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Joel Embiid’s “f****** sick and tired of being babied”

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Joel Embiid is frustrated.

He watched from the bench in street clothes Monday as his Philadelphia team lost Game 2 of its first-round series against Miami, evening things up. He couldn’t play. While he has been cleared through the league’s concussion protocol and has a mask to protect his face following a fractured eye socket, the team doctors have not cleared him. Minutes after the loss, Embiid lashed out in anger in an Instagram story.

Coach Brett Brown was asked about Embiid’s frustration and his social media comments after the game and tried to spin it to a positive (via NBC Sports Philadelphia):

“He just wants to play basketball. He wants to be with his team, he wants to play in front of the fans and he wants to see this through. When he’s not able to do that, he gets frustrated, and I respect his frustrations. It’s borne out of him wanting to be with his team. And so the medical side, different reasons, I’m not going to go there. But I do know the spirit he delivered that [Instagram story] you just talked about reflects my conversations with him. It’s completely driven by team, competitiveness, I want to play basketball, that type of feeling more than anything.”

Embiid spoke to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN and echoed those same thoughts.

Embiid’s status for Thursday’s Game 3 in Miami has yet to be determined.

When he steps on the court, everything about this series will change — the Sixers will get their best player back. Their defensive anchor. Embiid also changes their offense (although the ball moves less with him out there). And it sets up the Embiid vs. Hassan Whiteside matchup — which will undoubtedly carry onto social media after the game.

Embiid wants to play, he wants to be out there with his teammates, but we know the Sixers and they are going to think about what is the best for the long-term, not about short-term gains. They always have.

So Embiid remains frustrated. As do Sixers fans.

Heat bring physical defense, Dwyane Wade brings buckets, Miami evens series with Sixers

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Welcome to the playoffs, young Sixers.

Miami, with a roster of role players — but ones who are versatile, defend, and play smart — adjusted after getting blown out in the second half of Game 1. Justise Winslow and company took away Ben Simmons’ space. Miami was smart about who to stick with and not let Simmons find. Miami got physical. The Sixers struggled to adapt.

Then Dwyane Wade hopped in the hot tub time machine and brought back his old game, complete with a lot of mid-range jumpers. He had 21 points in the first half, then a couple key plays late — including a steal that led to a run-out dunk — to settle the Heat down during a Sixers run.

The end result was a 113-103 Miami win on the road in Game 2. The series is now tied 1-1 heading back to Miami.

The win will give the Heat confidence heading home, something that could change the feel of this entire series… until the Sixers bring in Joel Embiid, and everything that happened the first couple of games will feel like a different series. (Embiid’s status for Game 3 is unknown, but he has cleared the league’s concussion protocol.)

“Tonight was about us bringing more of a physical mindset as a group,” Wade said after the game. “It wasn’t about an individual, necessary challenge against those guys, it was about us as a group. I thought we did that.”

It didn’t start out looking like that for Miami. After a quick start hitting 4-of-5, some foul trouble for Goran Dragic that forced him to the bench threw the Heat off, they struggled to score going 5-of-18 the rest of the quarter, and meanwhile, the Sixers kept making plays and had a double-digit lead in the first.

That’s when Wade and the Miami defense changed everything.

Wade had played just 19 minutes and wasn’t a factor in Game 1, came out shooting 7-of-7 in the first half and sparked an 8-0 Heat run to open the second quarter, giving them a lead they never relinquished. That run stretched out to 16-2. Wade finished the first half with 21 points and just hit everything.

At the same time, the Sixers weren’t scoring the same way. Philly was 11-of-15 from three in the second half of Game 1, but that was out of character. Things even out. Philly was 2-15 to start Game 2, some of those good looks that just didn’t go down.

Miami also took a different approach to Ben Simmons. In Game 1 they laid back on him and dared him to shoot, but instead he dribbled into that space and made passes or hit little floaters over guys. This time around Winslow and company took away that space, forcing him to drive and become a scorer — not his strength.

With Embiid out, the Sixers rely heavily on Simmons to make passes — the Sixers led the NBA in passes per game according to the NBA’s tracking stats — and find other players moving through off-the-ball screens. However, with pressure on Simmons those passes just did not work the same way as Game 1. Miami also did a much better job of both getting back in transition defense and recognizing the shooting threats and getting out on them.

