Joel Embiid “strongly considering” staying at Kansas for sophomore season

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Everyone says this until the money is on the table.

Kansas center Joel Embiid is at or near the top of every team’s draft board — DraftExpress has him as the No. 1 pick overall right now — and as general managers survey the NBA and see the value of a big who can protect the paint, plus a guy with offensive potential, he’s not likely to slip outside the top three.

If he enters the draft.

Embiid has been consistent is saying he’s not sure he’s going to come out and enter the draft. The Cameroon native said it again to ESPN on Tuesday before his team took on Baylor.

Kansas 7-footer Joel Embiid told ESPN that he is far from a lock to leave college after this season, and is “strongly considering” returning for his sophomore campaign…

“I’m not even thinking about it right now,” Embiid said. “I’ll make a decision after the season, but I’m definitely considering coming back to school.”

First and foremost, Embiid should make the decision that is best for him personally. He has only been playing organized basketball for three years, he has talked about the entire experience being an adjustment. He clearly has a comfort level at Kansas and with Bill Self, and if he feels it is best for him as a person he should stay.

However, as noted above, a lot of players say they want to stay until the money is on the table. A lot of guys have said “I’m staying” after their team was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament, only to recant that a week later. We’ll see how this plays out.

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Let me add two quick points. First, is that if Embiid comes out he would make a guaranteed $9.5 million in his first two seasons, plus he starts the clock sooner on the larger, second contract that often follows for No. 1 picks. When we talk about leaving money on the table, it’s not just the money Embiid would make in his rookie season, it is removing one year from his limited window to earn money as a professional basketball player. Tom Ziller laid argument out very well at SB Nation. (If he wants his degree, he can still get it. Shaquille O’Neal and a host of other players have finished getting their degrees while playing in the NBA.)

Second, the idea that “he needs another year to develop” is just a fallacy. If he enters the league his full-time job is to develop as a player. As a college student he has limits on practice hours (and hours he can practice with a coach), plus he plays in fewer games against inferior competition.

A lot of people confuse the impact a player could make in his rookie year with the speed of development — if Embiid stays in college a season he could make a bigger impact in the NBA his rookie year, but that is different than saying he will develop more as a player. Embiid has talked about his diet and wanting to improve it — NBA teams have entire programs set up around this, trainers who would get him on that path in a way college dorm food just cannot. If he were willing to put the work in, Embiid would develop more in the NBA (certainly some teams are better at developing players).

He needs to do what is best for him, what feels most comfortable to him. If that is to stay in Kansas, he should stay.

But don’t take what any player says right now about staying too seriously.

Remembering Notre Dame, Laker legend Tommy “the hawk” Hawkins

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Tommy Hawkins passed away recently at the age of 80.

The former NBA player was the first black athlete to earn All-America honors in basketball at Notre Dame (he still holds the school’s total rebounds record), was drafted in the first round, and went on to have a 10-year NBA career playing for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers as well as the Cincinnati Royals. Los Angeles fans may also remember him as the long time director of communications for the Los Angeles Dodgers after his playing days ended.

The NBA put together this well done video look back at Hawkins’ career.

Celtics’ Brad Stevens said early September tests will show if Thomas ready for camp

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Isaiah Thomas said he expects to be ready for the Celtics’ training camp next month. The guard’s All-NBA season came to an early end in the playoffs when he aggravated a labral tear in his right hip initially suffered back in March. At least the injury did not require surgery.

Players are also about the worst judges of when they will recover from an injury. They pretty much all think they are invincible and will be healthy faster than doctors predict.

Coaches tend to be more pragmatic. Take Boston’s Brad Stevens, who told Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that tests in a couple of weeks will show if Thomas is ready for camp.

“He has another follow-up and another scan in the early part of September. Obviously, it’s been a lot of appropriate rest, a lot of rehab. There have been some good strides here certainly in the last month or few weeks, but we’re not going to know that until after that early September timeframe.”

The Celtics are understandably going to be cautious with Thomas, while Thomas wants to prove he is healthy and has no ill effects from the injury as he enters a contract year (one where he expects to get PAID). Also, the Celtics could use him in camp as they start to figure out how he and Gordon Hayward can share playmaking duties.

Still, from the outset, the timelines have suggested he should be ready for camp in late September. Coaches are just cautious on these things by nature.

Allen Iverson predicts LeBron James will win MVP

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LeBron James has four NBA MVP trophies in his case. (Does he keep that case in his home in Akron or the one in Los Angeles… that’s a question for another day.) Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) and Michael Jordan (five) have more.

Could LeBron James add a fifth to his case this season?

Allen Iverson said yes at last weekend’s Big3 playoffs in Seattle.

LeBron was fourth in preseason odds to win the MVP at 15/2, behind Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.

To me, LeBron could be a good bet. If/when Kyrie Irving is traded, the chances of LeBron getting the MVP go up. If LeBron puts up impressive numbers (again) and leads a depleted Cavaliers team to a top two seed in the East, he is certainly going to be in consideration. And should be.

It’s a long season, and personally, I think you need to get midway through the season before seriously considering the year-end awards. But history says LeBron will be in the mix, and Allen Iverson could be proven prophetic.

Phoenix Suns with quality solar eclipse joke on Twitter

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With the cooler-than-I-expected solar eclipse on Monday came a lot of bad solar eclipse jokes on Twitter. Because that’s what Twitter does. Especially the NBA Twitterverse. We knew a lot of “where on the flat earth will Kyrie Irving watch the eclipse?” jokes were coming.

There were a couple of good ones, however.

Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns won the day.

One personal favorite here, an old meme that never goes out of style.