Atlantic Notes: Embiid, Horford, Knicks, Raptors

Joel Embiid won’t be named MVP this season, but that might benefit the Sixers in the rest of the playoffs, writes Kyle Neubeck of After a Monday report stated that Nuggets center Nikola Jokic will win the trophy for the second straight season, teammate Georges Niang expects Embiid to be motivated to prove the voters wrong.

“I mean, obviously congratulations to the Joker. But obviously I think you know, Joel deserved it,” Niang said. “But like I’ve said before, now you guys get to see a pissed-off Joel. So, you’re welcome.”

Embiid, who finished second in last year’s MVP race, was a strong candidate again, leading the league in scoring at 30.6 PPG to go along with 11.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.5 blocks per night. Coach Doc Rivers was among Embiid’s most vocal supporters, but he admits there’s a strong field of candidates.

“Listen, his résumé was great, and not taking anything away from Jokic either because he’s a hell of a player,” Rivers said. “I do think this whole analytics-driven society, world is out of control at times. Some of the measures they use, like watch the damn game and decide is what I’ve always said. But at the end of the day, if Joel had won, which I thought he should have, there would have been criticism that way, if Giannis (Antetokounmpo) had won. Only one guy can win it, unfortunately.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Celtics big man Al Horford, who wanted to show after an unsuccessful stint in Philadelphia and a stopover in Oklahoma City that he could still play, certainly proved just that on Monday night when he put up 30 points (a personal playoff high) in a crucial victory over Milwaukee, as Andrew Lopez of ESPN and Jay King of The Athletic write. Horford’s big game came at just the right time for the Celtics, who were the only team last offseason that showed interest in trading for him without insisting that the Thunder give up an asset in a deal, says Chris Mannix of
  • In a discussion with colleague Fred Katz about the Knicks‘ offseason, John Hollinger of The Athletic says he’s not sure he trusts center Mitchell Robinson enough to invest heavily in him, and suggests it might be prudent for the team to delay its decision on RJ Barrett‘s future until 2023. Robinson will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, while Barrett will be extension-eligible.
  • It should be a fairly low-stakes summer for the Raptors, since all of their most important players are under contract, but there will still be some roster and contract decisions to make, Eric Koreen of The Athletic writes in his offseason primer.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

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