Embiid doesn't want pain to trump love in back-to-back

Embiid doesn't want pain to trump love in back-to-back


Joel Embiid’s playing status for his second back-to-back will not be determined until game day.

The Sixers' big man is dealing with a right ankle injury that left him questionable for Friday’s game against the Pelicans before he posted a 24-point, 16-rebound double-double in 24 minutes (see highlights). He will be evaluated Saturday ahead of the Sixers' next matchup hosting the Clippers.

“We’re going to see how the ankle feels,” Embiid said after the Sixers’ 100-82 win (see observations). “It was pretty painful today, but I want to push through everything. I’ve made it this far and especially when I’ve been allowed to play back-to-backs, I really want to push through it and play. Then we’ll go from there.”

Embiid is unsure of how he bothered his ankle. He felt “pretty good” after logging 32 minutes Tuesday facing the Wizards. He experienced swelling on Wednesday and had trouble walking on it. The discomfort was alleviated Thursday but Friday he was in doubt up until he went through pregame warmups. Brett Brown was surprised Embiid ended up playing.

“To his credit, he loves playing at home,” Brown said. “He loves playing in front of these fans.”

Embiid didn’t show signs of being bothered. He recorded 20 points and 10 rebounds by halftime, joining DeMarcus Cousins and Nikola Jokic as the only players to do so this season.

The performance was reminiscent of the Sixers’ win over the Spurs on Jan. 3. Embiid had been ruled out with a sprained right hand and decided to play anyway. He ended up with 21 points, four rebounds, four assists and — most impressively — four blocks.

Embiid had not been made available for back-to-backs at all in his career until two weeks ago. He was eligible Jan. 28 and 29 against the Thunder and Bucks, but he played 36 minutes in Oklahoma City and sat out in Milwaukee. Last weekend, Embiid reached the milestone for the first time with consecutive contests at home against the Heat and on the road against the Pacers.

The advantage the Sixers have in the situation this weekend is both games are at the Wells Fargo Center, and Friday they built a 32-point lead after the third quarter, which allowed Embiid to rest the entire fourth.

“We feel like we’ve done as much as we can,” Brown said. “We played well, were able to get him out, back-to-backs here at home, which is very rare. We’ve given ourselves our best chance to be able to see him play a back-to-back tomorrow night.”

If Embiid does not play, expect Amir Johnson to get the start.

Report: Sixers still eyeing trade up, but reluctant to include Robert Covington or Dario Saric

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Report: Sixers still eyeing trade up, but reluctant to include Robert Covington or Dario Saric

We’re counting down the hours now until the 2018 NBA draft, which means all of the chatter surrounding teams is heading into overdrive.

That includes the Sixers, who are reportedly still attempting to move up the draft board.

Per a report Tuesday by Sports Illustrated’s Jake Fischer, the Sixers are continuing to make calls about moving into the top five. However, “they have offered packages of picks, but have thus far rebuked including oft-mentioned Robert Covington and Dario Saric,” according to the report.

There has still been no mention of exactly which prospect the Sixers are interested in trading up for since former Cavaliers GM David Griffin made the claim during a radio interview last week (see story).

With six total selections in Thursday’s draft, including Nos. 10 and 26 in the first round, it makes sense that the Sixers would offer draft picks first in any potential trade.

However you feel about the streaky Covington, the team was high enough on the All-NBA defender last season to lock him into a long-term deal while Saric has proven to be a rock-solid contributor that keeps improving every day.

We’ll see if the Sixers ease off those demands as we get even closer to the draft.

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NBA draft profile: Miami G Bruce Brown Jr.

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NBA draft profile: Miami G Bruce Brown Jr.

Bruce Brown Jr.

Position: Guard

Height: 6-5

Weight: 195

School: Miami

After his freshman year, Bruce Brown Jr. would have been a no-brainer first-round pick and most likely a lottery selection. Now, it would be a big surprise to see him go in the lottery, and even the first round is far from a sure thing.

There are two main reasons for Brown’s stock falling, the first of which is the regression in his play as a sophomore, especially his shooting. Brown’s three-point percentage dropped from 34.7 percent to 26.7 percent and his free-throw shooting went from 74.4 percent to 62.9 percent. The second reason is the left foot injury Brown suffered in late January, which caused him to miss the second half of the season.

There don’t appear to be any serious concerns about the injury for Brown, who worked out with the Sixers Wednesday. But questions about his shot and why he couldn’t build upon an impressive freshman year are certainly lingering.

Brown is an outstanding athlete and competitor. He bench pressed 225 pounds 17 times at the combine, the most by any guard, and that's not at all surprising given the strength with which way he plays. He’s an intense, physical defender with a knack for turning defense into offense. For a guard, he’s an exceptional rebounder, posting 7.1 boards per contest in 2017-18. Offensively, Brown is a solid passer who’s comfortable in pick-and-rolls, which he ran a lot at Miami. He looks capable of being a secondary NBA ball-handler.

His sophomore shooting dip is obviously a major worry. That 62.9 percent free throw percentage and the fact Brown made only 7 of 46 attempts from NBA three-point range last season are ominous signs. Like his teammate Lonnie Walker IV, Brown was inconsistent on offense. In 19 games last season, he shot 50 percent or better from the floor nine times and 25 percent or worse seven times. Brown has a variety of dribble moves, but his handle isn’t the most tight or fluid. His pull-up game, in terms of shot selection, rhythm and balance, has a lot of room for improvement.  Given how talented an athlete he is, Brown isn’t a great finisher (he shot 58.5 percent at the rim last season) and he doesn’t seem to like using his left hand.

NBA comparison
Brown has said he models his game after Russell Westbrook. He definitely has a little bit of Westbrook in him, especially with his intensity and explosiveness. He also seems to have some Westbrook-like confidence – he thinks he’s the best guard in the draft. And like Westbrook, Brown left college after his sophomore season without a great offensive résumé.

All that said, it’s not fair (or at all realistic) to compare Brown to a player who has averaged a triple-double in back-to-back seasons. Lance Stephenson is a much better comparison. Like Brown, Stephenson is a strong defender, excellent guard rebounder and subpar shooter. It’s important to note, however, that Brown won’t come with any of Stephenson’s notorious, ear-blowing antics.

How he’d fit with Sixers
On the defensive end, Brown will help any NBA team immediately. With his ability to guard one through three at a high level, he’ll have a role off the bench. There’s no doubt Brown’s defense and rebounding would make the Sixers better in two areas where they’re already strong. His athleticism would also be a boost for a second unit lacking in that department last season. 

Draft projection
Because of his injury history and disappointing sophomore campaign, Brown has a slightly wider range than most prospects. He’s expected to be taken in the late first or early second round. He could be an option at No. 26 for the Sixers, or he could be a potential steal at No. 38 or No. 39.  

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