Potential No. 1 pick Joel Embiid makes it official, will enter NBA Draft

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Joel Embiid made official what everyone expected on Wednesday:

Embiid announced he is entering the NBA Draft. He said so at a press conference at Kansas University, with Jayhawks coach Bill Self next to him. Here is what he said, via the Topeka Capital-Journal:

“Looking at different scenarios and gathering info of what was best for me … either way was best for me,” Embiid said. “Talking to my mentor, it was best the choice.”

While Embiid had publicly flirted with the idea of staying another year at KU, when you are a potential No. 1 pick (and really not lower than No 2 on anybody’s draft board) you should come out. You can still go back and get your degree, but that is millions of guaranteed dollars (and starting the clock later on future earnings) you are leaving on the table.

Embiid as a prospect wowed NBA scouts — he’s an athletic, mobile, a 7-foot center who averaged 11.2 points (shooting 63 percent), 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks a game for the Jayhawks tis season. And he’s only been playing the game a handful of years, his potential is higher than anyone’s in this draft, even Andrew Wiggins (because of his size).

PBT’s NBA Draft expert, Ed Isaacson of NBAdraftblog.com and Rotoworld, confirmed that Embiid is likely a top two pick, a good rim protector whose offensive game developed quickly, a good sign. The potential is there. However, to quote Isaacson speaking to PBT, “He likely needs a lot more all-around development than people realize.”

Then there is the back question.

Embiid missed the last six games of the season including the NCAA Tournament with a stress fracture in his lower back. That has raised the eyebrows of NBA teams — depending on where it is on the spine and on that individual vertebra it could have long-term implications. Self and Kansas played it down, but NBA teams will want their doctors to get a good look at this before investing in him.

It could be nothing — Andre Drummond had a stress fracture in his lower back that healed and shows no signs of impacting him now — but it could be something. NBA teams are cautious that way after having watched other highly drafted big men have their bodies betray them.

If Embiid gets a clean bill of health he may well be the No. 1 pick. If it’s not, it’s because whoever wins the lottery likes Wiggins’ potential better. But Embiid would go No. 2. (It’s hard to make any kind of legitimate mock draft before the NBA Draft lottery.)

LeBron James: “I’m out of shape” (VIDEO)

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LeBron James looked good in the opening night ceremony against the Boston Celtics. The Cleveland Cavaliers star put up a stat line of 29 points, 16 rebounds, and nine assists in the win over the Eastern Conference rival.

That doesn’t mean that James is done dealing with a nagging ankle injury that kept him out of all five of Cleveland’s preseason games. Speaking to reporters after practice on Thursday, The King said that he will indeed play on Friday against the Milwaukee Bucks, but he won’t do it under the circumstances he prefers.

Specifically, LeBron said that because of his injury, he’s been unable to get into the kind of shape he’d like to be in heading into the season.

Via ESPN:

“I just want to get to where I should be,” James said after participating in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ practice Thursday. “The ankle and the foot injury just kind of kept me out and set me back further than I would like, but I got some time now along the course of these games that we got. We got two back-to-backs coming up, so that’s going to help and we have some opportunity to get some practice time in as well.”

“I’m out of shape, very out of shape for my expectations,” James told TNT’s Kristen Ledlow during his on-court postgame interview Tuesday.

No doubt it will be tough to keep one of the most durable stars in NBA history out of of the regular season games they need to start this season off right. However, this is the kind of thing that slows down the careers of aging stars, and if I can play devil’s advocate here for a minute, this is what we’ve been looking for from James for some time.

I’m not saying this is the beginning of the end for LeBron, but it is an important enough thing to note and to keep a pin in for future reference.

Meanwhile, James is still doing great stuff off the court like this:

Aww.

Lakers without Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for opener due to DUI suspension

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LOS ANGELES — This isn’t new news, but a lot of NBA fans forgot it.

Last June the NBA suspended then Pistons now Lakers guard two games for “pleading guilty to operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, in violation of the law of the State of Michigan.” Those were to be the first two games of next season — the Clippers game Thursday followed by the Suns Friday.

Lakers coach Luke Walton played it close to the vest, not revealing who would start at the two in KCP’s place. The most logical answer may be Jordan Clarkson, but Walton likes him creating shots with the second unit. Other options are limited, Luol Deng is possible, they could go small with backup point guard Tyler Ennis or bigger with Corey Brewer. (Josh Hart might have been the best call, but the rookie is out with a sore Achilles.)

Whoever starts it will be a blow to the defense-starved Lakers to be without their best perimeter defender.

This summer, after landing Avery Bradley, the Pistons chose to renounce the rights to Caldwell-Pope, setting him free into what was a difficult market. Even for a good wing defender who hit 35 percent from three last season, when the market dried up so did the chance for a decent multi-year deal. The Lakers grabbed him for one-year at $18 million.

Caldwell-Pope’s agent is Rich Paul, who happens to be LeBron James‘ agent (and he’s a free agent next summer), but whatever the ulterior motives this was a good signing by the Lakers. If KCP works out this season for them they would be in the driver’s seat to re-sign him next summer (although the Lakers would not have his Bird rights).

Thunder reveal “Hoodie Melo” hoodies before Knicks game (PHOTO)

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Ah yes, Hoodie Melo. The new, improved version of Carmelo Anthony that is much better than the old one, mostly because he isn’t playing for the New York Knicks. Also, he is often seen wearing a hooded sweatshirt.

Of course, as is often the case in the NBA, when a cultural phenomenon comes along there’s often plan to make money off of it following close behind. That appears to be the case here, as the Thunder announced special Hoodie Melo sweatshirts that were selling before the game against the New York Knicks on Thursday.

The sweatshirts mimic the style of a popular Jordan brand logo, Carmelo’s shoe sponsor.

Via Twitter:

Carmelo stayed true to form throughout the warm-up session before the game, taking to the floor during lineups wearing — you guessed it — a hoodie.

Of course, there was lots of intrigue during the Thursday night game between Anthony and his former team, with the first points of his career coming in Oklahoma City looking like this:

Long live Hoodie Melo. May his brand forever beat forecasted sales numbers.

Warriors unveil sweet new uniforms (photo)

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The Warriors might not have Draymond Green against the Pelicans tomorrow, but Golden State will have these awesome jerseys:

Fresh. To. Death.