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Confident Nik Stauskas: 'I know I belong here now'

GALLOWAY, N.J. - Nik Stauskas is playing with a comfort level that was missing in his first two NBA seasons.

GALLOWAY, N.J. - Nik Stauskas is playing with a comfort level that was missing in his first two NBA seasons.

"I have a confidence that I know I belong here now," the 76ers reserve shooting guard said Thursday. "The first two years, there's so many times that I'm trying to fit in. I go to bed at night and I wonder, do I really belong here? Like, is this where I was meant to be?

"I think this is the first time in my NBA career where I said I know I belong here."

His newfound confidence has shown during training camp. Stauskas has been one of the most impressive players during the scrimmages open to the media. He has been knocking down shots. On defense, he has been getting into the passing lanes, stealing the ball, and turning those plays into layups at the other end.

The true test will come when the Sixers open the regular season against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Oct. 26. But so far, the Canadian guard does not look like the same person who at times seemed like a lottery bust last season with the Sixers and the year before with Sacramento. The Kings traded him to the Sixers last summer after drafting him eighth overall in 2014.

"Coming into my third year now, I can't really make excuses anymore," Stauskas said.

Preferring to focus on this season, Stauskas turned down an invitation to play for the Canadian national team this summer. He bulked up in the weight room, and the added strength has been beneficial.

"I think all through the last couple of weeks of being with the team and here in training camp, I started to show those improvements," Stauskas said. "I'm happy with the way I'm playing. Now it's time to carry that over into the games."

Easy adjustment

So far, so good for Ben Simmons. The first overall draft pick said he is adjusting well to the mental side of the NBA at training camp.

"It's been good," Simmons said Wednesday. "I can definitely see the jump I've made from Day 1 - just learning, talking, and the communication of the game."

Bucks East?

Jerryd Bayless said there are a lot of similarities between this Sixers squad and the Milwaukee team he played on two seasons ago. That youthful Bucks team earned the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

"That's not a promise or anything," the point guard said of the Sixers' sneaking into the playoffs. "But at the same time, if we follow the path and we play defense on a nightly basis, you never know what can happen."

Sidelined Sixers

Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid, and Gerald Henderson were held out of the 76ers' morning scrimmage because of "load management." Bayless also did not participate because of a sore left wrist.

Okafor is coming off surgery on March 22 to repair the meniscus in his right knee. He missed the end-of-practice scrimmage for the second straight day after feeling soreness in that knee on Wednesday. Embiid missed the last two seasons following surgeries on his right foot.

Henderson sat out the scrimmage so he could rest.