Joel Embiid

Marcus Smart Fined $50,000 For Shoving Joel Embiid

Celtics guard Marcus Smart has been fined $50,000 for forcefully shoving Joel Embiid in the team’s game against the Sixers on Wednesday, the NBA announced today.

The incident occurred at the 7:06 mark in the third quarter, with Smart colliding into a hard screen from Embiid and crashing to the floor. Smart retaliated by pushing Embiid onto the hardwood, receiving a Flagrant 2 foul which resulted in an ejection from the contest.

Smart’s fine was also based on his repeated acts of unsportsmanlike conduct during past games, the NBA said in its release. He was fined $25,000 for an altercation with Cavs guard J.R. Smith in October and $35,000 for charging at Hawks guard DeAndre’ Bembry in January.

Smart finished with three points and four assists in 19 minutes of action on Wednesday, with his early exit hurting Boston’s chances of pulling out the victory and clinching a playoff berth. Philadelphia ultimately came away with the victory, led by Joel Embiid’s 37 points and career-high 22 rebounds.

The Celtics have games lined up against the Hornets (31-39), Spurs (42-30), Cavaliers (19-53), Pacers (44-28) and Nets (37-36) to close out the rest of March.

Atlantic Notes: Brown, Embiid, Kurucs, Ntilikina

Higher expectations may put Sixers coach Brett Brown’s job in jeopardy if the team suffers an early playoff exit, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Brown has amassed a 168-308 record in his six years on Philadelphia’s bench, but much of that came as the franchise was trying to rebuild through the draft. With a pair of stars in place in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons and two more acquired in trade in Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, the pressure to win right away has become intense.

Brown refused to comment on the situation after Friday’s loss, which was the Sixers’ third in their last four games. However, the mini-slump is understandable, given the 76ers’ tough schedule and the absence of their top two centers, Embiid, who has tendinitis in his left knee, and Boban Marjanovic, who’s dealing with a right knee bone bruise and a mild sprain.

Still, Brown has to be feeling the heat, especially in light of a recent quote from co-managing partner Josh Harris, who indicated a first-round loss wouldn’t be acceptable. “We’re going to work hard to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Harris told ESPN. “We have enough talent on our roster that if we play the way we’re capable of playing, we can beat any team in the East.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • After missing eight games, Embiid is expected to return for this afternoon’s showdown with the Pacers, according to an ESPN report. Embiid, who hasn’t played since the All-Star break, approached the team about taking a few games off to make sure he’s rested and healthy for the playoffs.
  • Rodions Kurucs may have solved the Nets‘ search for a stretch four, suggests Brian Lewis of The New York Post. The rookie has started the past three games, helping Brooklyn to wins in all of them. He posted 16 points and six rebounds in Saturday’s victory at Atlanta. “I don’t know what neighborhood he grew up in in Latvia, but that’s a tough neighborhood. That’s a tough dude,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “He might not look the part, looks like a good-looking choirboy; but him and [John] Collins were going at it the whole game, and he doesn’t back down from anybody. That’s Rodi from Day 1: No fear.”
  • Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina was re-evaluated by the team’s medical staff yesterday, but it still isn’t clear when he might return from a groin injury, relays Peter Botte of The New York Post. Ntilikina, who has missed 18 straight games, said he hopes to receive clearance “to do more” this week.

Injury Updates: Zion, Anderson, Embiid, Kuzma

Duke star Zion Williamson appears unlikely to play in Saturday’s showdown vs. North Carolina, but fans hoping to watch Williamson during March Madness shouldn’t be worried. In fact, head coach Mike Krzyzewski believes Williamson could return before the NCAA Tournament, dismissing speculation that the forward might shut it down for the season after his recent knee injury.

“He’s getting more confidence, and we just have to get him in shape,” Krzyzewski said, per David M. Hale of ESPN.com. “I don’t think he’ll be ready for [UNC] … but I would be surprised if he wasn’t ready by the ACC tournament.”

