76ers

Joel Embiid sets realistic expectations for season as contract situation lurks

Joel Embiid sets realistic expectations for season as contract situation lurks

CAMDEN, N.J. — In Joel Embiid’s ideal situation, he would play 48 minutes in all 82 games.

His reality is different than that, however. As he works his way back from left knee surgery, he understands he won’t be on the court as much as he would like. 

“If I could play 82 games, I would,” Embiid said Monday at Sixers media day. “But I’ll be honest, I don’t think I’ll play 82 games. That’s not happening … I’m just focused on my path to being back on the court.” 

Embiid underwent a procedure in late March to repair a torn meniscus, ending his standout rookie year after just 31 games. He has not been cleared for 5-on-5 and it remains to be seen if he will compete in any preseason contests. 

Embiid said if the Sixers were in a Game 7 of the NBA Finals situation, he would play. But they’re not. Their push for a playoff berth is just beginning. 

“I think the timetable, we’ve been focusing on the first game of the season,” Embiid said of the Sixers' Oct. 18 opener against the Wizards. “We’ve got a couple preseason games, might play in those. But if I’m not 100 percent, they’re not going to put me out there. It’s not just about rehabbing. It’s also about being in the best shape possible, which I’m not yet at that level.” 

Embiid has undergone multiple scans since his surgery and said of the results, “Everything looks perfect.” Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said the recent scans showed the joint to be “intact and structurally sound.” The Sixers expect Embiid to participate in drills during training camp. 

“All in all, I believe our medical team feels good about where things are,” Colangelo said. 

Embiid is honed in on improving and maintaining his health by working on his landings to avoid further injuries. He threw his 7-foot-2, 250-pound frame around the court last season, including flying out of bounds into the stands. 

“I fell a lot last year,” he said. “I think it was also because I was flopping.” 

The uncertainty of Embiid’s health during training camp likely will factor into an important decision that has to be made in only a few weeks. The Sixers and Embiid have until Oct. 16 to sign a contract extension. 

“I still remain cautiously optimistic that something could get done,” Colangelo said. “That’s not to say it will, but I’m cautiously optimistic that remains a possibility.” 

Embiid firmly debunked a report by 94WIP's Howard Eskin he has not been participating in 5-on-5 because a deal had not been reached. He noted his love for the game and how difficult it is to get him off the court, let alone him refusing to get on it at all. 

“No,” Embiid said, chalking the report up to starting controversy. “At the end of the day, I don’t have the leverage. I’m going into my fourth season and I’m going to be a restricted free agent, so there’s no leverage, they can do whatever they want. There’s been discussions about it. Hopefully, something does work out. 

“I’m worried about getting back on the court and that’s all I care about. If it happens, it’s going to happen. If it doesn’t, just got to keep focused on the fourth season and after this year I’ll be a free agent and we’re going to see what comes of it.” 

Training camp begins Tuesday, when Embiid will have the opportunity to return to basketball with his teammates, even if it is in a limited and closely-monitored role. 

"I've got to check a couple boxes before my first game of the season," he said. "That's what I intend to do." 

Ben Simmons takes 4 families on holiday shopping spree

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Photo courtesy of Sixers' Twitter account

Ben Simmons takes 4 families on holiday shopping spree

Four families gathered in a roped-off waiting area adorned with Sixers decor inside of a Philadelphia Target store. They were told they were getting a surprise Thursday evening, but they didn't know who or what until a car pulled up outside ... and Ben Simmons walked through the door.

Simmons gave each family a $1,000 shopping spree right then and there. The room erupted in cheer.

"Beautiful," a mother exclaimed at the news. One child put his head in his hands in disbelief when he saw Simmons. Another said, "This is the best day ever."

"It's one of those things I always wanted to do growing up," Simmons, who came up with the idea for the shopping trip on his own, said. "It's the perfect time, season of giving. It just means a lot for me to be able to do this for some families."

The towering 6-foot-10 point guard walked through the store on Monument Road with each family and helped them choose their gifts along the way. 

They headed straight to the toy section, where the children piled in Legos, dolls and anything else that grabbed their attention. Then it was on to electronics. One child filled his cart with video games and a gaming system. Another family selected a television and soundbar. 

Shopping carts accumulated quickly as the kids ran in and out of aisles with bright smiles on their faces.

"Seeing them pick out what they want, not having to worry about it, I think that was the biggest thing," Simmons said. "It was a great time. I had a lot of fun, can't wait to do it next year."

The recipients were selected through Unity in the Community, a nonprofit organization based in South Philadelphia. Each had been through tough times in the past year and this trip helped to put the happy in their holidays.

"They can enjoy it now," Simmons said. "It's great for them to have no worries, especially on Christmas."

Best of NBA: LeBron James triple-double lifts Cavaliers over Lakers

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USA Today Images

Best of NBA: LeBron James triple-double lifts Cavaliers over Lakers

CLEVELAND -- LeBron James recorded his 59th career triple-double in front of Lonzo Ball and his brothers, Kevin Love scored 28 points and the Cleveland Cavaliers won for the 16th time in 17 games, 121-112 over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.

James finished with 25 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists to move a tie with Larry Bird for sixth place on the career triple-doubles list. He also put the Lakers away with a dunk and short runner in the final two minutes.

Love scored 13 in the third quarter, when the Cavs opened an 11-point lead on the way to their 10th straight home win. Jose Calderon added a season-high 17 points for Cleveland.

Brandon Ingram scored 26 for the Lakers and Ball had 13 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.

It was the first on-court meeting between James and Ball, the Lakers' highly touted rookie whose outspoken father LaVar has brought both attention and animosity toward his son.

LaVar Ball, who did not attend the game, launched his "Big Baller Brand" to promote his three talented sons. James gave them an in-person lesson in the business of basketball (see full recap).

Lee, Knicks top Nets after Porzingis exits
NEW YORK -- Courtney Lee scored 18 of his 27 points in the second half, Michael Beasley added 15, and the New York Knicks held on to beat the Brooklyn Nets 111-104 on Thursday night after losing star forward Kristaps Porzingis to a sore left knee early in the second half.

Porzingis motioned to the bench with 9:25 remaining in the third quarter after contesting a shot made by Brooklyn's Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. The Knicks' leading scorer had scored 13 points in nearly 18 minutes in the first half.

Enes Kanter had 13 points and nine rebounds for the Knicks, who earned just their second road victory of the season. Their only other one was Oct. 29 at Cleveland.

Spencer Dinwiddie had 26 points for the Nets, who have dropped the first two games to their city rivals. Hollis-Jefferson added 25 points on 10-for-16 shooting and Caris LeVert added 15 (see full recap).

Drummond helps Pistons snap 7-game skid
ATLANTA -- Andre Drummond had 12 points, 19 rebounds and a career-high nine assists, Tobias Harris added 19 points and the Detroit Pistons snapped a seven-game slide with a 105-91 victory over the NBA-worst Atlanta Hawks on Thursday night.

Avery Bradley finished with 18 points and Langston Galloway scored 17 as Detroit won for the first time since beating Phoenix on Nov. 29.

Ersan Ilyasova had 23 points, John Collins scored 15 and Dennis Schroder had 10 assists for Atlanta, which dropped to 6-22 and has lost three in a row.

The Pistons never trailed after Galloway's 3-pointer early in the second quarter. They led by 13 at halftime when Galloway hit a 20-footer in the closing seconds and went up by 22 on Reggie Bullock's floater midway through the third.

Detroit recovered from a 103-84 home loss Tuesday to Denver, a performance coach Stan Van Gundy called one of the worst "I've ever had to coach" in over 850 career games (see full recap).