Finally! After a wild offseason in the NBA this year, where our 76ers were active in free agency for once, we can finally see the regular season creeping around the corner. Monday was media day where our players had the chance to speak with the reporters, try out the new uniforms, take team photos, and for some, got to meet their new teammates. Let’s take a look at some key points brought up by the players along with how the first team practice went.
Starting off with the hot topic of injuries, the following players cleared the air a bit for us:
Joel Embiid: He stated that his past 3 MRI’s have come back “perfect” and is sticking to the plan his doctors and the team have in place. He also said he will be ready for the season opener but made no mentions of the preseason. When asked about how many games he would play, he answered that while he wants to play all 82 games, that may be unrealistic.
Ben Simmons: “I am 100%.” He has been practicing 5 on 5 and scrimmaging all summer and has “no restrictions.”
Markelle Fultz: “My ankle is 100%” He also talked about how his youth will help with his recover time and being able to bounce back from the “bumps and bruises” of the NBA game. We haven’t had the best injury luck here in Philly, so I really hope this is true.
Jahlil Okafor: Feels good and healthy. He stated “I’ve been doing 3 on 3 and 1 on 1 work,” and expects to play 5 on 5 during training camp. He also discussed losing weight, changing his diet, and getting more time in at the gym.
Moving towards the topic of veteran leadership, both JJ Redick and Amir Johnson said they are excited to help lead our younger guys by passing on experiences and advice. Notably, when asked the question if he was already giving advice to the younger players, Redick responded “I am not going to come in here and start barking orders. I would prefer if those things happened naturally.” I found this as a rather pleasant response where JJ will not force veteran leadership, but let things happen organically. Simmons and Fultz both talked about how learning from JJ will be a big help this year for them. Redick also noted how his skill set and personality will help the 76ers progress quicker.
Interesting enough for a man who has only played 31 games, Joel Embiid also referred to himself as a veteran. This may have been a strange comment with such little playing time, but his experiences with injuries, missing time, and being in the spotlight will most likely be useful for our young guys as they start to build their own image.
Some other topics that were covered during the player interviews:
Joel Embiid: One moment that got a laugh from everyone in the room was when he was asked about his contract status and he referenced “that Howard guy” and how his report was false. He has no qualms over his contract right now and is excited to get back on the court. I am sure this was his agent whispering this response in his ear, but you have to love the man for calling out the Process hater himself, Howard “whatever his last name is.”
Amir Johnson: When asked about his transition to Philly, he stated that the “Players, coaches, and staff made the transition very easy” to Philadelphia and he has been very impressed with everything here so far. He thought going out in the city and constantly hearing trust the process comments were awesome.
Jahlil Okafor: When asked about trade rumors, he said it was tough to have that noise in the background all the time and that he’s aware of it, but wants to be professional about everything. He mentioned “whether I’m playing here or somewhere else” during the interview, leading me to believe the 76ers will move the big man once any plausible offer comes to their door.
Markelle Fultz: Asked how he was able to get his #20 jersey from TLC, “Tim practically gave it up to me” and that he and TLC hit it off the minute he got to Philly and has been a close friend to him during his short tenure here. He also has no set plans for his own signature shoe from Nike, but has been bouncing ideas around his crew but is focusing on playing his first game in the NBA. When asked about not being the alpha male on the team for the first time in his playing career, he responded “It will make my game better and help me develop it better.” My overall viewpoint of his media session was he is well rehearsed with his answers, seems confident, and will surprise many this year just from the swagger he already has coming into the NBA.
Ben Simmons: After being asked about sitting out all last year, Ben let everyone know his time off gave him an opportunity “to learn the game” and progress in “every aspect of his game.” When asked if he was working on his jump shot, he fired back quickly that “every aspect of his game” has improved. He mentioned his basketball camp that had about 200 kids show up and sold out in a few hours, his love for being in the gym and putting in work, and how a roster full of younger players makes it much easier for everyone to relate to one another. He also mentions how Brett Brown is the first coach to give him the opportunity to play point guard and how coach calls him Usain Bolt on the floor because he is always pushing the ball up the court and moving quickly. I’ll take it.
JJ Redick: Made the mention of how he has never played in a “sports town” and is very excited to be part of one in Philadelphia. Orlando and LA never gave him that feel and that Philly is right up there with Boston and New York when it comes to the label of a sports town. Well JJ, you are damn right about that one, just be ready for our media and the backlash of a bad game.
Overall, everyone seemed in really high spirits and the playoffs were brought up by the majority of the players as the goal this year for the team. It seems as if everyone enjoyed the new additions to the team, is looking forward to playing together and more importantly, playing for Coach Brown.
First Training Camp Practice
Keeping up with all the videos on Twitter, the 76ers rolled out their first string with Fultz, Redick, Covington, Simmons, and Humphries. The second unit was TJ, Bayless, Stauskas, Saric, and Holmes. Embiid and Okafor worked out with the staff on 1 on 0 drills off to the side. Redick showed off his deep shot, Fultz made a few layups, and Simmons was running the point for the majority of what was shared. He looked solid, was passing the ball well, and put back some dunks in transition. These drills were all 5 on 0, so there is not much to take away from this. Embiid was shooting and working in the post, which were encouraging signs since he has yet to be cleared from the medical team.
The biggest surprise was Kris Humphries, recently signed, playing with the first team. I am not sure why he was brought in for training camp, and I sure hope it has nothing to do with Embiid at risk of not being cleared for the opener. If there is any reason to bring in this guy, it should be to have a talk with Embiid about not dating a reality TV star and distracting yourself from your team. He does not seemed poised to make the roster, so hopefully he is passing along the knowledge of the mistakes he made when he took on the Kardashian curse.
More will unfold as training camp continues, and we will get some glimpses of what line-ups Brett Brown plans to utilize once the preseason kicks off. The 76ers will play the Memphis Grizzlies for the preseason opener on Wednesday, October 4th at 7pm.
Featured Image Photo Credit: Tim Hawk, NJ.com