76ers

Dominant Joel Embiid looks ready for the games to count as Sixers beat Pistons in preseason

Dominant Joel Embiid looks ready for the games to count as Sixers beat Pistons in preseason

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The Sixers have one more preseason contest before the games count, and Joel Embiid certainly looks ready for that moment.

Embiid was dominant Tuesday night, with 24 points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes as the Sixers beat the Detroit Pistons, 106-86.

Six players missed Tuesday's game. Ben Simmons (back tightness), James Ennis (right calf strain) and Al Horford (rest) were out for the Sixers, and Andre Drummond (rest), Blake Griffin (left hamstring soreness) and Markieff Morris (illness) sat for Detroit. 

The Sixers, 4-0 in the preseason, play the Wizards on Friday at 7 p.m. before their regular season opener next Wednesday vs. the Celtics. 

• Detroit started Thon Maker in Drummond’s place. Embiid attacked him immediately, scoring the Sixers’ first six points on a jumper from the foul line, two free throws earned after a strong drive to the rim and a lefty layup that was a byproduct of deep post positioning. 

It was a predictably aggressive start by Embiid, who had 12 points in the first quarter and made all six of his free throws. Playing against Drummond might have been better preparation for the regular season, but looking to be ruthless inside vs. overmatched players is useful for Embiid, too. He finds himself in that situation plenty. 

• Josh Richardson started at point guard, a look Brett Brown said pregame he was “excited” to further explore. 

Richardson had 11 points on 4 for 12 shooting, six rebounds, five assists and two turnovers. He sometimes struggles playing against length and through contact, but he’s tended to make good decisions with the ball in his hands. 

If Richardson begins the season as the backup point guard — as he was Sunday night against the Magic — that would shift the competition between Raul Neto and Trey Burke to the background.

Burke played with the regulars and had six points and an assist in 15 minutes.

• Shake Milton saw time off the bench at the wing next to Richardson and turned in a solid performance, with six points on 3 for 5 shooting. He’s generally kept his man in front of him on defense during the preseason and had a well-timed block on Derrick Rose at the end of the first quarter. 

• Matisse Thybulle has an exceptional ability to chew up ground and recover when he’s seemingly out of the play.

“I make a lot of mistakes, it’s just covered up by steals and deflections,” he said before the game, a humble assessment. 

Brown has encouraged Thybulle to gamble and make those “mistakes,” and he’s delivered with disruptive defense. The rookie had seven points, six rebounds, four steals and two blocks in his first career start.  

• Even though Tobias Harris started at power forward in this game, the continued emphasis on getting him opportunities with his back to the basket was noticeable. The movement around Harris and understanding of how to play off him in the post is still developing, but the desire to put Harris in more of those spots makes sense. When he has size and strength on an opponent — as he will often this season at small forward — Harris is good at taking his time and making his advantages count. 

He had 10 points on 4 for 11 shooting, five rebounds and three assists vs. Detroit.

• The question of whether the Sixers have adequate outside shooting after the departure of JJ Redick remains a valid one. They entered Tuesday’s game shooting 34.5 percent from three-point range in the preseason, and that percentage fell after a 6 for 24 night.

Furkan Korkmaz’s path to consistent minutes is through helping to mitigate that issue. He has a reputation as a three-point marksman, though he’s shot just 32.3 percent from long range in 62 NBA career games. His performance Tuesday — 10 points on 4 for 7 shooting (2 for 4 from three) — might strengthen his case in Brown’s eyes.

• Kyle O’Quinn seems to make at least one eyebrow-raising pass every game — in a good way. He had nine assists in Orlando and five Tuesday, including a perfectly timed and weighted bounce pass to Thybulle for a dunk. 

• Two-way player Norvel Pelle kept the crowd at Wells Fargo Center excited late with his blend of lobs, blocked shots and theatrical poses. He played the entire fourth quarter and had 13 points and five blocks.

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Shake Milton on NBA return: 'I don’t really think we should be playing'

Shake Milton on NBA return: 'I don’t really think we should be playing'

It wasn’t surprising to hear Joel Embiid say he “hated the idea” of the bubble or Mike Scott voice his displeasure for the NBA’s jersey idea.

It was mildly surprising to hear second-year guard Shake Milton take the strongest stance when it came to the NBA’s decision to resume the season.

I don’t really think we should be playing,” Milton said in a video conference call with reporters Tuesday, “but I think the NBA is doing all that they can to make the environment as safe as possible. My teammates want to play so we’re going to go down there and try to win.

When asked why specifically he thought the league shouldn’t resume play, he provided a poignant response.

I think [the spread of the virus], and then also I feel like there’s a lot of other stuff going on,” Milton said. “There are issues going on right now in the world that are way bigger than a sport, way bigger than the game of basketball. I feel like we’re on the cusp of finally having people tune in and really try to listen and try to understand more about the things that are happening in our country. I feel like the moment is too big right now and I don’t want the game of basketball to overshadow it.

