76ers

Sixers, Joel Embiid agree to 5-year, $148M extension

Sixers, Joel Embiid agree to 5-year, $148M extension

Updated: Oct. 10, 12:18 p.m.

As good as the Sixers expect Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz to be, Joel Embiid is the keystone of the franchise.

Hence the reason Embiid nicknamed himself "The Process."

Now he's paid accordingly.

The Sixers and Embiid have agreed to a five-year, $148 million extension.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the news.

The Sixers and Embiid had until Oct. 16 to agree to an extension; otherwise, Embiid would have become a restricted free agent following the season. Had that occurred, other teams could have made offers, but the Sixers would have had the right to match. 

Now, there will be no offers. No chance another team offers more than the Sixers are willing to pay. Instead, the Sixers are banking that Embiid is the player who showed so much potential in just 31 games last season — and that he'll stay healthy enough to prove it (see story).

If he avoids a major injury this season, Embiid will have a chance to earn another $30 million. Per Wojnarowski, the deal allows Embiid to earn the maximum permitted under the designated rookie scale extension, or "the super-max." Embiid could earn up to $178 million over the life of the deal if he reaches certain incentives this season (i.e. Defensive Player of the Year, league MVP or is named to the All-NBA first, second or third teams). This additional amount represents 30 percent of the team's 2018-19 salary cap (for more, if you dare, delve into the 5th year, 30 percent max criteria.) 

What's more, the Sixers will receive salary cap protection should Embiid miss significant time because of injury, according to Wojnarowski. Given the risk involved with this decision, such a clause obviously makes sense.

And based on all of the above, so does this:

Injuries forced Embiid to miss his first two NBA seasons and limited him to just 31 last season. Still recovering from a knee injury, Embiid has yet to play this preseason but has begun playing 5-on-5. He is traveling to Boston tonight and should be with the team at practice Tuesday (in Boston) (see reaction from teammates on Embiid).

Following the Sixers' loss to the Celtics Monday, they have two more preseason games before the regular-season opener Oct. 18 at Washington. Embiid said last week he has a "pretty good" chance of playing in a preseason game. They play the Nets on Long Island on Wednesday and the Heat in Kansas City on Friday.

Play in Long Island? Eh. But Kansas City? Now that's a possibility, especially considering the day before, the Sixers practice at Kansas, Embiid's old stomping grounds. 

(Update: Embiid on Tuesday was declared probable to play against the Nets.)

How to manage Joel Embiid's health while pushing for playoffs

How to manage Joel Embiid's health while pushing for playoffs

CAMDEN, N.J. — In some ways, Joel Embiid is a dream to coach. You can go to him in the post whenever you need a bucket, rely on him to erase defensive mistakes, sit back and watch as he takes over games.

But in other ways, coaching Embiid is not an easy job. Brett Brown has to constantly weigh Embiid’s health with the immediate desire to win. That balancing act has never been more difficult for Brown, who commented Wednesday on how he plans to manage Embiid with the playoffs in sight.

“Everything is still, and it should be, delivering him to a playoff round,” Brown said. “It’s not cramming for the exam and doing whatever you can to get home court, it’s not that at all. And so I feel like the path that we’re all on is both professional and responsible. So it’s that more than trying to cram for an exam.”

The Sixers have six back-to-back sets in their final 27 games. Embiid played his first ever back-to-back on Feb. 2 vs. Miami and Feb. 3 at Indiana. Since then, he’s had an injury scare with his right knee (on Feb. 10 vs the Clippers) and missed the Sixers’ final game before the All-Star break with a sore right ankle.

That said, Embiid’s obviously taken major steps forward. After being sidelined for his first two NBA seasons and playing just 31 games (and only 25.4 minutes per game) in his rookie year, he’s played in 44 of the Sixers’ first 55 games, and is averaging 31.4 minutes per game.

But the Sixers are 3-8 when Embiid doesn’t play. Without Embiid, the Sixers don’t look like a playoff team. With him, they look like a team which could earn home-court advantage. The Sixers are currently seventh in the Eastern Conference at 30-25, two games behind the fourth-seeded Washington Wizards.

When asked how he’ll generally manage his players’ minutes in the final third of the season, Brown referred to his time as a Spurs assistant, implying that the Sixers will approach things more aggressively than a championship contender.

“In my old life, when you felt like you were going to be in the finals and win a championship, you definitely started managing stuff differently in this final third,” Brown said. “That’s not where we’re at now. We are fighting to get in the playoffs.

“And we’re in a fist fight, we want a little bit more than that. And we’re going to play with that in mind, and when the opportunity arises when I can rest some of our guys, I will. But it’s not about being conservative right now or feeling like we’re entitled and we’re in the playoffs; we aren’t. So we’re still fighting to do that, and I’ll coach it accordingly.”

It might sound like there’s a contradiction between that desire to fight for the postseason and Brown’s goal of “delivering [Embiid] to a playoff round.” The Sixers probably need Embiid to play the majority of their final 27 games to make the playoffs in the first place. On the other hand, nothing in Embiid’s past suggests that he’s capable of playing all six remaining back-to-backs and suiting up fully healthy in Game 1 of the postseason.

The key for Brown is finding the perfect middle ground between riding Embiid hard every night and babying his 7-foot-2 star to the detriment of the team. With the playoffs finally in sight after five seasons of processing, that’s going to be one of Brown’s greatest challenges in the home stretch.  

Rookie of the Year down to 2 and Ben Simmons' odds slipping

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AP Images

Rookie of the Year down to 2 and Ben Simmons' odds slipping

Donovan Mitchell continues to creep closer to Ben Simmons in the NBA Rookie of the Year race, and the gap in Bovada's odds for the two is as close as it's been all season.

Simmons is now -250 to win the award, meaning a $250 wager is required to win $100. 

Mitchell is at +170, meaning a $100 wager wins you $170.

In the most recent odds update in January, Simmons was at -650; Mitchell was +400.

It's a clear two-man race at this point.
 
Simmons is averaging 16.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.9 steals and 0.9 blocks this season. No player in recorded history has hit all five criteria in the same season.

Mitchell, however, has been on fire for the NBA's hottest team. The Jazz have won 11 straight games to test the Pelicans for the 8-seed, and over that span, Mitchell has averaged 21.3 points, albeit on 41 percent shooting.

For the season, Mitchell is at 19.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.5 steals. He's made 35.4 percent of his threes and 83.6 percent of his free throws.

Both are stars in the making, but it's worth noting that the Jazz are playing better than they have all season and Simmons is still the favorite. Where Utah ends up will be a determining factor in the Rookie of the Year race — if the Jazz can somehow end up the 7-seed in a loaded West, arguments for Mitchell will grow louder.

Both Simmons and Mitchell were two of five guests this week on NBA TV's Open Court: Rookies Edition. Interesting talking points from the special: 

• Mitchell referenced former Sixer Jrue Holiday as an under-the-radar tough player to guard, saying he watches film of Holiday every day.

• Simmons recalled LeBron attacking him frequently in the first quarter of their first meeting, saying he wasn't surprised LeBron wanted to send a message by going right at him.

• The Morris twins were mentioned by Simmons and Jayson Tatum when asked about the most imposing players in the league. Everyone cited DeMarcus Cousins.

• Simmons downplayed the importance of his NBA redshirt season, saying you don't really know what it's like to play back to back and deal with the hectic travel schedule until you're involved in it every day.