Coming into tonight, Sixers fans needed a pick-me-up. It's been a rough day with the news that Joel Embiid will miss the entirety of next season after having bone graft surgery on his injured foot. (That's the last time we'll talk about him in this recap, I promise.)
Mercifully, that pick-me up was delivered by the man who has to step in as the new face of the franchise.
Jahlil Okafor was a machine Saturday night against a pretty strong defensive Lakers frontcourt of Tarik Black and Robert Upshaw, scoring 19 points and pulling down 11 rebounds with an absurd array of spin moves and by holding onto the ball like I hold a grape.
The numbers were good for Okafor, but don't tell the whole story. I mean, look at this spin move against Robert Upshaw (compliments of CBS's Sam Vecenie) and remember that Okafor is only 19 years old.
The Utah experience in many ways highlighted a lot of the negatives we had heard about Okafor. Not that he was bad, because he wasn't, and he did show some of the flashes he showed tonight, but he also struggled to get shots up, and didn't display the power game in the low post that made him such a weapon. Tonight, however, he continously backed Black and Upshaw down to the basket, and a lot of his misses (he shot 6-14 from the field) were good looks that just rimmed out.
Tonight was by far the best he's looked of his four summer league outings, and it was the perfect recipe for Sixers fans who just needed something to cheer about.
The other thing to cheer about was the triumphant return of Pierre Jackson to the court after a year on the shelf after rupturing his Achilles tendon at the 2014 Orlando Summer League. After looking a little tentative in the first quarter, Jackson blew up in the 2nd quarter, hitting consecutive threes and leading the Sixers on an 8-0 run when they looked beaten to tie the game at 19. Jackson finished with 15 points on 5-11 shooting as well as four assists, including a well placed lob for Jakarr Sampson.
For the Lakers, Former Future Sixer D'Angelo Russell shot 4-15 to score 14 points, as well as picking up 8 rebounds and 3 assists while turning the ball over 7 times. Weird game for him, and it was a back-to-back as well.
Sixers next outing will be the late game tomorrow night, a 10:30 PM eastern start against Future Sixer Marcus Smart and the Boston Celtics. Will the Sixers be able to pull out their first Vegas win, or will they be too intimidated by the incredible roster construction of Danny Ainge's summer squad to even appear at the arena?