- This All-Star weekend has been just the latest chapter in Joel Embiid‘s improbable journey from third overall pick to oft-injured big man to NBA All-Star. Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post writes that Embiid contemplated retirement on several occasions as injuries mounted and doubt about his future grew. “At some points, I wanted to quit,” the Sixers‘ center said. “There were surgeries after surgeries, and I didn’t really believe in myself. I didn’t feel good about my body.” After a productive weekend in the Skills Challenge and All-Star game, Embiid’s once doubtful future is the most certain it has been.
- Sixers role players Justin Anderson and Furkan Korkmaz have each suffered injuries this season, and Derek Bodner of The Athletic has updates on both players. Anderson, who suffered a high ankle sprain in Monday’s win over New York, will be out at least 7 to 10 days before being reevaluated, and Korkmaz, who has been out since December with a Lisfranc injury, has been cleared for controlled basketball activities.
FEBRUARY 12, 4:28pm: The Sixers have officially signed Belinelli, the team announced in a press release.
FEBRUARY 10, 9:58pm: Belinelli seemed to confirm his intentions to go to Philadelphia by sending out a tweet that read, “TRUST THE PROCESS”.
Several teams were competing to attract the 31-year-old shooting guard, Woj adds, with Philadelphia promising significant playing time in a reserve role.
Belinelli agreed to a buyout with the Hawks on Friday, and should pass through the waiver wire by Monday. He will bolster the outside shooting for the Sixers, who have been looking for another 3-point threat.
Belinelli averaged 11.4 points in 52 games with the Hawks while shooting .372 from behind the arc. Atlanta pulled him from its lineup last week in anticipation of a trade before the deadline, but when nothing worked out he became a prime buyout candidate.
Marco Belinelli should provide a boost to the Sixers‘ offense when he signs with the team later this week, writes Sarah Todd of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Belinelli reached a buyout agreement with the Hawks and was officially waived Friday, allowing him to clear waivers today. He announced his intentions to join the Sixers on Saturday night, throwing in a “TRUST THE PROCESS” tweet for added emphasis.
- Fultz’s shooting problems appear to be more mental than physical, suggests Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The Sixers‘ top overall pick has missed 49 straight games with a “scapular muscle imbalance” in his right shoulder. However, the Sixers issued a statement on December 9 that the muscle imbalance had healed and Fultz no longer had pain in his shoulder. Another team statement in early January said he was cleared “to begin the final stage of his return-to-play program.” However, there has been no progress since then and no guarantee that Fultz will be back this season.
While the Sixers are in the running for a playoff berth this year after bottoming out for multiple seasons, the status of No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz continues to cast a dark cloud over a fairly sunny season in Philadelphia. Speaking to reporters on Friday morning, 76ers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo admitted that it’s possible Fultz won’t play again in 2017/18 (Twitter link via Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer).
As Derek Bodner of The Athletic tweets, Colangelo’s comments don’t necessarily mean that Fultz is likely to sit out the next two months. Still, the latest update doesn’t exactly sound promising.
“There’s always a chance that he’s going to be out there soon, and there’s a chance that he’s not going to play this year,” Colangelo said, per Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia (Twitter link). “I can’t answer that question because we don’t know the answer to that.”
The rookie point guard has had to completely rebuild the muscle memory in his shooting mechanics during his absence, according to Bodner. Addressing Fultz’s current shooting range, Colangelo said today that it’s “within the paint.” The Sixers president later cut his media session short, walking away without comment after being asked when he would issue the next update on Fultz’s status (Twitter links via Bodner).
Fultz, 19, appeared in just four games this season before being shut down by the 76ers due to a scapular muscle imbalance and soreness in his right shoulder. According to Bodner, the team still isn’t sure whether that injury was caused by Fultz changing his shot, or if he changed his shot as a result of the injury.
In the hour leading up to the deadline, we heard from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that the Grizzlies still hadn’t been able to secure a first-round pick in exchange for Evans, and were considering trying to re-sign him with their mid-level exception this summer if they couldn’t work out a deal.
So what did the offers for Evans look like? ESPN’s Zach Lowe and HoopsHype’s Alex Kennedy have some details….
- The Nuggets gave the Grizzlies their choice of two offers, according to Lowe — one offer included Emmanuel Mudiay and a second-round pick, while the other featured an expiring contract and multiple second-round picks. However, Memphis was seeking more, and didn’t want to take on any 2018/19 salary, says Lowe (Twitter link).
- The Wizards were in on Evans and likely would’ve parted with two second-round picks, but the Grizzlies once again made it clear they were looking for more, per Lowe (Twitter link).
- As we noted earlier this afternoon, Kennedy passed along details on the Celtics‘ offer for Evans, tweeting that Boston offered two second-round picks and young big man Guerschon Yabusele.
- Kennedy didn’t have specifics on the Sixers‘ offer for Evans, but said the Grizzlies asked for Dario Saric at one point during those talks (Twitter link). Philadelphia, understandably, wasn’t interested in surrendering the young forward for a rental.
The trade deadline has come and gone and while there’s always the faint possibility that news of other moves leaks out, two Atlantic Division teams seemingly receptive to making moves have opted against any shakeups.
