76ers

Joel Embiid 'a big fan' of Lakers' Lonzo Ball

Joel Embiid 'a big fan' of Lakers' Lonzo Ball

LOS ANGELES — Could the Sixers' first matchup against Lonzo Ball and Lakers on Wednesday be drama-free after Joel Embiid’s summer of banter with LaVar Ball?

Seems that way.

“I don’t know him personally but I don’t have anything against him,” Embiid said Tuesday of Lonzo Ball. “I said I love what he’s doing, especially with his own shoe.” 

Embiid’s request on draft night has not been forgotten. His tweet asking Ben Simmons to “please dunk on him so hard that his daddy runs on the court to save him” has been retweeted over 52,000 times since June 22. The back and forth between Embiid and Lonzo's father, LaVar, through various media platforms became a major offseason storyline. 

Simmons tweeted “crazy pills” after the senior Ball reacted to his son being drafted by the Lakers and vowed a (seemingly improbable) playoff appearance this season. 

LaVar Ball then took a jab at the Sixers’ record and Embiid’s lack of playing time on 97.5 The Fanatic by saying, “If you don't win and don't even make the playoffs and don't even stay on the court long enough, that's the best thing you can do is tweet.” 

There are two things close to Embiid — his minutes and his social media. 

“F--- LaVar Ball,” Embiid said in a Fourth of July video. He was fined by the NBA. 

But Lonzo Ball is his own player. He’s stayed out of the exchanges and earned the respect of Embiid through his early play. Even though Ball isn’t posting team-leading numbers, he is fulfilling his role as a floor leader. Ball is averaging 9.5 points (31.3 percent shooting from the field, 25.0 percent from three-point range), 7.2 assists and 6.6 rebounds in 33.1 minutes. 

“He’s a great point guard,” Embiid said. “He’s been struggling a little bit shooting the ball but he’s only played like 10, 15 games in the league. It’s all going to come together. But I’m a big fan. He’s a willing passer, especially as a point guard. Having that type of point guard that’s always willing to set guys up is always good.” 

Simmons could get a closer look at Ball in the backcourt. He said he hasn’t watched a lot of him early in the season but they both have strong court vision and are unselfish with the ball. 

“I know he can pass,” Simmons said. “He’s a pretty good player. He can play. He sees the game well, he reads it well, he’s a good player.”

So will this game end up being a quiet battle between two young teams or will commentary ensue?

Stay tuned. 

Sixers-Jazz observations: A rare sweep of Utah

Sixers-Jazz observations: A rare sweep of Utah

BOX SCORE

It wasn’t a high-scoring performance like Saturday’s game against the Warriors, but the Sixers got the job done with a 107-86 win on Monday over the Jazz.

The Sixers improved to 9-7 as they swept the season series and beat the Jazz at home for the first time since Nov. 16, 2012. 

• Let’s go to the end of the game and start with the push. 

With four minutes to go, Joel Embiid swatted Donovan Mitchell’s drive and then yelled to the rookie as the Utah guard was on the ground. Mitchell bounced up and shoved Embiid, who fell as they started to run back down the court. Was Embiid fazed? Not at all. He made the “T” motion from the floor as Mitchell was whistled for a tech. The crowd broke out in a “Trust the Process” chant and Embiid smiled and waved his arms. Yes, Embiid was in his element. 

• Embiid, who was a game-time decision because of left knee soreness, played 27 minutes. He posted 15 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Embiid started to hit his stride in the second quarter (seven points, four rebounds in 6:22). The big man, who wants to live at the foul line, didn’t attempt his first free throw until three minutes into the quarter.

• Ben Simmons broke out of a quiet first half in which he shot 2 for 9 from the field (five points). He scored 14 points in the third and finished with a career-high 27 (13 for 24 from the field, 1 for 4 from the line). Simmons had his 11th double-double with 10 rebounds. He had a season-low two dimes. The rookie point guard (four steals) joined Paul George, Steph Curry and Kent Bazemore as the only players with 30 steals so far this season. 

