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Does Sixers' Joel Embiid need to protect himself better on the court?

Does Sixers' Joel Embiid need to protect himself better on the court?

There are a lot of words to describe Sixers center Joel Embiid. Amazing. Uncanny. Special.

Lately, a few others are coming to mind. How 'bout injury-prone? Scary? Reckless?

Embiid hasn't played in 11 of the Sixers' last 12 games, and at this point isn't expected to return until after the NBA All-Star break. That doesn't put him back in uniform until February 25, more than a month after sustaining what was once termed a "knee contusion."

No big deal. The Sixers' playoff push was a farce anyway, and rest and recovery are what's best for Embiid right now.

The real question we should probably be asking is not when will Embiid return, but what kind of player will he be once he's back? Because just watching him for one game is enough to make a serious examination as to whether he's going to continue to put himself and his career in jeopardy on a nightly basis.

Let's go back to the tape against the Rockets (we spliced video of these plays together in a clip above).

After winning the tip, Embiid takes the pass at the top of the key, drives to the basket and dunks OVER Nene on the Sixers' opening possession. The Wells Fargo Center roars in approval as Embiid lands awakwardly on his right leg and nearly comes crashing haphazardly to the hardwood.

In the second quarter, Embiid faces up Nene, cuts across the basket and lays the ball into the hoop, but does hit the deck this time, gingerly falling to the floor on the finish. Moments later at the other end, Embiid rushes into the corner to defend Sam Dekker's three-point attempt, only to wind up in the Rockets bench.

Then in the third, Embiid skies for an alley-oop from Dario Saric, yet is brought to the ground again — hard this time — when he's fouled by Patrick Beverly. Shortly after, Embiid chases down James Harden from behind and swats away the easy slam, only his knees appear to buckle on the way down.

Fourth period, Embiid is back in the front row on defense.

That was all from the last time Embiid played a game for the Sixers, and it turns out he had a torn meniscus at the time, the result of another ugly landing. Unfortunately, it's an all-too-common occurence to see the 7-foot-2 center make an uneasy touch down or on the floor, and ever prior to his latest injury, it was quite worrisome.

Keep in mind, we're talking about one of the faces of the Sixers franchise here, a 22-year-old who missed two full seasons already because of a foot problem — albeit a freak injury, but still concerning nonetheless. Of course we love the effort, yet at this rate, how long can his body withstand these types of beatings, night in and night out?

Obviously, asking Embiid to bring that energy level down by even a notch is easier said than done. He's not a certain 6-foot guard, though, nor should he be playing like such, especially at this stage of the Sixers' rebuilding process, when so little is on the line.

The style of playing honestly is at least a little reminiscent of Allen Iverson, in terms of the seeming total disregard Embiid shows for his body. He's captivating audiences like Iverson, too.

But Embiid isn't Iverson. Big men tend to break down easier to begin with, let alone those with a history of lower-body injuries. And few if any NBA superstars took the drubbings AI did with such regularity and were still great for very long.

Ultimately, it might be Embiid's responsibility to take better care to protect himself when he's on an NBA court. You could also make the case that it's the Sixers' imperative to impart this to him, if they haven't already.

Embiid's importance to the Sixers isn't vastly different than that of Carson Wentz's to the Eagles, and how do people react any time he's exposed to an unnecessary hit? Wentz is told to get out of harm's way all the time, and peppered with questions from the media roughly every other week there's a situation when he doesn't.

Watching Embiid play like a guard in a center's body is a legitimate thrill, and the degree to which you want to see him rein it in might vary. Yet up to this point, it's a concern that doesn't seem to be getting much attention, if it's been voiced at all. If anything, people want to know when the minutes and game restrictions will be lifted.

Until he starts to show some regard for his own safety on the court, the Sixers would be best served to continue putting limitations on Embiid. The organization can't protect him forever, but until he learns to protect himself, maybe they should continue doing what they can.

Dodgers fan wearing Chase Utley jersey catches Justin Turner home run ball for 2nd year in a row

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MLB

Dodgers fan wearing Chase Utley jersey catches Justin Turner home run ball for 2nd year in a row

Dodgers fans had a reason to be ecstatic on Sunday night after Justin Turner hit a walk-off three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Cubs, 4-1, and give Los Angeles a 2-0 lead in the NLCS.

But not as ecstatic as one fan in particular.

Keith Hupp, a retired police officer and lifelong Dodgers fan, was waiting under the home run ball in the center-field stands and snagged it with his son's glove. He was also wearing a Dodgers Chase Utley jersey.

He even made the catch with his non-preferred hand.

“I’m a lefty,” Hupp said to J.P. Hoornstra of the Orange County Register. “I’ve dislocated my right shoulder so many times, I had to resort to my son’s glove on my left hand. So the last five or six home run balls I’ve caught, I’ve caught with my left hand.”

And the craziest part about this story is that it wasn't the first time it had happened. Hupp caught Turner's sixth-inning solo homer in Game 3 of last year's NLCS against the Cubs in almost the same place, the center-field stands at Dodger Stadium.

Although he has 24 home run balls in his collection, Hupp won't be keeping last night's game-winner. After making the catch, he gave the ball to a security guard, and was escorted underneath the stadium to meet Turner and make a trade with him. 

In a postgame interview with MLB.com, Turner said Hupp couldn't decide what he wanted for the ball right away. They exchanged information and agreed that Hupp will get back to Turner in a few days when he decides what he wants.

Twitter had some good responses to Hupp's memorable home run catch:

Hassan Whiteside responds, doesn't back down from Joel Embiid rivalry

Hassan Whiteside responds, doesn't back down from Joel Embiid rivalry

Joel Embiid and Hassan Whiteside battled on the court on Friday night and then on social media following the Sixers' victory over the Miami Heat to finish off the preseason.

Embiid seemingly got the better of Whiteside, sending Philadelphia fans into a frenzy when he told Whiteside his "+/- was ass."

It appears as if Whiteside is taking it all in stride and actually has a pretty good level of respect for Embiid. The Miami big man was asked about the trash talk after practice over the weekend.

"It's funny to me," Whiteside said according to the Sun Sentinel. "I'm going to talk trash back if somebody talks trash to me. Maybe when I was younger, I would have been a little more angrier, I would have been a little madder.

"But, you know, that's the kind of guy he is. He makes jokes. He's a good player, so it's all fun to me. I can go all day with it."

Embiid has shown glimpses that he has the potential to be one of the greats of the NBA game on the court, while he's already one of the best at entertaining off of it. Whiteside will clearly have his hands full but he knows a little trash talk on social gets fans excited.

"Yeah, man, you know fans love it, man. Fans get into it. I love it, too," he said. "Because I know the next time we play him, he's going to give it his all, he's going to go as hard as he can. And as a competitor, that's what you want. You want your opponent to play at his maximum speed."

Playing at maximum speed is something Sixers fans hope and pray they get to see out of Embiid this season on a more regular basis. The trash talking is bonus fun.

"It's not him talking about somebody's family," Whiteside said. "It's not nothing crazy. It's just basketball. He called me softee. Come on, man. He knows that's not true. I'll be on his team's scouting report."

The Heat and the Sixers meet again on Feb. 2. Let's just hope both Embiid and Whiteside are out on the court to go another few rounds off of it afterward.