Easier Said Than Done: Sixers Visit Nets Before Week of Tough 'Uns

Easier Said Than Done: Sixers Visit Nets Before Week of Tough 'Uns

Looked ahead on the Sixers' schedule recently? The recent slate of relative creampuff games should have been a clue that a much harder run lied around the bend, and sure enough, we got a doozy of a week coming up--five games in eight nights, two on the road, all against teams .500 or better (Atlanta, Orlando, San Antonio and New York twice.) The stretch will make for a nice test of the Sixers' mettle at this stage in the season, no doubt, but it also might very easily make for a handful of losses as the Sixers' struggle to stay above water in the East playoff standings.

All the more reason, then, to get a win tonight against divisional foes New Jersey in the Garden State. Sounds easy, given that the Nets are a paltry 15-34 and apparently well out of the playoff picture, but when considering that the Nets are 12-11 at the Prudential Center (including five home W's in a row), and that Sixers-Nets games are NEVER easy, it might take a bit of focusing from the Liberty Ballers after all.

The Nets' recent home surge comes after the announcement from Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov that the Nets would be pulling out from trade talks with Denver for hopelessly indecisive superstar Carmelo Anthony, feeling that said talks were providing too much of a distraction. Looks like ol' Prokhy might've been onto something, as since then, the Nets have rolled off home wins against the Jazz, Pistons, Cavs, Grizzlies and most recently, those very Nuggets, ensuring that at the very least, '10-'11 will mark some kind of improvement over the end results of last year's 12-win squad.

Meanwhile, the Sixers must look to start getting their act together on the road. Last week's win in Toronto was encouraging, but it was against one of the worst teams in the East playing at 60% health. If the Sixers are really to demonstrate themselves a playoff-worthy bunch, they should be able to decisively prove themselves the better team against a Nets squad that, while hardly devoid of talent (resurgent point guard Devin Harris, low-post beast Brook Lopez, and of course the eternally-promising lottery pick Derrick Favors), is nonetheless surely lottery-bound this season.

7:00 tip from the Rock. (I still prefer calling it The Prude, ftr.) And overdue congrats to our man Jrue Holiday for making the Rookie-Sophomore Squad, the Sixers' lone representative at this year's All-Star Weekend, and a worthy one at that. Balls to whoever decided that the Clippers' Eric Bledsoe (6.2 ppg, 4.1 apg, 40% FG) was a worthier candidate for the Rookie team than Evan Turner, though. Make 'em pay for it tonight, ET--I feel a nine point, four rebound, two assist explosion coming on.

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.