Experience in Serbia has Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot unfazed by NBA pressure

Experience in Serbia has Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot unfazed by NBA pressure

NEW YORK -- Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot was unfazed when he was shifted into the Sixers' starting lineup.

"It's just a regular game," he said nonchalantly earlier this month before starting against the Clippers. 

The rookie wasn't putting on a front, either. Being tasked with guarding sharpshooter J.J. Redick in only his second NBA start wasn't daunting to him. That same confidence has been exuded on the offensive end. 

After shooting an air-ball against the Celtics, Luwawu-Cabarrot followed up the miss with a three. In Oklahoma City, he got knocked down driving against Steven Adams, picked himself back up and drove again undeterred. 

It's not a case of an exaggerated ego. It's just that starting in an NBA game is tame compared to the high-stress playing situations he has been in before.

Last season, Luwawu-Cabarrot experienced extreme distractions while playing for Mega Leks in the 2016 Serbian Cup. His team defeated Partizan NIS for the title in a hostile environment. 

"It was probably 10,000 people could fit in the stands, but 12 or 13,000 people were there," Luwawu-Cabarrot said. "[They were] next to the court, in the stands, next to the bench, right behind you."

Fans lit jerseys on fire in the stands. Others threw concoctions that emitted fog when they hit the court. What looked like chaos was a championship basketball game. 

"During the game, for the example, you shoot a free throw and they throw something right in front of you," Luwawu-Cabarrot said. "So you look at the floor and you see something coming right in front of you and boom! A big fog. You need to step off the court, clean the court, maybe five minutes and then you can shoot a free throw. This was maybe the extreme part but it's kind of always like that over there."

The ruckus didn't stop when the buzzer sounded. Oftentimes walking off the court involved dodging angry fans of the opposing team.   

"If you have a good game and you go through the tunnel, the people are right here and they're just screaming at you," he said. "If you do something bad during a game, like you foul one guy hard, they will maybe spit on you or throw some sodas on you. I never got it but I saw it." 

Luwawu-Cabarrot, a native of France, left Europe to enter the NBA draft last summer. The Sixers selected him 24th overall. 

The 21-year-old began this season bogged down in the depth chart and spent time in the Development League to see game action. He received a bump in playing time when the Sixers waived Hollis Thompson in January. Luwawu-Cabarrot got the starting nod earlier this month because of injuries and has held on to that role. 

Brett Brown has often spoken of how rare it is for a player at that selection to log as many minutes as Luwawu-Cabarrot has. Even after playing sporadically to start the season, Luwawu-Cabarrot ranks 12th among fellow rookies from his draft class in total minutes.

"I think starting him has empowered him," Brown said. 

Luwawu-Cabarrot's defense is ahead of his offense. He is averaging 8.8 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 25.7 minutes in 10 games as a starter. Brown's commonly used description for Luwawu-Cabarrot is a "track star," and that speed and athleticism can potentially impact both ends of the floor. Luwawu-Cabarrot ranks second in the NBA in average speed, behind only teammate Sergio Rodriguez.

"We coach the heck out of him defensively," Brown said of TLC. "The other stuff we give him a green light to make mistakes and shoot the ball. The defensive side is really where we feel like he's made improvements."

The Sixers have nine games left in the season. Luwawu-Cabarrot seemingly will get the start in the remainder of them. By then he will have a résumé of NBA experience to carry over into his second year. He will add it to the foundation of confidence he already had built overseas.

"First when you arrive [to Serbia] and you see that, you say what am I doing here?" Luwawu-Cabarrot said. "But after, you just get used to it. So right now when the fans [heckle me], it's nothing."

Instant Replay: Pacers 107, Sixers 94

Instant Replay: Pacers 107, Sixers 94

BOX SCORE

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Pacers continued their playoff push with a 107-94 win over the Sixers on Sunday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The Sixers dropped to 27-46 while the Pacers improved to 37-36, as they fight to maintain position in the Eastern Conference.

The Sixers trailed by as many as 25 points, as the Pacers rolled out a total team effort. Led by 21 points from Paul George, they had seven players in double digits.

The Pacers extended their home winning streak against the Sixers to seven games. The Sixers have not beat the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse since April 17, 2013.

Inside the box score
The bigs were aggressive on the boards. Myles Turner (17 points, 16 rebounds), Shawn Long (15 points, 10 rebounds), and Richaun Holmes (11 points, 12 rebounds) recorded double-doubles.

Dario Saric came close with nine points and 10 rebounds. He snapped his 22-game streak of 10-plus points, which began on Feb. 6. He was 3 for 15 from the field and 1 for 6 from three-point range.

George finished with 21 points, eight rebounds and three assists.

Sergio Rodriguez led the Sixers with 16 points, including four of six from long range.

Jeff Teague scored 16 points and four assists.

