2014 NBA Draft Preview: Philadelphia 76ers

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Picks: 3. 10, 32, 39, 47, 52, 54

Needs: The rebuild began in earnest in Philadelphia a season ago, and as long as you’re not into winning, things got off to a fantastic start. Michael Carter-Williams took home Rookie of the Year honors, while the player selected five spots earlier in the 2013 draft, Nerlens Noel, sat out the entire year — primarily due to injury, though he may have been healthy enough to play near the end of the season.

For a team that endured a 26-game losing streak before it was eventually snapped, however, rushing players back to seek additional wins wasn’t in the plans.

With two lottery picks already on the roster, the Sixers need to add more complementary talent to begin to build a team capable of developing into a successful ongoing concern. With the third overall pick, there will be guys there capable of potentially becoming building blocks for the future. It gets more murky further down the draft board, of course, but that’s where scouting comes into play, and for a team essentially starting from scratch, player development and front office stability will be what’s most important in turning the franchise around.

Trade possibilities: The Sixers appear to have locked in on Andrew Wiggins, especially given the way they behaved when they had him in for a pre-draft workout this week. There are plenty of mock drafts that have him still available at three, with Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker being selected with the first two picks. But Philadelphia may not want to take any chances, so it has been engaged with Cleveland in discussions about trying to trade for the number one pick.

The Sixers haven’t been willing to part with picks 3 and 10 to make that happen, however, and that’s probably a wise choice, given both the probability that Wiggins will still be there, along with the fact that guys like Parker or Embiid would be available by default if Wiggins were already gone. Philadelphia might give up the three and Thaddeus Young in a deal, which would rid the team of its last capable veteran who also happens to be the highest paid player on the roster.

Predictions: Even the Sixers, who embraced rebuilding to the point of absurdity last season, wouldn’t use all of their picks with the intent of adding seven rookies to the mix for next season. The ones in the later rounds will either be European prospects who can be stashed for the future, or players who will be glorified training camp invites that will have to prove themselves in order to be signed for next season.

If a trade agreement can’t be reached with the Cavaliers, Wiggins might still be the one the Sixers end up with, and that appears to be their wish. In the event that he’s off the board, however, ending up with Embiid, Parker, or even someone like Dante Exum wouldn’t appear to be a bad consolation prize.

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.

Clippers win likely playoff preview 108-95 over Jazz

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jamal Crawford scored 28 points off the bench, and the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Utah Jazz 108-95 on Saturday to clinch a playoff berth for the sixth straight year.

The Clippers trail the Jazz by a half-game in their race for the No. 4 playoff seed in the West. The teams are likely to face in the first round of the postseason.

Blake Griffin added 15 points and DeAndre Jordan had 15 rebounds for the Clippers.

Rudy Gobert had 26 points and 14 rebounds for Utah, and reserve Joe Johnson added 17 points. The Jazz have dropped four of five.

Utah rallied in the third, putting together a 20-6 spurt to trim Los Angeles’ lead to 72-70 heading into the final period. Gobert had nine points and Johnson scored seven during the run that included 10 straight points for the Jazz over one stretch.

Chris Paul and Crawford both got technicals while the Clippers struggled to score and defend.

But Los Angeles turned things around in the fourth, scoring the first eight points for an 80-70 lead. Crawford had 17 points in the quarter, scoring six in a row to push the Clippers’ lead to 103-84. He was 9 of 9 at the free-throw line for the game.

The Clippers grabbed control early on, shooting 52 percent in the first quarter while building a 15-point lead.

The Jazz got within seven to start the second before the Clippers restored their 15-point margin and eventually led 49-41 at halftime.

Utah’s top two scorers, Gordon Hayward and George Hill, struggled. Hayward, who averages 22 points, had 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting. Hill, who averages 17.1, had nine points while shooting 4 of 11.

TIP-INS

Jazz: Gobert was coming off a career-high 35-point, 15-rebound performance against the Knicks on Tuesday. … G Sheldon Mack missed his 11th straight game with a left ankle sprain. … F/C Derrick Favors remains out with a left knee bone contusion.

Clippers: Their six-year playoff run is the longest in franchise history. … They have won 18 of 20 against the Jazz dating to Feb. 1, 2012. … They won the season series 3-1.

 

More NBA basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Sixers’ Joel Embiid officially has knee surgery, expected to be back on court in summer

Associated Press
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“The… follow-up MRI of Joel Embiid‘s left knee appears to reveal… the previously identified meniscus tear appears more pronounced in this most recent scan.”

When Philadelphia’s chief medical director Dr. Jonathan Glashow said that in a statement announcing Joel Embiid was being shut down for the season, the chance of knee surgery to clean up that meniscus was possible. Friday it became a reality, the team announced.

CSNPhilly.com had the details.

The team expects Embiid to resume basketball activities during this summer, according to Sixers director of performance research and development Dr. David T. Martin. Embiid will begin his rehab in Los Angeles with specialists and Sixers medical and training staff members.

“The overall status of Joel’s lateral meniscus and his cartilage is very good,” surgeon Dr. Neal S. ElAttrache, M.D., who performed the surgery, said in a statement. “Today’s procedure focused on removing a small portion of the meniscus that was responsible for his symptoms.

“The recovery program that has been established targets Joel transitioning back to full weight-bearing in approximately two weeks, at which point a conservative approach to his rehabilitation will be introduced.”

After Embiid missed two seasons with foot issues, there is a tendency to lump everything together and call him injury prone. This, however, was a minor surgery with a relatively short recovery period, even as the Sixers bring him along slowly. There is reason for concern, but this shouldn’t be an issue by next training camp.

Embiid averaged 20.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game despite a minutes restriction all season. He was incredibly efficient in getting his numbers — he had an All-Star level PER of 24.2 — and when he was on the court the Sixers outscored their opponents by 3 points per 100 possessions. He’s still likely a top three finisher in Rookie of the Year balloting despite playing in just 31 games.