Northwest Notes: Jokic, George, Ayton, Blazers, Gobert

Sixers star Joel Embiid racked up 41 points, 10 assists, and seven rebounds in a comeback victory over the Nuggets on Tuesday, but after the game he had nothing but praise for opposing center and fellow MVP Nikola Jokic, as Bennett Durando of The Denver Post writes.

Embiid joked that there’s a “war” on Twitter between Sixers and Nuggets fans about which player is better, but suggested that Jokic has earned that honor, at least for now, after leading Denver to a championship in 2023.

“He deserves (the title of best in the NBA),” Embiid said. “Until you knock him down, that’s the best in the league, and he’s the Finals MVP. So until someone else takes that away, then you can claim that.

“But then again,” Embiid continued, with a smile. “I also believe in myself. … I’ve just gotta get there.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Following a victory over Oklahoma City on Tuesday, Paul George said the 2019 trade that sent him from the Thunder to the Clippers for a package that included Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and several first-round picks has been a win for both sides — and acknowledged that it may have been a bigger win for OKC. “I just think both sides won. I did think it was quite a lot that the Clippers were willing to give up, but their commitment to me is my commitment to them,” George said (Twitter video link via Joey Linn of “… We knew Shai was gonna be really, really good, but he’s special. In a way, Oklahoma won that trade with picks and a future MVP. Great trade for both sides.”
  • After missing the Trail Blazers‘ past 11 games due to a knee issue, starting center Deandre Ayton was on track to return Wednesday vs. Brooklyn, but icy conditions in Portland prevented him from getting to the game, as Sean Highkin of Rose Garden Report tweets. Ayton will presumably be available on Friday vs. Indiana.
  • Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups tried a new starting lineup on Wednesday, with Jerami Grant, Anfernee Simons, Malcolm Brogdon, Duop Reath, and Jabari Walker making up the 19th starting five the team has used this season. After the game, Billups explained that he wanted to make a change due to the slow starts the Blazers had been having (Twitter link via Highkin). The original plan, Billups added, was to move Shaedon Sharpe into Scoot Henderson‘s starting spot, but Sharpe is sidelined with an abdominal injury.
  • While Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert has been lauded for a bounce-back season on defense, he lauded his teammates for making things easier on him at the end of the court, per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. “We got people that can guard. We got people that can move their feet and take the challenge,” Gobert said.
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