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.

Check out Lakers’ stretch of hitting 15 straight shots to end third quarter (VIDEO)

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The Lakers lost to the Wizards because they are young, inconsistent, and defend like traffic cones at times.

But that young Lakers core also has its moments.

Los Angeles strung together 15 straight made buckets to end the third quarter Tuesday night. Some of it was flukey, like Corey Brewer driving and finishing contested layups like he’s Kyrie Irving, but there were things Lakers fans should want to see such as D'Angelo Russell draining threes, Jordan Clarkson working hard off the ball and his teammates finding him, and Julius Randle just attacking.

After this run the Lakers led by 13 going into the fourth, but lost the game.

It’s official: Joakim Noah cleared to play, 20-game suspension starts tonight

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What this ultimately means is next season the Knicks should have Joakim Noah available just before Thanksgiving.

Noah has been suspended 20 games for testing positive for a banned substance, but because he was out due to knee surgery the suspension did not start until he was “physically able to play.” Noah said on Tuesday that he had been cleared, but that was just by the team doctors. He also had to be cleared by the NBA’s doctors (because if teams could cheat they would).

That happened Wednesday, according to Ian Begley of ESPN.

Noah’s first season in New York after signing a four-year, $72 million deal has been a disappointment. To put it kindly. He’s not been completely healthy, and any observer of him the past few years had to wonder if he would ever be fully healthy again. He had lost a step from the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year before the Knicks signed him. The Knicks don’t need him to necessarily be that dominant a force again (although it would be nice), but they need to get more out of him and see if he is a fit next to Kristaps Porzingis for now as the Knicks try to build a roster for next season that can play a little defense. And the triangle.

Report: Pacers bring back Lance Stephenson in time for playoffs; deal for three-years, $12 million

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The Indiana Pacers need healthy bodies for their playoff run, and they had three rotation guys injured between Al Jefferson, Glenn Robinson III, and Rodney Stuckey. Wednesday, the Pacers waived Stuckey to create an open roster spot to bring in some help (they were not going to pick up his option for next season anyway).

Who are they bringing in? The prodigal son Lance Stephenson returns, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

The surprising part of the deal was the security Stephenson got, as first reported by Adam Zagoria at his blog — three years, $12 million, with a player option for the final year. (This has since been confirmed by other sources.) Other teams were looking at giving Stephenson a 10-day contract, the length of the Pacers’ offer is a surprise.

Stephenson played in six games for Minnesota recently, averaging 3.5 points per game off the bench, but an ankle sprain kept the Timberwolves from really having to decide whether to keep him for the season. Stephenson knows how to create shots for himself and can be a good defender when focused, something we saw with the Pelicans at the start of this season — he became a key part of their rotation averaging 9.7 points and 4.8 assists per game until he tore his groin.

It’s a little strange to see him back in Pacers colors. It will be particularly strange if the Pacers stay in the seven seed and the Cavaliers remain the two-seed setting up a first-round playoff series. Because I don’t think any of us need to see this again.

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Tuesday’s win gives Wizards first division crown since 1979

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Divisions are almost forgotten in the NBA. They exist still as quaint reminders of days gone by, but they don’t matter other than as a potential tie breaker with a non-division-winning team. Winning your division doesn’t even guarantee a team a playoff spot anymore.

Yet, the last time Washington had won a division title they were in the Atlantic division and when you turned on the radio you were likely to hear that new hit Heart Of Glass by Blondie. It was 1979.

That was until Tuesday when John Wall led a 13-point comeback in the fourth quarter against the Lakers to get the Wizards the win and the SouthEast division title.

According to CBSSports.com, that 38-year division title drought was longer than any team in any major U.S. professional sports — NHL, NFL, and MLB.

Congrats to the Wizards. They also have locked up home court in the first round, and they are currently the No. 3 seed in the playoffs (who they face in the first round is up in the air still as only three games separate seeds five through nine).

With Scott Brooks at the helm this feels like a far more dangerous — and healthy — team heading into the postseason. Wizards fans have waited a lot time for a team like this.