Joel Embiid

Sixers Notes: Oubre, Maxey, Embiid, Nurse, Springer

Forward Kelly Oubre will be looking to raise his stock in 2023/24 after signing a one-year deal with the Sixers for the veteran’s minimum last month. Speaking to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium (Twitter video link), Oubre admitted free agency didn’t play out like he had hoped.

It was very disheartening,” he said. “… I guess my efforts felt as if they were a little unappreciated. … I had to take that on the chin.”

While Oubre has come off the bench thus far with Philadelphia, he’s still receiving plenty of playing time through three games (29.3 minutes). He’s averaging 19.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG and 2.0 SPG on .500/.313/.933 shooting in the early going. The 27-year-old wing will be an unrestricted free agent again in 2024.

Here’s more on the Sixers:

  • The “free-flowing” offense deployed by new head coach Nick Nurse has benefited multiple players on the roster, with Joel Embiid becoming more of a play-maker and Eastern Conference player of the week Tyrese Maxey looking like an All-Star in James Harden‘s absence, writes Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. If Harden does eventually play for Philadelphia this season, he’ll have to adapt to the new system instead of dominating the ball like he has become accustomed to, according to O’Connor. Maxey will hit restricted free agency next summer after the Sixers decided to preserve 2024 cap room by not giving the fourth-year guard a rookie scale extension.
  • Embiid’s early-season form suggests that he is embracing the changes Philadelphia made this offseason, according to Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic, who writes that the reigning MVP “seems unaffected” by the Harden situation. Embiid, who is averaging a career-best 7.0 assists per night through three games, finished with 35 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and six blocks in just 29 minutes in Sunday’s home-opening blowout win over Portland. “Good basketball to me means cutting, moving, guys getting off the ball, the ball is moving, the ball is not sticking, we’re playing together, we’re playing as a team,” he said.
  • Third-year guard Jaden Springer is finally receiving some playing time after appearing in just 18 NBA games for 95 total minutes over his first two regular seasons. Although Springer has made an impact with his shot blocking, he needs to cut down on fouls to earn more consistent minutes, observes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The 21-year-old had four fouls in under four minutes during the second quarter vs. Portland. “I’m trying to stay level-headed,” Springer said. “Every game is going to be different, not knowing when I’m going to get my call to play or not knowing what my minutes are going to be. But being ready for anything, whatever they throw at me.” The 76ers have until tomorrow to decide if they want to exercise their fourth-year option on Springer’s rookie scale contract.

And-Ones: Resting Stars, Flagg, Doncic, Rookie Scale Extensions

The NBA enacted a new player participation policy during the summer, but it hasn’t been effective in keeping stars on the court during the first week of the season, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Many of the league’s top players have already sat out games, either for rest purposes or minor injuries.

Vardon points to Sixers center Joel Embiid, who was nearly rested for the team’s home opener on Sunday. It was only the third game of the season, but Embiid played 35 minutes Saturday at Toronto, so coach Nick Nurse considered giving him the night off. Because it was a back-to-back situation, that wouldn’t have violated the new policy.

“There’s nothing injury-wise. We just played last night, traveled and all that stuff,” Nurse explained.

NBA executive vice president Joe Dumars has talked about wanting to re-establish the culture of an 82-game season, but Vardon notes that James HardenJimmy ButlerDevin Booker and Donovan Mitchell are among the players who have already missed games.

