Joel Embiid

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, Bolden, Tatum

While the team has not offered up an official date at which Joel Embiid will be cleared to play in back-to-backs, the Sixers center would like to do so by the end of the month, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes.

Embiid, who was voted in as an All-Star Game starter earlier today, has averaged 23.8 points and 10.9 rebounds per game for the Sixers this season, but has only played in 31 of the team’s 40 contests.

Through the first three months of the regular season, the Sixers have played five sets of back-to-backs and in each game, Embiid has missed at least one match.

I just need not to take days off,” Embiid said. “It’s not on me. It’s on the [Sixers’] medical staff. But hopefully, back-to-backs by the end of this month, I will be allowed to play.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Celtics appear to have landed a gem in rookie Jayson Tatum. Chris Forsberg of ESPN recently profiled the 19-year-old forward, painting a picture of how Tatum’s confidence and poise have served him just as well as his length and athleticism have so far in his young career.
  • A feature by The Athletic’s Rich Hoffman profiles Sixers‘ draft-and-stash prospect Jonah Bolden. The 36th pick in the 2017 draft was named the Adriatic League’s Top Prospect, an award that Dario Saric and Nikola Jokic also earned during their stints there.
  • Despite a breakout year with the Nets, Joe Harris hasn’t concerned himself with the fact that he’ll be a free agent in the summer. “I love playing for [head coach Kenny Atkinson]”, Harris told Sam Blum of The Daily Progress. “I love the teammates that we have and everybody else that’s in the organization. We have a lot of great people, top to bottom. I really don’t think about that stuff a whole lot. I focus on trying to get better here collectively and individually and just enjoying it while I can.

Sixers Notes: Embiid, Fultz, Colangelo, Simmons

Sixers center Joel Embiid may have interest in playing for the French national team, according to Orazio Cauchi 0f Sportando. During this week’s trip to London, the Cameroon native indicated he might be open to the possibility. Patrick Beesley, the head of French federation, will come to the United States next month to meet with Sixers forward Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and plans to address the idea with Embiid.

“Playing with France? You never know,” Embiid said. “Of course I’m not from France, if I ever play intertionally there’s Cameroon, but France could be a good opportunity. I have many relatives and friends in France.”

There’s more this morning out of Philadelphia:

  • Rookie guard Markelle Fultz has gotten past his physical ailments, but his shooting form still appears to be broken, writes Dennis Chambers of Basketball Insiders. The muscular imbalance in Fultz’s shoulder has been corrected and he has been cleared for five-on-five practices, but the problems with his shot haven’t gone away. Even so, Sixers coach Brett Brown can’t wait to get the first overall pick back on the court. “I’m excited,” Brown said. “Because he completely connects the dots to what we don’t have. Anybody that can create their own shot, anybody that can create something for somebody else, is of extreme value to the collection of what we have, and that is his skill set. And what we can get out of him, how is he going to be integrated into the team when he gets back, that’s yet obviously to be seen, but I remain highly positive and highly optimistic.”
  • President of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo believes the Sixers are still a playoff team, but admits inconsistent play has been a problem, relays Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Colangelo is counting on a boost from the return of Fultz and the possibility of using Embiid in back-to-back games, which was originally targeted for January or February. Colangelo said a trade is possible before next month’s deadline, but he won’t be disappointed if one doesn’t materialize. “We’re very consistent with our patient approach to developing the core players that we have,” he added, “and putting them in the best possible environment to succeed.”
  • Ben Simmons is an exceptional talent, but he still has to learn how to succeed without Embiid on the court, writes Rob Mahoney of Sports Illustrated. Opponents aren’t afraid to double team Simmons without the threat of Embiid, and lineups with Simmons alone lose about nine points per 100 possessions.

Injury Notes: Sixers, Harden, Kings, Okafor

Joel Embiid is considered doubtful for Wednesday’s game, and Markelle Fultz isn’t quite ready to get back on the court yet, but the Sixers got some positive news on both players this week. As Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia details, there was some concern on Sunday night that Embiid had suffered a broken right hand, but x-rays were negative and he believes he’s dealing instead with a sprain.

