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


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.)

Stephen Curry leaves game with knee injury

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In his first night back from an ankle injury that forced him to miss six games, Stephen Curry limped off the court not to return after in third quarter Friday night after JaVale McGee fell into his knee.

He limped to the bench then eventually to the locker room after the injury.

The severity of the injury is not yet known and should become clear on Saturday after an MRI.

Curry scored 29 points and grabbed seven rebounds before being forced to leave the game, and the Warriors held on to win the game.

Obviously, if Curry is out heading into the playoffs, that changes the dynamic in the West, where the Houston Rockets were already right on the heels of the Warriors.

Pacers use late surge to beat Clippers, close in on playoffs

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Bojan Bogdanovic scored 28 points and the Indiana Pacers used a late 9-0 run to hold on for a 109-104 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night, putting them on the precipice of clinching a playoff spot.

The Pacers won for only the second time in five games but can clinch a playoff berth with one more win or a Detroit loss.

Los Angeles’ fading playoff aspirations were dealt another blow. The Clippers are now three games behind Utah for the final postseason spot in the Western Conference. Utah was playing later Friday.

Lou Williams led Los Angeles with 27 points and DeAndre Jordan finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds as the Clippers lost for the fifth time in six games.

They certainly had a chance to turn things around.

After the Clippers rallied from an 18-point deficit to take an 88-87 lead with 7:36 left in the fourth quarter, the teams traded the lead 10 times before Victor Oladipo made one of two free throws to leave it tied at 100 with 2:17 to play.

Bogdanovic broke the tie with a 12-footer and the Pacers followed that with seven straight points before Williams made a layup with 12 seconds left to end the run.

The Clippers were making shots early but couldn’t pull away from Indiana.

They led 28-27 after one and allowed Indiana to use a 9-2 spurt midway through the second quarter to erase a six-point deficit and take a 40-39 lead.

The Pacers scored the final five points of the half to break a 53-all tie and broke it open early in the third when Oladipo made his first three shots of the game, including two 3-pointers to make it 66-55.

Indiana then poured it on. Thaddeus Young‘s layup with 9:02 left in the third made it a 12-point game. Milos Teodosic‘s basket briefly halted the run, but the Pacers scored the next nine points to make it 75-57 with 6:19 to go.

Los Angeles closed the third quarter on a 12-5 run to get to 82-76.


LeBron James throws touchdown pass like Cleveland fans hope Sam Darnold can

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Cleveland fans can only hope Sam Darnold is as good a passer as LeBron James.

And that his receivers are better than Jose Calderon. Or at least taller.

LeBron James grabbed a rebound and threw a perfect touchdown pass to a leaked out Jose Calderon as the Cavaliers went on to beat the Phoenix Suns Friday night.

🙌🏽 @kingjames 🎯 @jmcalderon8 🙌🏽

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By the way, LeBron made a nice dish to the returned Larry Nance Jr., too.


Report: Rockets to waive Brandan Wright

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Finally healthy, it was easy to see where big man Brandan Wright would fit on Mike D’Antoni’s Rockets — he’s an athletic big man who can get up and down the court, he knows how to finish lobs above the rim, and could provide some front line depth behind Clint Capela and Nene. That’s why the Rockets picked him up in February after he was bought out by the Grizzlies.

It didn’t work out that way. Wright played in one game with Houston before his sore knee forced him to shut it down. He has not played since.

The Rockets are moving on, waiving Wright and bringing in forward Le’Bryan Nash out of the G-League on a 10-day contract, reports Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

With center Brandan Wright unable to return from his knee issues this season, the Rockets will release Wright, who signed as a free agent last month, a person with knowledge of the move said…

He had a minor procedure and will work on his rehab with the Rockets staff, the individual familiar with the plans said.

 “Brandan did everything positive,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He just wasn’t physically able to hang in there. We hate it that the guy isn’t part of this.”

Wright has played in just 28 total this season averaging 5 points and 3.4 rebounds in 13.6 minutes. He’s battled knee issues for a few seasons now and has not played more than 28 games in the last three. If healthy he can help teams, but we’ll see if he ever gets back into the NBA.

The Rockets use Ryan Anderson as their backup center, using Nene less of late, although how much D’Antoni can use Anderson in the playoffs due to his defensive challenges remains to be seen.

Nash, who played a season at Oklahoma State, will get his first taste of the NBA. He was a highly recruited kid out of high school, and this season has averaged 8.5 points in 19 minutes per game for the Rio Grande Vipers this season.