76ers

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.

Sixers use stifling defense to blow out Trail Blazers

Sixers use stifling defense to blow out Trail Blazers

BOX SCORE

The Sixers blew out the Trail Blazers by 20 points and reached the 10-win mark, their 2015-16 total, 17 games into the season (see observations)

Still, when Brett Brown assessed their 101-81 victory, he did so with a non-complacent eye. Not getting wrapped up in a win in November keeps the team even-keeled and focused. 

“I would give us an A on defense and like a C-minus on offense,” Brown said. “We’re happy with [the record], but we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

The Sixers held the Trail Blazers scoreless for the first seven minutes of the game (16-0) (see video). They notably restricted C.J. McCollum to only five points, 16 below his average. 

“I think we’re just very consistent on defense,” Ben Simmons said. 

Brown noticed room for improvement on the other end: committing less turnovers (18), finding Joel Embiid (28 points) more often, taking better-advised threes (3 for 11 in the first quarter) and minimizing possessions during which they didn’t get a shot attempt. Expect the team to focus on these areas so it doesn’t get ahead of itself for the next game on Saturday. 

“If you said you could have offense versus bad defense,” Brown said, “I would take the bad offense and have good defense any day of the week.” 

Embiid surpassing Thanksgiving milestone
Brown uses different points in the season as milestones. He eyed Thanksgiving as a checkpoint when it came to Embiid’s fitness level. Well, the holiday is here and Embiid has been averaging 32 minutes in his last five games. 

“He has exceeded my expectations to date kind of all over the place,” Brown said.

Embiid has been playing minute restriction-free. He has sat out only two games after appearing in 31 last season. Embiid is averaging 22.7 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.9 blocks and 0.8 steals in 29 minutes per game. He delivered a monster block on Damian Lillard that nearly shot the ball out of the arena. 

“Not to be cocky, but I think I’m the best defensive player in the league right now,” Embiid said.

The big man projected his fitness level is at 81 percent with room to improve. 

“It’s not all the way there but I think it’s getting better,” Embiid said. “I’ve still got to work on a lot of things, but it’s getting there. I can’t wait to be at a hundred percent.”

“We-Want-Ok-A-For” 
With a 20-point lead and the game wrapped up, the Sixers' home crowd broke out into a chant. Only it wasn’t “Trust the Process.” It was “We want Okafor.” Brett Brown didn’t nudge out of consideration to Jahlil Okafor, who has appeared in two games this season. 

“I don’t think it’s fair,” Brown said. “I think you get into a playing rhythm, a playing routine and that’s fair. To just hoist somebody a little tiny window of minutes isn’t something that interests me. I say that out of respect to him. I don’t think that puts him in a position that I want to put him in.”

Okafor is out of the Sixers’ rotation and their future plans since the team declined to exercise his player option. Okafor has made it clear he wants to be traded or bought out so he can find an opportunity to play. 

Embiid heard the chants and would like his close friend to be the court too, but at the same time gets the team’s game plan at this point. 

“I just want what’s best for him,” Embiid said. “I think he’s really good offensively. Defensively I think he’s gotten so much better, even in rebounding. I think he deserves a chance. But it’s hard. It’s business. We’ve been playing so well and I understand the coaches and the front office want to keep the same lineup because we’ve been playing so well.” 

Best of NBA: Celtics' 16-game winning streak snapped by Heat

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USA Today Images

Best of NBA: Celtics' 16-game winning streak snapped by Heat

MIAMI — Goran Dragic scored 27 points, Dion Waiters had 26 with a pair of big 3-pointers in the final minutes and the Miami Heat held on to beat Boston 104-98 on Wednesday night, snapping the Celtics' 16-game winning streak.

Tyler Johnson scored 16 points for Miami, which saw what was an 18-point lead cut to one in the final moments. The Heat shot 49 percent and outrebounded the Celtics 48-37.

Kyrie Irving scored 23 points for Boston. Jayson Tatum added 18, and Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris each had 14.

The Celtics got down by 18 in the first half, which has been a very comfortable place for Boston so far this season. Boston had overcome 18-point deficits against Oklahoma City and Charlotte, a 17-point hole against Golden State, a 16-pointer against Atlanta and rallied from 13 down to win in Dallas this week.

They almost did it again (see full recap)

Barnes' 30-footer at the horn lifts Mavs over Grizzlies
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Harrison Barnes banked in a 30-footer at the buzzer to give the Dallas Mavericks a 95-94 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night.

Officials reviewed the play to make sure the shot got off in time. Memphis suffered its sixth straight loss after squandering an 18-point lead in the first half.

Barnes led the Mavericks with 22 points, nine of them coming in the fourth quarter to help Dallas thwart a late Memphis comeback. Dennis Smith Jr. finished with 17 points, and J.J. Barea had 10 points and 11 assists.

Tyreke Evans led Memphis with 18 points, and Marc Gasol and Deyonta Davis finished with 14 points each (see full recap).

Westbrook's 34 points lead Thunder past Durant's Warriors
OKLAHOMA CITY — Russell Westbrook scored a season-high 34 points and added 10 rebounds and nine assists to help the Oklahoma City Thunder roll past the Golden State Warriors, 108-91 on Wednesday night.

It was Oklahoma City's first win over the Warriors since Kevin Durant left the Thunder to join the Warriors after the 2015-16 season. Golden State won all four meetings last season by an average of nearly 20 points.

Westbrook said it was just another game in the buildup, but he didn't play like it. At one point in the third quarter, Westbrook and Durant went forehead to forehead and were called for double technicals.

Westbrook's new All-Star teammates came through. Carmelo Anthony scored 22 points and Paul George added 20 (see full recap)

Howard, Hornets rally to beat Wizards in overtime
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte Hornets keep finding ways to win at home.

Now if Dwight Howard and his teammates can figure out how to win away from Charlotte they might become a very dangerous team.

Howard had 26 points and 13 rebounds, including a key block at the end of regulation and a crucial offensive rebound in overtime, in the Hornets' 129-124 victory over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.

The Hornets improved to 7-2 at home. But they're still below .500 overall because of a 1-7 road record (see full recap)