Embiid's 'bad game' shows Sixers have his back

Embiid's 'bad game' shows Sixers have his back


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Joel Embiid will take the wins, but not with complacency. 

The Sixers’ big man knows he can play better. He’s done it before and can tell when he isn’t at his peak performance.

“In a season, you’re going to go through slumps and I feel like I’ve been playing bad recently, although the box score might not say it,” Embiid said Tuesday following the Sixers’ 128-114 win in Charlotte (see observations).

Embiid posted 18 points, five rebounds and four assists against the Hornets. Those numbers don't scream poor game, but they were below his season averages (23.7 points, 11.2 boards). Embiid didn’t reach double digits until late in the third quarter. He scored nearly half of his points in the fourth, and attempted only two free throws. 

On Sunday, Embiid didn’t hit a field goal in the pivotal third quarter while the Sixers were outscored 33-14 by the Bucks. Again, 19 points and eight rebounds is not an insufficient stat line, yet not up to the standards Embiid sets for himself, especially when the Sixers lost. 

“Jo thinks if he doesn’t score 30 and 10, it’s a bad game,” Justin Anderson said from the locker next to Embiid’s.

Embiid smiled. 

“Like he said, if I don’t score 30, that has to be a bad game,” Embiid said. “That’s the bar and I feel like every night that I come out I’ve got to do that. Some nights it might not be enough. Some nights 20 points might not be enough. Some nights I might have to score 30 and if I don’t do that and we lose, I feel like that’s on me.”

Embiid is entering an unfamiliar part of the schedule. He has played 51 games this season, 20 more than his rookie total, including back-to-backs for the first time in his career. He also is averaging 31.4 points per game with 11 contests of 35-plus minutes. The All-Star starter still is experiencing a learning curve and adjustment period.

“Going into the season, I think the plan for me was to play, I don’t know, 45, 50 games. I'm well over that," Embiid said. “It’s a change. It’s new. I’ve got to get adapted to that. Never done it in my life. I’m starting to figure it out. I’m starting to figure out that I’ve got to choose my spots. Especially offensively, I’ve got to let the game come to me."

The upside in this situation is the Sixers are learning how to win without Embiid being the go-to every night. They beat the Hornets with a collaborative effort, starting with a team-high 22 points from Robert Covington and rounding out with double-digit totals from Dario Saric (19), Ben Simmons (16), JJ Redick (14), Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova (11 each). They shot 48.5 percent from long range and scored 48 of their points from three. Covington and Saric combined to go 9 for 16 from beyond the arc.

"It’s good to know that going into the playoffs, because not every shot is going to fall, so it’s good to know that all those guys, they’re going to have my back," Embiid said.

Interesting new odds on LeBron James' free agency destination, next season's Rookie of the Year

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Interesting new odds on LeBron James' free agency destination, next season's Rookie of the Year

Brett Brown is "star hunting." He's not naming names, but it's clear that LeBron James is at the top of his (and everybody's) list.

Until free agency officially starts on July 1, there's going to be plenty of speculation about whether the Sixers can actually land James. Bovada's latest odds on which team James will be playing for in Game 1 of the 2018-19 season don't give the Sixers a great shot.

The Lakers are now strong favorites, at 4/13. That's presumably because Spurs star Kawhi Leonard reportedly wants out of San Antonio and would like to return to his hometown of Los Angeles, specifically with the Lakers. Though the Spurs have said they want to keep Leonard if possible and reports are they don't want to trade him to a team in the Western Conference, the Lakers would definitely be a much more enticing option for James if they managed to get Leonard. 

The Sixers have the fourth-best odds, which are listed in full below.

What team will LeBron James play for Game 1 of the 2018-2019 Season?
Los Angeles Lakers                   4/13
Cleveland Cavaliers                   13/4
Houston Rockets                      15/2
Philadelphia 76ers                     10/1
Boston Celtics                          18/1
San Antonio Spurs                    20/1
Los Angeles Clippers                25/1                                           
New York Knicks                       30/1
Miami Heat                                40/1

Very early 2018-19 Rookie of the Year Odds

This season's Rookie of the Year hasn't even been announced yet. We'll know Monday night whether Ben Simmons brings home the award. But the odds for next season's Rookie of the Year are already out, and one of the newest Sixers, first-round pick Zhaire Smith, appears on Bovada's odds.

