76ers

NBA Notes: Kyrie Irving says trade request was about his potential

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NBA Notes: Kyrie Irving says trade request was about his potential

BOSTON -- Kyrie Irving didn't try to hide his giddiness Friday when he was introduced as the newest addition of a Boston Celtics franchise he grew up watching.

"It's about to be crazy, G," Irving said in the ear of fellow new Celtics teammate Gordon Hayward as they sat on the dais two days after Boston's blockbuster trade with the Cavaliers was completed.

Boston sent Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and two draft picks to Cleveland for Irving. Hayward signed as a free agent in July.

Hayward and Irving smiled and bantered like old friends as they posed for pictures holding their new Celtics jerseys.

But not lost on Irving is that he's joining one of the league's most-storied teams because of his trade request from the team that drafted him and made him an NBA champion.

Irving acknowledged he wanted to leave the Cavaliers and his partnership the past three seasons with LeBron James. But he said the decision was about maximizing his own potential and not because of any specific issue with the Cavs or any individual (see full story).

Pelicans: Team gets Majok draft rights as part of trade
METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Pelicans say they will receive the draft rights to overseas professional Ater Majok as part of a trade that is sending veteran small forward Quincy Pondexter, a second-round draft choice and cash to the Chicago Bulls.

The portion of the trade sending Pondexter and a second-round draft choice to Chicago was agreed upon Thursday and confirmed to The Associated Press by a person familiar with the move who spoke on condition of anonymity because it hadn't been announced.

Friday afternoon's announcement details that New Orleans is receiving in return.

The 6-foot-10 Majok is Sudanese by birth and grew up in Australia. The 30-year-old most recently played for Homenetmen Beirut of the Lebanese Basketball League.

For the Pelicans, trading Pondexter increases salary cap flexibility for a club that could use another small forward following Solomon Hill's offseason hamstring tear.

Rockets: Convicted killer of Paul’s grandfather parole-eligible
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- A North Carolina man convicted in the death of NBA star Chris Paul's grandfather has become eligible for parole after a judge's ruling.

The Winston-Salem Journal reports Forsyth County Superior Court Judge David Hall granted a motion Thursday to resentence 29-year-old Rayshawn Denard Banner to life with the possibility of parole. That means he will be eligible for parole in 12 years.

Prosecutors opposed the resentencing.

Banner was 16 when a jury convicted him in 2004 of first-degree murder in the November 2002 death of Paul's grandfather, 61-year-old Nathaniel Jones. Banner was sentenced to life without parole, as was his brother.

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that judges cannot give mandatory life sentences to juveniles. In 2016, the court decided that ruling would be applied retroactively.

Joel Embiid doesn't want Sixers to end up like OKC

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Joel Embiid doesn't want Sixers to end up like OKC

Joel Embiid doesn't want the Sixers to end up like the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Not the 2017-18 Thunder, but OKC circa 2011-12.

Embiid is convinced that at some point soon, the media will turn on him and the Sixers. 

Speaking specifically about the core trio of Embiid, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz, Embiid told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne:

"I think with everything, the main thing we have to do is just stay together because I feel like there's going to be some type of situation where people say who is better between us three. And that's how it splits."

Shelburne, who wrote a long and interesting feature on Embiid this week, told more of the story Wednesday on Zach Lowe's podcast.

She recalled talking to Embiid about his social media presence at All-Star weekend in 2016, when he told her, "I'm just trying to have as much fun before everybody turns on me."

Shelburne pointed out the uniqueness of a then-22-year-old — who had been in the United States just seven years — understanding the "fame cycle" well enough to know that things could soon turn.

"I saw what happened in Oklahoma City with (James) Harden, (Russell) Westbrook and (Kevin) Durant and I don't want that to happen here," Shelburne recalled Embiid saying.

If the Sixers get to that point ... it'll probably be a good problem to have. Just prior to the 2012-13 season, the Thunder traded Harden to Houston in one of the worst trades in recent NBA history. OKC did it for several reasons — salary cap, personalities, only having enough shots to go around. And really, who knows if Harden would have been able to grow into this superstar had he been sharing the ball the next handful of seasons with two other alphas?

Embiid and Fultz have already grown close, and it's important to Embiid that the three young Sixers don't get caught up in the "Who takes the last shot?" conversations or "Who should be the All-Star" questions that inevitably come up. 

Luckily for the Sixers, Embiid, Simmons and Fultz have different enough skill sets that they should be able to coexist. It's not directly analogous to the OKC situation where all three players needed the ball in their hands. The Sixers were built this way for a reason. 

Right now, it's clear Embiid is the alpha of the group. He's the go-to guy in crunch time and again has a top-five usage rate. When Simmons eventually becomes more comfortable with his jump shot and Fultz finally makes his impact on the court, we'll see whether or not Embiid was prescient.

Joel Embiid puts back pain aside to get Sixers 'needed' OT win

Joel Embiid puts back pain aside to get Sixers 'needed' OT win

BOX SCORE

MINNEAPOLIS — Joel Embiid's presence was arguably the biggest factor in the Sixers’ snapping their four-game losing streak on Tuesday.

The center was especially key in the final two minutes of regulation and in overtime, as the 76ers defeated the Timberwolves, 118-112 (see observations).

Embiid assisted on Ben Simmons' go-ahead dunk with 1:17 remaining in regulation and hit the game-tying free throws with 14 seconds remaining. He then scored seven points in overtime, including a three-pointer that gave the Sixers a seven-point lead with 1:39 to go.

Embiid finished with 28 points and 12 rebounds in 39 minutes (see highlights), despite missing the two previous games in Cleveland and New Orleans with back tightness.

"I would not have expected him to play as well as he played or as many minutes as he played," Sixers coach Brett Brown said. "… He obviously was massive."

Embiid said he didn't feel 100 percent going into Tuesday's game and added that his back was really tight before the game against New Orleans. He said he didn't have the lift during Tuesday's game that he typically does but that he knew his back would get tight while sitting.

"We needed this," he said of the win.

Embiid’s being in the lineup changes how the 76ers' offense operates, rookie Ben Simmons said. Embiid changes the team's spacing but also gives the Sixers an offensive presence in the post.

"You have to find your spot, but it's a big help also," Simmons said.

Simmons finished with just seven points, as Timberwolves wings Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins guarded him most of the night. However, the rookie was key down the stretch as he scored all seven points in the final 6:17 of regulation and overtime (see highlights).

Brown noted how Simmons ended up with a rating of plus-3 despite the below-average point total. He said he loved that Simmons and Embiid were able to connect for big plays late.

"It wasn't statistically one of his best games," Brown said of Simmons, " … [but] for him to help us get that win on the road, that's a good night."

The win also snapped the Sixers’ recent run of fourth-quarter letdowns. The 76ers trailed by nine with six minutes remaining Tuesday, but they went on a 14-4 run to take a 91-90 lead with 2:17 remaining in regulation. Richaun Holmes completed the run with a three-point play.

Brown said he thought JJ Redick, Simmons and Embiid executed well during that stretch and made note of a three-pointer Redick hit to start the run. 

"To me, that was the tipping point when things started to run," Brown said of the shot.

The coach added that the Sixers will need to cut down on turnovers in order to achieve their goals. The Sixers had a season-high 24, though none came in overtime.