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September 27, 2016

Five burning questions heading into Sixers preseason

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For some Jersey Shore aficionados like my parents, September is the best month to hit Sea Isle City, Ocean City, Cape May, and the host of other beach towns. With less traffic, emptier beaches, and reasonable weather, September has a lot going for it.

The Sixers seem to agree, as they’ll hold training camp at Stockton University in Galloway Township, New Jersey for the third consecutive season. Here are five questions that I have about the Sixers heading in, which we will revisit before the Oklahoma City Thunder come to town on October 26th:

1. How does the big man rotation shake out?

Basketball isn’t known for its training camp battles a la “Hard Knocks,” but “bloodbath” was the term that Elton Brand used for the potential conflict in the paint.

“These bigs, those 4s and 5s… are truly, truly high-level, potential All-NBA talent,” Brand said. “I played against them the last few weeks and I’m highly impressed.”

When Bryan Colangelo was asked about Nerlens Noel’s recent public statements, he agreed… with one exception.

“He left out someone who has made great strides and improved significantly over the summer through hard work and his performance with the summer league,” Colangelo said. “But Richaun Holmes has really kind of emerged as another player that we’re excited about in terms of what he’s potentially going to bring to this team.”

Could that be considered a jab at Noel for not participating the team’s summer activities? Yep, because Holmes isn’t on Noel’s level. He’s still a pretty intriguing young player, though, and Holmes and Jerami Grant are going to be hungry for any minutes they can find.

2. Could the Noel situation become a distraction?

Brand echoed the company line and suggested that Noel has the talent to get minutes, but Noel understandably isn’t very comfortable with the arrangement. After all, he did the math: 48 divided by 3 is 16, and that frankly isn’t enough for someone that averaged about 30 minutes per game the last two years.

“It’s a tough situation to still be in, year by year, to see things get more difficult to show your value,” Noel said. “Year by year, it’s always been something. It’s really at a point where it’s just a lot.”

In the last year of his rookie deal, Noel wants to show his value. If he can’t, do some of the good vibes surrounding the organization start to fade away? It’s certainly possible.

3. How much do we get to see of Joel Embiid?

When asked if he expects to play in the first preseason game a week from today against the Boston Celtics, Embiid said he does. Earlier, Colangelo mentioned it was “safe to assume” the 7’2” center wouldn’t be playing in back-to-back games this season.

Embiid is on a time limit at practice, which he isn’t all that crazy about. But after two trying years, he’s ready to, in his words, trust the process.

“It’s going to be frustrating,” Embiid said. “I want to play, I want to be on the court. But at the same time, they care about me so I’m just going to listen what they have to say and do what they want me to do…”

4. How much is the ball going to be in Ben Simmons’ hands?

I mentioned on the new Sixers Beat that listening to Simmons talk at this point isn’t all that interesting to me. He’s been plenty visible all summer, and we generally know what he’s going to say.

Watching him play, on the other hand, should be fascinating. He was the point guard in summer league, but there’s a difference between kicking T.J. McConnell to the corner on a July afternoon in front of 4,000 fans at the Thomas and Mack Center and doing the same thing to Jerryd Bayless on ESPN opening night in front of a sold-out crowd.

How does Brett Brown go about deploying his friend from Down Under?

5. Who is the odd man out?

If Brand makes the roster in addition to the three main big guys, somebody (Holmes, Nik Stauskas, T.J. McConnell, Jerami Grant, Hollis Thompson) gots to go.


Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann

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