76ers

NBA Notes: Isaiah Thomas says 'I am not damaged' in interview

uspresswire-celtics-isaiah-thomas.jpg
USA Today Images

NBA Notes: Isaiah Thomas says 'I am not damaged' in interview

CLEVELAND -- All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas believes he will fully recover from a right hip injury that has threatened to void his recent trade to Cleveland.

Thomas, who was dealt by the Boston Celtics to the Cavaliers last week for star Kyrie Irving, told ESPN he has made progress in his recovery.

"I am not damaged," the 28-year-old said. "I'll be back, and I'll be the same player."

After Thomas underwent a physical last week, the Cavaliers had some concerns about the results. A person familiar with the findings told The Associated Press the trade would not be finalized until the team completed a "deep and thorough review." The Cavs have continued to weigh their options in recent days, and it's possible they will ask for the Celtics for more compensation -- likely another draft pick (see full story).

Rockets: Team, owner up Harvey donation to $10 million
HOUSTON -- The Houston Rockets and owner Leslie Alexander have upped their donation to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts to $10 million.

Alexander pledged $4 million to Houston mayor Sylvester Turner's Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund on Monday before announcing that he'd donate $10 million to help victims affected by catastrophic flooding in the city on Tuesday.

The donation is the largest of many contributions by Houston's sports teams and athletes in recent days. Astros owner Jim Crane and the Astros foundation pledged $4 million to the cause and Major League Baseball also contributed, joining with the players association to donate $1 million to the Red Cross and relief organizations chosen by the players.

The Texans and owner Bob McNair donated $1 million to the United Way of Greater Houston Flood Relief Fund. The NFL Foundation said it would match the $1 million donation, and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and his family pledged to match all funds donated to the American Red Cross in support of Harvey flood relief up to $1 million.

Houston star J.J. Watt started a fundraising page online that has raised more than $1.6 million since its inception on Sunday. His original goal was $500,000, but he's now aiming to raise $2 million. 

Trail Blazers: Team president Olshey agrees to extension
PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Portland Trail Blazers have agreed to a multi-year contract extension with President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey.

The team did not disclose terms of the deal, which runs through the 2020-21 season.

Olshey was named general manager in 2012 and promoted to his current positon in 2015. His first year he was involved in the draft that landed guard Damian Lillard and the team's hiring of head coach Terry Stotts. The next year Portland drafted CJ McCollum.

Portland has been to the playoffs in each of the last four seasons.

"Neil has done an excellent job improving our team and getting us into the playoffs. With our young and improving roster, I expect our franchise to keep improving," Blazers owner Paul Allen said. "Continuity in the front office is important as we continue to grow, and this extension shows the confidence we have in Neil's leadership."

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

ap-ben-simmons-donovan-mitchell-sixers-jazz.jpg
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.