The700Level

Markelle Fultz ascends to hesi pull-up jimbo heaven in 2nd Utah game

Markelle Fultz ascends to hesi pull-up jimbo heaven in 2nd Utah game

Well, he can shoot. That much we can probably take to the bank.

Markelle Fultz had a largely up-and-down night in his second Utah Jazz Summer League outing -- his first half being the "down," and the second half being the "up" -- that in aggregate once again pointed to the many strengths and handful of weaknesses he will likely display as a first-year pro. Defense is a concern, primary playmaking is a concern, conditioning and stamina is a concern. Shooting? Not a concern. 

If you followed Fultz's summer league debut on any media platform, you are no doubt already familiar with the phrase "hesi pull-up jimbo," as coined by Finals MVP Kevin Durant (h/t DMV streetball parlance). That phrase, once applied to our No. 1 overall pick, already seems likely to follow him for his career's entirety: Not just because of its brain-sticking inanity, but because a shot as smooth and distinctive and consistent as Fultz's should have its own name. We'll be watching the Hesi Pull-up Jimbo for the next five to 10 (to 25) years and will lack the proper vocabulary to describe it anyway, may as well embrace it now. 

In any event, the HPUJ was obviously in full effect on Wednesday night in Utah against the home-court Jazz. It was just about the only thing working for Fultz in the first half, where he turned the ball over four times with no assists, got repeatedly shut down by Dante Exum in the half-court, and also got lightly toasted by Exum on multiple occasions at the other end, looking slow and small (and winded) by comparison. It was the kind of half that has you nervously flipping to old DX strengths videos and scouting reports to persuade yourself to keep the faith while your eyes and stomach tell you that all is not right with dude. 

But things leveled out in the second half -- Fultz got more opportunities in the half-court, his teammates set better picks and hit more shots, and an improved team scheme neturalized Exum and rookie backcourt mate Donovan Mitchell enough for the Sixers to mount an unlikely late-game comeback. And leading the charge was Fultz in full MF Doom mode, ultimately scoring 23 on the night and 13 in the quarter, including 9 of 16 FG and 4 of 8 from deep (really 4 of 6 when you discount his two half-ending heaves from beyond the timeline). In the final minutes, he casually shed his defender with a stepback into a swished wing three to cut Utah's lead to one that had process trusters and everyone else in full swoon. Didn't look that impressed with himself, either. 

It's often irritatingly facile to trace a player's potential through his prospective fit with a teammate -- I can still remember Dennis Scott on the 2010 summer league call insisting that Evan Turner's game would blossom once he got to share the perimeter with Andre Iguodala, an obvious and dangerous untruth. But damn if you can't see Fultz and Ben Simmons filling the crevices in each other's game like a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios and two-percent milk: A couple games of Fultz as a semi-pro and it's clear his most obvious player comp is Kyrie Irving, a truly dynamic scoring guard with a solid, if occasionally uninspiring, verve for distributing. Putting Simbo on the floor with him could open up his game like Irving's has next-leveled alongside You Know Who. (Not J.R. Smith or Iman Shumpert.) 

Anyway, the Sixers still lost, 100-94, and Fultz still ended with more turnovers (six) than assists (five, all but one of which came in the final frame). But life is still beautiful in the Post-Processverse. Players, Jerry! Real NBA players! The two months between summer league and preseason this year are gonna be the longest any Sixers fan has ever known. 

(Postscript: Sixers 2016 first-rounder Furkan Korkmaz also supposedly played in this game, having officially signed his NBA contract earlier Wednesday -- I watched all 40 minutes and can not confirm he is yet on the continent.)

Joel Embiid belongs among the very best

Joel Embiid belongs among the very best

You can't really fake it at an All-Star Game, especially one where people are actually trying. There's no lucking your way into a couple open shots and a couple generous foul calls and all of a sudden rolling your way to a 30-plus-point game; there's no isolating one defensive mismatch and exploiting it to make yourself look like '01 Shaq. Generally speaking, an All-Star Game shakes out as it should: The best shine the brightest, and those who aren't ready yet fade into the periphery with extra motivation to step things up for next year. 

And that's why it's so awesome that Joel Embiid, a mere 75 games into his NBA career, unquestionably belonged on the biggest stage with the biggest names last night. Playing for Stephen Curry's squad, JoJo posted 19 points on 8-13 shooting, with eight rebounds and two blocks, and a +5 rating for the night -- the only positive plus/minus for the Steph starters. 

