Kurt Helin

Report: Joel Embiid given all clear to start scrimmaging

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Next season, along with Ben Simmons (and whoever else they pick up in the draft), the Sixers could unveil rookie Joel Embiid.

Finally.

Hopefully.

Embiid was the No. 3 pick of the 2014 draft, and had it not been for foot issues he might have gone No. 2 behind Andrew Wiggins (and in front of Jabari Parker). Of all the Sixers picks in recent years, including Jahlil Okafor and Simmons, Embiid was the highest rated by scouts.

However, those foot issues were real (the second surgery involved a bone graft), and he has missed two full seasons following two foot surgeries. Now he is healthy enough to be cleared for scrimmages, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

After a full year of rehabilitation, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid has been cleared to start light scrimmaging in five-on-five settings, league sources told The Vertical….

The 7-foot Embiid has been impressive in his non-contact workouts in recent weeks at the 76ers’ facility, sources said, and the soundness of his problematic right foot should continue to allow him to begin preparations for next season. Embiid, 22, is expected to travel to Las Vegas for the 76ers’ entry in the summer league in July but only to practice with the team, sources said. There’s no plan for him to participate in summer league games.

On one hand Summer League seems the perfect place to break Embiid into competition for a few games, but you can understand the Sixers caution at this point.

With Embiid, Simmons, Okafor and Nerlens Noel, the Philadephia front court is crowded. Which is why you get plenty of Okafor and Noel trade rumors, and those are not going to stop.

Ben Simmons on Instagram: “Trust the Process.” If you needed more proof he’s Philly bound

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Since the night of the draft lottery, it has been the worst-kept secret in the NBA that the Philadelphia 76ers would take Ben Simmons with the No. 1 overall pick. Tuesday Simmons did his one and only predraft workout for the Sixers, where he reportedly was told he would be taken with the first pick.

But if you needed even more confirmation, here is what Simmons posted on Instagram after the workout.

Trust the process

A post shared by Ben Simmons (@bensimmons) on

“Trust the process.”

It’s a little late to be quoting Sam Hinkie, but we get the idea.

This draft is obvious with the top two — the Lakers will take Brandon Ingram second — then gets really interesting with the third pick.

After winning NBA title, would Cleveland still trade Kevin Love?

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Usually, when a team wins the NBA title, they try to keep the band together and bring largely the same team back to go for the repeat.

Kevin Love certainly helped the Cavaliers win their first NBA title with his Game 7 performance — he was a beast on the boards early (finishing with 14 boards, nine points, and was a +19) then played good perimeter defense on Stephen Curry on one of the key plays late in the game. Love isn’t a great matchup against Golden State, but he gives other teams trouble.

All that doesn’t mean the Cavaliers will bring back Love next season.

What it does mean is they don’t feel any pressure to make a move. The Cavaliers tested the market for Love at the trade deadline — when they weren’t very serious about moving him — and got nothing but lowball offers. Cleveland doesn’t want your draft picks and “meh” role players. If Boston and other interested parties make the same offers this summer, they will get the same “no.”

Sean Deveney of the Sporting News does a fantastic job breaking the Love situation down and noting there is a lot of demand for Love’s services around the league.

But the fact that Love’s name comes up (in trade rumors) is a testament to the number of teams that recognize he could be his old All-Star self if he did not have to sacrifice to win with the Cavs. Even when it looked like Love was on the outs in Cleveland, even while many were focused on his weaknesses, NBA executives still considered Love to be an elite-level player. The view of one league executive summed it up: “I think most of us feel like he might be a bad fit with LeBron, but he’d be a really, really good fit for our team. And I mean, there’s almost 29 teams that would look at him and think that.”

Add to that the scent of a championship Love now bears, and the Cavaliers will have to consider the fact that Love’s value is at a two-year high. He turns 28 in September, at the peak of his prime. The Cavaliers will not, as they might have been had they lost the Finals, feel pressure to make changes to smooth out some of their rough spots. They will be able to deal from a position of power.

