Charles Bassey’s debut with the 76ers is on hold again. The second-round draft pick and former five-star recruit missed summer league because of a contract dispute, and now he’ll be unavailable for the preseason opener in Toronto on Monday while the team finalizes his visa.
The Nigeria-born Bassey is not expected to miss any additional time.
The preseason routine for NBA rookies is similar to the way it was before the pandemic, but Bassey’s experience is more like that of young players last season. Paul Reed, Tyrese Maxey, and Isaiah Joe can relate: They did not play summer league games as Sixers rookies, either.
“It’s tough,” Reed said. “You don’t get them reps and you kind of don’t have a feel for what’s going on out there.”
The Sixers’ frontcourt rotation is deep, with Joel Embiid and Andre Drummond at center, plus versatile forwards Tobias Harris, Reed, and Georges Niang. Reed said he has been spending time at both power forward and center.
That depth puts the 6-foot-10 Bassey in an ideal situation given his stalled start. Reed noted how getting G League minutes helped him and could do the same for Bassey.
Bassey was known as a big-time shot-blocker and rebounder in college at Western Kentucky. He played three collegiate seasons and averaged double-doubles in two of them.
He’s also been working on three-point shots after shooting 30.5% on 2.1 attempts per game in his final collegiate season. Bassey stayed after practice Sunday to take extra shots from beyond the three-point line, but ultimately it will be the game reps that benefit him most.
“I don’t know the impact, but it has to have one,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said of Bassey’s missing summer league and the preseason opener. “Not playing this [Toronto] game doesn’t matter one way or the other, to be honest. He’s had all the practices, so I don’t think that matters except for he needs to get into a game. He will. There’s nothing he can do about this [visa].”
Embiid taking almost all reps
Rivers has praised Embiid for being in great shape, but he gave more detail on Sunday afternoon. Rivers was speaking about Embiid’s growth as a leader and pointed to his conditioning and practice reps as examples.
“He’s missed very few reps in practice, if any,” Rivers said. “If you go 100% in practice, Joel has been in 98% of practice. That’s been good.”
The MVP runner-up played 51 games in each of the last two shortened NBA seasons. Harris has noticed Embiid’s leadership growth. Harris said that Embiid is talking “a lot more” and pulling guys to the side to offer tips and pointers.
“Just a guy who wants to win,” Harris said of Embiid. “That’s always been what he’s about. We’ve had numerous conversations about our focus this year and where we want to go.”