McRae makes defense his specialty with Sixers

Posted: July 17, 2014

LAS VEGAS - Jordan McRae is a realist.

As a late second-round draft pick, the swingman knows that providing defense is the best way to earn a roster spot with the 76ers.

"So I'm just trying to do that to the best of my ability," said the 6-foot-6, 200-pounder, who was a prolific scorer at Tennessee.

McRae is actually providing more than stellar defense in the NBA Summer League.

He finished with 21 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists in Tuesday night's 97-88 loss to the Suns at Cox Pavilion. The 23-year-old left the game late in the fourth quarter with a sprained left ankle. It's unlikely that he'll play in Wednesday night's single-elimination matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Thomas & Mack Center.

He averaged a team-leading 19.7 points and had a total of six steals and three blocks in three games.

"That's what I want to see from him, specifically, instead of letting his game be dictated by how he's shooting the ball," said Sixers assistant coach Chad Iske, who is coaching their summer-league squad. "We want his defense to dictate his game. And how his shots go, that's just a bonus."

The Sixers are confident that his shooting will improve.

His best shooting performance came against the Suns, when he made 7 of 11 shots. McRae went 3 for 4 on three-pointers.

But he shot 42 percent from the field and has made 5 of 14 three-pointers overall in the summer league.

"I'm trying to get a lot of blocks and steals that lead to my offense," McRae said. "I haven't been shooting the ball well. I think that's part of me making the adjustment from college to the NBA. You've got to fire shots within the offense.

"In college, a lot of these guys, including myself, were the primary ball handler - just moving, moving, and moving [with the ball], trying to find a shot."

That was evident in the first two games. McRae dribbled too much at times when he would have been better-suited finding an open teammate.

But he didn't make a name for himself by passing at Tennessee. Slashing to the hoop, McRae was regarded as one of the NCAA's premier guards for the last two seasons. He was runner-up for the Southeastern Conference player of the year last season.

The Georgia native averaged 18.7 points and was named to the all-SEC team for the second straight time last season as a junior. He averaged 19.8 points during the Vols' run to the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16.

The Spurs selected him 58th overall and traded him to the Sixers on draft night. Once that happened, McRae realized that he had to adjust his game.

"I'm trying to get a roster spot," he said. "So I don't have any room to try to demand shots and stuff like that. I hope to find my way on the defensive side of the court.

"My niche is going to be on defense."

Game wrap-up. Adonis Thomas added 15 points for the Sixers (1-2). Teammates Nerlens Noel and Casper Ware rested. KJ McDaniels (sprained left ankle) also sat this one out.

T.J. Warren had 28 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Suns (2-1). Former Temple standout Dionte Christmas made 4 of 6 three-pointers and scored 15 points.


kpompey@phillynews.com

@PompeyOnSixers

www.inquirer.com/deepsixer

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