However, the policy is at least making teams think twice about keeping their best players out of action. Nurse admits it factored into his decision making when he opted to play Embiid on Sunday, and a source tells Vardon that the Heat checked with the league office before resting Butler in Saturday’s game.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Cooper Flagg, who is expected to be the top pick in the 2025 NBA draft, has announced that he will play college basketball at Duke, per Jeff Borzello of ESPN. The 16-year-old high school star revealed his choice in a commitment video, choosing the Blue Devils over Connecticut. Flagg opted to reclassify in August and will head to college next fall. “After I got on campus, I really started to envision myself in Durham,” Flagg said in his video. “All the love I felt made me really excited, seeing all the Crazies and the atmosphere in Cameron. I’m honored that I have the opportunity to join the Brotherhood.”
  • NBA executives chose Mavericks guard Luka Doncic as the league’s best player under 25 years old, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. Doncic narrowly edged Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama for the honor, with one executive calling him “an elite offense all by himself.” Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards, Grizzlies guard Ja Morant and Cavaliers big man Evan Mobley rounded out the top five.
  • Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report grades this year’s rookie scale extensions, which had to be finalized by last Monday, based on their benefit to both the players and their teams.

Atlantic Notes: Harden, Embiid, Randle, Bridges

It’s still uncertain when he’ll play, but James Harden went through a walkthrough and video session with the Sixers prior to their game against Portland on Sunday, Tim Bontemps of ESPN reports. Harden is also expected to take part in their practice on Tuesday. He’s ramping up toward game action.

“All signs are positive conditioning-wise and all those things,” head coach Nick Nurse said. “We just need to get him in some live action then hopefully we can do that Tuesday.”

After an off-day on Monday, Philadelphia is scheduled to practice Tuesday and Wednesday. It’s possible, if all goes well, that Harden could make his season debut against Toronto on Thursday.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Joel Embiid insists the Sixers aren’t focused on Harden’s situation, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I think everybody in this locker room has been focused on — we’re playing,” Embiid said. “We’ve got games every single day. That’s up to the guys upstairs and management to figure out what’s going to happen. We’ve got a pretty good team.”
  • Julius Randle is averaging just 13.7 points on 27.7% shooting during the first three Knicks games. He also committed eight of the Knicks’ 19 turnovers against the Pelicans on Saturday. Jalen Brunson says the team has to give him more help, Peter Botte of the New York Post writes. “He’s being aggressive. He’s attacking,” Brunson said. “As a group we need to be better. But we’ve got to help each other be better. It can’t just be like ‘I have to be better’ or ‘He has to be better.’ How can we collectively help each other? Julius is gonna command attention, so we need to help him out a little bit.”
  • Mikal Bridges hasn’t played poorly but he’s still trying to settle into the role of No. 1 option, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post. Bridges averaged 19 points on 41.4% shooting, 5.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists in the first two Nets games of the season. “Just missing shots, I’m missing layups, missing some of my teammates open. I’ve just got to be better,” he said.

Sixers Notes: Nurse, McDaniels, Maxey, Embiid, Melton

Making his return to Toronto tonight, Sixers coach Nick Nurse explained why he decided to leave after five years with the Raptors, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports. Nurse’s time with the organization included a championship in his first season, a Coach of the Year award and a 227-163 record. However, he hadn’t won a playoff series since 2020 and the team’s progress was stagnating.

“It felt like it was time from both sides,” Nurse told reporters before Saturday’s game. “It still feels that way to me, just looking around. I look at them play and they look like they’re playing great and I’m really enjoying coaching this team. So everybody is where they’re supposed to be.”

There were complaints in Toronto that Nurse was overplaying his starters and neglecting player development while pursuing every possible win, writes Michael Grange of Players were also unhappy with the level of communication, Grange adds, with some saying they learned about changes to their roles through the media instead of directly from Nurse.

Nurse was complimentary toward his former team at tonight’s press gathering, saying, “They look good to me. It’s a new coach, a new system and they’re going to need some growth time. But I think in general they seem like they’re playing really hard, they’re playing really well together, they seem really focused and they’re doing a lot of good things.”

