The 76ers have been going through individual workouts during the first week of training camp and nobody has earned a better education than center Tony Bradley.
After playing his first three NBA seasons in Utah, Bradley, was first traded to Detroit in November and five days later sent to the Sixers for Zhaire Smith.
Going from Utah to the Sixers has meant working out against All-Star centers at each stop. Rudy Gobert earned his first All-Star berth this past season for the Jazz while Joel Embiid has been an All-Star each of the last three seasons.
A first-round pick of the Los Angeles Lakers and traded on draft night to Utah in 2017, Bradley played one season as a reserve at North Carolina for that season’s NCAA champion. He says working out with Embiid has been an eye-opening experience. Bradley is listed at 6-foot-10 and 248 pounds, while Embiid is listed at 7-0 and 280.
“He’s just so big, so strong, man, it’s hard to guard [him] so I am making adjustments early to him to try to guard him and stay in front,” Bradley said on Saturday. “He is one of the best bigs in the league, so that’s one thing I’m just looking forward to is guarding him and being part of the team.”
Bradley, not one to say much on the court, also received a dose of Embiid trash talk the first day they were guarding each other.
“After we finished he said something like ‘This isn’t Rudy, this ain’t Rudy,’” Bradley said. “I just laughed because he’s different.”
Bradley will likely have to get used to hearing a lot of talking from Embiid during practice.
“He, for sure, talks a little bit, but I don’t really get into the talking; I am more of an action-type of person so it’s cool,” Bradley said “It works for some players talking to them getting in their head and things like that, but I try not to get caught up in that.”
Bradley was especially surprised by Embiid’s defense.
“A lot of things, especially defensively from him, I was not expecting,” Bradley said. “Me on offense getting up quick shots, quick floaters and stuff like that and he’s a lot quicker than I thought he was and he moves a lot faster than I thought he would move, so he’s a different type of player for sure.”
Bradley says he hasn’t worked out yet with veteran Dwight Howard, signed as a free agent from the Los Angeles Lakers to be Embiid’s backup.
Howard, though, has already begun mentoring Bradley.
“He was watching the individual workouts when me and Joel were playing against each other and he was giving me tips and things to improve defensively, different ways and schemes to guard him,” Bradley said.
The third center could have an important role on the Sixers, especially with Embiid’s well-documented injury history, which began by missing his first two NBA seasons due to foot injuries.
Over the last four years in which he has played, Embiid has missed 110 games.
Bradley, who turns 23 next month, spent the majority of his first two seasons in the G League, appearing in 12 NBA games. Last season, he appeared in 58 games for Utah, averaging 4.9 points and 4.6 rebounds in 11.4 minutes.
He said he is working on expanding his three-point game. In his NBA career, he has attempted just four threes, but last season he was 3-for-3.
For now, he’s just looking forward to his daily lessons from Embiid.
“He’s tough to guard, but every day I feel I am learning, getting better,” Bradley said. “It’s only going to make me better.”
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