Mammoth payday next chapter in Joel Embiid's 'incredible story'

Mammoth payday next chapter in Joel Embiid's 'incredible story'

BOSTON — Joel Embiid hopes his five-year contract extension is the first step in playing his entire career on the Sixers.

He used words like “thrilled,” “happy” and “amazed” to describe the feeling of inking the $148 million long-term deal to be in Philadelphia.

“I want to be here my whole career,” Embiid said Tuesday.

The extension, finalized on Tuesday, has been in the works for months. The Sixers began discussions on July 1, the first day they could engage in such conversations. The team reached out to Embiid and his agent before they contacted JJ Redick, who they quickly inked in free agency.

“He’s one of these types that don’t come along often,” president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said. “We’re talking about both what he does on the court but what he also does off the court ... to have him locked up for the foreseeable future, it really feels good.”

The Sixers had until Oct. 16 to sign the extension or the big man would have become a restricted free agent after the season. It could have been a tricky cutoff given the fact Embiid has played in only 31 games over three seasons and not one since his knee surgery in March.

Colangelo said the Sixers had seen enough from Embiid to offer the extension a week before the deadline. They took into account all the work he has put in over his career, not just the small handful of games. With it being such a massive investment, the Sixers did include protections in the deal.

“I don’t want to really discuss the terms of the deal, but it’s safe to say there are protections in place in the event of significant injury,” Colangelo said. “I would term it shared risk. I talk about finding the common ground. We have found the common ground. I finally anticipate and hope that we’re paying the entirety of the contract.”

This contract is a whirlwind for Embiid considering he didn’t begin playing basketball until 2011. He battled through two years of serious injuries and thought about quitting after losing his brother in 2014. Now, he is one of the leaders of an NBA franchise at only 23 years old, on track to become an All-Star, and has the potential to be one of the most dominant big men in the game. Last season, he averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks as a rookie.

"I'm thrilled for him," Brett Brown said. "To endure what he has endured and to be rewarded as he just now has been rewarded, that's an incredible story.

"From the franchise standpoint, to feel like you have something that talented and really somebody that has only scratched the surface of what he can be, locked up with us for a while just validates the reason we put ourselves on this journey four years ago when you can now say here is an example of us reaping the benefit of that sort of strategy."

Embiid acknowledged the support of the Sixers, including Brown, Colangelo, former general manager Sam Hinkie and the ownership. He also gave a special thank you to the fans (see story).

“I’m in an amazing position,” Embiid said. “It just shows you how much the team trusts me. I can’t wait to go out there and play, especially for the city of Philadelphia.”

Embiid is probable to make his preseason debut on Wednesday when the Sixers face the Nets on Long Island.

Rockets extend streak as Butler exits with injury

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Rockets extend streak as Butler exits with injury

HOUSTON -- James Harden scored 31 points and the Houston Rockets won their 11th straight game with a 120-102 victory Friday night over the Minnesota Timberwolves, who lost All-Star Jimmy Butler to an apparent right knee injury.

Butler left the game late in the third quarter. After grabbing a rebound late in the third quarter, he pivoted and planted hard on his right foot before collapsing and grabbing his right knee. He was on the floor for at least three minutes before he was carried off the court by two teammates. He appeared to avoid putting weight on his right leg when heading to the locker room.

A Timberwolves official said during the fourth quarter that Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau would provide an update on Butler's injury following the game.

Clint Capela had 25 points and 11 rebounds for Houston, getting his 10th double-double over the past 13 games. Chris Paul added 14 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

The Rockets trailed for much of the first half before going ahead to maintain the NBA's best record.

Andrew Wiggins led Minnesota with 21 points, and Jeff Teague and Karl-Anthony Towns both had 18 points. Towns added 13 rebounds (see full recap).

Davis sensational in Pelicans’ OT victory over Heat
NEW ORLEANS -- Anthony Davis had 45 points, 17 rebounds, five blocked shots and five steals, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Miami Heat 124-123 in overtime Friday night for their fourth consecutive victory.

Goran Dragic scored 30 points and Dwyane Wade hit two runners to give the Heat the lead twice in the last 36 seconds of overtime, but Davis responded to the first with a layup as he was fouled, and Jrue Holiday answered the second with a runner in the lane with 7 seconds left.

