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Joel Embiid’s strong start to season could mean extra $5 million a year

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Not long ago, Joel Embiid and the Sixers agreed to a max contract extension — five years, $146 million. The Sixers are betting on Embiid staying healthy because when he is there is no doubt he is a max player.

In fact, Embiid has been so good to start the season — 22.9 points and 11.3 rebounds a game, plus being one of the best defensive big men in the league — he stands a chance of making an additional $5 million a year by being named First Team All-NBA. It’s called the Derrick Rose rule. The fantastic Bobby Marks of ESPN explains (insider, behind the paywall).

Signed to a five-year $146 million extension, Embiid’s total compensation will increase to $178 million if he earns first-team All-NBA honors or is named Most Valuable Player this season. While the MVP is unlikely, Embiid could have an outside shot at first-team All-NBA based on his strong early-season play and the injury to Rudy Gobert. Unlike the All-Star selection process, in which the voting is split into backcourt and frontcourt, All-NBA is designated by position. Anthony Davis, named first-team All-NBA last season, should receive votes at power forward with DeMarcus Cousins now entrenched at center. Cousins — on pace for a career season statistically — is the biggest challenger to Embiid for the spot.

While a lot of people perceived Davis as a power forward last season, he played 64 percent of his minutes at center, so a lot of voters — myself included — treated him as a center for All-NBA. This season he has played center just 29 percent of the time, he will be a forward in voting. Rudy Gobert was on the second team, he’s been injured. DeAndre Jordan was on the third team, but his impact has been muted some this season (he misses Chris Paul feeding him the rock).

All that opens up three center spots on the All-NBA team, and it’s early but as of now there are four contenders: Embiid, Nikola Jokic, DeMarcus Cousins, and Andre Drummond. Maybe five if you want to squeeze LaMarcus Aldridge in as a center (he has almost evenly split time between power forward and center this season). About 20 games into the season is far too early to predict who gets what spot, Cousins probably would be in front, meaning Embiid is a bit of a longer shot, but it certainly could happen.

If Embiid does earn First Team and the raise, it eats into the salary cap space the Sixers have next summer and makes it harder to chase elite free agents, for example, LeBron James.

Montrezl Harrell reportedly reaches deal to return to Clippers

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The Clippers liked Montrezl Harrell last season (he came from Houston in the Chris Paul trade), he averaged 11 points a game for the team with a very efficient PER of 24.7.

He was one restricted agent some around the league thought another team would try to poach, but in a tight market nobody was making an offer because the Clippers were just expected to match. So the Clippers and Harrell (and his agent) sat down and figured out something that worked for both sides, as reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The big question here, which is not yet clear, is how the second year of that deal is structured (player option, not fully guaranteed, fully guaranteed, etc.). The Clippers are poised to have a lot of cap space next summer and want to maximize that to chase elite players. It would make sense — maybe for both sides — to have a second year where Harrell could get back on the market. However, at this price it could work better for both sides to keep him around.

The Clippers are now just $500 below the luxury tax. They also have 16 contracts, which is bad news for C.J. Wilson and his non-guaranteed deal. (Technically Patrick Beverley has a non-guaranteed contract as well, but if healthy he will be back.)

For this season, it’s a good fit. Harrell will bring some athleticism and bounce to a frontcourt rotation that already includes Tobias Harris, Luc Mbah a Moute, Marcin Gortat, and Boban Marjanovic. The Clippers are a pretty good team, the problem is in the West pretty good could be the 10 or 11 seed. The conference is that deep and brutal.

Would Dwyane Wade take a big payday in China? Would Jahlil Okafor?

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Dwayne Wade is making a tough decision: Does he want to go through the physical grind to get his body ready for one more season of NBA basketball in Miami? Or, is it time to retire?

For some of the greats — most recently Kobe Bryant talked openly about this — they still love the game and the camaraderie, but they get to a point they no longer have the same passion for putting in the increasing work on their bodies to get it in NBA-level condition to perform at the level they expect. Wade is struggling with that debate right now.

Or, he could just go to China.

From Sportando:

Dwyane Wade is still a free agent after his season with Cavaliers and Heat. Wade has not decided yet whether to play one more season or retire. But D-Wade is wanted in China. Xinjiang Flying Tigers are ready to offer him a monster deal, as reported by Zhang Duo.

It’s hard to imagine Wade jumping on that, but not impossible. The salary is not going to be the motivator — he has made just shy of $180 million in salary alone in his career, and much more with endorsements — but rather the move would be about building his brand and his new lifetime shoe deal with Li-Ning, a China-based shoe manufacturer. Business-wise, it could be good for Wade to spend a season in China.

Of course, family and other considerations have to be at the forefront of his mind, which is why this still feels unlikely. Just never say never.

One guy who could go there and rehab his reputation is free-agent Jahlil Okafor. Also from Sportando:

Okafor is practicing in Miami but the Heat are unlikely to sign him but in China there are several teams interested in signing the former Duke center, as reported by Zhang Duo.

Okafor has worked out for NBA teams but has no offers (or, at least none he’s taken) and it’s increasingly unlikely he would get a fully guaranteed contract for this season. He, understandably, is clearly still working toward that goal.

In China, Okafor could put up big numbers, show he is healthy and moving well, get a good payday, and be back in the USA in time to get picked up by a team for a playoff run (the Chinese season ends in February or March, depending on how deep a team goes in the playoffs). It’s a big cultural adjustment and not for everyone, but Okafor has to be considering all his options at this point.

Jazz ending sponsorship deal with Papa John’s

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Jazz are ending their sponsorship agreement with Papa John’s Pizza after the company’s founder and spokesman used a racial slur.

A person with knowledge of the team’s decision confirmed the move Friday and said it was because of the controversy. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the organization will not make a formal announcement.

A number of professional and college teams have cut ties to the company over Papa John’s founder John Schnatter’s comment during a company conference call in May. Among them are the Orlando Magic, Seattle Seahawks, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, University of Louisville,  and numerous others.

Schnatter apologized and stepped down as chairman but remains on the company’s board. He’s since said his decision to step down was a “mistake.”

The company says it’s also investigating allegations reported in Forbes that Schnatter oversaw a work culture where women were subject to sexist behavior.

 

Report: Nemanja Bjelica agrees to three-year contract with Kings

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Nemanja Bjelica wanted some stability. That got pulled out from under him when  Tom Thibodeau and the Timberwolves rescinded his qualifying offer. He quickly agreed to a one-year, $4.4 million offer, with Philadelphia, but then came to regret it because he wanted more security than that single season. Bjelica was considering Europe.

Then the Sacramento Kings stepped in. Friday night, the two sides reached a deal.

The Kings have signed both players who backed out of verbal agreements with teams this summer, Bjelica with the Sixers and Yogi Ferrell with the Mavericks.

Bjelica is a floor-spacing big man who should fit in well with the Kings’ frontcourt rotation that includes Marvin Bagley III, Harry Giles, Willie Caulie-Stein, and others. Bjelica provides shooting — he hit 41.5 percent from three last season (where he took nearly half his shots). Bjelica has a solid all-around game that a lot of teams could have used. Including Minnesota and Philly.