76ers

NBA Notes: Chris Paul looks to get over playoff hump with Rockets

NBA Notes: Chris Paul looks to get over playoff hump with Rockets

HOUSTON -- Chris Paul didn't talk about his legacy, and never uttered the word "championship" on Friday when he was officially introduced as the newest member of the Houston Rockets.

Still, Paul's motivation for opting into the last year of his contract so the Los Angeles Clippers could orchestrate his trade to Houston was clear. He and the Rockets believe that adding him to a team headlined by James Harden gives both parties a much better shot to chase a title.

"It's not just about me coming here to help him," Paul said. "He's going to help me. We're going to help each other, and we're going to help this team hopefully get to where we want to be at."

The Rockets haven't won a championship since winning back-to-back titles in 1994-95, and knew they had to add another superstar to this team which was ousted by the Spurs in the second round last season to have any chance to get another one.

"This is a moment that our whole organization has been working toward to get ourselves back to a championship," general manager Daryl Morey said. "We really do think this is a historic pairing with Chris Paul and James Harden and the great players we have around them ... that really gives us an unbelievable chance at getting back and getting our third championship" (see full story).

Celtics: Hayward officially signs 4-year max deal
BOSTON -- Brad Stevens was just a week or so into his new job as Butler head coach when Gordon Hayward was his first recruit to visit.

A decade later, they've been reunited with the Boston Celtics.

There was an "immediate familiarity" when the Celtics pitched Hayward on the team, he said in a conference call with reporters Friday after signing his four-year deal worth about $128 million. "It brought back memories of when I was being recruited in high school by Coach Brad. This time it's at the next level."

Ten days after announcing that he had accepted the Celtics' offer and agreed to leave Utah, Hayward officially joined a team that earned the No. 1 seed in the East last season and reached the conference finals.

One of the most coveted free agents of the offseason, the Celtics lured Hayward from the Jazz with a max contract and the chance to rejoin his college coach. At Butler, Stevens and Hayward were together for the first of the Bulldogs' back-to-back NCAA championship game appearances in 2010.

"It's really an unbelievable thing to be sitting with a guy in your office when he's 16 or 17 years old, and to again be sitting with him when he's 27," Stevens said (see full story).

Pacers: Guard Joseph acquired from Raptors
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Pacers have acquired guard Cory Joseph from the Toronto Raptors in exchange for the draft rights of forward Emir Preldzic.

Joseph, who is 6-foot-3, averaged 9.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 25 minutes last season. He made 22 starts.

Joseph, who turns 26 next month, played in Toronto for two seasons after spending the first four years of his pro career in San Antonio.

Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said in a release that Joseph "has been on our radar for a while."

Preldzic has spent the last two seasons in the Turkish League. The Pacers had acquired his draft rights in a July 2016 trade with the Dallas Mavericks. He was selected by Phoenix in the second round of the 2009 draft.

Knicks: Mills promoted to president, Perry hired as GM
NEW YORK -- The New York Knicks promoted Steve Mills from general manager to president Friday and hired Scott Perry as general manager.

Mills takes over the position left vacant by Phil Jackson's departure last month.

"Today marks a culture change for our organization where we re-establish the pride, work ethic and responsibility that comes with playing for the Knicks and representing New York," owner James Dolan said in statement released by the team. "I'm confident that Steve is the right person to take on this role, and ensure that we return to one of the elite teams of the NBA."

Mills returns to the role he held briefly before Jackson was hired in March 2014 and Mills was made general manager.

"I want to thank Jim for having the confidence in me to lead this team at such a critical time," Mills said in the team release.

Perry was the executive vice president of operations for the Sacramento Kings and previously held front-office roles for other organizations.

Joel Embiid thinks his minutes restriction is 'f---ing BS'

Joel Embiid thinks his minutes restriction is 'f---ing BS'

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid is letting it be known he is unhappy about his minute restrictions to start the season.

"That's f---ing BS," he said after practice Tuesday. "I wish I was playing more minutes. I think I'm ready for more than I don't know whatever number they have."

The Sixers are eyeing 16 minutes for Embiid on opening night on Wednesday. He played nearly 15 minutes in his two preseason games and feels he can handle more, adding his previously-injured left knee and ankle "felt great." 

He has expressed his feelings to the team. 