There’s more on the Sixers:

  • Jalen McDaniels got a much better offer when he decided to leave the Sixers and sign with the Raptors this summer, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link). McDaniels landed a two-year, $9.2MM contract in Toronto, while Philadelphia was only offering a minimum-salary deal. “Yeah, I couldn’t do that, you know?” McDaniels said.
  • Tyrese Maxey and Joel Embiid have shown off a much crisper two-man game early in the season, observes Kyle Neubeck of PHLY Sports. With James Harden still out of action, the Maxey-Embiid connection has become the focus of Philadelphia’s offense, and Neubeck states that Maxey has become a noticeably better passer over the summer. Neubeck also wonders how much the Sixers’ front office really wants Harden to return, since it would bring a ball-dominant guard into an equation that’s working well without him.
  • P.J. Tucker and De’Anthony Melton appear “lost in the shuffle” in Nurse’s offense, Neubeck adds. While Tucker was expected to decline without Harden creating shots for him, Neubeck sees Melton’s slow start as a greater concern. He believes Melton has been miscast as a lead guard when Maxey is on the bench and suggests he would be more comfortable off the ball if the Sixers can sign a backup point guard.

Sixers Notes: Embiid, Maxey, Oubre, Mann

After earning Most Valuable Player honors in 2022/23, what sort of individual goals does Joel Embiid have for the ’23/24 season? According to Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer (subscription required), the Sixers‘ star center wants to make a case for Defensive Player of the Year and would like to become more of a play-maker in Nick Nurse‘s offense.

“Make those passes and making it easy for everyone else,” Embiid said. “I think, this whole year, that’s going to be my big focus — to just try to get as many assists and trying to get my teammates involved as much as possible. … I never liked just being an [isolation] player. I don’t think that’s the right way to play, and I don’t feel that’s the right way to win. I like this system.”

Embiid’s season got off to a slow start on Thursday in Milwaukee, recording more turnovers (seven) than assists (six) in a game the Sixers lost by a single point, prompting Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer to suggest that the big man looked like the player most affected by James Harden‘s absence.

However, there were some encouraging signs in the road loss, Pompey notes. Tyrese Maxey looked excellent as Philadelphia’s new starting point guard in Harden’s stead, racking up 31 points and eight assists, while minimum-salary free agent addition Kelly Oubre scored 27 points on 9-of-11 shooting (5-of-6 three-pointers).

Here’s more on the 76ers:

  • Following up on The Philadelphia Inquirer’s recent report about the Knicks‘ interest in Embiid, Ian Begley of hears from sources that the MVP’s desire to remain in Philadelphia hasn’t changed. As for the reported package that New York is willing to part with for Embiid, one source tells Begley that the Sixers and people close to Embiid “didn’t take it seriously.”
  • According to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, Sixers officials learned that the Clippers made Terance Mann available during their efforts to acquire Jrue Holiday from the Trail Blazers, which is one key reason why Philadelphia has insisted on having Mann be part of any package for Harden.
  • In another article for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Mizell takes a look at the work Maxey put in ahead of the season to prepare himself to take over the 76ers’ lead guard role, with Harden’s status up in the air. “My confidence is really high,” Maxey said. “I feel like, mentally, I prepared for whatever it is.”
  • Kyle Neubeck of All PHLY makes 10 Sixers-related predictions for the coming season, forecasting another 50-win year, a P.J. Tucker trade, and a 25+ point-per-game season for Maxey. Neubeck also predicts that Harden will end up playing no more than 10 more games for Philadelphia.

NBA Investigating James Harden’s Unavailability

The NBA is investigating the Sixers for guard James Harden‘s lack of availability for Thursday night’s game against the Bucks as it relates to the league’s new player participation policy, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). Harden returned to the 76ers on Wednesday after being away from the team for 10 days due to what he and the team described as a personal matter.

Wojnarowski adds in a follow-up tweet that because Philadelphia is playing a national television game against Milwaukee, the new player policy rules state the Sixers have to provide a valid reason for why Harden isn’t playing since he’s healthy and a recent All-Star (within the last three years).

We’re looking into the facts around James Harden’s availability tonight to determine whether an approved reason exists for his lack of participation,” said NBA spokesman Mike Bass.

As Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets, a star player is excused for national TV games due to injury, personal reasons and rare or unusual circumstances. While Harden isn’t necessarily hurt, Marks points out that he probably isn’t in game shape since he hasn’t been with the team in 10 days and the team likely feels the same way.

In a separate but related story, Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report details Harden’s return to Philadelphia on Wednesday, which he says came as a surprise to Sixers officials. According to Haynes, Harden was approached by team officials, who told him it would be “beneficial” for him to remain in Philadelphia to continue to get re-acclimated with the team rather than travel for Philadelphia’s two-game road stretch to begin the season.

Harden interpreted the officials’ words as a suggestion, not a demand, according to Haynes, who writes the star guard traveled to the airport following practice to board the team flight, but was stopped by a security official who told him he wasn’t permitted to join the team.

The 10-time All-Star departed the airport frustrated by the incident, leading him and his camp to perceive the incident as the Sixers trying to remove a potential distraction, while the club insists it’s prioritizing his ramp-up to play, Haynes writes.

Harden’s trade request hasn’t wavered, according to Haynes, though reports surfaced Wednesday that the Clippers were pausing their pursuits of the star guard. Philadelphia officials are holding out hope the situation will become manageable, but it’s important to keep an eye on how this situation affects both star center Joel Embiid and coach Nick Nurse, Haynes writes. For what it’s worth, Haynes notes rival teams are monitoring how much Embiid is willing to endure.

Even though teammates and coaches described Harden as handling the situation professionally before his absence, the saga is already creating a distraction on the outside looking in, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (subscriber link). Despite that, Nurse is attempting to keep his team focused, Pompey writes. The head coach said he hasn’t seen his team distracted by the situation, Tim Bontemps of ESPN tweets.

My concerns right now are really going to be focused on the game [Thursday] night,” Nurse said. “We put a lot into this, and we’re in a great space I think mentally and preparation-wise, all that stuff. That’s what I’ll continue to do.

Sixers Rumors: Embiid, Knicks, Harden, Morey, Smart

Teams around the NBA are paying close attention to how James Harden‘s stalemate with the Sixers gets resolved, since failing to extract a fair return for the former MVP could adversely affect the franchise’s relationship with its other former MVP, Joel Embiid. As Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer details (subscription required), the division-rival Knicks are one team keeping an eye on the situation in Philadelphia.

Sources tell Pompey that acquiring Embiid would be the top priority for Knicks president Leon Rose if the star center becomes available and that New York would be willing to offer three of Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, and Evan Fournier, along with two or three first-round picks.

Pompey himself acknowledges that the Sixers would likely get stronger offers than that for Embiid and wouldn’t want to trade him to another Atlantic team anyway. It’s a moot point for now, since there’s no indication Embiid will be available for trade anytime soon.

Still, Pompey stresses that the way the 76ers settle the Harden standoff could have a ripple effect on their superstar center, and the Knicks aren’t the only team monitoring the situation to see what happens. Meanwhile, sources tell Stefan Bondy of The New York Post that Embiid is one of at least three potential star trade targets the Knicks are surveilling, along with Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell and Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns.

Here’s more on the Sixers:

