76ers

NBA Notes: Jamal Crawford chooses Timberwolves over Warriors, Cavaliers

NBA Notes: Jamal Crawford chooses Timberwolves over Warriors, Cavaliers

MINNEAPOLIS -- At 37 years old and having never played in the NBA Finals, Jamal Crawford certainly could have gone ring chasing when he received a buyout from the Atlanta Hawks.

The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, who have met in the last three finals, were both interested in the veteran scorer. LeBron James was calling Crawford personally to recruit him to Cleveland.

So naturally, Crawford chose ... the Minnesota Timberwolves?

The Wolves have missed the playoffs for 13 straight seasons. But after Minnesota added Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and Jeff Teague this summer, Crawford decided to join Tom Thibodeau's team in hopes of being an integral part of a team trying to break through as opposed to the latest hired gun on an established contender.

"I want to experience it with these guys and go through the wars and the struggles and just really embrace the journey with these guys," Crawford said Wednesday. "To me, that can be even more gratifying than just going to a team that's already made and ready to win a championship. Hopefully, we'll get there, but we'll all go through it together" (see full story).

Spurs: Ginobili indicates he’ll return for 16th season
SAN ANTONIO -- As the clock ticked down on the Spurs' season and Manu Ginobili was pulled from the game, a thunderous roar from the home crowd guided him to the bench.

Ginobili wore an appreciative but quizzical look on his face as he put a warmup shirt back on and prepared to head off into the summer. Clearly, the fans were saying goodbye to one of the most popular players in Spurs history.

Ginobili was not ready to do the same: The Argentinian posted a message on his Twitter account on Wednesday that he is re-signing with San Antonio for another season, which will be his 16th with the Spurs.

"It felt like they wanted me to retire," Ginobili said with a smile after the Spurs were swept out of the Western Conference finals by the Golden State Warriors. "Like they were giving me sort of a celebration night. And of course, I'm getting closer and closer."

Save those goodbyes for at least another year (see full story).

Clippers: Griffin calls decision to stay a ’no-brainer’ 
LOS ANGELES -- Blake Griffin was back in his usual place, front and center on a Clippers stage.

After opting out of his contract, Griffin didn't spend the offseason toiling over whether to sign with another team -- like his teammate DeAndre Jordan famously did. For Griffin, it was an easy decision to sign a max five-year deal to stay with the only NBA team he's played for in his seven-year career.

"I want to say how excited I am to be back. This has been my home since I was drafted. A lot went into this decision," Griffin said Wednesday. "In the end, I realized this was a no-brainer for me. This is the place where I want to start and finish my career. . This next chapter and next season for the Clippers and myself, I've never been more excited about an opportunity."

Griffin, 28, is undoubtedly the star of the Clippers with Chris Paul gone in the trade with the Rockets that sent Pat Beverley to Los Angeles.

Griffin said he and Paul talked about his decision to want to leave the Clippers.

"No hard feelings," said Griffin, a five-time All-Star. "I think we're all professional enough to know and we've all been in the situation now to know sometimes you have to do what's right and what's best for yourself and your family. I've never had hard feelings with any of my teammates who decided to leave or felt like it was best to leave. I wouldn't start now" (see full story).

Wizards: With Porter deal done, team keeps core intact
WASHINGTON -- Otto Porter is a quiet, complementary piece to the Wizards' talented young core. He is also now Washington's highest-paid player.

At least temporarily.

Guards John Wall and Bradley Beal garner most of the attention as Washington has made it to the second round of the NBA playoffs three of the last four seasons. But for now, Porter makes the most money after the Wizards matched a four-year, $106.5 million max-contract offer sheet the forward signed with the Brooklyn Nets.

There might be questions if the 24-year-old Porter is worth that money. But the Wizards believe he is a good fit alongside Wall, 26, a four-time All-Star, and Beal, 24, one of the league's top shooting guards.

"You just use that as motivation just like John and Brad did," Porter said at a news conference Wednesday. "They set the bar high. I'm going to set my bar, high, too" (see full story).

Grizzlies: PG Chalmers signs contract
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Memphis Grizzlies have signed guard Mario Chalmers, nearly 1 1/2 years after he ruptured his right Achilles tendon playing for the team.

The Grizzlies announced the deal Wednesday. Terms of the contract weren't disclosed.

The 31-year-old Chalmers was injured in March 2016. During the 2015-16 season, Chalmers played 61 games for the Grizzlies and Miami Heat, averaging 10.3 points, 3.8 assists and 2.6 rebounds.

Chalmers played for Miami from 2008-15 and was part of the Heat's 2012 and 2013 NBA championship teams.

Sixers Injury Update: Joel Embiid, Josh Richardson out for Saturday's game vs. Cavs

Sixers Injury Update: Joel Embiid, Josh Richardson out for Saturday's game vs. Cavs

The Sixers will be down two starters Saturday night when they return to Wells Fargo Center to play the Cavs.

Josh Richardson will miss his fifth consecutive game with right hamstring tightness, while Joel Embiid is out with a left hip contusion.

A team source told NBC Sports Philadelphia that Embiid reported discomfort after the Sixers' 119-113 loss to the Wizards on Thursday night and is being treated for the injury.

Embiid had 26 points, 21 rebounds and eight turnovers Thursday.