"I always think I have a voice so I'm sure they're listening to what I have to say too," he said. "But they're making a decision based on what they think. But I think that's BS."

Embiid's desire to play more minutes likely will be an ongoing situation this season, or at least early on. He expected to be cleared for 24 minutes at this point. (In comparison, he logged 22:25 last opening night.) Embiid feels the best way to get his body in game shape is to actually be in the game, not training on a cardio machine. 

"I think the concept of minute restrictions is kind of complicated," Embiid said. "I don't think there should ever be minute restrictions. I think it should always be about how my body feels and how it's reacting." 

The Sixers, however, are continuing to proceed with caution with the injury-prone big man. After missing his first two years because of his foot, he underwent season-ending knee surgery in March. Embiid also sprained his left ankle in the preseason finale. He has not played in a regular-season game since Jan. 27. 

Add that to the fact Embiid is a centerpiece of their future after inking him to a five-year, $146.5 contract extension last week.

"They know that I'm frustrated, but once again you've got to trust the doctors," Embiid said. "They care about me. It's all about the long-term view." 

The coaching staff is faced with the tricky task of managing Embiid's allotted minutes over a 48-minute span. Brett Brown is considering using up his playing time in the first half instead of spacing it out to have him available in the fourth quarter. 

Embiid estimates if he started the third, as an example, he would be resting for 16 minutes before he got the nod late in the final quarter. He said that is "tough" on both his body and on the coaches. Brown agrees after trying to balance his playing time last season. 

"You think it's smart to save four minutes to end a game with him, but the canyons in between where he just sits there and sits there and then he's got to come in and save the day, I don't know if I like that," Brett Brown said. 

"It's on my mind, do we just spend our money and we'll get you more money the next game and so on, and just play him regularly and grow it from that base versus he sits forever and then he's just got to come in and save the day. Or oops, it goes to overtime and, 'Sorry, you can't play against Memphis in overtime.'"

The Sixers will have to balance the medical staff's minute guidelines with Embiid's intense desire to be on the court and the team's record. They are looking to make a significant push in the win column, and Embiid is the driving force behind that jump.

"I think this is a big year for the whole team and me personally," Embiid said. "I feel like I've got something to prove, too. So I want to be out there with my teammates and win some games."

If it were Embiid's call, he would play until he didn't feel like he could anymore. It's not up to him, though. And so there's just one thing left for him to do.

"Like I always say," he said, "you've got to trust the process."

Banged-up Markelle Fultz is latest chapter in Sixers' painful rookie history

Banged-up Markelle Fultz is latest chapter in Sixers' painful rookie history

CAMDEN, N.J. — Brett Brown has been here before. The scenario isn’t as drastic as in the past, but it’s familiar nonetheless: starting the season with an injured rookie for the fifth straight year.

Markelle Fultz will begin his first NBA season dealing with ongoing right shoulder and right knee soreness. The No. 1 pick is expected to play on opening night Wednesday, but will come off the bench after appearing in only two preseason games. 

Brown has learned to manage this type of situation after years of experience. Nerlens Noel missed Brown’s entire first season because of an ACL injury. Joel Embiid sat out the following two seasons with foot injuries. Ben Simmons suffered a season-ending foot fracture in last year’s training camp. 

The biggest lesson? 

“To go slow,” Brown said. “To not put them in a position where it’s going to produce some difficult times.” 

Fultz was likely to be a starter when the Sixers traded up to draft him first overall in June. The 19-year-old guard hasn’t had that much experience since then thanks to injuries in both summer league and preseason. 

The Sixers face John Wall, Kyrie Irving and Kyle Lowry in the first three games alone. That would be a tall defensive task if Fultz were to start. 

“This league is driven by men, this league is driven by veterans,” Brown said. “To just put him in that environment is just, I think, poor coaching and I’m not doing it.”

Just as Simmons took advice from Embiid during his injury, he is offering words of wisdom to Fultz.

“[You’ve] got to to take your time and you definitely have to take care of your body,” Simmons said. “Put your body first. There’s no need to rush.”

The Sixers have the backcourt depth to adjust without Fultz in the starting lineup. They have been turning to veteran Jerryd Bayless at shooting guard alongside Simmons, their intended backcourt pairing last season. 

In the meantime, Brown will balance Fultz’s health, his growth as an NBA player, and the team’s success. 

“The end game needs to be developing Markelle Fultz," Brown said.