  • As of Monday afternoon, it remained unclear “when and if” Harden plans to return to Philadelphia, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on NBA Today (Twitter video link). “The organization has taken him at his word that he’s away on a personal matter, that there is something he has to attend to,” Wojnarowski said. “But how long will they do that is certainly a question.”
  • Wojnarowski suggests that if Harden still hasn’t reported back to the team by its regular season opener on Thursday, it’s possible the 76ers will seek ” more clarity and a timetable” for his return. They’d would be within their rights to fine him $390K for each missed game if they’re not satisfied with his answer, Woj adds.
  • Sixers head coach Nick Nurse said on Monday that he has been in touch with Harden during his absence, Pompey writes for The Philadelphia Inquirer. “I did reach out to him the other day … just to text like I would with anybody,” Nurse said. “See how he’s doing. See if he’s all right. He did text me back.” Nurse added that he didn’t get into the specifics of Harden’s potential return during his text exchange with the guard, since he “was just making sure he’s OK.”
  • Some people around the league who spoke to Steve Bulpett of don’t envy the spot the Sixers and Daryl Morey are in with Harden. One front office source speculated that Morey is “not going to survive this.” Another source who has been in contact with the Clippers and other teams told Bulpett, “Daryl’s trying to steal people in trades, and nobody’s going for it. First thing, Harden’s not the same guy he was three or four years ago, so his market’s not that great. And Morey’s trying to get so much, but he’s not going to get it.”
  • Javonte Smart, who had his Exhibit 10 contract converted to a two-way deal over the weekend, spoke to reporters on Monday about getting a regular season opportunity with the team (Twitter video link via Pompey). Smart indicated that if the Sixers want him to play primarily with the Delaware Blue Coats in the G League, he’ll view that as a chance to get regular playing time and to “get better.”

Sixers Notes: Morey, Harden, Maxey, Harris

The Sixers‘ standoff with James Harden is the latest challenge for president of basketball operations Daryl Morey as he faces a career-defining season, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Former head coach Doc Rivers took most of the heat for the team’s second-round exit in last season’s playoffs, but the blame for another disappointing finish will fall on Morey, Pompey adds. He made a coaching change this summer, bringing in Nick Nurse, who’s more aligned with Morey’s approach to the game. However, the roster remained largely the same, and the Sixers appeared to lose ground in the Eastern Conference arms race as the Bucks traded for Damian Lillard while the Celtics added Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday.

“I do believe what Milwaukee and Boston have done is very good,” Morey said, “but this is why we play the games. We’ve got the MVP of the league (Joel Embiid). We have an up-and-coming, star-level player in (Tyrese) Maxey. We’ve got great, great winning-type players on this roster.”

The Sixers’ fortunes will depend heavily on how Morey resolves the situation with Harden, who has been demanding a trade ever since he picked up his $35.6MM option in late June. Harden has indicated that he plans to make things uncomfortable in Philadelphia until he gets his way, and he has already publicly called Morey a liar and stated that he’ll never play for him again. Morey has mostly remained silent about their broken relationship.

“This year, regardless of what happens with James, we’re going to be a very (bleeping) good team,” Morey told Pompey. “If James is here, we’re going to be even better. If James isn’t here or we trade him for something, we’re going to be very good.”

There’s more from Philadelphia:

  • Harden is still away from the team and there’s no clarity on whether he will be available for Thursday’s season opener, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
  • Embiid believes Maxey is ready to take over the playmaking duties if Harden doesn’t show up, per Ky Carlin of Sixers Wire. “If he wants to lead the league in assists, he can, but that was great to see,” Embiid said after Maxey handed out 12 assists in Friday’s preseason finale. “I just wanted to get everybody going and just work on our two-man game, the timing of everything. I thought we did a pretty fine job. … The ball wasn’t sticking. It was just moving.”
  • Nurse may be the right coach to turn Tobias Harris into a star, just as he did with Pascal Siakam in Toronto, Pompey suggests in a separate story. Nurse wants Harris to have a larger role in the offense, and Harris is enjoying the changes that he’s brought. “Every day we’re in the lab, working on different looks, different reads, different options,” Harris said. “And I think this is probably the most excited I’ve been throughout my whole career of a team and a great situation. Every day that we come on that court, I’m generally being pushed and coached and excited for the opportunity.”

Atlantic Notes: Korkmaz, Robinson, Poeltl, Embiid

Sixers wing Furkan Korkmaz is making progress from a hamstring injury but he’s not quite ready to play. He participated in Sunday’s practice, Derek Bodner of PHLY Sports tweets, but is doubtful to suit up on Monday. He could return for for Friday’s preseason finale.