Unsurprisingly, Smith, who has a lot of room to grow (see story), is a long shot. The No. 16 selection has 45/1 odds to win. No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton has the best odds at 13/5, followed by the Mavs' Luka Doncic and the Kings' Marvin Bagley III. Mikal Bridges has 22/1 odds, while fellow Villanova product and new Milwaukee Buck Donte DiVincenzo makes an appearance at 40/1.

The complete odds are below.

2018-2019 NBA Rookie of the Year – Odds to Win
Deandre Ayton                          13/5
Luka Doncic                              3/1
Marvin Bagley                           9/2
Trae Young                               7/1
Jaren Jackson Jr                       9/1
Mohamed Bamba                      11/1
Kevin Knox                               15/1
Michael Porter Jr                       15/1
Mikal Bridges                            22/1
Collin Sexton                            22/1
Miles Bridges                            28/1
Wendell Carter Jr                       28/1
Donte DiVincenzo                     40/1
Shai Gilgeous-Alexansder          40/1
Zhaire Smith                              45/1
Lonnie Walker                           50/1
Robert Williams                         50/1

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With Bryan Colangelo saga in rearview, Sixers use draft as 1st step in repairing image

With Bryan Colangelo saga in rearview, Sixers use draft as 1st step in repairing image

Even Brett Brown had to admit just how much of a whirlwind this month has been for him.

“This has been a really different June,” he said after the 2018 NBA draft.

That’s certainly an understatement.

In a matter of weeks, Brown went from drawing up plays during the postseason to orchestrating his first draft as interim general manager. And there’s no time to take a breath with free agency barreling down the calendar on July 1.

While Brown has been tasked with running the Sixers’ front office operations for the time being (see story), he has also been put in charge of an even bigger challenge: reshaping the team’s image.

No matter your feelings on the Bryan Colangelo saga, there is no denying it was a black eye for the Sixers. One the franchise could ill afford heading into such an important summer.

So Brown set out to show that the Sixers are truly all about the player-friendly, tight-knit and development culture they have cultivated throughout “the process.” The reinforcement started with grabbing a pair of players in the draft with not only first-round talent, but first-rate character.

“When you look at sort of the values that were most important to us as we decided how to grow this team and select our players, there were none more important than just good people and character,” Brown said Friday of first-rounders Zhaire Smith and Landry Shamet. “Personally, when you would see me work the players out and then intermittently we would call people into my office, there was a connection and a comfort level that I had just talking to them as people.”

Of course talent trumps everything and Brown admitted the duo was ultimately snagged because of basketball ability above all else. However, it’s no coincidence that both players are soft-spoken and eager to grind for whatever minutes come their way on the court.

“I just want to come in here, put my work in and let it play out,” Smith said.

“At the end of the day, I just want to be a player that’s known to do whatever a coach needs me to do,” Shamet said. “Whatever the staff or my team needs me to do, that’s what I’m going to be. … Coming in and working hard and doing what I can on a day-to-day basis.”

What’s a little competition between family?

Oh, make no mistake, the Sixers see the program they’ve constructed as a family. And now that the branch of the tree that tends to talk way too much on social media is gone, Brown wants every draft pick that enters the building (and superstar that is willing to listen) to know this organization is a place you want to be.

“We’d like to welcome Zhaire’s family, we’d like to welcome Landry’s family to our home,” Brown said. “As I told these two young players, [they have] the ability to walk into this building and look up behind us and recognize the true history of this organization. To be able to look around and see the backyard that they now have and see sports science, and see a strength and conditioning program, and see an analytics department, and seeing the medical staff, and seeing the video area, and looking at our kitchen, which we kind of designed almost like a college atmosphere where we all go up as a team, as a family, an organization and spend time. This is their backyard where they’re going to get better.”

Now Brown hopes the franchise is stable enough again to add a high-profile name to the family by the time the July 4 BBQ rolls around.

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