As we wait to get another look at the player who will be selected first overall in 2019’s draft, here are a few more injury updates on guys who are already in the NBA:

  • Grizzlies forward Kyle Anderson will receive an anesthetic injection in the hopes of alleviating soreness in his right shoulder, the team announced in a press release. Anderson, who hasn’t played since January 30, will be re-evaluated in about two weeks.
  • Joel Embiid still isn’t quite ready to return to action for the Sixers. As Martin Frank of The Delaware News Journal relays, head coach Brett Brown is still hoping that Embiid will play this week, but the star center didn’t travel to Chicago for Wednesday’s game. “I believe there’s a chance that he may meet us in Houston (where the Sixers play on Friday),” Brown said of Embiid.
  • A precautionary MRI for Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma confirmed that he’s dealing with a minor ankle sprain, according to Mike Trudell of Lakers.com, who tweets that Kuzma could be sidelined for up to a week.

Sixers May Look To Add Backup Center

The Sixers are running out of healthy big men and if it appears that Boban Marjanovic won’t return soon, the team will likely explore options for adding a center to the roster, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

Joel Embiid came out of the All-Star break with knee soreness and was expected to miss about a week. Those three games have now turned into six, with Embiid sitting out against the Magic tonight.

“He just doesn’t feel like he’s ready to go,” coach Brett Brown said of Embiid. “He really does feel restricted with some of his movements, there’s a little bit of soreness, I think, still.”

Brown added that he doesn’t have a timeline on Marjanovic. Jonah Bolden and Amir Johnson are both nursing ailments and didn’t practice on Tuesday, leaving. Justin Patton, who came to Philadelphia in the Jimmy Butler deal, as the only fully healthy center on the team.

The Sixers don’t currently have an open roster spot, but could create an opening by waiving a player like free-agent-to-be Furkan Korkmaz, who is currently injured and didn’t have much of a role when he was healthy.

Joel Embiid Expects To Return Next Week

Sixers center Joel Embiid, who hasn’t played since the All-Star Game because of soreness in his left knee, told reporters before tonight’s game that he plans to be back next week, tweets Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

Embiid added that the pain in his knee had been intensifying before the break and he wanted to get it back in shape heading into the postseason. He said he approached team officials about taking a few games off (Twitter link).

“It’s all about long-term preservation and making sure I’m ready, not just for the playoffs, [but] also for the next 15 years,” Embiid said in a quote relayed by Kyle Neubeck of The Philly Voice. “Knowing the team and what we’ve been through, knowing me and knowing that I like to push on everything, I like to play through anything, we just felt like it was better to preserve.”

The Sixers have won three out of four games without Embiid and enter the night half a game out of third place in the East. Aggressive moves to add Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris have made Philadelphia one of the top contenders in the conference if everyone is healthy.

Embiid says the rest has been effective and his knee is feeling better, tweets Serena Winters of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I didn’t feel comfortable and coming from me, you know that if I don’t want to push through anything, it means that I really need it (rest),” Embiid said (Twitter link).

Bontemps also offered an update on rookie Zhaire Smith, who has been sidelined all season because of foot surgery and a food-related allergic reaction. Smith said he had to regain more than 40 pounds after his weight dropped to 164 (Twitter link).

Smith played his first game last night for the Sixers’ G League affiliate in Delaware, but isn’t expected to see any NBA action this season. He logged 15 minutes and posted two points, three rebounds and two assists.

Sixers’ Owner Talks Butler, Harris, Expectations

No NBA team has been more aggressive in acquiring immediate help since the 2018/19 season began than the Sixers, who traded for Jimmy Butler in November and Tobias Harris in February. In the wake of those deals, expectations are rising in Philadelphia — the club wants to make a deeper playoff run, and then will have to figure out if Butler and Harris can be re-signed in free agency.

Sixers controlling owner Josh Harris, in attendance at this week’s Sloan Conference in Boston, spoke to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan about those issues, offering some interesting insight. The 76ers are currently projected to match up with the Celtics in the first round of the postseason, and Boston has given Philadelphia a ton of trouble in recent years, but Harris didn’t want to entertain the notion of a first-round exit, suggesting that would be a “very problematic” outcome.