Pacers' injury scare
Al Jefferson suffered a sprained left ankle and was carted off the court in a wheelchair during the fourth quarter (see video). He landed awkwardly after fighting for a rebound and hit the ground in pain. The veteran big man had scored 14 points with seven rebounds in 11 minutes off the bench before leaving the game.

What it means to be a center
Big men are not restricted to the basket anymore. Holmes exemplified what it means to be a center in the NBA today with a first quarter sequence that started with an emphatic dunk. He followed it up with a three-pointer. Holmes and Long work on long-range shots in practice to stretch the floor.

Head coach reunion
Pacers head coach Nate McMillan was Rodriguez’s first coach when he played for the Trail Blazers in 2006. McMillan sees similarities in Rodriguez’s game 10 years later.

"He's the same guy," McMillan said. "Sergio is very aggressive. I think he's a playmaker, he's really good in transition, he's really good in the pick-and-roll game. I think the tempo they're playing suits him."

Up next
The Sixers will travel to New York to face the Nets on Tuesday. They will wrap up their road trip before heading home for a back-to-back against the Hawks on Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Center.

Sixers' odds in NBA draft lottery and what it means

Sixers' odds in NBA draft lottery and what it means

The Sixers have their highest win total since the 2012-13 season. For this reason, you might think they aren't in a good position for the NBA draft lottery on May 16, but they're actually in a better situation than previous years.

Let's take a look at the Sixers' current situation in May's draft lottery.

Sacramento Kings pick swap
Arturas Gudaitis and Luka Mitrovic. Remember those guys?

Nah? Well just think of those two guys with whoever the Sixers select in the 2017 NBA draft if they swap picks with Sacramento.

The Sixers traded the rights of Gudaitis and Mitrovic to the Kings for Nik Stauskas, Carl Landry, Jason Thompson, a future first-round pick and the right to swap first-round picks with Sacramento in the 2016 and 2017 drafts in 2015.

Thanks to the aforementioned trade, the Sixers sit in a comfortable position in the lottery.

The Kings and Sixers are both 27-45 and sit in the sixth and seventh spots in the draft lottery.

Now, I know what you're thinking -- they don't have a chance of landing in the top three. But this is where the pick swap comes in handy.

With the Kings' pick swap, the Sixers have a 43.9 percent chance of landing in the top three of the draft, according to Tankathon.com, which is just shy of the of the Suns' 46.9 percent of landing in the top three. The Suns have the third-worst record in the NBA.

The Sixers also have a better chance of landing in the top three than the Magic, who have the fourth-worst record in the NBA and a 37.7 percent chance of getting a top three pick.

And the good thing for the Sixers is the Kings keep losing. Sacramento has lost eight of their last 10, including a four-game losing streak.

The Kings are 3-12 since making the DeMarcus Cousins trade during the All-Star break. They're also tied with the Minnesota Timberwolves for the second strongest remaining schedule in the NBA this season.

Lakers' pick
Now, onto the next NBA draft possibility for the Sixers, the top-three protected Lakers pick.

As of right now, it doesn't look like that pick will convey this year, but the Sixers still have a chance.

The Lakers, who have the second-worst record in the NBA, have a 55.8 percent of chance of keeping their pick, while the Sixers have a 44.2 percent chance of getting the pick. Those odds could very well change because the Lakers are just one game worse than the Suns. A few more Lakers wins and the odds of the pick conveying grows significantly.

The Sixers have a 31.8 percent chance of getting the fourth pick and a 12.4 percent chance of getting the fifth pick.

But, if the pick doesn't convey this season, it's not a huge deal, although it would be nice in this stacked draft class.

The Lakers' pick becomes unprotected in 2018 if it doesn't convey this season. It's unclear whether the Lakers will have one of the worst records in the NBA next season, but they'll probably still be picking somewhere in the lottery in 2018.

Prospect watch
Regardless of where the Sixers land in the lottery, they should be able to select an impact player or possible franchise player.

If the Lakers' pick conveys at fourth or fifth overall, they could land a shooter like Kentucky's Malik Monk or versatile wings like Kansas' Josh Jackson and Duke's Jayson Tatum.

If the Kings continue to burn to the ground, they could raise the Sixers' chances of getting a top three pick. Washington's Markelle Fultz or UCLA's Lonzo Ball would be in play in the top three of the draft.

But, let's say the Lakers' pick doesn't convey, and the Kings somehow end up with a worse pick than the Sixers and they land a pick in the seventh to the ninth overall range.

Monk could slip to the middle of the lottery and be available at seventh overall depending on how the lottery shakes out. Monk's backcourt partner, De'Aaron Fox, should be available in the middle of the lottery.

Fox would provide the Sixers with a slippery quick guard who can run the offense when Ben Simmons is on the bench.

Another option could be Florida State's Jonathan Isaac, a raw stretch four that can guard multiple positions on the defensive side of the ball.

With the Sixers needing help at multiple positions, they can find good value regardless of where they land in the lottery in May.