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.

Markelle Fultz progressing, but not ready to return to Sixers yet

Markelle Fultz progressing, but not ready to return to Sixers yet

Updated: 2:45 p.m.

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Markelle Fultz isn't cleared to play just yet.

The Sixers rookie was reevaluated Sunday for right shoulder soreness and scapular muscle imbalance and will be reevaluated again in approximately 2-3 weeks, the team announced. 

His return date will be based on how he handles training and practices. An examination by Dr. Ben Kibler, Medical Director of the Shoulder Center of Kentucky at the Lexington Clinic, showed Fultz's soreness and muscle balance is improving. Fultz met with Kibler on Oct. 29 and has seen multiple shoulder specialists. 

The rehab plan is for Fultz to continue with physiotherapy treatment.

"Just the fact we expect to get back into full basketball activity soon," Brett Brown said after practice Sunday, "I don't know the exact timeframe of that, but the news is good in relation to the improvement of his shoulder, enough for us to put out a press release saying what I just said and look forward to bringing him into the team and playing basketball again."

The No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA draft has appeared in only four games this season, averaging 6.0 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists off the bench. He has been battling the shoulder discomfort since training camp, and his shot was visibly affected by it.

Fultz has been traveling with the Sixers. He is staying engaged with the team during his own pregame warmups, assisting with rebounding after practices and staying incorporated with teammates off the court. 

Bayless to return
The Sixers anticipate getting one player back from injury Monday.

Brown expects Jerryd Bayless (left wrist) will play against the Jazz. Bayless went through practice Sunday. Brown looks forward to having Bayless' veteran experience, playmaking, and on-ball defense back in the mix. Bayless has missed the last six games and doesn't plan to have any minute restrictions on his return. 

"It's feeling OK," Bayless said of his wrist. "It's feeling like it's ready to go. I'm excited to play and be back out there." 

Justin Anderson (left leg) and Nik Stauskas (right ankle) remain sidelined. As a result of all the injuries, guards T.J. McConnell and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot have seen a bump in minutes. 

Young Sixers learn crucial lessons from 2 losses to NBA elite Warriors

Young Sixers learn crucial lessons from 2 losses to NBA elite Warriors

BOX SCORE

The Sixers received a crash course in top-caliber NBA basketball from the Warriors with two games in eight nights against the defending champions. 

Both were winnable games for the Sixers in the first half. Both were blown open by the Warriors in the third quarter. Both resulted in a Sixers loss.

This time, it was a 124-116 loss Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).

Instead of taking silver linings and pats on the back, the Sixers are absorbing lessons, tried-and-true experience-based lessons from competing against the best in the league and watching it slip away. 

“They didn’t flip a switch,” Joel Embiid said Saturday. “We were just bad in the third quarter. But you’ve got to give them a lot of credit. They were aggressive and they were physical with us, especially in the second half. They did what they had to do, and they got a win.”

Protect the third quarter
On Saturday, the Sixers scored a scorching 47 points in the first quarter and led the Warriors 74-52 at halftime. That edge far surpassed their one-point deficit in last weekend’s game and put them on a commanding path at home.

The Warriors quickly dashed any hopes of an upset by outscoring the Sixers, 47-15, in the third. Steph Curry scored 20 of those points. That quarter set the tone for a Warriors' comeback win. Similarly, the Warriors outscored the Sixers by 15 points in the third during their 135-114 victory on Nov. 11.

“After coming out of halftime, we knew what we were getting into,” Embiid said. “We knew that the first game, we knew that tonight, that needed to stay locked in. We didn’t do a good job the first time and then the second time we definitely didn’t do a good job.”

Play aggressive and smart at same time
The Sixers committed seven of their 12 turnovers in the third, which led to 14 of the Warriors’ 47 points. Ben Simmons echoed Embiid’s opinion of needing to be more focused. The rookie point guard also noted the Sixers should have been better with defensive assignments and played more aggressively. The Sixers shot 1 for 7 from long-range and didn’t get to the foul line once in the third.

Simmons only attempted one field goal in the quarter. Brett Brown noted he played Simmons the entire second quarter and the first eight minutes in the third. The combination of a shorthanded eight-man rotation and the effects of coming off a West Coast road trip factored in. 

The Warriors, meanwhile, stayed cool and collected in the face of a 22-point halftime deficit. They bounced back to shoot 62.2 percent from the field in the second half. The Sixers noticed the Warriors’ unwavering self-assurance even as they fell further and further behind in the first half.

“There’s a confidence that they have in what they do and who they are that over the course of a full game," JJ Redick said, "if they play the right way, they’re going to have a chance to win."

Breaking the double team
The Warriors stifled Embiid in their first matchup (12 points). After watching his 46-point performance against the Lakers, which head coach Steve Kerr deemed “terrifying,” the Warriors knew they had to be extra cognizant of the big man, especially on his home court.

They once again swarmed Embiid with a double team, a defensive look he’s still adjusting to. Embiid felt the pressure. He committed three turnovers in the game-changing third quarter (five on the night). 

“I’m more impressed by what they do defensively,” Embiid said. “Especially for me, they really had me guessing. They double-teamed me the whole night, from the top, from the baseline, from the post fader. They really had me guessing.”

Remember what caused the loss
The Sixers had chances to hand the Warriors a loss, both at home and on the road. When they plan for the rest of the season, the months and months ahead, they can point to what they did right and just as importantly what went wrong in competing against a team as dangerous as the Warriors. 

"We feel good about how we played for large majorities of the game and then you just blink and you get hit in the mouth," Brown said. "The repetition of playing the NBA champs and feeling like you're there and then all of a sudden to zoom in and say why aren't we? Why weren't we? Where did the game change? And understand that better and try to fix it, try to arrest it. That's the benefit to playing them in close proximity."