Shootaround Report | 3/28 vs. Nets

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The following storylines were ones that emerged from the Sixers’ morning shootaround on Tuesday, March 28th. They play the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center at 7:30 PM EST.

• The Sixers had a couple of medical updates to provide following Tuesday morning’s shootaround, which was held inside the sprawling multi-court Manhattan-based #basketballcity training center, located along the East River.

Jahlil Okafor has been ruled out for Tuesday’s tilt due to right knee soreness.

>Gerald Henderson will also be missing in action. Left hip soreness has bothered him throughout the season, and with the Sixers set to host the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday, the veteran will rest in Brooklyn.

In the aftermath of the Sixers’ loss in Indiana Sunday, Sergio Rodriguez started to experience tightness in his left hamstring. He was subsequently scheduled for an MRI Tuesday, and has been listed as questionable for the game later in the evening.

Tiago Splitter, recalled Monday from a two-game stint with the Delaware 87ers, is questionable as well. He took part in Tuesday’s hour-long shootaround. Okafor, Henderson, and Rodriguez, however, did not.

• Should Sergio Rodriguez be sidelined Tuesday, the number of healthy players available on the Sixers’ active roster will shrink to eight. Meanwhile, the number of true point guards left at Brett Brown’s disposal will dip to just one – T.J. McConnell, the Sixers’ starter.

In the absence of Rodriguez, Brown said Tuesday he’d be inclined to use Nik Stauskas as McConnell’s back-up. This choice is a logical one, given that Stauskas has effectively assumed increased ball-handling duties as the season has gone along.

After Stauskas, however, Brown acknowledged he’d need to get a little more creative with the point guard depth chart. He said that if “anything ever funny happened” at the position, Dario Saric could be called upon to take charge of the Sixers’ offense.

“I think if you put another four man on Dario Saric, he’s going to have no problem bringing the ball up the floor,” said Brown.

The fourth-year head coach noted that some elite-level four-men, such as Golden State’s Draymond Green, could make such an assignment more challenging for Saric. For the most part, Brown sounded like he’d be comfortable calling upon Saric’s guard skills if the Sixers were to find themselves in a pinch.

“We’ve seen it enough to know that my comments aren’t outrageous,” Brown said. “In the situation we’re in, you could connect some of those dots.

“I don’t want to make this a bigger story than it needs to be. As a third option, when you’re looking at eight players, it enters your mind.”

• Nearly 14 months have passed since Tiago Splitter last appeared in a regular season NBA game. The date was January 31st, and his team, at the time, was the Atlanta Hawks.

Should he be summoned off the bench Tuesday in Brooklyn, the veteran big man said he’d be ready. He appeared in two games last week with the Delaware 87ers, the Sixers’ NBA Development League affiliate.

“I feel great,” Splitter said Tuesday morning, after going through shootaround. “It was good spirits to be in the D-League, had some minutes there. [I] feel like a basketball player again. It was nice.”

Dating back to last winter, the 32-year old Splitter, who tallied 13 points (5-12 fg, 3-5 ft) and 11 rebounds in 27 total minutes of action with the Sevens, has battled a series of injuries. At first, it was a right hip problem. Then, this fall, while preparing for his second year with the Hawks, he dealt with a right hamstring strain. That was followed later by a right calf issue, which he has continued to rehab with the Sixers since joining the squad February 22nd.

Splitter, while a newcomer to the Sixers, is no stranger to Brett Brown at all. Splitter’s first five seasons in the NBA were spent in San Antonio, with Brown on the Spurs’ bench as an assistant for the first three of those years.

Brown’s final campaign under Gregg Popovich, in 2012-2013, marked Splitter’s most productive season to-date. The Brazilian averaged career-highs of 10.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 24.7 minutes per game.

“I know him as well as I know anybody on my [current] team,” said Brown. “He and I shared a common background. We understand each other very well. He is completely blue collar. That’s how he has stayed in the NBA for as long as he has. That’s how he’s gained success internationally. Anything that equals blue collar, that is what he is best at.”

While discussing Splitter Tuesday, an example of the forward’s committed work ethic came to Brown’s mind. It had to do with the amount of time Splitter spent refining his free throw form.

As a rookie in the NBA in 2010-2011, Splitter hit just 54.3 percent of his attempts from the line. Upon leaving San Antonio via trade in July of 2015, that same figure had jumped to 75.0 percent.

“His skill and where he is most able to make a difference on a court is just workman-like, blue collar mentality,” said Brown, adding that Splitter’s attitude fits perfectly with the culture the Sixers are trying to establish.

Why, for Splitter, was it so important to do as much as he possibly could to position himself for playing time before the end of the year? With nine games left on the Sixers’ schedule, after all, he could have opted to play it safe, and shut things down.

“Why?,” said Splitter, responding to that very question rhetorically, “I’ll tell you why. When you’re 13 months out of the game, you’d play the last game if it’s possible. That’s how I think, and I want to feel basketball player again. I miss it a lot. That’s how I feel.”

As has been the case with all players – present and past – taken in during his tenure with the Sixers, Brown is focused on making sure Splitter gets the most out of his stint with the team.

“You think about how do you help somebody,” Brown said. “We’ve learned over the years it comes back 10-fold to help our organization. There is a similar mindset with Tiago, just doing the right thing, just trying to help him get better and find his career again, and it’ll go where it goes from that point.”

In 347 regular season appearances, Splitter has put up 8.0 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.

• What’s gotten into the Brooklyn Nets lately? The team with the poorest winning percentage in the NBA, Brooklyn has ripped off three wins in four tries, and manufactured a respectable 7-8 record in March.

After having a day and a half to study the Nets more closely, Brett Brown weighed in Tuesday on the factors he believes have been responsible for their late-season spurt.

“They remind me of some of the teams early on that we coached. Just a bunch of young guys trying to make the NBA, nothing to lose at the end of the year, sometimes catching teams off guard at the end of a year. I think that they play with really good pace. I think the embracing of the 3-point line, they’ve done. I think in Jeremy Lin and [Brook] Lopez, you have two just very good players, as their contracts would reflect. They’re trying to grow a program similarly to we did. At this time of year, you’re seeing Lopez and Jeremy lead the charge. You’re seeing some of those young guys take advantage of the opportunity. It’s been interesting for me personally to watch K.J. McDaniels again, and watch him come back into the mix. It looks like he’s really helping them.”

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