Kurt Helin

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Embiid has Philadelphia hitting ‘like’ button on 76ers

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The headline reads like it was ripped straight from a fake news website: Philadelphia 76ers win for fourth time in five games! The headline reads like it was ripped straight from a fake news website: Philadelphia 76ers win for fourth time in five games!

The veracity of that claim has been verified – the Sixers, yes those topflight tankers that made a sham of competitive basketball – are actually winning games.

So what?

Time to dance !

Joel Embiid would not let a sprained left ankle stop him from busting a move on the court. He crashed the 76ers dance team’s postgame celebration and flailed his arms in the air like one of those wacky, waving inflatable air dancers stuck at car dealerships. Embiid was all smiles after the Sixers rallied from 10 down with 2:29 left to beat the New York Knicks on T.J. McConnell‘s jumper at the horn.

Embiid, a social media darling, has hit the “like” button on Philly’s future.

“Playoff time, baby,” Embiid said.

Hold up.

Don’t download those postseason tickets just yet. Embiid, the 7-foot center with an affinity for Shirley Temples, has added a splash of fun in his long-delayed rookie year and has at least made the Sixers compelling this season.

Embiid has generated the kind of buzz through his celebrity crushes (hello, Rhianna!) and celebrity fans (hi, Mike Trout!), and he’s become the Ellen of the 76ers with a victory dance in big moments.

Because of Embiid, the Sixers are finally finding those big moments.

Even with playing-time restrictions forced on him, Embiid has helped the Sixers win 11 times this season, one more win already than all of last season. Embiid has played in 26 of 36 games and leads the Sixers in scoring (19.4 ppg), blocks (60), rebounds (7.5), and hit 29 3-pointers. His 52 assists have helped the team PA announcer proclaim, “the feed from Embiid” at times in the Wells Fargo Center.

Already a fan favorite before he played a game, Embiid had adopted “The Process” as a nickname and is introduced as such as part of the pregame lineup festivities. Embiid waves his arms and exhorts fans to get louder as they chant “Trust the Process!” – the hackeyned nickname coined under the old Sam Hinkie era when tanking games (not winning them) was the theme of the organization.

“Rookie of the year would be great,” Embiid said. “I don’t think it’s going to help me to get to my crush. Hopefully, the All-Star (bid) gets to do that.”

The Sixers have orchestrated a social media push to get Embiid into the All-Star game. Embiid has long been a fan of Shirley Temples, the alcohol-free concoction of lemon-lime soda, grenadine and a maraschino cherry, and the Sixers sold the drink as part of a promotional push to get him an All-Star spot.

Embiid was fourth among frontcourt players with 457,300 fan votes in the latest round of All-Star totals released Thursday. He needs to crack the top three to earn an Eastern Conference starting spot and was 16,028 votes shy of Cleveland’s Kevin Love for third.

As protective of the Sixers have been of Embiid’s health, the team still wants him in the All-Star game.

There’s still a harsh reality check facing the organization as it moves closer toward the Feb. 23 trade deadline. The Sixers still have one too many starting centers and the Embiid-Jahlil Okafor combination was a flop. Okafor, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 draft and last season’s leading scorer has been benched. He sat against the Knicks for his fourth DNP-CD in the last six games.

“I’m just trying to do my part to make sure it all works out,” Okafor said.

Nerlens Noel has been solid and the best bet to team at power forward with Embiid. Ersan Ilyasova had made everyone better and was a major coup for team president Bryan Colangelo. Ben Simmons, the No. 1 overall draft pick, has been strong in his comeback from a broken right foot and he could make his season debut within the month. The Sixers, though, have not put a timetable on his return. He competed in 5-on-0 drills this week for the first time and has recently started traveling with the Sixers.

Coach Brett Brown may have his best team in four seasons but the Sixers are well out of the playoff picture. Their 4-1 streak (on two buzzer-beaters ) came against sub.-500 teams Denver, Minnesota, Brooklyn and the Knicks. They play teams with .500 or above records in eight of the next nine games. Embiid, who sat out two seasons with a broken right foot, has a 28-minute per game restriction and doesn’t play a full set of back-to-backs. He’ll start Friday against Charlotte and sit Saturday at Washington.

Embiid-Simmons-Noel could be the trio that maybe next season leads the Sixers back to the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

“When you really set the bar as high as we have, there is a lot left to be learned. And done,” Brown said. “It’s a heck of a lot clearer now than it ever was.”

Jeremy Lin says he hopes to be back in a couple weeks

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The Brooklyn Nets have been vague about setting a timeline for the return of Jeremy Lin from his second hamstring issue this season. Teams like to manage expectations and control the narrative.

But Lin went on a Chinese television show and was honest about his recovery, and the New York Post got ahold of the interview.

“It’s OK. It’s progressing gradually,” said Lin. “I think the recovery is faster than last time.”

 

“It’s hard to judge. Hope to come back playing within one, a couple of weeks,’’ said Lin. “But I’m not sure.”

Fair warning, players are notoriously poor judges of their recovery time from injury.

Lin missed 17 games with the first hamstring strain this season, he has already been out seven this time with more to come. The Nets have a lot of problems, but one of the biggest is turnovers and that’s why they need him back — he’s far and away the best point guard on their roster.

