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Donald Trump starts war with sports, and athletes have united

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Donald Trump starts war with sports, and athletes have united

OAKLAND -- As President Donald Trump lurches closer to certified insanity, he is unwittingly doing the country a great service that, should we survive his dangerously whimsical term, will bring us closer to realizing our potential.

He’s unifying the previously disconnected and energizing the formerly apathetic. He’s even shaming some of those previously beyond shame.

It is because of Trump’s rage, unleashed in a span of less than 24 hours, that the NBA champion Warriors were more united Saturday morning than they were Friday afternoon.

After a speech in Alabama urging NFL owners on Friday to fire any “son of a bitch” who dared to protest peacefully to shine a light on injustices, Trump woke up Saturday and turned his Twitter ire upon Stephen Curry and the Warriors, conceivably the most wholesome representatives of American sports.

“That’s not what leaders do,” Curry said after practice Saturday.

“We know we’re in a fight,” Warriors center David West said. “And we’re going to continue to fight for our right to be human beings.”

But by advocating the job loss of peaceful protesters and then informing the Warriors they are not welcome at the White House -- because Curry said he’s not in favor of going -- we can only hope Trump has flung open a door of activism that never closes.

Trump’s radical combo ignited mighty blasts of blowback from players and coaches and commissioners of the NBA and NFL.

Among the many NBA figures issuing statements in one form or another, with varying degrees of condemnation: LeBron James, Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, the players association and commissioner Adam Silver.

“The amount of support I saw around the league this morning was amazing,” Curry said.

Among the many NFL figures who were moved to comment: Seahawks players Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett, Broncos lineman Max Garcia, 49ers owner Jed York, New York Giants owners John Mara and Steve Tisch, Packers boss Mark Murphy, the players association and commissioner Roger Goodell.

Trump has, in short, started a war with American sports.

His strike began with the comments made Friday night that were directed at Colin Kaepernick and others who have declined to stand for the anthem. Trump’s aggression intensified Saturday when he went after Curry in the morning and Goodell in the afternoon.

How did we get here?

The Warriors on Friday announced their plan to meet as a team Saturday morning to decide whether they would accept from the White House the traditional invitation extended to championship teams. Though it was fairly certain they would not, they left open the slightest possibility. General manager Bob Myers had been in contact with White House.

Curry at the time said he, personally, did not wish to go, and then he carefully and patiently expounded on his reasons.

Trump responded, at 5:45 a.m. Saturday, to tell the world that the Warriors would not be invited and, moreover, that Curry’s resistance is the reason.

And all hell broke loose.

The Warriors came back Saturday afternoon with a statement that made clear there no longer would be a team meeting on the subject, that they were disappointed there was no open dialogue and that they will instead utilize their February visit to “celebrate equality, diversity and inclusion -- the values we embrace as an organization.”

“Not surprised,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of Trump’s decision not to invite the Warriors to the White House. “He was going to break up with us before we could break up with him.”

Trump has fired upon every athlete in America. He is waking up this country in ways we’ve never seen or felt and, my goodness, he’s doing so at a level we’ve needed for centuries.

“Trump has become the greatest mirror for America,” West said. “My cousin . . . she brought that to me. Because there are a lot of things have been in the dark, hidden, and he’s just bold enough to put it out on ‘Front Street.’"

Sixers-Raptors thoughts: Embiid to sit, Okafor to take his place

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Sixers-Raptors thoughts: Embiid to sit, Okafor to take his place

Sixers (0-2) at Raptors (1-0)
7:30 p.m./NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports app. Pregame Live at 7.

The Sixers enter their first back-to-back set of the season when they tip off against the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre.

Hope you didn’t think the Sixers would flip the switch overnight. Oh yeah, it’s a process.

The Sixers found that out again when they stalled during the second half of Friday night’s 102-92 loss to the Boston Celtics in their home opener.

“We didn’t hold everything together like we should have,” Jerryd Bayless said.

Let’s take a closer look at the matchup:

• Joel Embiid won’t suit up against the Raptors because the center still isn’t cleared for back-to-backs yet. His stamina is not where it needs to be at the moment and it showed vs. the Celtics.

Embiid looked lethargic as he struggled through a 4-for-16 performance for just 11 points. That included the big man going 0 for 6 from three-point range.

After the game, the big man expressed that he wants more touches in the paint. That will certainly happen, but it will have to wait until the next game.

• So who will take Embiid’s playing time in Toronto? If only the Sixers had another center on their roster also taken No. 3 overall in a recent NBA draft.

Wait, they do? Hello, Jahlil Okafor.