Wade had one last shot for the win with Holiday defending him closely. It bounced off the rim to Josh Richardson, whose rushed put-back missed the basket as time expired in Miami's third straight loss.

Davis, who has scored no fewer than 38 points in a game during New Orleans' winning streak -- and 42 or more three times -- raised both arms in triumph as he looked up at the jubilant crowd, and then exchanged high fives with fans along the court.

Holiday finished with 29 points and nine assists, connecting with Davis on a couple of alley-oop dunks. Ian Clark scored a season-high 21 points and Nikola Mirotic capped his 10-point, nine-rebound performance with a crucial 3 in overtime.

Hassan Whiteside had 19 points and 16 rebounds before fouling out in overtime when he hacked Davis on a put-back attempt. Davis hit both free throws to tie it at 117, and then gave New Orleans a brief lead with his fifth alley-oop dunk of the game on a fast-break lob from Holiday with 1:10 to go. Wade had 16 points, while Richardson and Tyler Johnson each scored 15 points (see full recap).

Balanced Celtics rout Pistons
DETROIT -- Kyrie Irving scored 18 points and rookie Daniel Theis added a career-high 19 to lift the Boston Celtics to a 110-98 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night.

Jayson Tatum scored 11 of his 15 points in the first half for the Celtics, who went into the All-Star break on a three-game losing streak but returned with a solid win on the road. Boston took control by outscoring the Pistons 38-21 in the second quarter.

Blake Griffin scored 17 points for Detroit but shot just 5 of 19 from the field.

Theis eclipsed his previous career high of 12 points. He played an important role after Aron Baynes, the starting center for the Celtics, went to the locker room in the first half with left elbow soreness. Baynes ended up playing only 2:39, but Theis shot 8 of 10 from the field and had seven rebounds.

Ish Smith made his first eight shots and finished with 20 points for the Pistons. Detroit led 39-37 in the second quarter before a 21-5 run by Boston. The Celtics were ahead 61-49 at halftime.

The lead was only four late in the third before Boston scored seven straight points -- five by Irving. The Celtics broke the game open at the start of the fourth (see full recap).

NBA stars taking notice of Sixers' rise

NBA stars taking notice of Sixers' rise

The Sixers have been rising steadily in the standings and players around the league are taking notice. 

The young squad improved to 31-25 with a victory over the Bulls Thursday. They have won six straight and have not lost at the Wells Fargo Center in 2018. That totals up to the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, only two games behind the Wizards for the fourth spot and two games ahead of the Heat for the eighth. 

"I like them," Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler said at the All-Star break. "They've got a lot of great young talent. We do as well. But I think the way that they're going and how they play so hard and play so together, that's how you win basketball games. They're going to be really, really good for a long time."

The Sixers turned heads with a statement win over the Rockets in only their seventh game of the season. From there, they have defeated playoff teams, including a rare sweep of the Spurs, while struggling against sub.-500 opponents. 

They have 26 games remaining to make a postseason push. Of their upcoming opponents, only 10 games are against current top-eight teams in their conferences. Brett Brown has emphasized they can't take any team lightly. This is the time for the Sixers to maximize their schedule and show they learned from previous letdowns.

"They look good," Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard said. "Obviously as a young team, it takes time to learn how to win. ... The mature, really high-level teams, they find a way to get it done. I think for them, that's what their record shows. You play against them and it's hard to play against them. 

"They're really talented, they play hard, they play for a great coach. It's just those nights where you might not have it, having that understanding and that experience that'll lead you to more wins. I think once they get to that point, that's when maybe nine or 10 games that they've let slip, maybe they win those games."

The Sixers wrapped up the majority of their Western Conference schedule prior to the All-Star break. They have only the Timberwolves, Nuggets and Mavericks left to play. Those in the conference still are keeping an eye on the Sixers' progress, even if they may not face off again for months. 

"Everyone definitely sees the talent there," Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. "Any time you've got Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid to build around, they've got a very bright future. I think everyone had very high expectations, but it's hard to have high expectations with a team that's got a lot of first-, second-year guys that have never been in the playoffs. 

"But you can tell that they're going to be in the playoffs for, shoot, the next decade or so, probably be upper echelon pretty soon."