Team USA

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.”

Hilary Knight sends Team USA past Canada for 4th straight world championship

Hilary Knight sends Team USA past Canada for 4th straight world championship

PLYMOUTH, Mich. -- The U.S. women's hockey players threw their sticks and gloves in the air and celebrated, capping an emotionally charged two-week stretch with a 3-2 overtime win over Canada in the women's world championship final Friday night.

Hilary Knight made the postgame party possible by scoring 10:17 into the extra period to make the Americans winners on and off the ice. After threatening to sit out the tournament, they won a contentious fight with USA Hockey for better wages that will allow the country's best female hockey players to make a living playing the sport.

"I'm so proud of this team for performing the way we did after battling the way we did off the ice," said Meghan Duggan, the Americans' captain. "A lot of history was made."

The U.S. won its fourth straight world championship title and eighth in the last 10 tries against their rivals, who will get their shot at revenge as defending Olympic champions next year in South Korea.

Brianne Jenner tied it at 2 for Canada midway through the third period on a power play after Kacey Bellamy's second goal early in the period gave the Americans their first lead in the gold-medal game.

The U.S. had two power plays in the third period with 7:24 and 2:24 left along with another power play early in OT, but couldn't capitalize on the opportunities to score a go-ahead goal with an extra skater.

Canada's Meghan Agosta scored 1:01 into the game, and Bellamy tied it 3 1/2 minutes later.

Nicole Hensley stopped 28 shots for the U.S.

Canada's goaltender, Shannon Szabados, was tested much more and made 37 saves.

"She was unbelievable," Agosta said. "She kept us in the game."

The Americans boldly said they would boycott the tournament, which would've embarrassed USA Hockey at a tournament held in an arena named after the organization, if they didn't get more money and perks their male counterparts get such as flying in business class and staying at nice hotels. The landmark deal allows them to make more than $70,000 during non-Olympic years and as much as $129,000 in Olympic years, including 2018, when combined with contributions from the United States Olympic Committee.

"We knew that was going to be a bond that was unbreakable," Knight said.

USA Hockey looked like it tried to break the unified front of American women, trying to find lower-caliber players to take their spots in the world championship if Plan B became necessary.

"They didn't want to forgo this opportunity, but they were willing to do it," Dee Spagnuolo, one of the attorneys who represented the women without a fee, said during the first intermission at USA Hockey Arena. "Every time we huddled up to make tough decisions before and during negotiations, they were united and firm. This team off the ice is so united and in adverse, tense situations in games, it helps them win on the ice, too."

The U.S. carried the momentum from the win against USA Hockey into the eight-nation tournament by dominating the competition until their rivals pushed them into OT.

The Americans were the better team in the end, though, creating lots of scoring chances in the sudden-death period that could have lasted up to 20 minutes. They didn't need that much time to finish the Canadians off with a second straight OT victory in a world championship gold-medal game.

Knight, who made a no-look, between-the leg pass to set up Bellamy's second goal, was trailing on a 3-on-2 rush when Coyne dropped a pass to her and she scored from the inside of the left circle. In the 2011 world championship final, Knight also scored the gold-medal winning goal in OT.

"She's one of the best in the world and she comes up big when you need her and the moment is huge," Bellamy said. "That's what's what make her so special. When everything is on the line, she comes through clutch."

When Knight lit the goal lamp, the jubilant Americans screamed with joy and hugged in a huge huddle.

"Nothing compares to a gold-medal game against Canada," Bellamy said. "The emotions are so high. The energy in the building was incredible and it was a really fast-paced game and we had to fight to the end."

The Canadians, meanwhile, skated in the other direction. They rested their gloves on their knees and stared at the ice in silence as a sold-out crowd at USA Hockey Arena roared.

In the beginning of the tournament, Canada struggled before rallying to face off against the Americans as they've done in all 18 world championships. The Canadians opened with a 2-0 loss to the U.S. and a stunning, 4-3 setback against Finland before bouncing back with an 8-0 rout of Russia and a 4-0 win over the Finns in the semifinals.

"We were resilient the whole tournament," Agosta said.