Sixers Expect to Face Ball
Following the 76ers’ shootaround Wednesday, all indications pointed to Lonzo Ball being available later in the evening for the Los Angeles Lakers. The Sixers are scheduled to take on L.A. Wednesday at 10:30 PM EST in the opening MGM Resorts NBA Summer League tournament game for both teams.
Chosen second overall in this year’s draft, Ball missed the Lakers’ previous outing Monday due to injury.
Given the proximity of Los Angeles to Las Vegas, Ball and Co. have been a big draw at Thomas & Center since the NBA Summer League started. Sixers assistant Lloyd Pierce, in charge of the team in Las Vegas, expects a fun atmosphere Wednesday.
“Who doesn’t want to play in a gym that’s completely packed?,” he asked rhetorically. “That’s the beauty of the Laker fans – they’re four, four and a half hours away from Las Vegas. It’s an easy drive. They’re going to show up regardless.”
Pierce indicated the Sixers won’t be going out of their way to gameplan for Ball, beyond making normal scouting preparations. Should Ball, or any member of the Lakers roster for that matter, start to get into a rhythm, Pierce said the Sixers will adapt accordingly.
“There’s not one guy we’re going to specifically focus on over the course of the game,” he said. “We want to play hard, play together, and want to give these guys an opportunity to get better while we’re here.”
Pierce intends to stick with the same starting line-up he used Tuesday in the Sixers’ 88-83 defeat to the Boston Celtics. Big man Jonah Bolden was part of the first-unit, holding down the center spot. The Australian crossed paths with Ball last year, just before Bolden left UCLA to pursue a professional opportunity in Serbia.
“I was [at UCLA] for a good three weeks during the summer,” Bolden said Wednesday. “[Ball], T.J. Leaf, and all the other freshmen were there. It was kind of a phase where they were just getting used to everyone, and they were just keeping to themselves as freshmen.”
Ball has so far appeared in two summer league contests. His first game was a bumpy 5-point, 2 for 15 showing Friday against the LA Clippers. Then, on Saturday, he bounced back with an 11-point, 11-rebound, 11-assist triple double.
More Sixers to Get More Playing Time
Upon arriving in Las Vegas last Friday, the Sixers swiftly added Mouhammadou Jaiteh to their roster; however, three games into the NBA Summer League slate, the 22-year old French forward has yet to see action. His time could be coming.
“I think everyone on our roster will get a shot at playing at some point during the week,” Lloyd Pierce said. “We saw Melo Trimble come in for the first time in Vegas [Tuesday vs. Boston], and then hit three threes – might have been our best player.”
Trimble, a three year Maryland product, was indeed sharp. The point guard poured in 13 points in 13 minutes. He had previously gotten run only in the Sixers’ second contest in the Utah Jazz Summer League.
“It’s up to me to at least give them an opportunity,” Pierce said of his players. “It’s up to them to take advantage of the opportunity.”
Jaiteh has spent parts of the last six years competing on the French professional circuit.
Bolden Gets Center Reps
Circling back to Jonah Bolden, the 21-year old was given extensive minutes at the five-spot Tuesday. According to Bolden himself, the assignment was essentially a career first.
“Most of my life, I played ‘three,’ ‘four.’ This is the first time I’ve really ever played center,” said Bolden, who added that the physicality demanded of the center position presented an adjustment.
Bolden, though, knows he can create match-up problems with other centers thanks to his length and quickness. There’s also his shooting touch (he went 3 for 6 from the outside against Boston), which enables him to stretch the floor more than the average five man.
On the whole, Bolden provides versatility, and positionless possibilities, particularly on defense. Down the stretch of Tuesday’s game, when the outcome was in doubt, he effectively covered Jayson Tatum, Boston’s promising small forward, and the 2017 No. 3 pick.
“I got the utmost confidence in myself – I believe I can guard anyone,” said Bolden. “The fact that I did that wasn’t a surprise to me. It might have been a surprise to other people, but I believe I can contain him, and I did that.”