Temple Dancing: A Chat With Juan Fernandez

Temple Dancing: A Chat With Juan Fernandez

It's been a long four days. The stretch of time between the selection show and the beginning of the tournament always seems to go way slower than it should. I'm chomping at the bit for 12:30 tomorrow. Unsurprisingly, so is Juan Fernandez. The A-10 MVP and local heartthrob was kind enough to grant us an interview after arriving in Jacksonville yesterday with the rest of the Owls. Q&A below.

Nick: I remember reading last year that you were a bit confused by the seeding process and the selection show, and that [former Temple center and fellow Spanish-speaker] Sergio Olmos was kind of explaining it to you as it was happening. Is this true, or just a story? Likewise, how much different is your second go around compared to your first experience last year?

Juan: That's actually true and I can realize now how different it is compared to last year. Last year, I only knew the team we were playing against and that was it. This year, I know the whole bracket. I know how the teams play. I'm even aware that we probably deserved a higher seed, but in the end it only matters that we are again in the NCAA tournament with a really good chance of winning a couple games.

What did it mean to you to be voted the Most Valuable Player in the Atlantic-10 tournament?

I really enjoyed it, especially because I could share it with my family who were there; but, sometimes when they give a recognition like that it kind of feels that its not fair in a way since this is a team sport. I couldn't have done anything without my teammates so its really a recognition of the team effort.

Has the success of this season surpassed your initial expectations for the year or were you always confident that you could perform at this level?

Actually, I didn't know how everything was going to work out when I first got here. Everyone that knows me tells me now that they didn't expect all this to be happening to me in only my second year. Personally, I just try to go out and play without thinking that I should do this or that, because it is only my second year. It's a good thing that everything is happening so fast if you learn how to handle it and stay focused on keeping your feet on the ground. 

How have you found the adjustment to the American game given the difference in officiating as compared to international play?

The hardest part was to adjust to the rules. The style of basketball is probably faster, but I adjusted fast enough, I think. What took me more time was the 35-second shot clock, since i was used to playing with 24-seconds. Some other rules, like being able to call timeout as a player, don't even exist in South America.

How far do you think this team can go in the tournament and were you at all disappointed by your seeding?

I'm hoping we can go really far. Every game is going to be tough, but if we stay prepared for every challenge, we could make a big run. About the seeding, it really matters more who you play against than what seed you got in my opinion, but, if you ask me, I would say that, yeah, we probably deserved maybe a four seed, at least.

How anxious are you to get on the floor against Cornell, Friday?

I'm really anxious. I can't wait to start the game and see how everything works out. Hopefully we'll be able to get that win and advance to that second round.

Finally, any funny stories from this year you care to share?

[Laughing] I have a bunch of stories but I don't want to kill any of my teammates. And by telling you, I'd definitely have to.

Thanks Juan. Give em' hell.

Assorted Links:

John Gonzalez has a great article in the Inquirer discussing why Temple's outrage over their seeding is largely unjustified. It basically flies in the face of everything I wrote a few days ago. I like it anyway.

The Inqy also has a nice piece on Juan Fernandez success this season. Somebody must be making the media rounds.

Joel Embiid unhappy with how Sixers handled injury updates

Joel Embiid unhappy with how Sixers handled injury updates

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Joel Embiid will miss the next four games and is slated to return March 3 against the Knicks in Philadelphia, so long as he is symptom-free. While Embiid wants to play as soon as possible, he’s just glad there is now a definitive timetable announced.

Prior to Thursday, the team had not announced a specific timeframe.

“I wasn’t too happy with the way it was kind of handled before,” Embiid said. “I saw the day-to-day part. I was told that I was going to miss at least two or three weeks. So I wasn’t happy with the way it was handled.

“I thought keeping my name out there was going to just like literally have people think about me all the time instead of just saying when I was going to be back. So I’m happy that they did that today and they said that I’m out for the next four games.”

Embiid suffered a left knee contusion on Jan. 22 against the Trail Blazers. He sat out three games and returned on Jan. 27 to play the Rockets. He has not played since then, sitting out the last eight games.

An MRI also revealed Embiid has a slight tear in his meniscus, which is not thought to be related to the contusion.

