Associated Press

Report: Sixers hope Joel Embiid will only miss one playoff game

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Joel Embiid has yet to have surgery to repair his fractured eye socket, the swelling has to go down before he can go under the knife. His absence has changed the Eastern playoff race — a few days ago there was talk of the Sixers passing the Cavaliers for the three seed and having a reasonable path to the conference finals, now they may not be able to hold off the Pacers and keep home court in the first round. And if Embiid is not back for that first round…

Want some good news Sixers fans? Want some hope?

The Sixers are optimistic that Embiid will only miss one playoff game, maybe two, if everything goes right, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN said on the NBA Countdown show today. That is on the short end of the 2-4 week timeframe for these injuries, it would require everything going right — he gets surgery this weekend, it’s not more complicated than they think now, there are no setbacks in healing — but it’s possible.

With Embiid back, and if he can step in and quickly be close to his old self, the Sixers become a real threat in the postseason. While Ben Simmons may be Rookie of the Year, and they have good fit role players such as J.J. Redick and Robert Covington, it is Embiid that makes it all work. When Embiid has been off the court this season the Sixers are 15.2 points per 100 possessions worse. When Embiid is sitting the Sixers defense goes from elite to about average, and the offense falls and becomes one of the worst in the NBA.

That’s not a formula that lasts long in the postseason.

The Sixers will try to plug the hole with some combination of Amir Johnson, Richaun Holmes, and Dario Saric at center, depending on the matchup, but the Sixers need Embiid back to have any real shot in the postseason.

Which is why this report matters. Hope, it’s the best of things.

Moe Harkless says no buyout with Knicks: “I’ll be here the rest of the year”

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Moe Harkless went from a guy often starting and playing critical minutes for a contender in the Clippers to being the matching salary in a trade and finding himself on the woeful Knicks.

“It is definitely an adjustment with the way things are,” Harkless told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. “Everything is different, the culture and everything.”

If there was a player nobody would blame for wanting a buyout and the chance to get back to a team playing for something, it would be Harkless.

That’s not happening. Multiple reports have surfaced that he is not talking buyout with New York running up to the March 1 deadline. The latest comes from Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Then Harkless was even more direct speaking to Bondy.

“I’ll be here the rest of the year,” he said.

Harkless has fans in NBA front offices, with the Lakers rumored to be among them (although they are about to land Markieff Morris in a similar role). Harkless could play good defensive minutes on the wing down the stretch for a team, buying rest for key guys, plus in the playoffs he could be advantageous in certain matchups.

Morris and the Knicks have time to change their minds, but it sounds like he will play out the season in New York then be a free agent next summer.

Lakers reportedly will waive DeMarcus Cousins to clear roster spot

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If the Lakers are going to add Markieff Morrisas has been rumored — or anyone else via free agency, they are going to need to clear out a roster spot.

That has the Lakers looking to waive DeMarcus Cousins, a report broken by Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Cousins signed with the Lakers over the summer but never set foot on the court with them after tearing his ACL during summer workouts (which led to a scramble and L.A.’s fortuitous signing of Dwight Howard). He was around the team and rehabbing, and while they would never officially rule him out, Cousins was never expected to play.

He was not waived before because his $3.5 million salary might have been useful in a trade. When that didn’t materialize at the deadline it, became likely he could get waived.

It’s highly unlikely a team picks up Cousins this season, while he continues to rehab from his injury. However, it might be a good roll of the dice this summer by a team to sign him to a minimum contract for next season. Cousins still has some NBA basketball in him, if he can just stay healthy.

Karl-Anthony Towns has fractured wrist, to be re-evaluated in two weeks

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Karl-Anthony Towns was a surprise scratch from the Timberwolves last game before the All-Star break, a “left wrist injury” delaying the home debut of him with D'Angelo Russell (they did play a road game together in Toronto). Then came the rumors he could miss a few games when play started up again.

It’s going to be more than a few games, more than a few weeks.

Towns has a fractured left wrist, the team announced Friday. He is out and will be re-evaluated in two weeks. From the team press release:

“While Towns has been diligent in treatment with a goal of return to play, he has been assessed by multiple specialists over the last several days and the team continues to gather information on the optimal management strategies.”

Towns had been playing through wrist pain for a couple of weeks before this diagnosis.

Towns is having a career year on offense, averaging  26.5 points a game while shooting 41 percent from three (on 7.9 attempts per game), plus grabbing 10.8 rebounds a night. That has not translated into wins for Minnesota, however.

Towns being out doesn’t hurt the Timberwolves in the short term, they have fallen far out of the playoff chase in the West. However, this cuts into time Towns and Russell could have used to grow accustomed to each other’s games. It’s time lost for the coaching staff and front office as they evaluate the fit of players they have around Towns and Russell.

Lakers vs. Clippers game rescheduled for April 9, forces Lakers into back-to-back-to-back

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It was the right thing to do when the league, in consultation with the Lakers and Clippers, postponed the game between the two teams on Jan. 28, just two days after Kobe Bryant’s tragic death.

However, it left the league in a difficult spot — it was not going to be easy to find a place to put that game. Both teams have full schedules, plus the Staples Center is also home to the NHL’s Kings plus other booked concerts and events.

The found a spot: The game will be played on April 9 at 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT, and will be broadcast on TNT.

But to do that three other games had to be moved, and in doing so it has the Lakers playing in a back-to-back-to-back (something only seen in recent decades during the 66-game lockout season of 2011-12).

The other games moved are:

• The Chicago Bulls at Clippers game initially scheduled for April 8 will be played on April 6 at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT (moving from Wednesday to Monday).
• The Golden State Warriors at Lakers game originally scheduled for April 9 will be played on April 7 at 10 p.m. ET/7 PT (moving from Thursday to Tuesday) and will remain televised on TNT.
• The Bulls at Lakers game originally scheduled for April 7 will be played on April 8 at 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 PT (moving from Tuesday to Wednesday).

Meaning the Lakers host the Warriors Tuesday, the Bulls Wednesday, then are “at” the Clippers on Thursday.

The Clippers are now scheduled to play Monday (Bulls), Tuesday (at Jazz), and Thursday that week.

It’s not an ideal situation, but the league made the right move at the time. This is the price.