Union Sign Sheanon Williams to New Deal

Union Sign Sheanon Williams to New Deal

In the aftermath of the Sebastien Le Toux trade Union coach Peter Nowak sought to mitigate fan backlash by explaining the club would not sit on the money originally earmarked for the franchise’s all-time leading scorer. Instead, he insisted the Union would reinvest those funds on younger players already in the fold.

True to his word, today the Union announced that starting right back Sheanon Williams had agreed to a new deal. Per league policy, terms were not disclosed. The fact that the club identified Williams as a player they’d like to retain does not come as a surprise. In a conference call following the Le Toux trade Nowak specifically identified Williams as a player who had earned a new contract.

In truth, the process of reallocating Le Toux’s money began last month when the Union secured the permanent transfer of midfielder Roger Torres from Colombian club América de Cali. Torres, who is 20 years old, and Williams, who is 21, figure to be franchise cornerstones.

Williams, who joined the Union from the USL Harrisburg City Islanders in August 2010, is a key part of the Union back four. Ideally, he’d be a bit more consistent in his marking, but his pace and tireless running along the right flank is invaluable. Truth be told, his work rate was often overshadowed by Le Toux, but I’d venture to say that along with Brian Caroll he likely covers more ground than any other Union player.

The biggest upside of the deal is, actually, Williams’ upside. By no means is he a finished product. He has both the time and room to improve his game. Initially known more for his long throw-ins than his technique, he’s developed into a player who is capable of and confident in initiating the build-up out of the back.

Although he was not called in for the current US U-23 camp, he is a legitimate right back candidate for the national player pool. This is particularly true considering longtime USMNT stalwart Steve Cherundolo, the right back of choice for consecutive World Cups, will be 35 years old when the 2014 World Cup rolls around.

We’ll never know whether the Union would have been in a position to extend Williams’’ contract had they not traded Le Toux. However, the decision to sign him to a new deal should, to some extent, allay some of the concerns Union fans had about their willingness to spend money.

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

CAMDEN, N.J. — If all goes as planned, a time will come when the Sixers can roll out a dominating frontcourt duo with Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor sharing the court in lengthy stretches.

That moment has to wait, though, as both Embiid and Okafor are on minute restrictions. As he returns from a knee injury, Okafor currently is coming off the bench and backing up Embiid.

“This conversation with Jahlil and Joel is more intelligent and applicable at a later date,” Brett Brown said at practice Friday. “When Jahlil’s minutes start going up and Joel can, then it’s a real conversation. I do think you may see them sooner than even I thought together. But as far as making it a real constant part of a strategy or rotation, it’s beyond too early days.”

In an ideal world, Brown could pair the two bigs now and use all of their allotted minutes (Embiid 20, Okafor 14) at once. That would leave an extensive workload on second-year bench player Richaun Holmes.

“This is a hot topic,” Brown said. “I will say it one more time: If I play Jahlil and Jo together, I hope Richaun can play 35 minutes.”

It’s an unrealistic expectation for Holmes, who averaged 13.8 minutes in 51 games last season. Brown caps the majority of the Sixers at six-minute segments to keep them competing at a high energy level.

“Right now, he’s a backup,” Brown said of Holmes. “I think he’s going to be an NBA player for a very long time. I just feel like in the role, he’s a second-year player that didn’t really have much of a role last year. He’s shown everybody that he’s for real. He really can play a role. At this early stage, that is the key word.”

Embiid and Okafor have been envisioning competing together since Okafor was drafted two years ago. They became friends long before they were NBA players and have an easy chemistry on the court as a result.

“I think it’s going to be exciting,” Embiid said. “We played a little bit together today in practice. We’re figuring out how to play with each other. It’s a process and we’ve got trust it.”

Yes, the players know they have to wait, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for them to resist an opportunity to play with one another.  

“I think once we figure it out, we can really dominate together,” Okafor said. “We were able to flirt with it again today. We accidentally keep ending up on the same team even though Coach keeps telling us to make sure we alternate. But we’re having fun. We’re trying to put some pressure on it because we want to play together.”

Is that accidentally with air quotes?

“Yeah, exactly,” Okafor said with a laugh.

'Trust the process' has a different, more personal meaning to Joel Embiid

'Trust the process' has a different, more personal meaning to Joel Embiid

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid is all about trusting the process.

He manages to insert the well-known phrase into just about every interview, hashtags it on social media and soaks in the chants during games. 

While “trust the process” is commonly associated with former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie’s patience-required approach to building the team — which resulted in three years of dismal losing and suffering setback after setback — Embiid has his personal take on the mantra.

“I think I have my own process,” Embiid said Friday at practice.

Embiid is playing for the first time this season after waiting two years to recover from foot injuries. His long-anticipated debut was a focal point of “the process,” and his return to the court marked a new chapter in the organization.

“I went through two surgeries, lost my brother, thought about some stuff I shouldn’t have thought about, so that’s my own process,” he said. “And then the process of going through the rehab and finally getting back on the court and getting the chance to finally play in the league, that’s my process.”

Embiid is now synonymous with the word. He credits Sixers fans for the moniker, which he added to his Instagram profile. 

“I don’t think it came from me,” he said. “Fans just started and then I just went along with it.”

Wednesday marked the next step in the process, both for the Sixers and Embiid. His regular-season debut (20 points, seven rebounds, two blocks) was a long time coming and garnered buzz all over the NBA world.

“I was the third pick and then I missed two years,” Embiid said. “The excitement in the city, everybody’s happy to finally see me play. Even though it was weird because a lot of people kind of wrote me off a long time ago saying that I’d never play as a Sixer, I’d never play in the league. So it’s all fun. Everybody’s going to have an opinion.”

He’s just got to trust in his own.