Former Celtic Orien Greene arrested for allegedly groping sleeping women

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The Boston Celtics picked up Orien Greene late in the second round of the 2005 NBA Draft, and unlike most guys selected there he showed real promise his first season in the league. He got into 80 games for the team, averaged 15 minutes a night, and looked like someone who could round into a role player. But he had a lot of work to do, then he got arrested for speeding — if you fly past a cop on surface streets doing 90 mph, it doesn’t end well for you — and by the summer Boston had let Green go. He played a little for Indiana and Sacramento and New Jersey, but he never stuck in the league. He has bounced around overseas leagues since.

Now he’s making headlines again, but now for another arrest.

He allegedly broke into the homes of two unsuspecting women and groped them, as reported by WVSN Miami (hat tip Ball Don’t Lie).

Police arrested a former NBA player, Monday, for allegedly breaking into two Pembroke Pines homes and sexually harassing two women.

Police said Greene admitted to entering the houses of two different women, who are now in fear for their life and wish to prosecute. He is charged with two counts of felony and burglary and misdemeanor battery.

Police said both women were sleeping at the time of the intrusion. One of the women Greene violated, police said, cried out, startling Greene. He then ran to his girlfriend’s house, which is located in the same neighborhood as that victim, near Pembroke Falls Boulevard and Flamingo West Drive.

This is a sad new chapter in Green’s life.

Klay Thompson calls Cavaliers’ Halloween antics “childish,” Warriors may use it as motivation

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When Cavaliers’ players showed up to LeBron James‘ Halloween party, they had to step over a Stephen Curry dummy to get in the door. There were other digs at the Warriors throughout the home, including a 3-1 lead drum that rubbed some Warriors the wrong way.

What the Warriors needed to do about that was answer back on the court. Instead they blew a lead on Christmas Day and ended up falling to the Cavaliers on national television. The Warriors let the same narrative live.

Klay Thompson recently went on the A to Z Podcast with Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgitt of the USA Today, and he called the Halloween party moves “childish” but said maybe they need to use that as motivation.

“It’s obviously not respectful, so it’s got to be on the other side of the spectrum, so that’s fine with us. They can do that childish stuff. It doesn’t matter to us. All we’ve got to do is handle it on the court, you know?

“No, it didn’t (come up on the court in the Christmas Day game). But shoot, it might have (to). I mean, I still think we need to play with more of an edge next time we see them … I mean when we won the championship, though, we didn’t do some stuff like that. But that’s OK. People are built differently. We’re not going to – I’m not going to hold it against them. I’m just going to go out there, and we just want to beat them down next time we see them. That’s how it is. Hold that in the memory bank, and just remember that they do that stuff…It’s a good rivalry, and it’s good for the NBA. It makes it more fun, you know? It’s rare in pro sports you get rivalries like this, so we enjoy it, and we embrace it.”

This is the best rivalry in the NBA right now, and you can be sure the suits at ABC/ESPN are rooting for a rematch because the ratings will be fantastic. Plenty of fans want to see a rubber match, too. Rooting for it or not, there are moments it seems inevitable.

Thompson is right, the Warriors do need more of an edge. The Cavaliers are a very good team able to knock the Warriors off their game. Part of that is the ability to match up better than anyone else in terms of talent, but it’s also about taking the Warriors out of their playground flow. Cleveland takes away some of the easy baskets, and the Warriors don’t always deal well with that.

The game’s greats — Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, and on and on — used even perceived slights as motivation. This wasn’t perceived, this was LeBron throwing shade on Halloween. The question is how the Warriors ultimately respond.

 

Zaza Pachulia second in West frontcourt All-Stars? Still wonder why NBA tweaked system?

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Last year, Zaza Pachulia came within just more than 14,000 votes of being an All-Star Game starter.

That was the good ol’ days, when fans got 100 percent of the say on the starters, and Pachulia’s stock was boosted by a late push with heavy voting online from his native Georgia, Wyclef Jean posting videos pushing Zaza, and since the NBA Twitterverse loves a good joke/likes to disrupt the system, everybody was in on the gag. It almost worked — he came in fourth in a race where the top three got starting spots. Zaza still beat out Draymond Green, Blake Griffin, Tim Duncan, Anthony Davis, and on and on.

Through the first few weeks of voting for the 2017 NBA All-Star Game, here is where things stand for the Western Conference frontcourt:

Western Conference
Frontcourt
1 Kevin Durant (GS) 987,479
2 Zaza Pachulia (GS) 823,376
3 Kawhi Leonard (SA) 630,766
4 Anthony Davis (NO) 567,201
5 Draymond Green (GS) 464,319
6 DeMarcus Cousins (SAC) 379,225
7 Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN) 223,979
8 LaMarcus Aldridge (SA) 192,784
9 Blake Griffin (LAC) 172,393
10 Marc Gasol (MEM) 172,146

Once again, Georgia is having a say. Insert your own jokes about Russian bloc country hacking an American vote here — Twitter sure did.

Sorry to disappoint the fine people in the Republic of Georgia, but this is not going stand.

In fact, this is exactly why the NBA changed the voting procedure this year. Now the fan vote counts for 50 percent, with select media members getting 25 percent, and the players getting the final 25 percent. From the NBA press release:

After all votes are tallied, players will be ranked in each conference by position (guard and frontcourt) within each of the three voting groups – fan votes, player votes and media votes. Each player’s score will be calculated by averaging his weighted rank from the fan votes, the player votes and the media votes.

I don’t want to speak for the media, but safe to say Zaza isn’t going to rack up a lot of votes there. From the players? Anyone who shares his agent maybe, or somebody going Tony Allen on their ballot, but that’s about it.

Zaza is not going to be an All-Star. Sorry. But even though he’s not playing in New Orleans, he should still come. Great food, great parties. They don’t make great gumbo in Georgia.