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Report: Patrick Ewing thinks Joel Embiid may be the most talented center in NBA

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Joel Embiid is must-watch NBA television (or streaming, if you prefer).

He’s nearly the only watchable thing about the Sixers, outside of Sergio Rodriguez (and Ben Simmons, once he gets healthy). He’s a dominant force inside who has yet to begin to figure out just how special he can be. He’s raw like a rookie — his moves are stiff, he does not yet have a great feel for the game (he doesn’t look to pass), he’s got to work on his shot and help defense. And yet, he’s a beast averaging 17.3 points and 6.3 rebounds a game in just 21 minutes a night. He’s special.

Patrick Ewing thinks so, and he should know. From Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Then Clifford told a story about watching preseason game film of Embiid in his office. Hornets assistant Patrick Ewing, a Hall of Fame center, walked in and said “Whoa!”

Ewing told Clifford that Embiid could very well be the most talented center in the league.

“And if you know Patrick, especially at that position, he doesn’t say stuff like that,” Clifford said. “I mean, he can shoot. He can put the ball on the floor. He can pass. He’s got a feel for the game. He’s got toughness, size, and strength.

Embiid is going to be special, and right now we’re just seeing the part of the iceberg above water for him. He may not have any idea just how good he can be.

He’s not the most talented center in the league right now, not more than DeMarcus Cousins or Andre Drummond. Yet. Embiid is going to be more in that mold than an Anthony Davis/Karl-Anthony Towns type; Embiid is more traditional.

Embiid isn’t all the way there yet, but he can get there. He could become the best traditional big in the league and be an obvious cornerstone for the Sixers. You know the kind of Top 10 kind of player that Sam Hinkie’s process was trying to bring in.

If you haven’t watched him play yet, seek him out. Embiid is must watch already, and he’s just getting started.

(Hat tip KD at Ball Don’t Lie.)

This should buy some suits: Craig Sager bet $1,000 on Cubs to win World Series

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Everybody around the NBA is rooting for TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager in his battle with leukemia.

Sager has been rooting for the Cubs — he’s a Chicago native and a lifelong fan.

So much so that he dropped a grand on a bet for Chicago to win the World Series.

Cash that ticket, Sager. Then use the cash to buy a couple of suits for your return to the NBA sidelines. We’re all excited to see that. And you.

Kings’ Matt Barnes fined $15,000 by league for language to referees

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The Sacramento was frustrated after an overtime loss to the Heat — DeMarcus Cousins picked up six fouls in the fourth quarter (some of them questionable), the Kings had blown a fourth-quarter lead, then they just came apart in overtime.

After the final whistle, Matt Barnes — never one to be shy with his opinions on the court — let the NBA referees know what he thought of their work. To put it kindly. It was kind of like asking Tommy Lasorda what he thought of Dave Kingman’s performance.

That earned Barnes a $15,000 fine from the NBA, it was announced Thursday.

Barnes knows the routine, he’s been fined more than a few times during his career (which means he’s not getting the benefit of the doubt from the league on these things).

The Kings are 2-3 to start the season with Cousins beasting and Rudy Gay playing surprisingly well (and upping his trade value). Sacramento has dreams of a playoff series to christen their new building. The only thing that is guaranteed is this team will pay a few other fines (at least) along the way.

Jerry Colangelo to step down as president of USA Basketball

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There will be a complete changing of the guard at the top of USA basketball heading into the next World Cup.

Gone is Mike Krzyzewski as coach, replaced by the most logical next in line, Gregg Popovich (who spent a lot of time with Team USA in the run-up to the Rio Olympics this summer).

Now Jerry Colangelo, the USA Basketball Chairman who orchestrated a rebuild of its structure, is stepping down and will not seek a third term, it was announced Thursday. Colangelo will continue as the Managing Director of the USA Basketball Men’s National Team — meaning he will be hands on in selecting that team — but he will back away from other levels of the organization.

