Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid (21) and T.J. McConnell (1) walk onto the court after a timeout during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Charlotte Hornets, Friday, Jan. 13, 2017, in Philadelphia. Philadelphia won 102-93. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Associated Press

Joel Embiid sparks 76ers to first three-game win streak in three years

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joel Embiid scored 24 points, blocked three shots and led the Philadelphia 76ers to their third straight victory, 102-93 over the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night.

The Sixers are on their first three-game winning streak since they won four straight from Dec. 29, 2013 – Jan. 4, 2014. Led by Embiid, the Sixers have won five of six games overall and are no longer the league laughingstock.

Embiid made six of 12 shots, grabbed eight rebounds and has made basketball fun again in Philadelphia. Embiid waved his arms while fans chanted “Trust the Process!” at him at the free-throw line. Embiid, the rookie center, even heard “MVP!” chants in the final minutes for his role in transforming the Sixers over the last month from cellar dwellers to a competitive team.

Embiid’s only weakness was his 0-for-5 3-point shooting.

Nicolas Batum scored 19 points and Kemba Walker had 17 for the Hornets.

Embiid has brightened the Sixers’ outlook the same way he lights up social media.

Embiid and WWE star Triple H (Hunter Hearst Helmsley) became social media friends this week and exchanged friendly tweets. Embiid said he was a fan of the wrestler and used his pregame intro to mimic Triple H.

Embiid walked out to the wrestler’s theme music, “The Game,” by Motorhead, cocked his head back and spewed water into the air like Triple H would before a main event WrestleMania bout.

Triple H noticed and tweeted at Embiid, “Still have to perfect the water-to-spit ratio…Not bad for a first attempt. (hash)MopTheFloor (hash)NBAVote Joel Embiid.”

Embiid has used social media to enhance his profile, build his fan base and keep himself in contention for an All-Star spot. Embiid got the block-and-wrestling connection rolling this week when he tweeted a photo of himself with his hands around teammate T.J. McConnell‘s neck and wrote, “I learned this by watching you, (at)TripleH.”

Triple H tweeted back, “To play the game you gotta go through The Process … (hash)NBAVote.”

“That was amazing,” Embiid said before the game.

Embiid said he wanted to use Twitter to have fun.

“Everything I do on social media is really funny to me,” Embiid said. “I think I have the best laugh out of everybody.”

Embiid had fun earlier in the day with a quote from Miami Heat star Hassan Whiteside, who said All-Star voting was a “gimmick” and players just “make jokes on Twitter” to get votes. Embiid retweeted the quote and wrote “Hassan Whiteside (hash)NBAVote.”

“One thing is, I want to be myself,” Embiid said. “I’m not going to change for anybody. I never hit the delete button. If I have something in my mind and I want to say it, I’m going to say it.”

Embiid has had no regrets about any of his 2,270 tweets; even when he’s tried to score dates with A-list starlets or the time he doctored a tweet to make it look like President-elect Donald Trump cast an All-Star vote for him.

“In the back of my head, I think this is going to backfire at some point,” Embiid said. “When that day comes, I’m going to stop.”

The Sixers don’t mind as long as Embiid saves his best output for games.

He might have scarred Cody Zeller with two monster blocks on the Charlotte center. Embiid swatted Zeller’s two-handed jam attempt in the second quarter. Embiid swooped in from the left side and rejected Zeller’s throw-down attempt down the lane in the third.

Walker’s first half was a dud. Walker, making his own social media All-Star push with a campaign that parodies Chuck Norris’ “Walker, Texas Ranger” TV show, missed 11 of 13 shots in the first half and all four 3s. He hit a 3 in the third quarter that fueled a Charlotte run and got it to 52-50 after not leading at all in the first half.

Robert Covington and Ersan Ilyasova buried 3s and the Sixers pushed the lead back to double digits.

TIP-INS

Hornets: Batum made 7 of 14 shots after missing two games with a hyperextended right knee. … Zeller, who sat out the last game against Houston with an illness, couldn’t have felt good after getting blocked twice by Embiid. He had 16 points and 10 rebounds.

Sixers: C Jahlil Okafor, last season’s leading scorer, received yet another DNP-CD.

 

CJ McCollum, Bismack Biyombo to headline 2017 NBA Africa Game this summer

Portland Trail Blazers' C.J. McCollum pumps his fist during the final moments of their 127-123 overtime win over the Boston Celtics in an NBA basketball game in Boston Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
AP
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NEW ORLEANS (AP) The NBA is going back to Africa.