Since slimming down in the offseason and performing well during the preseason, Okafor has been glued to the bench during the Sixers’ first two games of 2017-18.

That is likely to change against the Raptors. With both Embiid and Richaun Holmes out, Okafor could share the center duties with veteran Amir Johnson.

That wouldn’t be a bad idea based on the numbers. In five career games against the Raptors, Okafor has averaged 20.0 points and 7.2 rebounds in 31.3 minutes.

• For years, the Raptors have been fueled by their All-Star backcourt tandem of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. That won’t change this season, but the team is intent on spreading the ball around more.

Toronto had six players score in double figures during its season opener. That included a team-high 23 points from center Jonas Valanciunas and 22 off the bench from veteran C.J. Miles.

Speaking of Miles, the Sixers will have to keep a close eye on the Raps’ new-look bench that accounted for 48 points in the team’s season-opening win over the Chicago Bulls.

• Ben Simmons has been as advertised. He’s big, strong, athletic and plays with poise.

The point guard put up 11 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in Friday’s loss to the Celtics. That made him the first rookie in Sixers history to start his career with back-to-back double-doubles and just the 11th in NBA history.

Simmons also became just the fifth player ever to have at least 10 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in their first two games, according to Elias Sports Bureau. The other four: Elgin Baylor, Oscar Robertson, Connie Hawkins and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Yeah, he’s off to a pretty good start.

• The Sixers haven’t exactly had much success against the Raptors in recent years. They’ve lost 15 of their last 16 to their division foe, including nine straight at Air Canada Centre. Their last victory north of the border came on Nov. 10, 2012.

• Embiid (rest) and Holmes (wrist) are out for the Sixers.

Fred VanVleet (head) is a game-time decision for the Raptors. Malcolm Miller (ankle) is out.

Home Opening, Home Closing: Sixers lose brutal game to Celtics in home opener

Home Opening, Home Closing: Sixers lose brutal game to Celtics in home opener

At least the national anthem was awesome. After that, some good things must have happened to the Sixers last night, but it's hard to remember what they are. Instead, there were a lot of turnovers, a lot of misses, and enough fouls to inspire a Flyers month's worth of "REF YOU SUCK" chants. The Sixers lost, 102-92. That score feels neither accurate nor inaccurate. It's hard to remember anyone scoring anything last night, to be honest.

Watching this game felt like getting stuck in traffic for two and a half hours. Just a lot of stop-starts, a lot of honking, and endless amounts of frustration. Joel Embiid went 4 of 16. Dario Saric turned the ball over six times, including twice on consecutive offensive foul clear-outs. Ben Simmons — well, he had 11 and 11, making him the only Sixers rookie start off his career with two double-doubles. Cool, but not enough to provide the team any sort of fluidity or consistency on offense. This one got nasty early and stayed that way, as unpleasurable a contest as the Sixers are likely to ever play at (close to) full health.

Hard to pinpoint exactly what went wrong, either. The spacing seemed cramped all night, and far too often, JoJo was getting the ball behind the three-point line. His pump-fake wasn't fooling the Celtics' bigs, and his shot from range has eluded him thus far this season (0-6 last night, now 0-15 total since his preseason debut). Jerryd Bayless, J.J. Redick and Robert Covington did their part — 10 combined threes on 19 attempts — but the Sixers just didn't seem to get many clean looks, especially around the basket. And the bench, a combined 8 of 27 (0 of 7 from deep), was no help.

But the story from this one was the refs. I'm not sure if I'd even say how poorly the game was officiated, the more striking thing was just how relentlessly the game was officiated. The Sixers got whistled for 30 fouls — 24 for Boston — and the stoppages made the game so choppy that the game flowed about as well as a 23-track DJ Khaled album. A sellout home crowd was absolutely raring to go all night, but never got to build up any kind of momentum (except against the refs), with their only opportunities for extended cheering coming at the free-throw line. The Cetlics' didn't fare much better flow-wise, with only 16 assists on the night — fewer than they had in any game last year — but they had Kyrie Irving, and that was enough to make the difference down the stretch.

The Sixers will continue looking for their first win tonight, in Toronto. Doesn't seem likely they'll find it, with JoJo sitting and the Raps returning most of their playoff core, but hopefully they can at least wash the taste of this one out a little, and get some of their guys — Dario especially, who's now 5 for 15 (0 for 6 from three) for the season — into a little bit of a groove. We should also be seeing Vegan Jah for the first time this season, so hopefully he can provide a little of the offensive spark off the bench we were missing in this one. In any event, 40 home games to go this season – there'll be losses worth than this, but hopefully none quite so uniquely frustrating.