76ers

NBA Notes: Lakers not rushing Kobe's return

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NBA Notes: Lakers not rushing Kobe's return

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Lakers are heading into training camp still unsure when Kobe Bryant will be on the court this season.

General manager Mitch Kupchak says Bryant was at the Lakers' training complex almost every morning this summer, working aggressively to return from mid-April surgery on his torn left Achilles tendon.

Although the 35-year-old Bryant has made steady progress in his recovery, the fifth-leading scorer in NBA history hasn't yet returned to the Lakers' practice court for any basketball work.

The Lakers aren't pushing Bryant to return. They've got enough work to do as coach Mike D'Antoni patches together a team in the wake of Dwight Howard's departure.

Kupchak says Steve Nash and Pau Gasol are fully healthy, but will ease into training camp workouts (see full story).

Thunder: Westbrook's status unclear
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti says the timetable for All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook's return from a knee injury remains uncertain as the Thunder open training camp.

During his "state of the franchise" news conference Wednesday, Presti fielded many questions about Westbrook's status.

Westbrook tore the lateral meniscus in his right knee during Game 2 of the first-round playoff series against Houston.

Westbrook had surgery April 27 and hasn't been fully cleared medically yet. Presti says it would be "irresponsible" to say when that might occur, but didn't dispute the notion that Westbrook could miss the Thunder's season opener Oct. 30 at Utah.

Presti says Westbrook has been cleared to participate in portions of training camp, which starts Saturday, but the decision to release him for unrestricted activity "will be a medical decision" (see full story).

Wizards: Team eyes return to playoffs
WASHINGTON -- Asked whether he feels any extra pressure to reach the postseason, Washington Wizards coach Randy Wittman fiddled with his eyeglasses on the table in front of him and looked straight ahead.

"Well, that's what we want: We want to get to the playoffs," Wittman said. "Do you think this is the first time I've been on a one-year contract? No. It doesn't mean anything."

Wittman and team President Ernie Grunfeld -- both men have deals that end after the upcoming season -- held a joint news conference Wednesday and made pretty clear what the aim should be for point guard John Wall and the rest of the Wizards.

"We want to build on what we started to establish last year. Obviously, our initial goal is to be a playoff contender and ultimately, by the end of the year, make the playoffs," Grunfeld said.

Washington went 29-53 last season, missing out on the postseason for the fifth consecutive year (see full story).

NBA: Knicks, Nets to share '15 All-Star festivities
NEW YORK -- New York City has been selected to host the NBA All-Star weekend in 2015, with the game played at Madison Square Garden and the slam dunk contest and other skills events held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

NBA Commissioner David Stern, Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg made the official announcement at a news conference Wednesday.

The league has been working with the Knicks and Nets for months on the plan to split the events.

The league last split sites for its midseason showcase in 2010, when the Saturday events were in the Dallas Mavericks' arena and the game was held at the Cowboys' stadium.

The NBA All-Star game was last played at Madison Square Garden in 1998 (see full story).

Opening week affects MVP odds of Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid

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USA Today Images

Opening week affects MVP odds of Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid

Ben Simmons had himself a historic first week in the NBA and as a result, his MVP odds have changed substantially.

Listed by Bovada on Oct. 10 at 80/1 to win MVP, Simmons is now at 33/1, tied with DeMarcus Cousins and ahead of Marc Gasol, Blake Griffin and Damian Lillard.

Simmons became the first player since Oscar Robertson to produce at least 10 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in each of his first three career games.

Teammate Joel Embiid had a less successful start to the year, averaging 14.5 points, 13.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists in two games but shooting just 35.5 percent from the field and missing all 10 three-point attempts.

And yet somehow, Embiid's MVP odds have changed from 40/1 to 25/1. He has the same MVP odds as Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis.

Griffin, at 50/1, is a sneaky good bet for MVP. The Clippers are his team now with Chris Paul in Houston, and Griffin has added long-distance shooting to his game, making three triples in each game. Two games in, he's averaging 29.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists. 

If he can stay healthy (a huge if) and lead the Clippers to 52-plus wins in a loaded Western Conference, you'd have to think Griffin would be looked at more favorably in terms of MVP odds than someone on a star-studded team like any of the Warriors or Rockets, if Paul returns from his knee injury within a month and affects James Harden's stats even slightly. 

Giannis Antetokounpo and LeBron James look like the two players most likely to win MVP, but 50/1 for Griffin is good value if you think this is the year he stays healthy. If he didn't have a history of injuries, his odds right now would be closer to those of John Wall (28/1) or Towns (25/1).

Sixers-Pistons thoughts: Joel Embiid vs. Andre Drummond takes center stage

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Sixers-Pistons thoughts: Joel Embiid vs. Andre Drummond takes center stage

Dust yourself off and try again.

That's all the Sixers (0-3) can do as they again go for their first win of the new season. They'll get a slight break this time when they face the Pistons (2-1) at new Little Caesars Arena in Detroit (7 p.m./NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports app). It's the Sixers' first opponent in 2017-18 that didn't reach the playoffs a season ago.

Let's take a closer look at the matchup:

• After resting for the second game of a back-to-back set in Saturday's 128-94 loss to the Toronto Raptors, Joel Embiid will return to the Sixers' starting lineup on Monday night.

Embiid is still finding his way offensively to start 2017-18. He is averaging 14.5 points through two games but shooting just 35.5 percent from the field and he's missed all 10 of his three-point attempts.

Those outside shots should start to dwindle in the big man's first-ever meeting with Andre Drummond and the Pistons after Embiid made it clear that he wants more touches in the post.

• We'll see if Embiid's camping out in the paint can help the Sixers even out their foul disparity.

Through three games, the Sixers are ninth in personal fouls drawn (24.3). However, they have committed a league-high 28.0 fouls per game.

That has led to opponents attempting 35.7 and making 27.7 free throws per game against the Sixers, both NBA highs.

Officials definitely have tighter whistles when a new season begins as they want to drive home points of emphasis from offseason rule changes and discussions. Still, this is a problem the Sixers need to end quickly if they want to get in the win column.

• The Pistons have been strong on the offensive end so far, scoring over 100 points in each game.

While the entire team deserves credit with five players averaging in double figures, Tobias Harris is leading the pack with some impressive scoring marks.

Harris has put up 24.3 points per game on 55.8 percent shooting from the field and an insane 47.1 percent from beyond the arc.

While Embiid's matchup with Drummond will likely take top billing heading into this contest, the real heavyweight battle could end up being between Harris and defensive ace Robert Covington.

• The Sixers managed one win in three contests against the Pistons last season. The teams split the two matchups at the Palace of Auburn Hills, which has now been replaced by the $862.9 million Little Caesars Arena. The Sixers have the opportunity to become the NBA's first visiting team to notch a win in the new arena.

Richaun Holmes (wrist) is out for the Sixers.

Dwight Buycks (hip) and Reggie Bullock (suspension) are out for the Pistons.