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.

Sixers do the improbable to cap off homestand

Sixers do the improbable to cap off homestand

BOX SCORE

The game started off as another example of the trials and tribulations the Sixers face without Joel Embiid. It ended with a massive comeback victory, 104-102, over the Heat. 

The Heat dominated the Sixers, leading, 62-39, at halftime Wednesday. The Sixers looked out of sync without Embiid (right ankle soreness), who didn’t play for only the second time in 20 games. 

That’s why there are four quarters, though. The Sixers began to take back control in the third, thanks in part to a 12-0 run that cut a 24-point deficit in half and put the game back within reach.

The Sixers came all the way back in the fourth quarter and were up five points with 13 seconds to play … but not so fast. Tyler Johnson hit a trey and the Heat regained possession after Ben Simmons committed an out-of-bounds turnover while passing. The Heat had one last chance to steal back the win. Dwyane Wade, who has knocked down key shots countless times over his career, missed what would have been a game-winning three as time expired. 

• The Sixers extended their winning streak at the Wells Fargo Center to 11 games. They have not lost in Philadelphia since Dec. 21.

• This was an important game for the Sixers because of potential playoff implications. The Sixers entered the night half a game ahead of the Heat in the seventh spot. After this matchup, the Sixers improved to 30-25, while the Heat dropped to 30-28.  

• Marco Belinelli showed why the Sixers pursued him, and vice versa, in his debut. He gave the first glimpse into the spark he can provide off the bench. Belinelli scored 17 points (7 for 12 from the field, 3 for 5 from three) in 28 minutes, including key buckets in the Sixers’ comeback run (see highlights).

• Another night, another triple-double for a Sixers’ point guard. Following up on T.J. McConnell’s performance, Ben Simmons posted his sixth triple-double of the season: 18 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists and four steals. He ranks third in the NBA behind Russell Westbrook and LeBron James in triple-doubles. 

• Richaun Holmes clocked 28 minutes after barely seeing the court lately. He contributed a high-energy 11 points and nine rebounds. Trevor Booker neared a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds. Dario Saric once again had a solid offensive night (team-high 19 points). 

• The Sixers were whistled for three technical fouls (McConnell, Saric, JJ Redick) in the second quarter alone. 

• It remains to be seen how many events Embiid will participate in All-Star weekend. In addition to starting in the All-Star Game, he was selected for the Mtn Dew Kickstart Rising Stars game and the Taco Bell Skills Challenge.

“In regards to a definitive, ‘This is what he's going to do,’ that has not been established,” Brett Brown said before the game (see story).

What does Embiid's injury mean for All-Star weekend?

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What does Embiid's injury mean for All-Star weekend?

Joel Embiid was ruled out for the final game of the Sixers’ homestand with right ankle soreness. 

Amir Johnson got the start in his place as the Sixers (29-25) tried to gain footing in the Eastern Conference against the Heat (30-27). 

Now the question remains whether Embiid will participate in All-Star weekend. He was selected to the Rising Stars game Friday, the skills challenge Saturday and named a starter for the All-Star Game Sunday.

If Embiid doesn’t participate in All-Star weekend, it will mark the second year in a row that he missed out on the festivities. He skipped the Rising Stars game and skills challenge a year ago with a left knee injury.

Prior to Wednesday's game, Brett Brown said the medical staff will work on a plan "to see what's responsible" and include Embiid's input. 

“In regards to a definitive, ‘This is what he's going to do,’ that has not been established,” Brown said.