Right up until the deadline, it appeared as though the Sixers were in the hunt for a pair of available veterans but didn’t come to terms on either.
Kennedy wrote that Boston and Memphis were in touch in the final minutes leading up to the deadline but a proposed package of two second-rounders and Guerschon Yabusele wasn’t enough to convince Memphis to pull the trigger.
In discussions with Philly previously, the Grizzlies asked for 23-year-old Dario Saric and were shot down.
Evans, of course, is in the midst of a stellar season in Memphis and had drawn considerable trade interest but his injury-riddled history and pending free agency may have limited his value.
The fact that Evans will remain with the Grizz for the duration of the season could imply that the team thinks they’ll be able to retain him as a free agent this summer, Chris Herrington of The Memphis Commercial Appeal says.
Moving away from Evans, another move that Philly looked interested in making but that didn’t eventually pan out was a deal for Hawks two-guard Marco Belinelli.
On Tuesday we wrote that the Hawks had already told the shooting guard that a trade was coming. Nothing, however, appears to have come to fruition. Michael Scotto of The Athletic mentioned that the Sixers were dangling a second-round pick.
The decision not to act at the deadline may well have been the right one for both franchises. Boston, of course, has help coming in the form of Greg Monroe. The free agent big man agreed to join the Celtics but waited until after the deadline in order to sign so that the franchise could retain its flexibility.
Philadelphia, within reach of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, didn’t get an extra shot of veteran support heading into the final stretch of the season but cashing in future assets for short-term gain would have served in stark contrast to the process that’s gotten them to the enviable position that they’re in today.
The bull market for free agents has ended and there will be few free-spending teams this summer, according to Brian Windhorst and Bobby Marks of ESPN. Many organizations are paying the price for the huge contracts that were handed out in 2016 as cap issues are forcing much of the league to take a more frugal approach.
This season, five teams are on pace to pay the luxury tax, which kicks in with a payroll topping $119MM. Twelve teams are projected to be in tax territory for 2018/19 and several more are in danger of getting there just by re-signing their own free agents. The authors list the Bucks as one team that will cross the line if they hold onto Jabari Parker.
“The luxury tax was not designed for this many teams to pay it,” a league executive told Windhorst and Marks. “Many of those owners probably didn’t think they’d be paying it. Quite a few of those teams are probably going to take steps to get out of the tax or limit new spending.”
When teams were handing out big contracts in the summer of 2016, they were expecting a salary cap in the range of $108MM for next season. That projection has been revised down to $101MM, leaving many in an unexpected dilemma. Only seven teams — the Lakers, Sixers, Bulls, Hawks, Mavericks, Suns and Nets — will have more than $10MM available to chase free agents, and virtually all of those teams are in rebuilding mode.
NBA agent Mark Bartelstein expects the situation to improve in 2019 and 2020 when those 2016 contracts start to expire.
There’s more NBA-related news this morning:
- Max and “supermax” deals are the reason more stars seem to be on the trade market, writes Kevin O’Connor of the Ringer. Clippers consultant Jerry West had been urging owner Steve Ballmer to trade Blake Griffin ever since Chris Paul let the team know he wouldn’t be re-signing. Ballmer was convinced after Griffin’s latest injury, recognizing the risks of paying him $171MM over five years, including nearly $39MM in the 2021/22 season when he will be 32. Teams are taking stock of their future and weighing whether maxing out a star is worth giving up financial flexibility. O’Connor predicts fewer mid-sized deals, like the approximately $17MM the Magic are giving to Bismack Biyombo and Evan Fournier, in favor of more non-taxpayer midlevel exceptions, which are valued at $8.4MM an will rise to about $10MM before the current CBA expires.
- Adreian Payne, who was waived by the Magic last month in the wake of the Michigan State scandal, had signed to play in Greece, relays the Associated Press. Payne had a two-way contract and played just four games for Orlando.
- Veteran center Kendrick Perkins has decided to leave the G League Canton Charge, tweets Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated. Several teams have contacted him about signing after the deadline, and he may consider playing in China or Japan next year, depending how the rest of this season turns out, adds Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated (Twitter link). Perkins officially “retired” from the G League so the Charge can receive compensation, according to 2 Ways & 10 Days.
- Sixers forward Trevor Booker has changed agents in advance of his upcoming free agency, tweets Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. Booker has signed with Jim Tanner’s Tandem Sports + Entertainment.
- Lavoy Allen, who played 61 games for the Pacers last season, has joined the Northern Arizona Suns of the G League, the team tweeted.
- The Grizzlies continue to seek a first-round pick for Tyreke Evans, but suitors like the Celtics, Nuggets, and Sixers have been hesitant to offer more than either a second-round pick or a young player, according to Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Teams seem to be hanging onto their first-rounders tighter than ever, per Woj.
- Sixers guard Markelle Fultz did a brief interview with TNT Tuesday night, prompting a round of post-game questions for coach Brett Brown about the rookie’s condition, relays Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “He doesn’t go through everything — there are some drills that I take him out of — but he does go through a lot,” Brown said. “He does go through a large majority of the practice. It isn’t 100 percent yet, but it a very large majority of our practices.” The top pick in the 2017 draft, Fultz has appeared in just four games.