Seltzer's Notebook: Embiid Set for Thurday, Paul Delivers

by Brian Seltzer Reporter

Home Debut Up Next for Embiid
If there were any question about whether or not Joel Embiid would be cleared for his true home debut, Brett Brown put the matter to rest.

“Joel will play,” said the fourth-year head coach, speaking at the Sixers’ training complex in Camden, New Jersey. One day after the team began its seven-game pre-season slate with a 92-89 win over Boston at the University of Massachusetts, the group was back on the court Wednesday, working out for nearly two hours.

Embiid participated in the practice, but, on the heels of tallying six points, four rebounds, and two blocked shots in just under 13 minutes the previous night, his workload was individualized. Brown said the big man emerged from his first NBA outing of any variety in fine shape, without any next-day discomfort.

As was the case Tuesday, the plan, according to Brown, is for Embiid to again be allotted roughly 12 minutes of first-half action when the Washington Wizards visit The Center on Thursday.

While the Sixers were the designated home team in Amherst, the contest was held nearly 270 miles away from Philadelphia. Now, the Delaware Valley is going to get its first chance to see the third selection in 2014 draft up close.

“It’s just long-awaited, well-deserved, worth the wait, all those things,” Brown said. “To walk him out on [The Center’s] court, let him get up and down the court, here in Philadelphia, alongside his new teammates, I just think it’s a small sort of just reward for our fans.”

Simmons in Solid Spirits
Tuesday afternoon, the Sixers announced that the procedure to address the fracture in Ben Simmons’ right foot was a success. The operation was conducted at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, and overseen by Martin O’Malley and Jonathan Glashow, two of the doctors who were involved with executing Joel Embiid’s August 2015 right foot surgery.

Later in the day, Brett Brown spoke with this year’s top overall draft pick, and heard a “bounce” in the Australian’s voice.

“He’s doing well,” reported the head coach. “It’s not all doom and gloom.”

Simmons sustained his injury last Friday, during the final practice session of the Sixers’ four-day training camp at Stockton University in Galloway, New Jersey.  Now, Brown and the team are focusing on how to best structure Simmons’ rehab, and maximize the unspecified period of time he’ll be on the sideline.  

“I’m excited, in a very sort of twisted way, once you admit and you sort of come to grips with what has happened,” said Brown, who has also seen former lottery picks Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, and Jahlil Okafor endure substantial injury absences. 

“I’m excited to dig in to a different part of his development. We’ve had so much practice over the years with this type of thing. I think we as a staff, personally, you feel like you’ve gotten better at how to handle this.”

Giving Brown further reason to feel encouraged are the new, technologically advanced recovery and wellness resources the Sixers have at their fingertips at their recently-opened training complex in Camden. The plan is to treat Simmons with a “holistic” approach. 

“You can sit in a room and look at edits of some of the great point guards, some of the great do-all, multi-purpose players that we all sort of look at Ben as growing into, so there’s a classroom aspect of it,” Brown explained. “There is an opportunity to break down his shot part of it. We are now in this new practice facility that is a basketball health club. You can just move him within a tight proximity into the sports science side of things, the wet area, the rehab / prehab massage therapy area, then he can walk a few feet on the court and work on his shot. He can watch video on a very professional large screen. We did not have any of that where we were previously.”

Dr. David T. Martin, the Sixers’ Director of Performance Research and Development, will oversee Simmons’ rehab. He was hired by the organization in the summer of 2015, and was instrumental in mapping out the program that put Embiid back on the path to full health.

Paul Stands Out
Brandon Paul first checked into Tuesday’s exhibition opener with 2:40 left in the third quarter. Aside from a brief two-minute spurt down the stretch in the fourth, the undrafted rookie free agent stayed on the floor the rest of the way. His performance gave Brett Brown no other choice. 

Down 10 when Paul was first summoned off the bench, the Sixers then proceeded to string together a game-changing run of 18 straight points that pushed them ahead for good. During this key stretch, the Illinois product recorded eight of his eventual team-best 15 points, two rebounds, and two steals. More than that, his intense, impactful two-way contributions seemed to have a timely energizing effect on the rest of the squad.

“Every day you step on the court, it’s a job interview,” said Paul, following the first NBA pre-season game of his four-year professional career. “You just got to make the most out of your opportunity, and I think I did that.”

After graduating Illinois in 2013, Paul played in Russia for a season, then headed to the NBA Development League. He went back overseas last year, competing in Spain.

Paul made six appearances for the Charlotte Hornets in the Orlando Pro Summer League, before linking up with the Sixers in Las Vegas. He averaged 10.7 points in 19.3 minutes per game, shot 10-for-28 from the perimeter, and came away with 10 steals. The impression left was strong enough for Bryan Colangelo’s staff to consider Paul worthy of a contract offer. 

Tuesday, he wanted to show Brown and management that he could be a keeper.

“You wait for your opportunity to come,” Paul said. “I came in there, and Coach talked a lot about moving on offense without the ball. Some guys aren’t disciplined enough to guard that. I just wanted to keep moving, and my teammates found me.”

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