Meanwhile, Fultz hasn’t played since October, but he appears to be inching toward a return. The club announced today that 2017’s first overall pick has been cleared to “begin the final stage of his return-to-play program.” The press release was light on specifics, but barring setbacks, it sounds like it shouldn’t be much longer before we see Fultz back in the Sixers’ lineup.

Here are a few more injury notes and updates from around the NBA:

  • We know James Harden will be out for at least two weeks with a hamstring strain, but his exact recovery timetable remains unclear. Speaking today to reporters, including Hunter Atkins of The Houston Chronicle (Twitter link), Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni suggested that Harden could miss up to four weeks. In an Insider-only piece for ESPN, Kevin Pelton examines how Harden’s absence will affect the Rockets, the NBA, and the star guard’s MVP chances.
  • As one Kings guard gets healthy, another one goes on the shelf. According to a press release from the club, De’Aaron Fox will return on Tuesday after a two-week absence, but Frank Mason will miss at least the next week with a heel contusion.
  • Third-year center Jahlil Okafor is expected to make his home debut for the Nets on Wednesday, as head coach Kenny Atkinson confirmed to reporters on Monday (link via Alex Labidou of NBA.com). Okafor, acquired by Brooklyn nearly a month ago, wasn’t initially ready for regular minutes after having barely played for Philadelphia this season. However, the Nets are ready to get him back on the court and to start increasing his workload, says Brian Lewis of The New York Post.
  • After missing seven games due to a groin injury, Pistons guard Avery Bradley is set to return to action on Wednesday, writes Ansar Khan of MLive.com. “It was lingering over a few weeks, but now I feel better, I feel like I can go out there and give my all,” Bradley said.

Latest On Joel Embiid

DECEMBER 21, 5:42pm: Embiid will not play tonight, Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia tweets. The big man went through warmups, however.

DECEMBER 21, 11:18am: Embiid has been upgraded to questionable for Thursday night’s game against the Raptors, tweets Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia. While that doesn’t mean he’ll play tonight, it’s a sign that Embiid is nearing a return, perhaps even before Monday’s Christmas Day game.

DECEMBER 20, 6:20pm: Injuries continue to plague Joel Embiid, with a back issue the latest ailment to keep him off the court. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com reports that big man will likely miss the next two games, though he’s expected to return to action against the Knicks on Monday.

The Sixers looked like a playoff team earlier this season, something fueled in part by Embiid’s success. The Cameroon native has missed seven games this season, including that last two, and Philadelphia has lost six of those contests.

Embiid, who is averaging 24.1 points, 11.0 rebounds and nearly two blocks per game this season, signed a massive five-year, $146.5MM extension back in October. The deal included unique clauses which protect the Sixers, allowing them to waive Embiid without paying him his full guaranteed salary if he misses 25 or more regular season games or fails to play at least 1,650 minutes in a season as a result of specifically named injuries. Those clauses do not kick in until next season, though it’s worth noting that the named injuries include Embiid’s back.

It’s extremely unlikely that Philadelphia waives Embiid unless he suffers a catastrophic, career-altering injury. The center simply has too much talent to let go of if the team feels he can still play. However, the nature of back injuries, coupled with Embiid’s contract language, makes this a situation worth monitoring.

Atlantic Notes: Knicks, Celtics, Embiid

Two months into the 2017/18 NBA season, the Knicks are one of the most impressive turnaround stories. One of the major reasons why is that the club is learning to trust one another, Fred Kerber of the New York Post writes.

Consider Doug McDermott, a fourth-year forward who didn’t make a lasting impression during his first two stints in the NBA. This year the Creighton product is shooting threes at a .415 clip and commanding the respect of his new teammates.

