Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel want to play together; Brett Brown says not yet

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Philadephia coach Brett Brown has said he plans to stick with the Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor front line a little longer, he wants to see how they fit together over a stretch of time. So far, they are a defensive disaster together — allowing 111.7 points per 100 possessions, 6.2 worse than the Sixers season defense — but Brown wants a longer look.

Meanwhile, Embiid and Noel want to play together and see what that looks like. Embiid lobbied for it the other day, speaking to Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.

“I also want to get on the court and see what we can look like together because I like him and I want to play with everybody,” Embiid said after the Sixers’ 108-93 loss to the Pelicans. “I feel like if we’re trying something, I feel like we should try the other thing too. Hopefully in the future they do that.”

“I loved (the fan support Noel got entering the game). He’s my best friend on the team and I was really happy for him,” Embiid said, also noting, “I thought he should have played more.”

Thursday Noel made the same pitch, suggesting it would be a good defensive front line.

“I think it will be very interesting,” Noel said. “I think it will have some positives and we’ll work through the negatives. But I think defensively, we’ll be something to reckon with.”

The Sixers start a four-game road trip Thursday, and here is what Brown said about his front line rotation for now:

“We’re now at four games starting Jahlil and Joel, and my intention is we’ll see this road trip out and begin the new year and reassess,” Brown said. “I think with eight games as a body of work, we can judge it more accurately and feel what’s best for the team and the players. Ultimately, the whole program needs to be based on defense. Whatever that equals in relation to who’s on the floor is the direction I’m going to take the program.”

Noel wants to play, he’s also clearly been open to the idea of being moved from the Sixers’ crowded frontcourt. But to get moved, he needs to be showcased a little.

Brown can be patient, there are no expectations of racking up wins to reach the playoffs in Philly. Brown can take his time to see what the pairings look like. But the Noel and Embiid one can’t really be worse than the Okafor/Embiid one, can it?

Stan Van Gundy backs off feud with ESPN ahead of televised Pistons game

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Pistons president/coach Stan Van Gundy said he wouldn’t give ESPN its usual access – a private pre-game meeting and an in-game interview – in the aftermath of ESPN publishing LaVar Ball’s negative comments about Lakers coach Luke Walton.

The first test of Van Gundy’s new policy comes with today’s Pistons-Wizards game on ESPN… and Van Gundy is mostly backing down.

Van Gundy, via Rod Beard of The Detroit News:

“I got an email from Rick Carlisle of the coaches association and they want me to cooperate, so my whole idea was to boycott the thing in support of coaches,” Van Gundy said. “If the coaches don’t want that, then it would be a selfish thing, sort of a grandstanding thing.”

“I’m certainly not looking to do extra stuff with ESPN.com when those guys call and want to do things,” Van Gundy said. “They want to put themselves out there as a journalistic enterprise — they’re clearly not. They don’t have any journalistic standards. I have no obligation to do anything extra.”

Many media members have quoted Ball on a variety of issues. Coaches threw a fit over this one because they’re sensitive to coaches being criticized. It wasn’t about journalistic ethics or the source. Van Gundy and other coaches simply didn’t like Ball’s conclusion.

I’m so glad Van Gundy is no longer grandstanding. [extreme sarcasm]

He’s not obligated to speak with ESPN reporters, but when Van Gundy rails on journalistic standards as cover for disagreeing with the opinion a journalist published, he sounds a lot like the guy he loves to criticize.

Pistons’ Jon Leuer to undergo season-ending surgery

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Jon Leuer‘s ankles survived this.

But apparently they’re not invincible.

Rod Beard of The Detroit News:

After suffering a sprained ankle on Oct. 31, the symptoms worsened, as an exam revealed bone fragments and other issues. Leuer has missed the last 35 games and has decided to have season-ending ankle surgery, he told The Detroit News on Friday.

Leuer, 28, has scheduled the procedure to remove bone fragments for next Friday and will have a four-month rehabilitation process.

The Pistons have applied to the NBA for a disabled-player exception

The Pistons have been without Leuer for a while, and they’ve done fine without him. Anthony Tolliver is a capable backup stretch four, and Henry Ellenson adds even more insurance there. Detroit misses Leuer as a stretch center, providing a different style behind Andre Drummond, but Eric Moreland and Boban Marjanovic have at least decently handled those reserve minutes.

The bigger issue: The Pistons are paying Leuer $10,497,319 this season and owe him $19,510,724 over the next two years and don’t miss him that much. He’s a luxury they don’t need and maybe can’t afford.

Perhaps, they’ll deal him before the trade deadline, as they look to upgrade the roster for a playoff run. Detroit could send Leuer and a draft pick or young player (Stanley Johnson) for a better player on a more favorable contract. How about Leuer and a first-round pick to the Bulls for Nikola Mirotic?

A disabled-player exception (DPE) would be worth $5,248,660, half Leuer’s salary. It could be used to sign a free agent for the rest of the season or trade for a player in the final year of his contract.

But the NBA grants a DPE only if a league-appointed physician rules the player is “substantially more likely than not” to be unable to play through June 15. The reported timeline would have Leuer back in May.

Still, the league tends to be lax with giving out DPEs. Detroit has a chance to get one.

The Pistons are just $2,745,417 below the luxury-tax line. So, they’re unlikely to use a full Leuer DPE to acquire another player (and would still need to clear a roster spot). But it could be helpful in facilitating a bigger trade.

PBT Podcast: All-Star starters mock draft, picking reserves

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The votes are in, and LeBron James and Stephen Curry are your All-Star captains.

For the first time in NBA All-Star history, that means they are picking their own teams, playground style, first from the pool of starters, then the pool of reserves. Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports take on the roles of LeBron and Curry and pick their All-Star starters, from James Harden through Kyrie Irving.

Then the pair gets into who should be the All-Star Game reserves — and choosing among the Western Conference guards is brutal. Do they leave out Damian Lillard? Lou Williams? Klay Thompson? And that’s not even getting into Paul George being a bubble All-Star in a deep West.

Kurt and Dan break it all down, plus talk some Kemba Walker trade scenarios.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

Aaron Gordon forgoes desperation attempt to win, sinks halfcourt shot instead (video)

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The Magic were in dire straights near the end of their game against the Cavaliers last night. Orlando trailed 104-103 with 0.2 seconds and a jump ball to be tossed at center court. By rule, the Magic didn’t have time to catch-and-shoot, let alone recover the jump ball then shoot. Aaron Gordon had to tip the jump ball through the hoop from halfcourt – nearly impossible, but technically possible.

Instead, Gordon grabbed the jump ball – a violation – then sank a halfcourt shot. What an ironic end.

Cleveland then harmlessly inbounded the ball to seal the win.