OPSL: Magic 83, Sixers 77

by Max Rappaport
Sixers.com Writer

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ORLANDO -- The first day of summer league is an opportunity for players to get adjusted to their new teammates and to the styles of their new teams. For many, it’s their first professional game, and the pace of the action can be frenetic at times.  

Saturday’s Orlando Pro Summer League opener between the Sixers and Magic was no different, with the two teams combining to commit 39 turnovers in a truncated game that was decided 83-77 in Orlando’s favor. But despite the natural rust that both teams had to shake off, there were exciting positives to be gleaned from the action.

In his first competitive game since injuring his left knee as a freshman at Kentucky in February of 2013, Nerlens Noel impressed on the defensive end of the floor and showed off the progress he’s made offensively over the past 17 months. The 6’11” big man finished with a game-high 19 points, converting 6-of-11 shot attempts and going a perfect 7-for-7 from the line while notching four steals and three assists. 

“No mental blocks,” Noel said of his first game experience since the injury. “[Today’s performance] was very validating. It’s been 17 months since I’ve played an organized game, and it felt great.”

Casper Ware logged a game-high 28 minutes, being forced to take on a greater workload after fellow guard Pierre Jackson exited the game with a right achilles injury early in the game. Ware finished with 16 points on 4-of-11 shooting, but it was his ability to rally his teammates when they needed it most that stood out.

“His energy, his leadership, and his composure were great,” said Sixers assistant coach Lloyd Pierce, who’s handling head coaching duties in Orlando this week. “We got down in every quarter of the game, but we were able to make runs, and it all started with Casper.”

Of the 15 members of the Sixers’ Orlando Pro Summer League roster, only three were with the team last season, Noel, Ware, and swingman Hollis Thompson. Thompson appeared in 77 games for Philadelphia in 2013-14, leading all rookies in three-point shooting percentage (40.1%), but he’s hoping to show coaches that there’s more to his game than just his shooting touch.

In 26 minutes against the Magic, the 23-year-old Georgetown alum grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds (eight offensive) to go along with five points, five assists, and a pair of steals.

Of the 12 newcomers on the roster, St. Joe’s alum Ronald Roberts, Jr. had perhaps the biggest impact on Saturday’s game. The 6’8” Bayonne, New Jersey native started at power forward and finished with 12 points (4/6 FG) and nine rebounds in 20 minutes of action.

“Obviously after I went undrafted, it gave me a chip on my shoulder to just go out there and just play hard and play with energy,” he said. “Honestly, I’m just trying to play harder than anybody else and let everything else fall into place.”

It’s a quick turnaround for the Sixers, who return to action Sunday at 5pm (EST) against the Oklahoma City Thunder. You can catch that game on The Comcast Network if you live in the Philadelphia area or on NBA TV if you don’t.

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