It means a lot. It feels good,” McDermott said. “Everyone feels like we all trust each other now. We’re almost 30 games into the season. We’re clicking. We have a good vibe going. We’ve just to continue to do it.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Celtics‘ second unit has made a name for itself because of its defense but sooner or later they’re going to have to start improving on the offensive end, A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston writes. Currently, he says, the bench lacks consistent shot-makers.
  • The Sixers seem to be well ahead of schedule in their infamous rebuild and that can be attributed to a number of things, namely the emergence of Joel Embiid as a legitimate – and healthy – star, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes.
  • The Knicks and Nets, with rosters jam-packed with promising young players, have set about rebuilding the right way, no small feat in the superteam era, a Nets Daily report opines.

Eastern Rumors: Embiid, Stauskas, Tatum, Bulls

Sixers center Joel Embiid feels personal responsibility that former executive Sam Hinkie lost his job, as he expressed to NBA.com’s David Aldridge during a wide-ranging interview. Embiid believes Hinkie would still be running the Sixers if not for the foot injuries that kept Embiid out of action for two seasons after Hinkie drafted him. “He made sure he put everything in place so I could get healthy. And I got healthy and I got back on the court,” Embiid said. “And I feel like he basically kind of lost his job because of me, because I missed two years. So I feel like I owe him a lot.”

In other news around the Eastern Conference:

  • Shooting guard Nik Stauskas, who was included in the deal that sent Jahlil Okafor to the Nets, is eager for a fresh start with Brooklyn, Nets website writer Tom Dowd relays. Stauskas appeared in 80 games, including 27 starts, with the Sixers last season but only saw action in six games this season after the off-season signing of J.J. Redick. “I’m just happy with the new change of scenery,” Stauskas said. “I feel like I get a chance to press the reset button.”
  • Pistons coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy revealed that he rated Celtics forward Jayson Tatum as the top player in the draft but Van Gundy is still surprised by the rookie’s 3-point shooting. Tatum, who played one season at Duke, led the league coming into Monday’s action with his 52.3% success rate from long range. “I thought he was the best prospect in the draft,” Van Gundy said Sunday in his pregame press conference. “He’s got all the tools. Anbody who says they’re not surprised by (his) three-point shooting, based on what he did in college, is lying. If there’s somebody who says I knew he’d knock down 50 percent of his threes even though he made 32 percent of them from the college line, they’re lying.”
  • Center Robin Lopez, power forward Nikola Mirotic and shooting guard Justin Holiday are three Bulls players that Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times views as trade bait. All three are rotation players whose contracts expire after next season, though there’s a team option on the final year of Mirotic’s deal, worth $12.5MM.

Sixers Notes: Embiid, Booker, Fultz, Brown

Although the NBA adopted new restrictions about teams resting star players, the Sixers still have incredible freedom in deciding when to play Joel Embiid, notes Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. The star center sat out Saturday’s game in Cleveland and probably won’t play back-to-back nights all season. Philadelphia has a game tonight in New Orleans and elected to use Embiid then.

Under rules imposed this summer, teams can be fined if they rest healthy players in road games or nationally televised contests. However, Embiid’s physical history, which includes missing his first two seasons because of foot surgeries and appearing in just 31 games last year, allows the Sixers to utilize a “back-to-back medical restriction.”

“This is a collaborative thing,” explained Sixers coach Brett Brown. “Sometimes it’s tilted towards he wanted to play, and we wanted him to play in front of our home fans. Other times there are situations that we listen to but ultimately, sort of the holy grail of the decision rests on health. How do we feel we can manage is health the best? And often times that’s rest in between and in this case that sort of led the way and dictated the decision. It’s disappointing that Cleveland fans aren’t going to be able to see a very unique player.”

There’s more from Philadelphia:

  • Trevor Booker is excited about his new role after being acquired in Thursday’s trade with the Nets, relays Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The Sixers picked up Booker to strengthen their bench and serve as a mentor to their younger players. “Coming to a young, up-and-coming team, I think it’s a new opportunity for me,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it. And I’m just looking forward to playing with the fellas and coach Brown.” Booker is in the final year of his contract and will be an unrestricted free agent next summer.
  • The Sixers plan to re-evaluate rookie Markelle Fultz in three weeks after issuing a positive medical report Saturday, tweets Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia. Fultz no longer has soreness in his right shoulder, and doctors found that a scapular muscle imbalance has healed. Plans for the first overall pick include “increased strength and conditioning training and elevated on-court basketball activities.”
  • Brown used an NFL analogy to describe the education Fultz is getting while he recovers, relays Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Brown called it a “Jon Gruden quarterbacks school” as he tries to teach the rookie the finer points of NBA guard play. “It’s like, ‘What do you see? What do you think? Why do you think that?’ And you treat it like it’s a college classroom,” Brown said. “Then you get him on the court, and you do things that can improve his skill but not beat up on his shoulder.”