“I feel much better,” Korkmaz told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It’s really like day to day. I’m really close to [playing]. I will be happy to see myself on the court.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Mitchell Robinson’s name came up in the Knicks’ talks with the Trail Blazers regarding a potential Jrue Holiday deal before Portland shipped Holiday to Boston, Ian Begley of SNY reports. Robinson will likely draw interest from other suitors when discussing a major trade with the Knicks, Begley adds. Robinson has three years left on his contract but the cap hit declines on a yearly basis.
  • Center Jakob Poeltl missed the Raptors’ preason game on Sunday due to an illness, Michael Grange of tweets. Precious Achiuwa (groin) and Otto Porter Jr. (injury rehab) also sat out.
  • Reigning Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid will make his preseason debut on Monday against Brooklyn, Pompey tweets.

And-Ones: Maccabi Ra’anana, Real Madrid, Embiid, Trade Candidates

Israeli club Maccabi Ra’anana is taking part in three NBA preseason games this year and is getting reinforcements in former NBA players Quinndary Weatherspoon and Dwayne Bacon, according to Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report and NBA on TNT (Twitter link). Jonathan Givony of ESPN tweets that 18-year-old big man Nathan Missia-Dio is playing for the club as well.

Haynes writes that Bacon and Weatherspoon are joining Maccabi Ra’anana right away, playing on Thursday night against the Nets. Both players are hoping to sign with NBA teams at the conclusion of the preseason. Mamadi Diakite and Bruno Caboclo are among other former NBA players who are suiting up for Maccabi Ra’anana in the preseason.

Weatherspoon, 27, appeared in 42 NBA games from 2019-22 after being drafted with the No. 49 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. He played in two seasons with the Spurs, who drafted him, before playing with the Warriors in the 2021/22 season. The 6’3″ guard averaged 2.1 points in the NBA but was more productive in the G League, where he saw more playing time, averaging 25.3 points in 20 regular season appearances in his most recent season there.

Bacon, 28, made 207 NBA appearances (80 starts) in a productive span from 2017-21. He was selected with the 40th overall pick in the 2017 draft by the Hornets and holds career averages of 7.3 points and 2.6 rebounds in four seasons with Charlotte and Orlando.

As for Missia-Dio, the Belgian big is only taking part in the club’s games against the Cavaliers on October 16 and the Timberwolves on October 17. He’s a 6’9″ Overtime Elite product who is eligible for the 2024 NBA Draft and will return to OTE to finish out the rest of the season, according to Givony (Twitter link).

We have more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum said the league is open to playing games at Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, the home of Real Madrid’s soccer team, according to a report from ESPN. The stadium can hold up to 85,000 fans, which could be appealing to a league that has never played overseas in an outdoor soccer stadium. “I’ve had the opportunity to see the new Bernabéu, and it’s incredible what they’ve done there,” Tatum said. “I’ve seen the system with which they raise and lower the grass. It will be a world-class stadium. If the circumstances are right, we would love to play there.
  • Sixers center Joel Embiid was given an ultimatum by the French Federation to commit to France in the 2024 Olympics by October 10, but he ultimately ended up committing to play for Team USA. French Federation president Jean-Pierre Siutat said that he was disappointed by the process, according to “I met [Embiid] with Boris Diaw during a dinner in March 2022. We never went looking for him, we never asked,” Siutat said. “It was at his request that we took the steps and I am disappointed that we spent so much time and energy on a case that, ultimately, should never have been opened and it wasn’t created by any request of ours. This is a subject that is behind us now.
  • Even after the blockbuster Damian Lillard and Jrue Holiday deals, there could be several more trades that would have a profound impact on the direction of the 2023/24 season, The Ringer’s Seerat Sohi opines. Sohi writes about five potential trade candidates, including James Harden, Pascal Siakam, Karl-Anthony Towns, Buddy Hield and Malcolm Brogdon. I recommend checking the piece, because Sohi describes each situation in full, outlines potential routes forward, and considers what sort of trade package makes sense for each player.