The league and the National Basketball Players Association announced Saturday that NBA Africa Game 2017 will be held on Aug. 5 in Johannesburg. It’s the second time the NBA is playing on that continent, after a sold-out event there in 2015.

Among the players planning to take part so far are Orlando’s Bismack Biyombo, Portland’s CJ McCollum and Denver’s Emmanuel Mudiay.

The game will have a Team Africa vs. Team World format and will support of UNICEF, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and SOS Children’s Villages South Africa.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says going back to South Africa “is part of the league’s continued commitment to bring the authentic NBA experience to fans around the world.”

Report: Nuggets received $2.85 million from Trail Blazers in Mason Plumlee-Jusuf Nurkic trade

Denver Nuggets center Mason Plumlee is congratulated after making a basket against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017, in Denver. Plumlee was appearing in his first game for the Nuggets since being acquired from the Portland Trail Blazers for center Jusuf Nurkic. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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The Nuggets traded Jusuf Nurkic and the Grizzlies’ first-round pick to the Trail Blazers for Mason Plumlee and a second-rounder — a deal that didn’t appear to provide Denver enough value.

But it seems we omitted a key piece of the Nuggets’ return.

Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders:

Teams rarely trade that much in a single transaction. They’re capped at both receiving and sending out $3.5 million this season.

But this is the advantage of an owner willing to spend. Paul Allen is allowing Portland to assemble a more-talented roster.

Denver still got the best player right now in the trade, and Plumlee will upgrade the bench and maybe even fit OK starting with Nikola Jokic. But it’s hard to overlook owner Stan Kroenke’s cash influx.

Rumor: Kings reignite trade talks for DeMarcus Cousins; Cousins agent denies

AUBURN HILLS, MI - JANUARY 23: DeMarcus Cousins #15 of the Sacramento Kings looks on while playing the Detroit Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills on January 23, 2017 in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Sacramento won the game 109-104. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Getty
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The Sacramento Kings may be looking to move center Boogie Cousins. Stop me if you’ve heard this rumor before.

According to The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Kings management has reportedly engaged in talks during All-Star Weekend to move the talented, fiery center.

If moved, Boogie would be the biggest player dealt thus far this season.

Via Twitter:

It didn’t take long for Cousin’s agent to try and kill those rumors.

That Cousin’s agent denies it doesn’t make it false, however, this move would be a huge change of directions for the Kings organization.

It may also be one they may need to consider. The Kings have said they would offer Cousins the “designated player” max extension (likely around at $213 million over five seasons), and Cousins has said he would sign it. If the Kings really wanted to make him happy, they could do a Russell Westbrook style renegotiation of his contract for the coming season, then have the extension kick in after that (Boogie would sign that, too). However, do that and they have no cap space to bring in players around Cousins, they stay the same team they are right now for years.

The Kings have been reluctant at times to even engage in discussions with teams, in part because owner Vivek Ranadive doesn’t want to move the big man knowing they will go a decade before getting a player that talented on the roster again. The Kings were frustrated when former coach George Karl was insistent on moving him, and they dismissed interest from both the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers.

But there’s also been recent talks around Boogie and the Phoenix Suns, and the situation from an outside-of-California view seems to be ripe for a split.

Cousins, for as good as he’s been, has not shown he’s enough to take the team into the playoffs. Kings management, meanwhile, has been an absolute disaster during his time there and has not done much to compliment him. The relationship seems to have soured, even as owner Ranadive has backed Cousins.

Whatever the outcome, if Cousins gets traded by the Feb. 23 deadline it will go down as one of the biggest mid-season moves this season. It’s going to be hard for Sacramento to move on from a franchise player like Boogie, but perhaps it’s time to look for a different path. For Cousins, a breath of fresh air and a little help might put his career in a new perspective as well.

Report: 76ers sat Jahlil Okafor because they were close to Trail Blazers trade

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 26: Jahlil Okafor #8 of the Philadelphia 76ers controls the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Wells Fargo Center on October 26, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. The Thunder defeated the 76ers 103-97. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
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The 76ers sat Jahlil Okafor for two games last week, openly acknowledging they were discussing trading him. Then, they played him in their final game before the All-Star break.

That prompted speculation that no deal fell through, but that Philadelphia was bluffing being close in order to drum up interest.

But maybe there actually was a near-trade.

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

On the surface, this makes sense. We know the Trail Blazers were interested in a cost-controlled center, because they traded for Jusuf Nurkic.

But that trade also makes Portland perfect cover if the 76ers are just trying to deflect from a gambit gone wrong. Not only were the Trail Blazers plausible trade partners, they already made their deal. So, there will be no questions about revisiting discussions.