Miami’s starters moved the ball and forced the young Sixers to make decisions, something Philly was inconsistent at. When Wade was in the offense is much simpler, but when he’s hitting his midrange shots — he was 7-of-9 between the paint and the arc — he’s almost impossible to stop. When the Sixers focused on taking the ball out of his hands guys like Wayne Ellington made plays (he finished with 11).

Goran Dragic finished with 20 for the Heat, and James Johnson had 18 as part of a balanced attack.

Simmons had 24 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists. Dario Saric added 23 points, and Marco Belinelli had 16 off the bench.

Game 3 is Thursday night in Miami.

With hot first half, Dwyane Wade passes Larry Bird for 10th all-time in playoff scoring

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Dwyane could not miss to start Game 2 Monday night — Miami needed some buckets and confidence, and he came out firing, going 7-of-7 to open the game with 21 first-half points.

Everything he was putting up seemed to go in.

And in that run, Wade passed Larry Bird to take over 10th on the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list.

Just another milestone for the future Hall of Famer.

 

How Allen Iverson dropping 41 on him taught Kobe Bryant about preparation

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Kobe Bryant’s reputation as a guy who studied the game and had coach-like preparation was well deserved. When teammates were playing Bourré and gambling on the plane, Kobe was back with the coaches watching film. That’s how he was wired.

Allen Iverson taught him that lesson.

Bryant joined CBS Radio’s Jim Rome on his podcast, and among the stories Kobe discussed was what Iverson taught him — Iverson dropped 41 and 10 on Bryant back in 1999.

“That put him on my permanent radar. Now he’s my obsession. I’m going to figure him out. This is never happening again. I kept the stat sheet. It just sat with me. From that point forward I read everything about him. I watched every game he played…Sometimes you have those moments where great players bring the best out of you. And he certainly did that for me because he helped me find another gear of preparation.”

Kobe was always a perfectionist. This taught him about obsession — and that served him well.

Kobe also discussed how winning the Oscar was thrilling in compared to winning an NBA title — he had only expected one of those things.

Winning a championship, I expected to do that. Going into Indiana, Shaq being hurt, me trying to have to finish this game here at 21-years-old, I dreamt of doing that. I felt comfortable, I felt confident that I could absolutely execute that. And writing “Dear Basketball” and producing that film, I didn’t know if I could do it. I’m not known to be a writer, let alone be a producer on a project with Glen Keane and John Williams. I was unsure of myself, man. And when you take a leap of faith to that extent to be rewarded at the highest level of the industry for our first project out, it’s beyond comprehension.”

 

Knicks interviewing every coaching candidate under the sun except Jeff Van Gundy

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Mark Jackson. David Fizdale. Jerry Stackhouse. David Blatt. Mike Woodson.

At this point, if the Knicks announced they were interviewing Kendrick Lamar for their head coaching vacancy, I’d believe it. (Then I’d wonder why he would take that pay cut.)

They seem to be interviewing everyone in their efforts to replace Jeff Hornacek… except Jeff Van Gundy. The former Knicks coach turned ABC/ESPN analyst is not on the list, reports Ian Begley of ESPN.

The New York Knicks have not shown any interest at this point in Jeff Van Gundy as a candidate for their head-coaching position, league sources told ESPN.

Van Gundy, a former Knicks coach and current NBA analyst for ESPN, would be open to talking about the position if he were approached by New York, league sources say. But league sources familiar with the matter say that despite contact between the team and Van Gundy’s representatives, there is no interest currently.

Maybe there is some residual tension in the organization around Van Gundy, maybe they want someone who has coached in the league more recently, maybe a lot of things. It’s the Knicks, trying to deduce their motives is like trying to divine meaning in abstract art — good luck.

What the Knicks need to consider near the top of the list: Which coach is going to have a good relationship with and get the most out of Kristaps Porzingis. Yes, Porzingis is going to miss at least a healthy chunk of next season coming off his torn ACL, but he’s the future and the next coach needs to maximize his development and put him in spots to succeed. The Knicks may want to do something crazy like even talk to Porzingis throughout the process, maybe even listen to what he has to say. Just an idea.