Richardson and the Sixers have been cautious with his hamstring. He told reporters in Washington, D.C., that this is the first hamstring injury he's dealt with and admitted that it's been a frustrating process.

“A hamstring is one of those things where you can think that you’re fine and then you take a wrong step and it’s a week or two-week setback," he said. "I don’t really want to get into that whole cycle. ... It’s just one of those things where I just don’t really know where I’m at most of the time. It always feels like I’m tiptoeing, trying not to do too much.”

The Sixers' preferred starting five of Embiid, Richardson, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris and Al Horford have played just 102 minutes together this season, posting a plus-21.3 net rating. 

Furkan Korkmaz has started the past four games in place of Richardson. Without Embiid, the Sixers will need to plug in another spot starter and perhaps search for further big man depth. Kyle O'Quinn hasn't played since Nov. 23, but he might be called upon vs. Cleveland.

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How Joel Embiid can improve with the subtleties of screening and rolling

How Joel Embiid can improve with the subtleties of screening and rolling

The Sixers, through 22 games, have run the fewest pick-and-rolls in the NBA, and at the worst efficiency

Joel Embiid is in the bottom top 10 percent of the league in efficiency as a roll man. 

None of those stats are encouraging at first glance.

That said, are there any positive signs for Embiid’s progress as a screener and a roller? And how can he get better?

Rolling isn’t always the right option

While Brett Brown said after practice Wednesday that he wants Embiid “screening and rolling more than popping,” rolling isn’t always the right option for the All-Star center.

Because Ben Simmons frequently stations himself in the “dunker spot,” Embiid often needs to float out behind the three-point line for the Sixers to maintain proper spacing.

When opposing big men drop on the pick-and-roll, there’s typically not much to be gained by Embiid rolling.

Embiid pops on the play below against the Raptors, and it’s a reasonable move with Marc Gasol dropping into the paint on Josh Richardson’s drive. Ultimately, the bigger issue is he settles for a mid-range jumper instead of either taking an open three or putting pressure on Gasol to guard a drive to the rim. 

A game-winning variation  

Before Richardson’s hamstring injury, the Sixers were incorporating the action above more into their offense. It’s a basic look — Richardson rubs off a screen to the top of the key, then Embiid steps up to give him a ball screen. 

Embiid’s game-winning dunk on Nov. 12 vs. the Cavs came from a smart variation. After Embiid’s roll to the rim, he set a strong down screen for Tobias Harris, flowing into a perfectly executed high-low.

On most of the occasions Embiid rolls to the rim and doesn’t receive the ball initially, a deep post-up is the next best option. Instead of finding Embiid on the high-low Nov. 15 in Oklahoma City, Al Horford swung the ball to Harris and created a good angle for a post catch. Embiid will score or get fouled in these positions more often than not. 

Getting snug

The “snug pick-and-roll” is, in theory, a way to allow Embiid and Simmons to both be near the rim at the same time without the only result being claustrophobic spacing. 

Embiid set a hard screen on RJ Barrett, forced the desired switch and got an and-one Nov. 29 against the Knicks. 

“We've been trying to do that bit by bit over the years,” Brown told reporters. “I think that you have a deep pick-and-roll with those two, a lot of times they do switch. I thought Ben did a good job of finding that and if they don't switch you got Ben going downhill, and we're trying to just continue to work on his finishing. And it is a look that I think, especially in crunch-time environments, interests me a lot.” 

The obvious problem with the snug pick-and-roll is there’s minimal space for anything to develop. Simmons has little margin for error with his first read. 

Though Embiid eventually had the switch the Sixers wanted against the 6-foot-5 Malcolm Brogdon on the play above, Simmons had already committed to a righty jump hook on Myles Turner and didn’t have room to change his mind. 

Developing the tricks of the trade 

Embiid’s value as a roller increases against teams that aggressively hedge the pick-and-roll.

He didn’t even roll very far on this play from Nov. 8 in Denver — just a couple of feet after screening for Richardson — but the scheme the Nuggets were using meant Will Barton had to tag Embiid before flying out to Furkan Korkmaz. Barton couldn’t recover in time.

Embiid’s chemistry with his new teammates is predictably not yet at an advanced stage. Richardson has a tendency to snake back in the opposite direction of his initial drive, and Embiid still seems to be figuring that out. 

They were on different wavelengths here. 

Since Embiid draws so much respect from opposing defenses, many pick-and-roll actions involving him are going to be inelegant. Especially late in games, teams often know what’s coming and load up to stop it.

He can still be helpful in those situations by focusing on doing the simple things. The technique isn’t textbook on this play, but his screen on Donovan Mitchell gets the job done. 

One of the next steps in Embiid’s evolution as a screener and roller will be applying a few of the dark arts that are prevalent across the NBA, whether it’s stealthily using his upper body like Horford or giving the ball handler space to drive by sealing his man in the lane.

He did the latter well vs. Larry Nance Jr. and the Cavs. 

As a 7-foot, 280-pound player with diverse offensive skills, Embiid is a threat as a roller, at least on paper.

It often won’t be as easy for him as just rolling with purpose to the rim and being rewarded with dunks, but he’s shown he has the ability to help himself and his teammates get good looks. 

For Embiid, it’s clearly important to work on dealing with double teams, refining his post game, limiting turnovers and hitting open three-point shots at a decent rate. 

But the 25-year-old big man also has plenty of room to improve as a screener and roller. 



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