Knicks target Joe Johnson out of the gate

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Sure, the Knicks want LeBron James. And they’ll make their pitch. But they’ll need more than the King to contend, and will need other players on roster to lure James anyway. And there’s always, you know, the simple fact that they should probably look into some backup plans in case their best pitch isn’t good enough for James to swing at.

Target acquired: Hawks shooting guard Joe Johnson.

ESPN reports that Knicks GM Donnie Walsh and head coach Mike D’Antoni will fly to the west coast on Wednesday in anticipation of the Thursday midnight EST start of free agency. They’ll meet with Joe Johnson at 9PM Pacific time, then hop on a flight and catch up with Amar’e Stoudemire in Phoenix.

So, yeah. Two players who excelled under Mike D’Antoni in Phoenix will be the first two visited by the master of “Seven Seconds or Less” within the first three hours of the free agency period. Later in the day, they’ll meet with LeBron James.

If we’re examining realistic possibilities, the Knicks have an outside shot at James. Their roster isn’t in a place to contend, and other bidders will have that luxury. But Johnson and Amar’e present an interesting alternative. Both would likely be impressed with being stars of a New York team. Both have played together under D’Antoni in the past. Both can get buckets in efficient ways (though Johnson’s efficiency has begun to plummet).

Is Johnson worth the max contract? No, not at his age. Is this a championship contending core? Probably not. But it is a monumental step forward for a franchise that literally only recently finished up digging itself out of the hole Isiah Thomas put them in.

While D’Antoni’s system would be greatly improved with a dynamic point guard like Steve Nash, Johnson and Amar’e could run the pick and roll with devastating results. Johnson would need to adjust to being more of a facilitator, but hey, D’Antoni has been known to get through to players.

Johnson and Amar’e aren’t the biggest fish out there. But they’re still good catches, and if things were to fall just right, one or the other could help land LeBron.

Joel Embiid: “I feel 100 percent”

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 30: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on prior to the game against the Utah Jazz on October 30, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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After missing two entire seasons, all signs are pointing to 2014 No. 3 overall pick Joel Embiid finally taking the court this season. Last week, Sixers coach Brett Brown said that Embiid has looked great in his workouts and is on track to play in the preseason, and Embiid himself echoed that sentiment over the weekend. He told the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Marc Narducci that he feels “100 percent.”

There’s always a possibility and fear that Embiid’s recurring foot problems will come back, but for now, all indications are that he’s feeling good and will be able to contribute this season, which should make Sixers fans excited.

Evan Fournier pokes fun at his ‘NBA 2K’ likeness

OAKLAND, CA - MARCH 07:  Evan Fournier #10 of the Orlando Magic dribbles the ball against the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on March 7, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The release of NBA 2K17, the latest edition of the popular 2K video-game series, is less than a month away. Players are starting to get their likenesses in the game, as well as their player ratings, and tweet them out. Magic forward Evan Fournier wasn’t too happy with the way his came out.

Fournier’s countryman Rudy Gobert got in on the fun, too, changing his Twitter avatar to Fournier’s screenshot and encouraging others to do the same. He even created a hashtag for it.

At least they’re having fun with it.

Report: Sixers expected to waive Tibor Pleiss after trade with Jazz

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 30: Tibor Pleiss #21 of the Utah Jazz controls the ball in the game against the Philadelphia 76ers on October 30, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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On Friday, the Jazz traded German center Tibor Pleiss to the Sixers along with two second-round picks for Kendall Marshall. The big draw of the trade for Philly was the picks, and Pleiss is not expected to stay with the Sixers, according to Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia’s Jessica Camerato.

Pleiss had a forgettable season with Utah, and the Sixers have a glut of bigs including Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric. It would have been virtually impossible for Pleiss to crack the rotation, and it’s unlikely another team picks up his contract, which has $3 million guaranteed this season.

Jordan releases new Russell Westbrook ad, may include a shot at Kevin Durant

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 28:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (L) and Russell Westbrook #0 look on during a press conference after the Golden State Warriors defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 108-101 in game six of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 28, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
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As a Jordan Brand athlete, Russell Westbrook is under the same Nike umbrella as former teammate Kevin Durant. But his latest Jordan spot, released Friday, has a very pointed tagline: “Some run, some make runways.”

Given the circumstances, it’s hard to interpret that as anything other than a reference to Durant signing with the Warriors and Westbrook signing an extension with the Thunder.