Here’s more from Harris, via MacMullan, on that subject and a couple others:

On how Harris would view the season if the Sixers were to be knocked off in the first round of the playoffs:

“We’d be unhappy. I’d be unhappy. The city would be unhappy. We’re going to work hard to make sure that doesn’t happen. We have enough talent on our roster that if we play the way we’re capable of playing, we can beat any team in the East.

“… We want to make sure at a minimum to advance deeper in the playoffs than we did last year. We’ve brought a lot of talent here. They haven’t been together that long, but we’re hopeful we can position them for deep run.”

On the prospect of re-signing both Butler and Harris in free agency:

“We gave up a lot to get Tobias and Jimmy on our team. We think they’re exceptional talents. We’re going to try to keep them. We know we are going to have to pay these guys in an appropriate way. We get it. It’s expensive.

“… The reality is, people like Tobias and Jimmy, there just aren’t that many of them. It’s never perfect, but when make a trade for someone who is expiring, there’s risk involved, we’re hoping we can convince them this is a great place for them.”

On discussing the direction of the franchise with star center Joel Embiid:

“Joel respects our job. He’s our most important player. He’s clearly our future — they’re all an important part of the future — but Joel is exceptional. We generally talk to him about how we are oriented, and what type of players we might be bringing in. We get his advice. In terms of specific conversations, we give him a heads-up.

“At times, it’s not always appropriate because of the other parties involved. You don’t want to compromise who we are talking to or put [Embiid] in an awkward position. “But we’re certainly thinking all the time about how to complement his skill set, which is three-and-D wings, people who spread the court. He’s a dominant presence defensively and he’s dominant in the paint. We need to take the pressure off him so people don’t collapse on him.”

Latest Updates On Marjanovic, Embiid, Korkmaz

Boban Marjanovic fell to the floor with what appeared to be a serious knee injury during the Sixers‘ win over the Pelicans on Monday. However, testing today came back better than expected with the team announcing that Marjanovic suffered a bone bruise and a mild sprain on his right knee.

Brett Brown hopes that the 7’3″ big man won’t miss significant time, though the 76ers’ head coach won’t be relieved until Marjanovic goes closer to a return.

“You still don’t know,” Brown told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link). “The new information could reveal something, but [based on] the initial sort of examination there [was] a sigh of relief given what my gut feel was.”

Marjanovic, who was acquired along with Tobias Harris prior to the trade deadline, will be reevaluated about a week. He was playing a more critical role for the Sixers because of Joel Embiid‘s absence from the court. Embiid was experiencing knee soreness coming out of the All-Star break and the team is opting to be extra cautious with their franchise center.

The Cameroon native has missed all three games since the break and he’s not expected to play in the team’s clash against the Thunder on Thursday. Jonah Bolden started at the five on Monday and will likely continue in that role with both big men sidelined.

Justin Patton was acquired in the Jimmy Butler deal earlier this season and has shuffled back and forth between the NBA club and its G League affiliate in Delaware. Patton and Amir Johnson, who did not play on Monday, are candidates to see minutes while the frontcourt gets healthy

In the press release, the team also announced that Furkan Korkmaz underwent successful surgery on his right knee, repairing a torn meniscus. The swingman will be reevaluated in approximately four weeks.

Joel Embiid, Furkan Korkmaz Sidelined For Sixers

The Sixers formally issued a pair of injury updates today, and neither one is great news for the team.

According to the club, Joel Embiid is experiencing soreness in his left knee and will undergo physical therapy treatment. While an MRI revealed no structural damage, Embiid will be held out of action for a few games for load management purposes and is expected to be re-evaluated in about a week, per the 76ers.

If Embiid is able to return to action in a week, he’d miss games against the Heat, Trail Blazers, and Pelicans, and would be in line to get back on the court next Thursday for a nationally televised showdown in Oklahoma City.

