What we Learned from the Sixers Exit Interviews
The Philadelphia 76ers 2017-18 season ended on Wednesday night, which means that the team held exit interviews at their practice facility in Camden on Thursday. Here’s what we learned:
The free agents want to be back
J.J. Redick, Marco Belinelli, Ersan Ilyasova, and Amir Johnson all expressed interest in returning to the Sixers next season. All four players are set to hit unrestricted free agency over the offseason, and while it’s highly unlikely that all four will return, bringing back floor-spacers like Redick and Belinelli (at a reduced rate) would make sense for the Sixers.
T.J. McConnell expects to be back next season
McConnell has a team option for the 2018-19 season worth $1.6 million, and when asked if he thought that the Sixers would exercise the option, he said that he was “pretty sure” that they would, before admitting that he didn’t even know that his deal had an option attached to it until recently.
McConnell is likely correct in his assumption that he will be back with the Sixers next season, as the team isn’t likely to find a better reserve guard (or starting guard, if necessary) for the price than T.J.
Markelle Fultz is still not at 100%
Fultz played a total of 23 minutes during the Sixers playoff push this season, and he did not appear once during the series against the Celtics.
When asked about the status of his lingering shoulder injury/soreness, Fultz gave the following answer:
“It’s pretty good, really. I’m not all the way there, but I definitely have a lot more work to do. Even if I was 100 percent, I would still want to get better. So, the grind starts now, just to keep working and get better each and every day.”
That answer is obviously open to interpretation, but it clearly sounds like Fultz is still not where he wants to be in terms of the issue. His progress and development will be one of the biggest stories – if not the biggest story – for the Sixers over the offseason.
To make matters more difficult for Fultz was the fact that the player that he was basically drafted instead of, Jayson Tatum, had an extremely solid semifinal series against the Sixers.
Here’s what Fultz had to say about being forced to watch Tatum from the sideline:
“I think I’ve been going through stuff like this my whole life, really. Going against the odds, really. It’s a whole bunch of outside noise. I don’t really look to it. I’m with my team. I’m with my family. That’s all I really care about. And myself. All the other stuff doesn’t really matter to me about what they think or what other people have to say. I’m just worried about how my team’s doing, how my coaches and teammates look at me, and how I look at myself.”
Fultz is unsure if he will play in Summer League
At this point in time, Fultz said that he was not sure whether or not he would play in Summer League. He said that he would discuss it with the team, and if they felt like it was in his best interest to play, then he would. An official announcement regarding the team’s roster for Summer League won’t be released until after June’s NBA Draft.
Ben Simmons doesn’t plan to change his shot
Despite what Kobe Bryant may think, Ben Simmons doesn’t plan to drastically alter his shot over the offseason. He may make some minor changes, but nothing major.
"I think minor things,” Simmons said when asked if he would change his shot. “But changing the whole shot, no. I think just working on it, adjusting to where I want the ball, loosening my shoulder up, also. Just getting shots up."
Whether he alters it or not, Simmons clearly needs to gain a level of comfortability with his shot that just wasn’t there during his rookie campaign, and he should make doing so a top priority of his offseason.
Joel Embiid has big expectations for himself
For the first time since he has been in the NBA, Embiid will enter an offseason relatively healthy. Sure, his face is still healing, but Joel will be able to condition his body over the course of an entire offseason in a manner that he hasn’t been able to up to this point. The thought of Embiid entering next season with several months of training and conditioning under his belt should make Sixers fans smile.
Embiid himself certainly expects to benefit from the offseason, as he predicted an MVP-type season for himself in 2018-19.
Follow Michael Kaskey-Blomain on Twitter @therealmikekb.