Greater ex­pec­ta­tions

Train­ing camp be­gins with 76ers set­ting their sights on ma­jor ac­com­plish­ments

The Morning Call - - VARSITY - By Tom Moore

The long process that the 76ers hope cul­mi­nates with an NBA cham­pi­onship in mid-June be­gan Tues­day at the team’s train­ing fa­cil­ity.

The start­ing five of Ben Sim­mons, Josh Richard­son, To­bias Har­ris, Al Hor­ford and Joel Em­biid joined 15 oth­ers for the open­ing day of camp.

It was the first of­fi­cial Sixers prac­tice for Richard­son, who was ac­quired from the Heat in the Jimmy But­ler trade, and Hor­ford, who signed a free-agent deal in July. As for Har­ris, who only played 27 reg­u­lar-sea­son games for Brett Brown after ar­riv­ing from the Clip­pers in Fe­bru­ary, he’s mov­ing from power for­ward to small for­ward.

Sim­mons, a fourth-year pro, raved about the ses­sion af­ter­ward, call­ing it “the best first prac­tice I’ve been a part of since I’ve been a Sixer.” He at­trib­uted it to the play­ers re­al­iz­ing the op­por­tu­nity they have to ac­com­plish some­thing the fran­chise hasn’t done since 1982-83.

“We went straight at it,” Sim­mons said.

“Every­body was locked in,” Em­biid said. “Every­body fol­lowed what they were sup­posed to do. It was a dif­fer­ent in­ten­sity.”

Sim­mons raved about Tues­day’s of­fen­sive per­for­mance by Trey Burke, who is com­pet­ing with Raul Neto for the backup point guard spot.

While those are all en­cour­ag­ing signs, the Sixers un­der­stand they have plenty of work to do be­tween now and the Oct. 23 sea­son opener against the Celtics. There is get­ting all of Brown’s con­cepts and sys­tems in­stalled and get­ting the play­ers ac­cli­mated with each other.

There could be as many as five new Sixers in Brown’s 10-man ro­ta­tion, de­pend­ing on whether rookie Matisse Thy­bulle or sec­ond-year pro Zhaire Smith winds up as the No. 2 shoot­ing guard.

For Hor­ford, who spent the last three years in Bos­ton after nine as an At­lanta Hawk, Tues­day was a day he’d been ea­gerly await­ing.

“Just ex­cit­ing to fi­nally get on the floor and start work­ing with this group,” Hor­ford said. “It’s more weird look­ing at Joel and Ben and be­ing ‘I’m on their side’ type thing. It’s ex­cit­ing to think about.”

Brown could barely con­tain his en­thu­si­asm at hav­ing the 33-year-old Hor­ford in red, white and blue in­stead of the kelly green of the Sixers’ At­lantic Di­vi­sion ri­val in Bean­town.

“Just in­cred­i­ble,” Brown said. “I’m blown away that he’s here.”

“That’s a guy I’ve had a lot of bat­tles against,” Em­biid said. “It’s cool. I can learn a lot from him.”

Per­haps the big­gest thing Hor­ford, the start­ing power for­ward who is more ac­cus­tomed to play­ing cen­ter, and Em­biid are go­ing to have to work on is of­fen­sive spac­ing, ac­cord­ing to Em­biid. Both can play in­side and out­side, but Em­biid is most ef­fec­tive in the low post and Hor­ford is a bet­ter 3-point shooter than Em­biid.

“We’ve talked a lot about try­ing to fig­ure out how to play to­gether,” Em­biid said.

Em­biid is still re­cov­er­ing from the knee ten­dini­tis that both­ered him late in the reg­u­lar sea­son and in the play­offs. His bas­ket­ball ac­tiv­i­ties were lim­ited this sum­mer and he said he was held out for part of Tues­day’s prac­tice, none of which the me­dia got to see.

“It’s go­ing to take some time to get back on track, get back to the flow of the game,” said Em­biid.

While it’s too early to tell, Em­biid could con­ceiv­ably start an­other sea­son on a min­utes re­stric­tion. He said he plans on play­ing more than the ca­reerbest 64 games he logged last year.

Em­biid be­lieved he and Richard­son can be an ef­fec­tive com­bi­na­tion sim­i­lar to the way he and JJ Redick, who signed with the Pel­i­cans, had been for the past two years.

Em­biid and Redick screened for each other, with Redick ben­e­fit­ing from Em­biid giv­ing him the space to launch his 3-pointer.

While Richard­son isn’t the shooter Redick is, he is “more ath­letic than JJ, es­pe­cially when it comes to back­cut­ting and me throw­ing lobs or him just turn­ing the cor­ner and at­tack­ing the de­fender,” ac­cord­ing to Em­biid.

So much to do and so lit­tle time. Then again, to­mor­row is an­other day.

CHRIS SZAGOLA/AP

76ers cen­ter Joel Em­biid says he can learn a lot from new team­mate Al Hor­ford, whom Em­biid bat­tled the past three sea­sons while Hor­ford played for At­lantic Di­vi­sion ri­val Bos­ton.

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