Out of context, those numbers may not sound particularly impressive for an All-Star outing, considering the final score of 2017's game was 192-182. But thanks to increased financial and personal motivation in this year's game, the competition was ratcheted up, and though the final score was still a robust 148-145 -- Team LeBron emerging victorious -- no one player really went off in this one, with Team Stephen being led in scoring by DeMar DeRozan and Damian Lillard (21 each). Consider that JoJo's 19 outpaced both teammates James Harden (12 points on 5-19 FG) and Curry himself (13 on 4-14 FG) -- only two of the greatest scorers in NBA history. 

And what's more, down the stretch it was Embiid who seemed most ready to rise to the moment. With minutes remaining and his team up one, Embiid posted up LeBron James -- LeBron James!! -- for an easy bucket, and with the score tied and under a minute left, he got stuck isolated on the perimeter against Paul George, and still ended up blocking George's shot to win the possession back for his team. Had his squad been able to hang on in this one, he would've been able to mount a fairly compelling case for MVP, which would've made him the first player since at least the 20th century to win top honors in his first All-Star appearance. 

Of course, it didn't happen that way, and Team Stephen coach Mike D'Antoni might get most of the blame as to why. With his squad up one and Team LeBron inbounding out of a timeout, D'Antoni opted for some incomprehensible reason to bench Embiid, his best defensive player -- which, somewhat unsurprisingly, resulted in LeBron scoring quickly and easily at the basket to go up one, and then DeMar DeRozan throwing the ball away at the other end. Embiid entered for the final possession, with his team needing a three to tie, and he had a chance to hoist one, but understandably passed to Curry, who drove his way into traffic and ended up not even getting a shot off. Team LeBron won, and James took home his third MVP. 

Frustrating finish, but it can't ruin what came before: Joel Embiid squaring off against the best the NBA has to offer, and proving himself a factor. (Also nailed a three and then blocked a Russell Westbrook drive at the other end, btw, so that beautiful random feud lives on.) He got as good as he gave -- LeBron drilled a triple in his face immediately after JoJo took him down low -- but he was in the mix, and a crucial part of his team's successes and failures. It should be the first of many such All-Star starring roles for Embiid, and hopefully the last for some time that doesn't also include him being flanked by Process Truster in Arms Ben Simmons. 

But even if it isn't -- even if nothing good ever happens again with Joel, and we look back at this All-Star Game 25 years from now as the high point of this career -- it still would have all been worth it. It was worth it when the team went 10-5 two Januarys ago. It was maybe worth it when Embiid gave his first-ever post-game interview following a Sixers win. 

That's what people will never understand about The Process, and that's what makes nights like this so gratifying. Franchises go decades, entire generations, without getting a moment to feel this way about one of their players, and even getting the chance to feel it about one of ours is worth seasons of sacrifice. JoJo lives, and somewhere in the bowels of the Staples Center last night, Our Once and Always Dark Lord Sam Hinkie had to be there and be smiling. Hope he enjoyed the Fergie national anthem as much as I did, as well. 

JJ Redick responds to video in which he allegedly used racial slur

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SB Nation/Twitter

JJ Redick responds to video in which he allegedly used racial slur

Updated at 12:50 a.m.

Early Sunday, a video surfaced on social media that appeared to put Sixers’ guard JJ Redick in an extremely poor light. Redick has since responded to clear up the situation.

Here’s what happened:

At about 8 a.m., a post appeared on Reddit showing a screenshot and caption alleging that Redick said a racial slur during a video from NBA players wishing Chinese fans a Happy New Year. The video caused a huge uproar on social media. If you wish to see the video, it is located here, at the top.

On the surface, without a response, it looked odd from the start. Redick, who we have come to know as a well-spoken individual who is typically very appreciative of basketball fans, isn’t someone you’d expect this from, let alone with a camera pointing directly at his face with an NBA microphone in front of his lips.

He offered this response on his official Twitter account, saying he was tongue-tied and had no intentions of saying what he did on the video.

Fans reacted on both sides of the issue, some still asking for an apology and others taking Redick for his word. 

On Sunday night, Redick followed up with a longer statement on his Twitter and Instagram, where he further explained himself and indeed issued an apology.

Please read. Thank you.

A post shared by JJ Redick (@jjredick) on

Early Monday, Brooklyn Nets guard Jeremy Lin tweeted a statement saying that he spoke with Redick and believes the Sixers' guard didn't say a racial slur.

With the All-Star Break going on, Redick won’t be available for a few more days for the media to ask him about this. There’s a chance this story will continue into next week.