Perhaps lost in the shuffle of so many things being shared on social media was Milton posting something that seemed a bit out of character for the soft-spoken 23-year-old. 

Milton is a native of Owasso, Oklahoma, a northern suburb of Tulsa. The 23-year-old has shared various posts about the city and the Tulsa race massacre that occured in 1921 as well as posts about Breonna Taylor, the Louisville EMT who was fatally shot by police while sleeping in her apartment.

While he’s glad to see the league wants to keep the message in the public scope, he’s curious to know how they’ll do it.

I think [the NBA trying to highlight racial injustice is] good — I think we should definitely do it,” Milton said. “I want to know how we’re going to go about doing it, that’s really my concern. I heard ideas about the names on the back of the jerseys and putting stuff on the court, but I kind of want to see what the NBA is actually going to do. That’s cool and all, but that’s kind of like the same as having a T-shirt where you see somebody’s face and it says RIP on the back. That’s only going to take you so far. So I’m interested to see what else the NBA has planned and what else they’re going to do.

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Sixers' Joel Embiid doesn't believe in the NBA's restart plan

Sixers' Joel Embiid doesn't believe in the NBA's restart plan

Joel Embiid intends to travel with the Sixers to Orlando for the NBA’s resumption, but he is not confident in the league’s plan and does not endorse it.

On a video conference call Tuesday, the All-Star center explained why he does not support the NBA heading to Florida during the coronavirus pandemic in an attempt to conclude the 2019-20 season with a champion.

I hated the idea,” Embiid said. “I feel like with everything that has been going on, it’s unfortunate what’s been going on in the world. Obviously people look at it in a different way. There might be some other reasons behind everything going on. To me, that part never mattered. To me, all I want is to stay healthy and stay safe, keep the people around me safe. I want to make sure I’m able to live for a long time and not have any sort of consequences in the future from this if I were to be in a situation where I was getting the virus. 

“Unfortunately, I’m not a big fan of the idea. But then again, I’m going to do my job. I’m not going to let the city down. I’m going to represent my city — that’s what I’ve always done — my family, my teammates. The mindset doesn’t change. It doesn’t matter the fact that I don’t like that idea and I still don’t believe in it. I don’t think it’s going to be safe enough.

“Because I know I’m going to do the right things, I know I don’t ever do anything, I only play video games, I’m always home — I don’t do anything. But then again, I don’t trust those other guys to do the same. But, like I said, I’ve gotta do my job.

The Sixers will travel to Walt Disney World on Thursday and are scheduled to resume play on Aug. 1 against the Indiana Pacers. There’s been a spike in coronavirus cases in Florida, which reportedly has raised concerns around the league. Positive coronavirus tests during the NBA’s Phase 2 protocol have prompted several teams to shut down their facilities, including the Bucks, Heat and Clippers. 

There have been over 2.9 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States and over 130,000 coronavirus-related deaths in the country, according to NBC News

Embiid said he considered opting out but felt obligated to play. 

I thought about it,” he said, “but then again, I wouldn’t let my teammates down. I play in a city that’s tough and I consider myself as being tough … I’m not going to give up that easily. If you told me that the current trend is that people are getting sick and a lot of people are dying, obviously you don’t know what's going to happen and you don’t want to be in a situation where you put your life at risk ... and all that stuff, just for what? The money and all that stuff. At the end of the day, basketball is not all that matters. I've got family, I've got myself to look out for. That's all I care about.

"At the end, when it’s all said and done, basketball shouldn’t define me. I should be looked at as just Joel Embiid the person. Like I said, it’s unfortunate but I want to represent my city. I've been here too long. This is my opportunity. I believe we have a great chance of winning the championship. Still not 100 percent sure, but that's what I'm thinking. I want to represent the city. I don’t want to let my teammates down, I don't want to let anybody down. I’ve been working too hard for this and I've just got to keep pushing and hope for the best. 

Embiid sees no reason why he personally will have any trouble adhering to the NBA’s health protocols, which detail everything from testing procedures to physical distancing mandates to approved recreational activities. But he’s somewhat skeptical that more outgoing NBA players will follow all precautions to minimize the risk of coronavirus exposure. 

“I look at myself and I’ve been doing this for quite a bit now — six, seven years,” he said. “Like I said, all I do is play video games and stay in my room on the road, or even when I’m home. Just stay home, play video games, do what I've got to do. Just being with my family. 

“And obviously we’re all different. Some guys like to go out and some guys like to do stuff, (there are) some guys that like adventure. So that’s the way I’m thinking. I know myself. I know I’m not going to put everybody else at risk, but the question is, is everybody else going to do the same? And just being around this business, I surely don’t think so.”

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