Shootaround Report: 1/11 vs. Knicks

by Brian Seltzer
Sixers.com Reporter

The following storylines were ones that emerged from the Sixers’ morning shootaround on Wednesday, January 11th. They play the New York Knicks at The Center at 7:00 PM EST.

• The Sixers, with the exception of the rehabbing Ben Simmons (right foot) and sidelined Jerryd Bayless (left wrist), will bring a clean bill of health into Wednesday’s Atlantic Division pairing with New York. The only item on Wednesday morning’s player availability / injury report was that Joel Embiid will be placed, as expected, on a 28-minute limit.

• On Thursday, the NBA will release the second wave of results for fan voting for this year’s All-Star Game. At last count, on January 5th, Joel Embiid ranked fourth among Eastern Conference frontcourt players, with 221,984 votes.

In a push to help Embiid become just the 46th rookie in NBA history to be named an All-Star, the Sixers, along with vending partner Aramark, plan to have some fun Wednesday night. Fans will have the opportunity to buy $5 Shirley Temples at The Center, when the Sixers will host New York.

The drink, Embiid said, is his favorite. He was fully on board with the promotion.

Following Wednesday’s hour-long shootaround, the 22-year old gave a brief account of how he came to become such a big fan of the virgin cocktail with which he is now so closely associated. The relationship has roots to his youth in Cameroon.

Here’s what Embiid had to say:

“I think I used to drink it when I was young, back home, but I stopped doing that. Then I was at Kansas one night. When I got to college, I didn’t go out at all. One night, I went out with my teammates. This girl walked up to me, she was like talking to me. She’s like, ‘Why aren’t you drinking?’ And then I was like, ‘I just don’t drink. Alcohol is nasty.’ Then, she was like, ‘Ooooh, I might have something for you.’ So, she went and got a Shirley Temple, and I was like, ‘Aaaah, oh ok.’ Then I fell in love with it, and since then, I’ve been drinking it.”

On a more serious note, Embiid said that with his diet in mind, he’s had to slow down his Shirley Temple intake recently. Still, he manages to have one about “almost every day.”

• Continuing the theme of Joel Embiid and his fitness, the center said Wednesday he’d like to shed a few more pounds in the not-too-distant future.

“During the regular season, it’s kind of hard to really work on your body, lifting weights and all that,” he said. “I got to get back to doing that, but at the same time making sure I’m ready to play every night.”

Embiid said his weight is currently at around 270 pounds. He called it the “right weight,” but admitted he still feels heavy at times. Down the road, Embiid hopes he can reach the 265-pound mark.

• Back in 2014, Robert Covington’s first true breakout performance at the NBA level came against New York. He tallied 14 points on November 22nd at Madison Square Garden, connecting on all four of his 3-point tries.

Also of note that night, Covington received his first introduction to nine-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony. Wednesday, the third-year Sixer reflected on the experience fondly.

“[Anthony] asked [coach Derek Fisher], ‘Who is this, how do we guard him?,’” recalled Covington. “[Fisher] was just like, ‘Just put a hand up.’”

“To this day, I still look at that,” Covington continued. “It made me realize no matter what, I’ve got to work hard. You got to make things known for yourself rather than get anything given to you. I came out full [force] in that game.”

Since that initial encounter, Covington has become quite familiar with Anthony, the fifth-leading scorer among active NBA players. As Atlantic Division rivals, the Sixers and Knicks face each other four times a year in the regular season.

“It just makes me amp up my energy even more, because I know I’m going to have to guard him a majority of the game,” Covington said Wednesday about defending Anthony. “I just come in with the mindset that’s my goal, that’s my match-up, that’s my job throughout the game.”

The Sixers consider Covington one of their top defenders, and numbers would support that belief. He entered Wednesday tied for first in the NBA with an average of 4.3 deflections per game. According to ESPN.com, Covington has generated the third-best defensive plus-minus rating among small forwards as well.

• Over at The Center Wednesday morning, Carmelo Anthony was the latest high-profile NBA figure to share complimentary remarks about Joel Embiid.

Anthony said, “To see him healthy, to see him out there playing - what’s his thing, ‘Trust the Process?’ - to see kind of him trusting the process, and the Philadelphia organization and the fans as a whole, for me as a fan, it’s good to see him back out there. We need young guys like that as a part of this league.”

Anthony, along with LeBron James and Kevin Love, were the three Eastern Conference frontcourt players in front of Embiid in the latest tabulation of All-Star votes, which were published last Thursday.