But it’s not clear that they have interest in dealing at all. The Cavs’ long run to this championship certainly erases any immediate deal for Love—they’re not going to trade the guy at the draft, obviously—but that’s not much of an issue since the Cavs were never going to move Love for draft picks. The league executive speculated that if some deal gets seriously discussed, it probably won’t be until after Summer League and maybe not even until during or after the Olympics in August.

The Cavaliers just won an NBA title with Kevin Love as their starting power forward. He averaged 16 points and 9.9 rebounds a game this season, and that was with taking a vastly reduced role in the offense so LeBron and Kyrie Irving can isolate more. He’s not listening to the critics.

“I never got really trapped by the dogma and living with the results of other people’s thinking,” Love said after Game 7. “I just continue to fight through it, and knew that tonight I just had to have one great game. I was going to go out and be aggressive on both sides of the ball as far as rebounding the basketball. I was just told to rise above it, especially by my teammates.”

We certainly can talk about fit — Chris Bosh took this same reduced role in Miami, but Bosh brought fantastic pick-and-roll defense to the table, also. Love is not a good fit against the Warriors, but that fit was good enough for Cleveland to win a title with Love playing a significant role.

Maybe by late summer and into training camp next season some team assesses its situation and comes up with a legitimate offer that Cleveland needs to consider seriously. Maybe. But the Cavs aren’t going to move him just to move him and shake things up this summer. They don’t need to. They can bring everyone back and, if they stay healthy, no team in the East will keep them out of the Finals again.

Kevin Durant calls free agency “a basketball decision”

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Kevin Durant is too smart and too polished a speaker to tip what direction he is leaning in free agency at his own PR event to kick off the new KD9 line from Nike.

He did confirm that he will play in the Rio Olympics, which had been expected. He will be the leader of that team (assuming LeBron James bows out).

But all he said about his free agency plans are a theme we’ve heard before from him: “I’m worried about basketball. That’s what it is for me. It’s a basketball decision. I’m looking forward to the future.” Via Anthony Slater of the Oklahoman.

The majority opinion around the league is still that he signs a two-year deal with the Thunder, with an opt-out after one season, and he and Russell Westbrook (and Steven Adams and Serge Ibaka) can make one more run at a ring.

If this is a “basketball decision” then where is he going to go that puts him closer to a title than OKC? That team was on the cusp of making the Finals and would have had a deep series against the Cavs. And don’t say “he’s better off in the East” because: 1) You will just turn around and slam him for “taking the easy road”; 2) If he goes to Miami or Washington or Atlanta or whatever Eastern team he gets a team to the conference finals and then he runs into a deeper Cleveland team, and even if he gets by them this team would be nowhere near ready for the top of the West. He’d be on a worse team.

But it’s his call, and we’ll find out in a few weeks.

Game 7 draws top NBA Finals rating since Jordan’s last title

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NEW YORK (AP) Game 7 between the Cavaliers and Warriors drew the highest television rating for the NBA Finals since Michael Jordan’s last championship.

Cleveland’s tense 93-89 win Sunday night to capture the city’s first title in more than a half-century averaged a 15.7 rating and nearly 30.8 million viewers on ABC. Both numbers are the best since Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, when Jordan’s Bulls clinched their sixth ring, ESPN said Monday. That game set an NBA record with a 22.3 rating on NBC.

An additional 598,000 viewers streamed Sunday’s game on WatchESPN.

A string of lopsided scores through the first six games had lowered ratings from last year’s matchup between the same teams. But Game 7 was tight throughout, with LeBron James trying to lead the Cavs to a historic triumph.

Game 6 of the 2015 finals, when Golden State clinched its title, averaged almost 23.3 million viewers.

Viewership peaked Sunday with more than 44.5 million viewers and a 22.5 rating as Cleveland wrapped up the championship.

Ratings represent the percentage of U.S. homes with televisions tuned to a program. The game earned a 46.3 rating in the Cleveland area.