On the Beat: Sixers Now Focus on Opening Night Roster
With the pre-season officially in the rearview, the 76ers, which went 2-5 in exhibition play, now have some choices to make. The team has been carrying 20 players since the start of training camp, but must reach the NBA-mandated 15-man limit by Monday.
When last speaking to the media three and a half weeks ago, before the Sixers had even played their first exhibition game, the team’s top personnel man predicted that this stage of the roster-molding process would present him and his staff with challenges.
“We feel like we’ll have really hard decisions,” said Sam Hinkie, the Sixers’ President of Basketball Operations and General Manager, in a session with reporters on September 30th. “They’re always hard at the end of camp, and these are the life long dreams of most of these young men. This year feels even harder in some sense.”
From the outset, the point guard position was highlighted as the battleground where the fiercest competition would take place. ACL injuries to Kendall Marshall and Tony Wroten gave a less experienced group of hopefuls that much more of a shot to play, and attempt to impress Hinkie and Brett Brown.
“I’ve learned this year more trying to be quiet, rather than overanalyze. See what guys do, their habits,” said Brown earlier this week when discussing his approach to evaluating his current players.
Brown has made it clear he’s a fan of T.J. McConnell’s intangibles; the scrap, hustle, pass-first mentality, and McConnell’s overall demeanor. McConnell also seems to be the healthiest of the Sixers’ true point guards at this point. Scottie Wilbekin was held out of Friday’s meeting with the Celtics after spraining his right ankle last week. Brown, however, indicated the injury shouldn’t affect whether the team keeps or cuts the Florida product.
Persistent and spunky, the five-foot, 10-inch tall Pierre Jackson spent much of the pre-season working through groin issues, which first began dogging him in July while prepping for summer league action. Jackson, during past stints overseas and in the NBA D-League, has shown an ability to put up points in volume.
“I think he’s still most definitely not 100-percent,” Brown observed this past week. “If he’s going to be a scorer with his stature, you have to be ruthless defensively. I see Pierre struggling at times defensively, struggling to go laterally...And he told me that.”
There could also end up being some close roster calls In the frontcourt. Christian Wood flashed promise at various points throughout the exhibition season. He returned to action against the Celtics following a two-game absence caused by right hamstring issues, coming off the bench to score five points, and haul in seven rebounds.
“I think I’ve shown them what I can do, and I think they can see it,” said Wood. “Coach tells me what I need to do to make the team. I’ve got to hustle, make shots, show my versatility, and give energy when I’m on the court playing. I think I’ve been doing that.”
The Sixers were given Saturday off, and will return to practice on Sunday.