“Given the coaching change and the challenge of assembling a group of players for FIBA’s new competition schedule, this is a good time to devote my full attention to the Men’s National Team,” Colangelo said in a statement. “As Chairman of USA Basketball, I’m proud of what our teams at all levels have accomplished and how our players have embraced the responsibility of representing their country.  I look forward to working with the next Chairman to ensure that we continue to honor and build on USA Basketball’s rich tradition.”

A new Chairman will be elected by the USA Basketball Board of Directors at its meeting Nov. 14. We already know who is in line for the position, and my guess is General Martin Dempsey will pass the USA Basketball background check.

Colangelo took over in 2004 after the USA won bronze in Athens and didn’t look good doing it. Beyond just recruit top players to the senior men’s team, he set out to rework the structure of USA Basketball and have top players competing for their country — and wanting that honor — at a young age. The other key was to get all these teams playing the same system and style.

It was a prestige honor before, but once (Colangelo and Krzyzewski) came in and built up a culture, it totally changed into a different dynamic,” Kyrie Irving told NBCSports.com this summer after a Team USA practice. “Every generation that is coming up has to come through USA Basketball if you’re, quote/unquote, a top player in the country….

“I myself played when I was 17 years old going into Duke. I end up going (to college) for one year, then I end up playing on the select team that I’m playing against today (the NBA rookies and young stars that the USA scrimmages against).”

Irving was part of the USA team that won gold in Rio this summer. That Rio medal showed how Colangelo had changed USA basketball — in 2004 a lot of top players pulled out of going to Athens (both over security concerns and most of them couldn’t stand coach Larry Brown) and there was no structure of good players in the system to step up and take their place. The team was just slapped together, and they hoped for the best. The got bronze. In 2016 a lot of top players pulled out of the Rio Olympics (injuries, Zika virus, and other concerns) but now there was a structure in place with guys who had come up through the system. The result was golden.

Not everyone around the NBA is happy that Colangelo — who also is an executive with the Philadelphia 76ers — has access to all this top talent from the NBA and could potentially leverage that to his advantage. The NBA put limits on his contacts with players, although he can speak to them specifically about USA basketball issues.

Colangelo is already talking about who might make the 2020 roster for the Tokyo Olympics, but he and the national team face real challenges before then. As Colangelo noted, FIBA changed the schedule for qualifications to the World Cup, which is now in 2019 (one year before the Olympics) to be during the NBA and other winter seasons of top leagues. Unlike European soccer leagues, which take breaks so players can compete in these tournaments, the NBA and top Europeans and other leagues are not. So the USA will be sending and interesting team of D-Leaguers and others to these games. It’s a disastrous idea from FIBA that Colangelo and USA Basketball have to deal with.

He’s not retiring; that’s for sure.

Celtics’ Jae Crowder sprains ankle, out at least a week

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The Celtics are already without Al Horford for a couple of games (at least) with a concussion.

Now comes the news versatile starting forward and key defender Jae Crowder is going to miss some time as well, due to a sprained ankle. You can see the second quarter play against the Bulls where it happened above: Crowder got the ball at the arc and went up like he was going to shoot, but as Rajon Rondo closed he decided to turn his body mid-air and pass to Isaiah Thomas. When Crowder lands, he rolls his left ankle pretty badly. He hops straight to the locker room.

Team officials said he’s out at least a week, according to A. Sherrod Blakely at CSNNE.com. Which is bad news with the Cavaliers up next on the schedule. Here is what coach Brad Stevens said after the game.

“I don’t think we’re into it enough to make an assessment on that timeline,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “It doesn’t sound like he’ll be back any time soon.”

We don’t know the grade of the sprain yet, but it looked nasty and may have him out more than a week.

Expect Stevens to mix and match lineups with Crowder out. Jaylen Brown, James Young, Jonas Jerebko, and Terry Rozier all could see a little more court time, depending on matchups.