Atlantic Notes: Tatum, Embiid, Hardaway Jr.

The Celtics acquired one of the league’s top clutch performers in Kyrie Irving last summer but they also got their hands on another reliable late-game closer. Chris Forsberg of ESPN writes that, just one and a half months into his NBA career, Jayson Tatum is in good company among the NBA’s leaders in fourth-quarter production.

To be more specific, Tatum – the 19-year-old out of Duke – averages 4.4 fourth-quarter points this season, trailing only Irving’s 7.0. More impressively, however, Tatum sits ninth in the entire NBA for points in the last five minutes of a close game, posting the highest field-goal percentage of anybody else in the top 20.

He’s very comfortable. He’s not making a bigger deal than it is,” veteran teammate Al Horford said.”He’s just going out there and playing basketball. He has a lot of confidence. He’ll continue to get better, and he’s been getting better since the first game of the season. I’m looking forward to what’s ahead with him.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Philadelphia basketball scene icon Sonny Hill thinks that Sixers big man Joel Embiid could be the next Wilt Chamberlain, Keith Pompey of The Inquirer writes. “I said to him, you got a chance to be a young Wilt Chamberlain,” the 81-year-old Hill said. “I’ve never ever told that to anybody before. So what he’s doing right now, I kind of saw that before he even got healthy.” Hill is the founder of Philly’s Sonny Hill League and serves as an executive advisor with the team.
  • Veteran NBA journeyman (and current Suns forward) Jared Dudley, a Boston College alum, spoke highly of the Celtics‘ culture this weekend. “In this league, it’s tough to have an owner that gives the GM time,” he told Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald. “Once you have that — and you have that here — the next thing is the coach. And even when Brad Stevens came in the league — even when the Celtics weren’t good — his reputation was as a players’ coach, a friendly offense where everyone would be able to have the ball. That’s what you want, even if you’re a role player. I’m a role player, and I want to touch the ball to feel like I’m involved.
  • Count Tim Hardaway Jr. among the Knicks‘ growing list of inactive players. Howie Kussoy of the New York Post writes that the two-guard with a previously undisclosed leg injury joined Kristaps Porzingis on the sidelines on Sunday.

Embiid Bonus Could Affect Sixers’ Cap Space

Joel Embiid‘s strong start could lead to a bonus that would affect the Sixers’ ability to compete on the free agent market next summer, writes Bobby Marks of ESPN.

The second-year center signed a five-year extension over the summer that has a base value of $146MM, but could rise as high as $178MM if he reaches certain benchmarks. That includes a hefty bonus if he is named Most Valuable Player or earns first-team All-NBA honors this season. Embiid, who came into tonight averaging 22.9 points and 11.3 rebounds per game, is certainly a candidate to make the All-NBA team at center, especially with the injury to Rudy Gobert and the move of Anthony Davis to power forward.

The bonus would raise Embiid’s cap hit from $25.3MM to $30.3MM for 2018/19 and would cost Philadelphia $5MM in cap space for each subsequent year of the contract. The Sixers have nearly $32MM in projected cap room right now, not counting $1.6MM team options for T.J. McConnell and Richaun Holmes, so $5MM could affect their ability to offer a full max contract.

Emiid’s contract also contains a minutes clause that could boost his future earnings. He can make his contract fully guaranteed starting in 2020/21 or 2021/22 if he plays at least 1,650 minutes in three consecutive years or three out of four starting with this season. He has accumulated 532 minutes in 18 games, putting him on pace to reach that figure for this year.

