Norvel Pelle debuted for the 76ers Friday night in Madison Square Garden. He was tested early and often by the Knicks players and came away with 4 blocked shots in just 13 minutes played. As with blocked shots, oftentimes in life, timing is everything. Pelle debuted as the backup center in the first night of a back-to-back, giving a chance for Brown to extend his roster and rest Al Horford.
“Its exciting, I’m still a little nervous,” said Pelle before Saturday’s game. “But really it’s on to the next one.” On full display was Pelle’s defining skillset, elite timing and verticality as a rim protector. The 6’10” center was All-League defense in the G-League for Delaware last season, and as Blue Coats head coach Connor Johnson said, “He’s the best rim protector in the G-League and can very clearly be one of the better rim protectors in the NBA.”
Pelle scored his 3 points from the line last night and did not get to show off his immense catch radius on lobs. “I know I can show and do more,” said Norvel pregame Saturday. And Norvel Pelle knows that he is an extension of the wider 76ers organization and has a responsibility to talk to players in Delaware. “I talk to them every day about it. Sometimes you can feel like you are stuck at a crossroads,” Pelle said about the life of a G-leaguer. “You never know when you will get that chance.”
Brett Brown talked prior to the game about using Delaware as an extension of the program to continue with the player development mindset first implemented starting in 2013. “With Marial or Shake or Norvel, those guys would have played (in Philadelphia) five years ago. And it is, I think a good snapshot of how the G League, in my opinion, should be used. The proximity that we have to Delaware and close to some of our coaching staff connect the dots quite well. And Norvel’s performance the other night, you know, when we needed somebody, I think he showed he’s an NBA player.”
Being able to rest Al Horford on a night where the team remained without O’Quinn is a luxury most NBA teams don’t have. The intimate ties between Delaware and Philadelphia have, in a very real sense, extended the available roster of players for Brett Brown to manage an 82 game regular season.
Marial Shayok, Shake Milton, Jonah Bolden, and Zhaire Smith, like Norvel Pelle, all have played significant time in Delaware this season. The difference between being in practice shape and game shape is huge. The Blue Coats being so close allows for quick readiness and playing time. Perhaps overlooked is the convenience of being able to send the Sixers’ player development staff, notably Dwayne Jones and Tyler Lashbrook, quickly south to work with players.
Sixers – Pacers
This deep bench came in handy last night, but could also be a big factor in tonight’s game. The Sixers face a Pacers team that traveled in from Indiana after playing the night before. Philadelphia, similarly, played Friday night in Madison Square Garden. The Pacers, however, played overtime versus Atlanta before boarding a flight to Philadelphia, and the Sixers just had to walk downstairs to board a 90 minute train home from New York’s Penn Station. They were able to sleep at home, which could be a huge differentiator.
TJ McConnell and Jakar Sampson return to Philadelphia to play tonight. McConnell is doing for Indiana what he did for the Sixers for four seasons. “I remember calling him after the draft,” said Brown on Friday, who talked about 2015 being “that stage of me building a culture in Philadelphia.” Brown noted, “I just loved how hard [TJ McConnell] played.” The Sixers will look to spoil the homecomings of two of these Process favorites.