76ers

Embiid to Noel: 'I'm going to cook your a--'

Embiid to Noel: 'I'm going to cook your a--'

DALLAS -- Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel are best friends. The kind of friends who are so close they can say things like this to one another without causing a stir:

“I’m going to cook your ass,” Embiid informed Noel. 

Embiid and Noel will be opponents for the first time Saturday night when the Mavericks host the Sixers. They were teammates for over two years before Noel was traded to Dallas in February. Embiid relished in the highly competitive practices against Noel. He credits battling against Noel and Jahlil Okafor early in his career to making him better. 

So when Embiid told Noel of his intentions for the game, Noel laughed and told Embiid, “We’ll see.” 

“He knows what happened in those practices,” Embiid said at shootaround Saturday morning. 

To get a reference point of how the two bigs are faring this season, Embiid enters the game averaging 20.0 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. Noel is posting 8.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.0 while splitting his six games between the starting lineup and bench. 

Embiid expects he will be double-teamed by the Mavericks and see a zone defense as well. If he eyes an opportunity to take on Noel at the basket, he’s got a plan in mind. 

“Any time I get the matchup to go one-on-one against him," Embiid said, "I’m going to try to dunk on him.” 

While Noel’s time with the Sixers was marked by his vocal displeasure with his role, he still remains tied to his first home. Embiid and Noel spent time together this offseason when Noel made trips back to Philadelphia. Noel also had dinner with his former teammates, including Ben Simmons and Richaun Holmes, the night before the game in Dallas.

“I love the city, love the fans and the people there,” Noel said. “Regardless of what I went through, it was a great experience. I grew as a man, a young man and a person.” 

Embiid and Noel will add an extra punch to Saturday’s game. Expect them to push one another to play at a high level with animated banter along the way. As for all that trash talking, it will be in good nature. 

“It doesn’t matter if he got traded,” Embiid said. “We’re still great friends.” 

Injury notes
JJ Redick is questionable because of lower back tightness. If he cannot play, Brett Brown will look to Justin Anderson, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Nik Stauskas to fill the void. T.J. McConnell and Simmons could receive additional minutes as well … Okafor remained at the team hotel during shootaround with an upper respiratory infection. He is officially out for the game. 

Ben Simmons dominating NBA playoffs as a rookie

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USA Today Images

Ben Simmons dominating NBA playoffs as a rookie

July 20, 1996.

Watching Ben Simmons play in the postseason, it’s easy to forget the Sixers rookie point guard is only 21. 

Simmons has been handling the pressures of his first playoff run with a maturity beyond his years and a basketball savvy that’s putting his achievements among elite players that came before him in the NBA. 

The postseason stage did not prove to be too big for Simmons in the first round, and he’s just getting started. 

“On to the next series,” Simmons said after the Sixers eliminated the Heat in Game 5. “We've got to focus on that. For me, this is my first season playing so this is what I'm going to expect now.”

Simmons averaged 18.2 points, 10.6 rebounds, 9.0 assists, 2.4 steals and 4.0 turnovers in 37.4 minutes during the first round. He recorded a triple-double in Game 4, the first Sixer to do so since Charles Barkley on April 27, 1991. Simmons also became the youngest player with a playoff triple-double since LeBron James on May 13, 2006.

Simmons is tied with James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook and LaMarcus Aldridge for the most double-doubles so far in the postseason. The last rookie to reach at least four double-doubles in his first five playoff games was Tim Duncan during the 1997-98 season.

“He didn’t have a bad game,” Dwyane Wade said after the Heat’s Game 5 loss. “You knew from the first time you saw him in summer league that he was special … I think the thing that was impressive about him all year is he just continued to get better and better and better. To the point where it’s like that guy in Cleveland — doesn’t have bad games. The imprint that [Simmons and James] put on the game is more than just scoring. [Simmons] does so much.”

Simmons’ poise and composure was tested by the Heat in the opening round. He was on the receiving end of tough plays during an extremely physical series. 

During the Sixers’ closeout game, Simmons was taken out at the legs by Josh Richardson and slammed into the ground with a bruise on his back to show for it. Later in the game, Goran Dragic was whistled for a technical after swiping Simmons in the head. Unnerved, Simmons took both incidents in stride.

“First play when I fell, he (Richardson) didn’t see me. It was just a hard fall,” Simmons said. “The second one, I think I just got under Dragic’s skin. But I’ve got nothing but respect for those guys. They play hard every night and they made us a better team.” 

Simmons has escalated his game all season through adversity and challenges, from stepping up in the absence of an injured Joel Embiid to being looked over for the All-Star team to shaking off criticism of his eligibility for Rookie of the Year. He remains unfazed amid it all, keeping a calm expression on his face that translates into a collected style of play. 

“It’s just the way I am,” Simmons said. “Nothing really bothers me on the floor. I might get frustrated but I never let it take over what I’m doing on the floor.”

Spoken like a player who's been to the postseason before; only he hasn't. 

Dwyane Wade praises Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Sixers

Dwyane Wade praises Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Sixers

This wasn’t Dwyane Wade’s first rodeo. 

The three-time NBA champ and former Finals MVP has played with and against the best players of the last 15 years. After his Heat team suffered a Game 5 and 4-1 series loss Tuesday night, the future Hall of Famer heaped praise upon the Sixers’ young stars, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.

“They’re the future of the NBA,” Wade said. “The NBA is in great hands with Ben and Joel and those kind of individuals.”

The young Sixers delivered at home, closing out their series in five games with a 104-91 win. Simmons (14 points, 10 rebounds, six assists) and Embiid (19 points, 12 boards) shined once again. 

As the Sixers look forward to an Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup with either Boston or Milwaukee, the question is simple: how far can these kids go?

“When you’ve got great individual players — no matter how old they are — they can do some special things,” Wade said. “These guys believe it. You can see it in their eyes. Embiid is not just talk. He’s not just a Twitter rat kind of person. He’s a player. He’s very good. 

“I believe in those guys. I believe they’re going to be special for awhile, but also, if they believe they can do it now, they can.”

Wade won two NBA titles with the greatest player on the planet, LeBron James. While the Sixers focus on now, there’s been a lot of talk from fans and media of King James' jumping ship and coming to Philly.

According to Wade, the Fresh Prince may be the only royalty the Sixers need.

“I don’t think he had a bad game,” Wade said of Simmons. “A young player like that, in his first playoffs — he didn’t have a bad game. You knew from the first time you saw him in summer league that he was special. If you know basketball, if you know talent, you know someone is special. 

“I think the thing that was impressive about him all year, is he just continued to get better and better and better. To the point where it’s like that guy in Cleveland — doesn’t have bad games. The imprint that [Simmons and James] put on the game is more than just scoring. [Simmons] does so much. The sky is the limit obviously for him and this organization. “

The Sixers have become a trendy pick to win the East and advance to the finals. Sure, they have youth, but Wade believes the organization has done an excellent job adding veteran players like JJ Redick, Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova to complement Simmons and Embiid.

Wade experienced success at a young age and sees no reason this Sixers team can’t do the same.

“It’s definitely possible,” Wade said of the Sixers going on a deep playoff run. “Sometimes an organization, they get lucky and draft someone special. And these guys got to draft more than one person special and you were able to build around that. 

“That’s what these guys have the ability to do. I was lucky enough in my first year to go to the second round. And then the next year go to the Eastern Conference Finals and the next year win it all. It definitely can happen right away.”