76ers

NBA Notes: LeBron James, James Harden highlight all-NBA teams

NBA Notes: LeBron James, James Harden highlight all-NBA teams

NEW YORK -- For Cleveland's LeBron James, there was history.

For Houston's James Harden, there was affirmation.

And for Indiana's Paul George and Utah's Gordon Hayward, a chance at signing contracts exceeding $200 million this summer is gone.

James and Harden headlined the All-NBA first team that was unveiled by the league on Thursday. James made the first team for a record-tying 11th time, matching the mark set by Kobe Bryant and Karl Malone. And Harden was the only player to be unanimously selected by a global panel of sportswriters and broadcasters as a first-teamer this year, returning to that group for the third time in the last four seasons.

Joining James and Harden on the first team were Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard and New Orleans' Anthony Davis. Westbrook, Leonard and Davis all are first-teamers for the second time.

Harden was not an All-NBA team pick last season, after averaging 29 points, 7.5 rebounds and 6.1 assists, which prompted Rockets general manager Daryl Morey to tweet his reaction.

"Happy (at)James Harden was able to bounce back from his tough 29/8/6 performance last season to prove again he is one of the 15 best NBA players," Morey wrote.

James and Westbrook were on 99 first-team ballots, and second-team on the lone other. Leonard was a first-teamer on 96 ballots, second-team on three and third-team on one (see full story).

Jazz: GM focused on retaining own players 
SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Jazz took the long stride from lottery team to the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference playoffs this season but general manager Dennis Lindsey knows significant hurdles remain before the team becomes a true contender.

His first priority is making sure the Jazz are able to retain key players.

"Player retention would be the next step," Lindsey said Thursday. "Player development. A strategic add that can complement the group where there's just a really good fit. Whether that fit is mentality, experience or skill-set."

The Jazz rose to this moment with a patient rebuild that included allowing a young core to develop and not adding outside pieces too soon that would stunt that growth. This is a draft and develop program and that is most visible in Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert.

Hayward was named a first-time All-Star and had the best season of his career while Gobert has gone from the Development League to second-team All-NBA. Gobert signed a four-year, $102 million extension in the fall.

The addition of George Hill, Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw helped get the Jazz get over the playoff hump, but internal growth was the biggest difference and Lindsey is banking on more of the same.

And when the Jazz talk retention, Hayward is at the top of that list (see full story).

Magic: 7-foot-6 Fall works out for team
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The deadline for Tacko Fall to make his NBA decision is fast approaching and the UCF center still isn't sure what he is going to do.

The 7-foot-6 post player has not hired an agent and has until next Wednesday to decide whether to remain in the NBA draft or return to the Knights for his junior season. Fall is going through pre-draft workouts and interviews for several teams, and the nearby Orlando Magic was his latest stop Thursday.

"It has been really stressful just really thinking about it," Fall said following his workout at the Magic's practice facility. "It's a great decision, the most important decision I've ever since I chose a college really."

There have been indications during this process that the Senegal native should return to school and continue to grow under UCF coach Johnny Dawkins and his staff. Fall arrived at UCF two years ago as a raw player who had only played three years of organized basketball in the United States.

He made impressive strides as a sophomore, averaging 10.9 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.6 blocked shots while earning American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors. But in the NBA where the trend now favors smaller line up with quick centers who can also play on the perimeter, Fall isn't the commodity he once might have been.

Fall said he was "kind of" invited to last week's NBA Combine in Chicago, but he did not attend, instead opting for the team workouts and interviews like Thursday's Orlando session.

Sixers forced to wait for next opponent after Celtics-Bucks Game 7

Sixers forced to wait for next opponent after Celtics-Bucks Game 7

Waiting is the hardest part.

That’s the situation the Sixers are dealing with regarding their second-round opponent. They will face the winner of the series between Boston and Milwaukee, which is headed to a deciding Game 7 after the Bucks’ 97-86 home win on Thursday night. 

Game 7 is set for 8 p.m. on Saturday at TD Garden.

The Sixers have been idle since their Game 5 victory to eliminate the Miami Heat on Tuesday. It marked the franchise’s first series win since 2012.

The layoff hasn’t been a bother to the Sixers, who say their main focus is on themselves no matter who the opponent ends up being in round No. 2 (see story).

“We’ll manage whatever the Milwaukee-Boston tells us tonight, and that’s not on my mind,” head coach Brett Brown said after Thursday’s practice regarding the team getting rusty. 

“I thought we sweated and competed. I think we chose a tiny few things on defense and a tiny few things on offense that are helpful no matter if it’s Boston or Milwaukee. Some of it, which is always great, there was carryover from the Miami series. That’s kind of the holy grail. You can find stuff that’s going to do you well in the next series and tremendous carryover. We went there today. I thought today was good.”

Sixers focused more on themselves than Round 2 opponent

Sixers focused more on themselves than Round 2 opponent

CAMDEN, N.J. — Tuesday’s series-clinching victory was a monumental achievement for the Sixers. And while the team briefly savored Brett Brown’s first playoff series win as a head coach in memorable fashion, it was back at practice Thursday afternoon, with its focus shifted to Round 2.

“It was fun,” Joel Embiid said of the celebration with Brown. “I was happy for him because obviously after what he’s been through, two years ago he had a team that only won 10 games and this year he’s at, what, 56? I was really happy for him, and that was the first playoff series that he won, so it was something we felt like we needed to celebrate. But we’re on to the next one.”

That next opponent will be either the Celtics or the Bucks. Boston leads the series, 3-2, and can advance with a win in Game 6 Thursday night at 8 p.m. If the Celtics win, the Sixers will play Game 1 of the second round in Boston on Saturday night.

“Because we don’t know who you’re going to play, you don’t have that luxury of time,” Brown said. “No matter who you play, you better get back in transition defense and you better rebound. But it’s easier for sure when you can zoom in and say, ‘OK, you got Giannis, or you got Marcus Smart.’”

Though they don’t have the advantage of knowing their opponent, the Sixers do have a few extra days to recover from what was an extremely physical series against the Heat. They also have a chance to hone their own sets and to sharpen their execution. Ersan Ilyasova mentioned that, among other things, the Sixers worked on creating space for Embiid post-ups.

“At the end of the day, whoever comes out, I think it’s up to us,” Ilyasova said. “Recently, the way we’ve played, we have to focus on ourselves and if we do the right things, it’s going to be in our favor.”

Boston or Milwaukee is just not the primary concern at the moment. Sure, the Sixers will tune into Game 6 with interest. Embiid said he’ll be watching at home as usual with Markelle Fultz and Justin Anderson. But the intense, team-specific preparation won’t start in earnest until that series concludes.

“We just prepare for both teams,” Embiid said. “We’re going to be ready for whoever. We played them in the regular season, so we have a lot of scouting reports, so I’m sure the coaches will do their job to get us ready.”

The Sixers went 1-3 against the Celtics in the regular season, while they had a 2-2 record against the Bucks. However, Kyrie Irving, who is out for the playoffs with a left patella injury, played in three of those matchups with Boston. And the Sixers crushed the Bucks in the regular-season finale, 130-95. Regardless of who they play, the Sixers will be favored. If they play close to the level they’re capable of, they should advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Playing in his first postseason, Embiid gave the mature answer of a seasoned veteran when asked if he’d prefer to face Milwaukee or Boston.

“It’s the playoffs. I don’t think it matters,” Embiid. “As long as you play your game and stick to your concepts, you’re going to be fine.”