Meanwhile, the Sixers will also be without another rotation player – albeit a less crucial one – for the foreseeable future, as Furkan Korkmaz has been diagnosed with a torn meniscus in his right knee. The Sixers are currently assessing treatment options, with surgery among the potential pathways under consideration. For now, Korkmaz has been ruled out definitely.

Jonah Bolden, Boban Marjanovic, and Amir Johnson are among the candidates to receive some extra playing time in Embiid’s absence, while Korkmaz’s injury may give the Sixers the opportunity to take a longer look at a couple of their newest additions, Jonathon Simmons and James Ennis.

Sixers Notes: Brand, Harris, Embiid, Milton

Since taking over as the Sixers‘ general manager during the 2018 offseason, first-time GM Elton Brand has taken a pair of huge swings, completing separate trades for Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. The team’s aggressive approach to collecting talent stands in stark contrast to the slow, deliberate “Process” of the last few years, but as Michael Lee of The Athletic writes, the 76ers believe the time is right to start going all-in in search of a title.

“I think our window is now,” principal owner Josh Harris said. “I hope that we’re a championship contending team. What we’ve said is that we want to advance further in the playoffs, for sure and we’re going to try our hardest to be a championship contending team this year. Obviously, that’s what everybody wants to do, but I think we’re positioned with enough talent to do that.”

While those blockbuster trade represented a new approach to roster-building for the Sixers, they didn’t necessarily come as a huge surprise, since Brand has talked throughout his tenure about the club’s window opening due to the rapid growth of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.

“Our opportunity is now,” Brand said, per Lee. “Who knows how long this window is going to be open?”

Here’s more on the Sixers:

  • Tobias Harris has fit in nicely with the Sixers through his first few games in Philadelphia, and spoke about his smooth transition, as Lee relays in the piece linked above: “I’m pretty smart. I pretty much knew a lot of what they ran before getting here. I just look forward to being a sponge, soak everything and get as much info as possible. It’s the same approach, but also, getting your mind right helping a team, being able to do something that they’ve been wanting to do for some time now. So it’s expectations, but you’ve got to keep working everyday and build towards that.”
  • After sharply criticizing the officiating in Tuesday’s game against Boston, Joel Embiid was hit with a $25K fine on Wednesday, the league announced (link via ESPN.com). Embiid concluded his post-game podium appearance on Tuesday night by declaring, “The referees f—ing suck,” an apparent reference to a play in the final minute when he was hit across the arm by Al Horford and no foul was called.
  • Rookie guard Shake Milton, who is on a two-way contract with the 76ers, underwent surgery this week to repair a fracture in his right hand, the club announced in a press release. Milton has only appeared in 13 games so far for Philadelphia this season, so his absence won’t impact the team’s rotation. He’ll be re-evaluated in about two or three weeks.

LeBron, Giannis Draft 2019 All-Star Teams

LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo drafted their teams for the 2019 All-Star Game on Thursday, officially finalizing the rosters for this year’s contest. James and Antetokounmpo were chosen as captains because they were the All-Star starter from each conference with the most fan votes.

Both James and Antetokounmpo first had to select from a pool of starters, then from a list of reserve players. The starters, which consisted of eight other players, were voted on by the fans, players and media this season. The reserve players were voted on by the NBA’s 30 head coaches.

James drafted Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard and James Harden as starters, choosing Durant as his first selection. His reserves were Anthony Davis, Klay Thompson, Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook, LaMarcus Aldridge, Karl-Anthony Towns, Bradley Beal and Dwyane Wade.

Antetokounmpo drafted Stephen Curry, Joel Embiid, Paul George and Kemba Walker as his starters, selecting Curry with his first pick. He drafted Khris Middleton, Nikola Jokic, Ben Simmons, Blake Griffin, D’Angelo Russell, Nikola Vucevic, Kyle Lowry and Dirk Nowitzki as his reserves.

James later traded Westbrook to Team Giannis in exchange for Simmons, making an effort to repair the relationship of Westbrook and Embiid.

The 68th NBA All-Star Game is set to commence on February 17 at Spectrum Center, featuring 26 of the best basketball players in the world.