Embiid went through a full practice on Thursday for the first time, he estimated, in four or five weeks. (Wednesday’s practice was not intense.) According to the Sixers, they are encouraged by the progress Embiid showed but do not feel he is game-ready. Team doctors are holding him out the next four games to minimize the risk of aggravating his knee. In order for him to be cleared, Embiid has to be symptom-free.

Embiid had eyed a return on Friday against the Wizards because he was feeling well, he said, but he had some swelling on Thursday.

“No swelling, no pain, nothing,” Embiid said of his criteria to play.

Now the team -- and fans -- can move forward without daily questions of Embiid’s status.

“I think it’s good for everybody,” Brett Brown said. “For you all to understand, the people that buying a ticket to understand, for me as a coach to prepare my team that he’s not going to be here for four more games. I like that clarity. I’m fine with it. Obviously, you want him playing, but the mystery that surrounds that speculation I think is frustrating for people and we understand that.”

Embiid reiterated the patience aspect of the injury, noting he waited two years to rehab his foot and there is no need to rush his knee. Now everyone can be in the loop with his status.

“The end point is basically making sure I’m ready to play instead of just putting me out there,” Embiid said.

In Justin Anderson, Sixers get solid defensive wing who was buried in Dallas

In Justin Anderson, Sixers get solid defensive wing who was buried in Dallas

On the surface, the Nerlens Noel trade doesn't look good.

The Sixers on Thursday traded the third-year big man to the Dallas Mavericks for forward Justin Anderson, center Andrew Bogut and a top-18 protected first-round pick. That first-rounder turns into two second-round picks if it doesn't convey in 2017. Yuck. And double yuck.

The only hope in this trade comes in Anderson. The former first-round pick has the look of a prototypical NBA wing. At 6-foot-6 with a nearly 7-foot wingspan, he has the frame to disrupt passing lanes and the bulk at 228 pounds to muscle up stronger swingmen.

At Virginia, Anderson was a key cog for a team that was ranked as high as No. 2 and earned a 2-seed in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. After that season, Anderson opted to forego his senior year and enter the NBA draft. He was selected 21st overall by the Mavericks in 2015.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett preaches defense and Anderson was one of his finest disciples in that regard. Offensive limitations and being a part of a balanced attack with the Cavaliers caused Anderson's stock to drop. Despite shooting 45 percent from three in his final season, Anderson was considered a streaky shooter and, frankly, that's remained the NBA.

His rookie season was one to forget. The Mavericks were competitive in the Western Conference, finishing as the 6-seed and losing to the Thunder in the first round. Anderson couldn't find his way into Rick Carlisle's rotation. Dallas' never-ending supply of point guards coupled with the sharpshooting duo of Wesley Matthews and Chandler Parsons relegated Anderson to just 11.8 minutes a game his rookie season. In his limited time, he shot 41 percent from the field and 27 percent from three.

Unfortunately, it's been a similar story this season, but with some glimmers of hope. Anderson is still losing minutes to Matthews and also big free-agent acquisition Harrison Barnes, who's having a strong first season with the Mavs. But over a three-game stretch in late January, Anderson averaged 15.7 points and 4.3 rebounds in 20 minutes per game. He also shot 6 of 16 (38 percent) from three during that span.

“I don’t want to sell myself short,” Anderson said to the Star-Telegram during that run. “I still think that I can be a really great player in this league, but I think it’s going to take a lot of hard work.

“I think [the early-season struggles] may be the best thing that’s happened to me in my career. All we can do is wait and just keep working hard, push through it and hopefully one day it’ll all pay off."

The most promising numbers in Anderson's young career are that he's averaging 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks per 36 minutes as a pro. At the very least, Anderson should develop into a solid defensive wing. If he develops offensively, who knows?

Per ESPN's Kevin Pelton, "Noel and Anderson (who just sneaks over the bar) are both among the 21 players in the league who have averaged 2.0 steals per 100 team plays and blocked 2.0 percent of opponent 2-point attempts or better in at least 500 minutes."

It's tough to argue that this trade was a good one for Bryan Colangelo. With that said, Anderson could still turn out to be a decent NBA player. He needs minutes and patience, two things the Sixers can offer in spades.