OPSL Postgame: Sixers 62 Thunder 74
Wednesday, July 10th, 1:00PM (EST) at Amway Center, Orlando, FL
by Max Rappaport
ORLANDO –– Arsalan Kazemi is a player who’s hard to root against. The NBA’s first Iranian-born draftee (54th overall, 2013), he gained a reputation in college for possessing a tenacious demeanor and having an affinity for physical play. In Wednesday’s 74-62 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the 6’8” combo-forward gave Sixers fans a glimpse of his blue-collar style.
In 30 minutes, the 23-year-old Kazemi grabbed a game-high nine rebounds, but it was the little things – setting hard screens, fighting for loose balls, closing on shooters, etc. – he did that stood out.
“He’s amazing,” said Sixers summer league head coach Michael Curry. “He just plays hard. [He’s] not the most athletic, not the fastest… Very rarely does he miss an assignment, he’s always in the right place, he’s making effort plays, and he gets a lot done because of that.
“I think it’s easy to see why his teammates and all of his coaches like him.”
Dubbed “Mr. 50-50 Ball” by fans at his alma mater Oregon for his propensity to fight relentlessly for each and every available loose ball, Kazemi is beginning to gain a similar following in his new home, Philadelphia. During Wednesday's game, numerous fans took to Twitter to voice their appreciation for the young forward’s inspired play.
“[When I transferred at Oregon as a senior], they didn’t know me, but after a while, they really liked me because of the way that I play,” said Kazemi. “I’m assuming the fans and [our] coaches all love a player who plays hard, so I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing.”
A Sigh of Relief
Early in the third quarter, while Kazemi positioned himself for a rebound, he had his leg inadvertently rolled upon from behind by a Thunder player. After taking a moment to compose himself, he got up and jogged back to the other end of the floor. He would stay on the court for several more possessions, even scoring on a tough layup in the paint, before coming out of the game to be examined by Sixers head athletic Kevin Johnson. Kazemi would return later in the game, continuing to play despite a noticeable gait.
“Everything is fine,” said Kazemi after the game of being examined further by the team’s training staff. “They just wanted to triple check and make sure.”
Fatigue Playing a Factor
The Sixers went through two-a-day practices from July 4 through July 7 and have played three games in the last four days. With a game scheduled for Thursday and another for Friday, players are beginning to feel the effects of the vicious summer league schedule.
“We’ve been going pretty hard,” said rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams. “The whole week, we’ve had two-a-days, we’ve had practices before games… Our legs are a little tired, but they’re just trying to prepare us for the upcoming season.”
MCW’s New Kicks
Throughout the week in Orlando, Michael Carter-Williams has been sporting some pretty ostentatious sneakers – a neon green pair of Kobe 8s. The shoes, he said, were a gift from Nike, who helped fill out Carter-Williams’ shoe closet after a March house fire tragically took many of his family’s possessions.
“In high school, I played with Adidas; in college, I played with Nike,” said the rookie out of Syracuse. “[When] my house burned down, all my shoes were in there, so I don’t have too many shoes.”
Carter-Williams said he has yet to decide if, and with whom, he will sign a shoe deal as a pro.