• JJ Redick scored all 20 of his points in the second half. After going 0 for 3 from the field through two quarters, he wrapped up the game by going 6 for 10 from the field (2 for 2 from three).

• The game was in the Sixers’ control the entire way. They held the Jazz to 15 points in the first quarter, the least amount of points scored by a Sixers’ opponent in any quarter this season. That’s what shooting 25 percent from the field will do. The Jazz have had trouble keeping up with the Sixers early on. They actually held the mark for fewest first-quarter points (21) by a Sixers’ opponent in their first matchup on Nov. 7. 

• The starters combined for just nine of the Sixers’ 25 first-quarter points. Robert Covington and Redick were scoreless while T.J. McConnell led all players after one frame with eight points. 

• Amir Johnson impressed with 8 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks.

• Two-way contract player Jacob Pullen made his NBA debut in the final minute of the game.

• Injury updates: The Sixers’ Justin Anderson (left leg), Markelle Fultz (right shoulder) and Nik Stauskas (right ankle) were sidelined. Dante Exum (left shoulder), Rudy Gobert (right leg) and Joe Johnson (right wrist) were out for the Jazz. 

• Eagles running back LeGarrette Blount and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery were in attendance. You can imagine what happened.

• The Sixers had a very special guest as the ceremonial bell ringer. Seventeen-year-old Mike Shelly won the Chick-fil-A half-court shot contest on Saturday with a jaw-dropping basket. When the Sixers later learned his story of battling Stage 4 Lymphoma and losing his brother in a motor vehicle accident, they decided to bring him back for a memorable night (see video). In addition to the pregame ceremony, Shelly also will fly with the Sixers to Atlanta in March and tour the Chick-fil-A facility. 

• The Sixers served up Four’N Twenty beef pies at halftime in honor of their first international partnership with the Australian company. My verdict: not bad. NBC Sports Philadelphia video producer Christina Betz has an in-depth review here

Joel Embiid questionable vs. Jazz with left knee soreness

Joel Embiid questionable vs. Jazz with left knee soreness

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Joel Embiid is questionable for the Sixers' Monday's matchup against the Jazz but the big man expects to play. 

Embiid will be a game-time decision because of left knee soreness. He is experiencing tightness and will go through pregame warmups to see how he reacts. After that, the call will up be up to him. 

"My whole body's a little bit sore, but I think I should be playing tonight," Embiid said. "If I feel good, I'll play. It's not on them (the Sixers). I think it's more on me."

Embiid took three-point shots and free throws after shootaround Monday. He did not attribute the discomfort to one play in particular. He took a tough spill Saturday against the Warriors but said that wasn't the specific cause.

"Maybe just a little bit because I landed on both of my knees," Embiid said. "It wasn't a little bit painful but it's nothing to be worried about." 

Embiid said his questionable status was not because of needing a day to rest. Embiid played 33 minutes Saturday. In fact, he said he was going to be "set free, basically" in terms of his minutes following that game. 

Embiid shot "a little bit" at Sunday's practice and did not go through shootaround Monday, something he has been doing to make keep his body ready for the game itself. 

"There's still a schedule in place," Embiid said. "I'm not cleared for back-to-backs yet. I expect at some point this season to be playing back-to-backs. You've just got to follow the plan and see how my body reacts. But it's been going well so far." 

Embiid has sat out twice this season, the last time being against the Jazz in Salt Lake City. The Sixers won that game, 104-97. 

The Sixers know what they have to do if Embiid cannot play. Dario Saric scored 25 points and JJ Redick added 20 in the Sixers' victory over the Jazz. Richaun Holmes started that night in place of Embiid, but he also is questionable because of gastroenteritis. Expect Amir Johnson, who did not play against the Warriors, to see more minutes if neither big can play. 

"In that case [without Embiid], we need to share the ball, we need to move a lot, we need to play a little bit faster," Saric said. "Try to attack Utah in the fast break because they are a really good defensive team of the half court." 

Jerryd Bayless is cleared to return after missing the last six games because of a left wrist injury. Justin Anderson (left leg) and Nik Stauskas (right ankle) are out.