After awarding his Kansas basketball players three days off following the conclusion of a two-week Boot Camp and Saturday’s Late Night in the Phog, coach Bill Self conducted the first practice of the 2016-17 season on Wednesday in the Jayhawks’ practice facility adjacent to Allen Fieldhouse.
“It was pretty good,” Self, KU’s 14th-year coach, said of the two-hour workout. “Because of myself, there probably wasn’t enough rhythm to practice. We didn’t get up and down quite enough because there was a lot of teaching today. When they had an opportunity to play, they did pretty well. I think we are about two practices away from getting in a groove where we can probably truly evaluate,” Self added.
KU freshman forward Udoka Azubuike was able to practice after missing most of Boot Camp and the Late Night scrimmage because of a strained groin.
“He did well,” Self said.
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Freshman forward Mitch Lightfoot missed the practice because of a fever. Self said Lightfoot would return to practice Thursday “if he feels better.”
“I thought our guards were pretty good. Everybody showed flashes,” Self said. “There was so much stopping and starting and talking today, it didn’t allow us to get into a good rhythm.”
Self said there “were no stars” to single out after one day.
Fifth-year senior forward Landen Lucas saw the practice as productive.
“It was great,” Lucas said. The Jayhawks had played unorganized pickup games on Monday and Tuesday. “I think everybody came out here focused and ready to go and eager to learn. The freshmen came prepared to learn the new stuff and listen to the coaches and get better.”
Self recently explained the reasoning behind beginning practice Wednesday when the players could have started as early as Friday.
“You can start practice 42 days before your first game, but you get 30 days to practice out of 42,” he said. “The first day for everybody to start practice was Friday for the most part. We used one day (off) Saturday, took off until Wednesday and eliminated four days off we don’t have to try to squeeze in moving forward. I’m excited to get going. I think the guys are real excited as well,” Self added.
KU’s first exhibition game will be against Washburn at 7 p.m., Nov. 1 in Allen Fieldhouse. KU will host Emporia State at 7 p.m., Nov. 6. The Jayhawks’ first regular-season game will be against Indiana on Nov. 11 in Honolulu.
Embiid finally plays in pro game
Former KU center Joel Embiid scored six points, grabbed four rebounds and blocked two shots while playing 13 minutes in his NBA debut — the Philadelphia 76ers’ 92-89 exhibition opener against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday in Amherst, Mass.
According to ESPN., it had been 948 days since the third-year pro had played in an organized game — for KU on March 1, 2014 versus Oklahoma State. The Sixers pivot had surgery on his right foot in both June of 2014 and August 2015.
“It (playing in an NBA game) felt great. It was one of my goals. I’m happy I crossed it off the list,” Embiid said after the game as quoted by ESPN.com.
“I was pretty nervous. I had trouble breathing, but once I got that first bucket, everything slowed down. I started seeing the game easier.”
Embiid’s first NBA bucket followed three misses. He hit a turnaround in the lane with about a minute left in the first half, then hit a 25-footer with one second left.
“Offensively, I was pretty bad,” Embiid said as quoted by ESPN.com. “I’ve got to work on a lot of stuff. But I thought I was pretty good defensively.”
Selden plays 12 minutes for Grizzlies
Undrafted former KU guard Wayne Selden scored five points, grabbed four rebounds and had two assists in his NBA debut for the Grizzlies — a 102-97 victory over the Orlando Magic on Tuesday in Memphis, Tenn. Selden hit two of four shots. He was 1-of-3 from three in 12 minutes.
Ellis could wind up in D-League
The Charlotte Observer has speculated that former KU forward Perry Ellis, who was not selected in the 2016 NBA Draft, may wind up playing for the Hornets’ NBA Development League team in Greensboro, N.C., this season.
This is the first season the Hornets have been affiliated with a specific D-League team.
“All four (Ellis, Mike Tobey, Rasheed Sulaimon, Andrew Andrews, considered longshots to earn the final roster spot) could end up playing games for the Swarm, who will use the Hornets’ offensive and defensive sets under coach Noel Gillespie,” the Observer’s Rick Bonnell writes.
Ellis, who has been slowed by a sports hernia injury, did not suit up for the Hornets’ exhibition opener Monday.