Marks passes on a few other tidbits related to contract incentives:

  • The punch from Bobby Portis that hospitalized Nikola Mirotic has cost the Bulls forward $1MM in bonuses. Mirotic had four benchmarks valued at $250K each, and although each was unlikely, he needed to play 65 games to be eligible and he has already missed 20.
  • Nets guard Jeremy Lin, who played just one game this season before needing knee surgery, missed a chance to earn several bonuses worth $750K.
  • Nuggets forward Paul Millsap has a $500K incentive for making the All-Star team, which is impossible after wrist surgery that will keep him sidelined until after the February 18 game. Millsap had been an All-Star the past four seasons in the East. He also would receive a $150K bonus for playing 65 games and averaging seven rebounds per 36 minutes, but that’s out of reach because of the injury. He can still get $150K if the Nuggets make the playoffs, but for now his cap hit for next season will be cut from $29.7MM to $29.2MM.
  • Gobert took the biggest hit because of injury, which could cost him up to $2MM. The Jazz center, who is not expected back until the middle of the month because of a bone bruise in his right knee, had a pair of $250K incentives based on 67 games played, along with a $500K bonus for being named first team All-Defense and $1MM for making the All-Star game.
  • Hawks center Dewayne Dedmon needs his scoring and rebounding averages to total more than 16 to collect a $900K bonus. He was at 11.1 PPG and 7.8 RPG before his recent injury.
  • The Trail Blazers could see a smaller luxury tax bill if Maurice Harkless continues to struggle with his three-point shot. Currently shooting 24.3% from distance, Harkless needs to reach 35% at the end of the season to get a $500K bonus. If he falls short, Portland’s tax bill will dip from $4.3MM to $3.5MM.

Atlantic Notes: Noah, Dinwiddie, Embiid, Simmons

A back injury to Knicks center Enes Kanter forced the Turkish center to miss the team’s last three games. In his absence, Willy Hernangomez has received more playing time and in Monday’s loss, Joakim Noah played his first three minutes of the season. If Noah is active, the Knicks have four options at center since Kyle O’Quinn is still on the roster, and head coach Jeff Hornacek does not know how the team will manage their bigs, Alex Squadron of the New York Post relays.

Hornacek addressed sending Hernangomez to the G League so he can play consistent minutes, but downplayed that possibility.

“I don’t think we’ve discussed that so far,” Hornacek said. “As we move forward, if we’re back with Enes and Kyle, and maybe even Jo occasionally, we are going to need to figure that out. I don’t know if we can always dress four bigs.”

The Knicks are in an unenviable situation with four centers. Noah has two more expensive seasons on his contract after 2017/18, Kanter is the incumbent starter, O’Quinn has been a productive reserve, and Hernangomez is just 23 years old. Barring an injury – or stretching Noah – the Knicks will have to somehow find minutes at one position for four players the rest of the season.

Check out other news around the Atlantic Division:

  • Speaking of Noah, his three minutes on Monday included two points, one block, and one rebound. Jonathan Lehman of the New York Post writes that while the season debut was brief, Hornacek wanted to get energy from Noah in limited action. “Oh my god, it’s been so long,” Noah said. “Just to be on the court is special. … Playing in the Garden is something I’ll never take for granted.”
  • Spencer Dinwiddie has been productive for the Nets in the absence of Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell. In a recent podcast, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic and Dieter Kurtenbach of the San Jose Mercury-News discussed Dinwiddie’s trade value and Net Income at NetsDaily examined the possibility of the Nets trading their starting point guard.
  • Joel Embiids recovery from knee surgery has limited the Sixers big man in playing back-to-back games this season. As the start of December looms, head coach Brett Brown is unsure if Embiid can play a back-to-back starting with this week’s games on Wednesday and Thursday, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes.
  • Ben Simmons left the Sixers‘ loss versus the Cavaliers early on Monday after he sprained his right ankle — x-rays taken after the game were negative. Dave McMenamin of ESPN also detailed how Cavaliers — specifically forward Jae Crowder — shut down Simmons before his early exit.
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