entering the draft last year, but after a workout with Portland Allen was told to go back to school and work on his offensive game.

Certainly that advice and some time spent last summer with the national mens team opened his eyes a bit.

Teams are definitely looking for guys who can play in the post, but are also versatile, Allen said. I try to work on all parts of my game and not just one more than others and be consistent with all my workouts.

That means extra workouts, too. Allen watched what some NBA players did last summer and the work ethic needed to play in the league was what resonated. In the meantime, Allen has worked out with the Thunder, Spurs and Celtics in addition to the Sixers. Hes going to go work out for the Nets, Lakers, Hawks and Knicks before the draft rolls around.

Im just going to the workouts and competing, Allen said. All the teams have seen us all four years so its a matter of going out and playing hard against all the guys they bring in.

That part of it has been pretty fun, but Allen might understand why so many guys are reluctant to travel to Philadelphia to work out for the Sixers.

Its definitely been fun. The only problem is when I travel my planes are usually delayed or canceled. Ive had a lot of problems with fights. Besides that the workouts have been fun and Ive been having fun out there.

Dont worry kid ... in the league they fly charter.
Email John Finger at jfinger@comcastsportsnet.com or follow him on Twitter @jrfinger

Related: Sixers must weigh talent, need, experience in draft Syracuse's Jackson hoping to stay in Philly

Anthem singer at Sixers-Heat game kneels during performance

Anthem singer at Sixers-Heat game kneels during performance

MIAMI — A woman performing the national anthem before an NBA preseason game in Miami on Friday night did so while kneeling at midcourt, and opening her jacket to show a shirt with the phrase "Black Lives Matter."

The singer was identified by the Heat as Denasia Lawrence. It was unclear if she remained in the arena after the performance, and messages left for her were not immediately returned.

Heat players and coaches stood side-by-side for the anthem, all with their arms linked as has been their custom during the preseason. Many had their heads down as Lawrence sang, and the team released a statement saying it had no advance knowledge that she planned to kneel.

"We felt as a basketball team that we would do something united, so that was our focus," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Throughout all of this, I think the most important thing that has come out is the very poignant, thoughtful dialogue. We've had great dialogue within our walls here and hopefully this will lead to action."

The anthem issue has been a major topic in the sports world in recent months, starting with the decision by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to not stand for its playing. Kaepernick cited racial injustice and police brutality among the reasons for his protest, and athletes from many sports -- and many levels, from youth all the way to professional -- have followed his lead in various ways.

"All I can say is what we've seen in multiple preseason games so far is our players standing for the national anthem," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in New York earlier Friday, at a news conference following the league's board of governors meetings. "It would be my hope that they would continue to stand for the national anthem. I think that is the appropriate thing to do."

The NBA has a rule calling for players and coaches to stand during the anthem.

Heat guard Wayne Ellington often speaks about the need to curb gun violence, after his father was shot and killed two years ago. He had his eyes closed for most of the anthem Friday, as per his own custom, though was aware of Lawrence's actions.

"At the end of the day, to each his own," Ellington said. "If she feels like that's the way she wants to stand for it, then more power to her."

Making a statement in the manner that Lawrence did Friday is rare, but not unheard of in recent weeks.

When the Sacramento Kings played their first home preseason game earlier this month, anthem singer Leah Tysse dropped to one knee as she finished singing the song.

Tysse is white. Lawrence is black.

"I love and honor my country as deeply as anyone yet it is my responsibility as an American to speak up against injustice as it affects my fellow Americans," Tysse wrote on Facebook. "I have sung the anthem before but this time taking a knee felt like the most patriotic thing I could do. I cannot idly stand by as black people are unlawfully profiled, harassed and killed by our law enforcement over and over and without a drop of accountability."

Joel Embiid ends preseason on impressive note, has Sixers excited

Joel Embiid ends preseason on impressive note, has Sixers excited

MIAMI — It’s a cautious optimism to be sure — there can be no other type for the Sixers right now given their history of injuries — but you can tell the team is starting to get excited about Joel Embiid.

In Friday’s 113-110 exhibition finale win over the Miami Heat (see game story), Embiid scored 18 points in 18 minutes before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.

The 7-0 center, who missed his first two NBA seasons because of foot surgeries, made 8 of 16 shots and 2 of 2 on free throws, adding a game-high nine rebounds.

“I’ve always felt like I’m a complete player — that’s what I do,” Embiid said. “I’m starting to get easy points.

“I just got better every game [in the preseason], defensively, offensively.”

Sixers coach Brett Brown said he is still learning how to best use Embiid.

Brown added that the rust is apparent in Embiid’s game. But …

“He is as self-taught as any player I’ve ever been around,” Brown said. “He grew up in Cameroon and hasn’t played a lot (because of injuries). But he studies, he looks at stuff. He pays attention. He’s instinctively curious.

“There’s a lot of stuff in his head that he thinks through. His mind is quicker than his feet. At times, his core, his balance and his decision-making are off because his mind is working faster than his body.”

Embiid scored most of his buckets on Friday at close range — a finger roll, a tip-in, a couple of put-back dunks, an alley-oop dunk and a fast-break layup. But he did make a 10-foot jumper and took — but missed — a three-point try.

“He does stuff in a game that makes you step back and say, ‘Wow,’” Brown said. “He will trail and hit a three. He will have a pound, pound drop-step, dunk.

“Like a traditional post, he will turn his face and make a bank shot. He has that up-and-under stuff.

“But he’s raw. His preseason has been highlighted by those few things that you notice, all under the umbrella of, ‘He really has a chance to be very, very good.’"

Brown was asked to summarize the Sixers' 2-5 preseason, and he called it a “completely erratic” exhibition season because of injuries.

“Jahlil [Okafor] hasn’t practiced,” Brown said. “Joel has been steady and incremental. I think we all see that Dario Saric has got a lot to offer. I think the pairing of Joel and Dario was solid.

“We’ve seen Jerami [Grant] have a really good preseason. Richaun Holmes has taken his opportunity to play big minutes. Those type of things come to my mind.”