Jessica Camerato

Sixers show they're ready to take over the world

Sixers show they're ready to take over the world

LOS ANGELES — The Sixers made their mark among the NBA’s top young talent on a global scale.

Joel Embiid (Cameroon), Ben Simmons (Australia) and Dario Saric (Croatia) all started for Team World Friday in the Mtn Dew Kickstart Rising Stars game. They helped kick off All-Star weekend with a 155-124 victory over Team USA. 

Simmons recorded a double-double, which is becoming clockwork for the point guard (22 in the regular season, six triple-doubles). He posted 11 points off a perfect 5 for 5 from the field and 1 for 1 from the line. Simmons added 13 assists, six boards and four steals. 

This game was, in a way, a double statement for Simmons. It was an an opportunity to make a case for Rookie of the Year, with fellow contender Donovan Mitchell competing on Team USA. Mitchell notched seven points (3 for 10 from the field, 1 for 6 from three), seven assists, two rebounds, five steals and two blocks.

The Rising Stars contest also was a chance for Simmons to start an early bid for the 2019 All-Star team. He was popular among the fan votes but was not selected as one of four replacements required because of injuries. 

Simmons projects he will be playing in the All-Star Game “hopefully next year.” When it came down to why he was not on this season’s list, Simmons replied, “I think just votes.” 

Saric continued his offensive momentum with 18 points, including 4 for 7 shooting from three. He has scored in double digits in his last 35 games leading into the All-Star break. Saric also grabbed three rebounds and dished five assists. 

“I’ve always got the wish or dream in my life one day to be part of something big like this, even if it’s the Rising Stars game,” Saric said of participating in All-Star weekend. “I think it makes my family proud, my friends from my hometown, or all the people who were around me during my [growth as] a basketball player.”

Embiid logged the least playing time of the Sixers’ trio as he prepares to compete in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge Saturday and start in the All-Star Game Sunday. He missed the Sixers’ last game on Wednesday because of right ankle soreness. Embiid scored five points and two rebounds in less than nine minutes. 

“On Sunday, I expect to go harder,” Embiid said (see story). “I’m going for that MVP. Guys better make sure they find me because I’m looking to have a good game.”

Not listed on the box score: Embiid and Simmons going 2 for 2 as roving reporters. Check out their journalistic skills when they got the mic Friday to interview each other (see video).

Embiid's ankle better as he embarks on lofty ASG goals

Embiid's ankle better as he embarks on lofty ASG goals

LOS ANGELES — Joel Embiid isn’t just going to play Sunday in the NBA All-Star Game. He is aiming to be named Most Valuable Player.

“On Sunday, I expect to go harder,” Embiid said following the Mtn Dew Kickstart Rising Stars game Friday. “I’m going for that MVP. Guys better make sure they find me because I’m looking to have a good game.”

Embiid is participating in three days of events, including the Taco Bell Skills Challenge on Saturday. His availability had been in question after he missed Wednesday’s game against the Heat because of right ankle soreness. That night, Brett Brown said the decision would be based on a collaboration between Embiid and the Sixers’ medical staff.

“The other night, my ankle didn't feel so good,” Embiid said Friday morning. “I've been pushing in the previous games, so it was a little bit [sore]. But the last two days it's been feeling better. But there was never really a thought about missing out on any of these events. It's my first time, so I'm going to have fun.”

Embiid took it easy Friday, clocking the least amount of minutes (8:41) of the 20 participants. He scored five points (2 for 6 from the field, 1 for 4 from three) and pulled down two rebounds.

The Sixers' big man has much more than that to show. He is averaging 23.7 points, 11.1 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. He plans to double that in order to accomplish his goal of MVP honors.

“Score about 40 points and 20 rebounds,” Embiid outlined. “I’ve gotten close before, so it’s possible.”

Embiid was victorious on Day 1 of his competitions. Team World beat Team USA, 155-124. His teammates from the Sixers chipped in for the victory. Dario Saric scored 18 points with five rebounds. Ben Simmons recorded an 11-point, 13-assist double-double along with six rebounds and four steals (see story).

Next up for Embiid is the skills challenge on Saturday before he steps into the starting lineup for Team Stephen on Sunday. With the way he has been playing in less than two full seasons, Embiid is likely to be a familiar face at All-Star weekend. He is already thinking about which other events he’d like to showcase his versatile skills.

“At some point in my career, I want to do everything,” Embiid said. “The dunk contest, that’s a long, long shot, although I’ve got bounce. I can jump, but it doesn’t look as good because I’m too tall. But the three-point contest in the future, definitely, I’ve got to do that.”

What to watch from trio of Sixers at All-Star weekend

What to watch from trio of Sixers at All-Star weekend

LOS ANGELES — The Sixers have not one, not two, but three players representing the team in Los Angeles during the 2018 All-Star weekend.

Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and Ben Simmons will be teammates in the Mtn Dew Kickstart Rising Stars game before Embiid moves on to the Skills Challenge and All-Star Game.

Each player likely will have different takeaways from the action-packed weekend. 

Simmons making his mark
Simmons had been the front-runner for Rookie of the Year until the Jazz's Donovan Mitchell joined the conversation (see story). The two will compete on opposing teams Friday in the Rising Stars game, Simmons on the World Team (Australia) and Mitchell on the U.S. Team.

Simmons has more to show than just a matchup between first- and second-year players. He had been considered a candidate for replacement spots in the All-Star Game. Andre Drummond, Goran Dragic and Kemba Walker were selected instead.

Simmons is averaging 16.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 1.9 steals in 34.9 minutes. He ranks third in the NBA with six triple-doubles, behind only Russell Westbrook and LeBron James. 

Embiid playing student to All-Star vets
Embiid wants to take in as much as he can being around his fellow All-Stars this weekend. On his curriculum: observing tools of professionalism as he strives to be a leader at only 23 years old.

"I still don’t know how to be a professional," Embiid said last month. "I want to go out there, hang around them, learn from them, learn their ways, get back and help my team.”

That will include learning a bit from Team Stephen mate Draymond Green. 

"Hopefully, I’m going to learn a little bit from him about trash talk because he’s one of the best," Embiid said. 

Embiid was selected to the Rising Stars game, Skills Challenge and as a starter for the All-Star Game. His status for all three events is to be determined after he missed Wednesday's game because of right ankle soreness.

Saric showcasing international pride
Saric traveled from Philadelphia to Los Angeles to show fans watching from around the world what Croatian basketball looks like in the NBA. He will play for the World Team for the second year in a row. 

“To represent the world, to represent my country, to have a flag of my country on my jersey, for me it means a lot,” Saric said when he was selected. “Maybe I cannot bring tourists to visit Croatia, but in some way, I can represent my small, beautiful country.”

Saric has scored in double digits in his last 35 straight games. He averaged 19.4 points and 6.6 rebounds in the Sixers' sweep of their five-game homestand heading into the All-Star break. 

In last year's Rising Stars game, Saric had 17 points on 7 of 10 shooting with five rebounds and four assists in the World Team's 150-141 win.