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Joel Embiid: “Nowadays the league is kind of soft. I’m trying to dominate.”

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The Philadelphia 76ers have been slower out of the gate than expected — a lot of fans expected a leap forward from the Sixers, for them to be at the top (with Boston, also a little slow to start). Instead, without the shooting of Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova, plus with Markelle Fultz starting and trying to find a role, the Sixers have been just okay — 7-5 by record, but their -0.6 net rating is that of a .500 team.

Joel Embiid has been the exception — he has been a force of nature. Embiid is averaging 27.7 points and 12.4 rebounds a game, is a beast around the rim (40 percent of his shots come there and he’s shooting 69 percent), he’s dishing out assists on 19 percent of his possessions used, and the Sixers have been 14.8 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court (most of that coming on the offensive end, although their defense is elite when he plays). If one were to put together an early season MVP watch list, Embiid’s name should be on it. He has carried the Sixers early while the perimeter players clank shots off the rim.

This is just how Embiid wants it — he wants to dominate. His trash talking is just part of that, as he told Michael Lee of The Athletic.

“I want to dominate,” Embiid told The Athletic recently, when asked why his colorful, playful trash talk has become an essential part of his game…

“It’s fun. One thing when I started playing in the league, I saw that a lot of guys are friendly. It’s OK to be friendly, especially off the court. But on the court, I want to dominate,” Embiid continued. “I don’t really care about the friendships on the court. I got my friends. I got my family, which I’m close to. I got a couple of friends that I’m always around. I don’t do anything. I don’t need to hang out with a lot of people.

“So me always talking trash … nowadays the league is kind of soft. I’m trying to dominate and if you dominate, you’re going to be hated because you’re going to talk so much stuff.”

Love him or hate him — most people are in the former camp right now, but that pendulum will swing, fame is fickle like that — Embiid makes the game more entertaining. Finally healthy on the court he can do it all there. He can go out and outscore  Andre Drummond 32-0 in a half.

But it’s the trash talking after that is the kind of personality the league could use more of.

Tell me you don’t want Embiid to be one of the two All-Star Game captains, picking players on live TV. This guy is just fun.

We’re just waiting for the rest of the Sixers to catch up to him.

Markelle Fultz’s new free throw stroke is… different.

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Philadelphia’s Markelle Fultz is in his own head with his free throw stroke now. (And, likely much more than that, but we’ll stick with the free throws for now.)

Earlier this week Fultz double-clutched a free throw attempt and his stroke was a mess.

Each game that stroke seems to change and the latest one is… different. Very different.

As Vecenie notes, this is actually an improvement in terms of the release, but that doesn’t make it good. Fultz was 1-of-2 in his one trip to the stripe (as of this writing).

Still, I have never seen someone pass the ball back-and-forth between their hands as they go into their shooting motion like that. Very, very odd.

Markelle Fultz’s agent denies rumor shooting woes due to motorcycle accident

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Why is 76ers guard Markelle Fultz‘s shot so screwed up?

Did he suffer an injury? Did he change his mechanics? Does he have the yips? Some combination?

Another theory presented by Brandon Robinson: Fultz got into a motorcycle crash last year.

Fultz’s agent, Raymond Brothers, via Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice:

“Markelle and the motorcycle, I saw the article that was sent, 100 percent not true,” said Brothers. “Quote me on that.”

The Collective Bargaining Agreement prohibits players from riding on motorcycles, though this theoretically could have been before Fultz signed his contract with Philadelphia. So, if this is true, there could be even more complications.

But Robinson’s report is too far-fetched to believe. Without more evidence, I’m not buying it.

Judge sounds skeptical of accuser’s arguments in appeal of Derrick Rose case

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Derrick Rose was found not liable during a civil rape trial in 2016.

The plaintiff appealed, and her argument was heard today. It doesn’t sound like it was well-received.

One of the appellate-court judges, Hon. Barrington D. Parker Jr., via Kyle Bonagura of ESPN:

“The main issue in this case is what happened that night between Doe and the three defendants,” Parker told Anand. “And you did a good job of presenting your case that what happened on that evening was nonconsensual, that she was raped.

“The defendants, as I look at the record, had powerful defenses to that presentation, which at the end of the day, the jury bought. You had a nine-day trial and this jury was out in what, 15 minutes? And you lose on every single claim. The jury just didn’t buy your case. No trial is perfect, but your evidence concerning the night in question came in and the jury had an opportunity to hear that.”

Following the trial as it unfolded, it seems the jury made the correct decision. Doe’s case was presented and considered. There wasn’t nearly enough evidence against Rose to find him liable.

That doesn’t mean he didn’t rape Doe. Her accusation counts for something. But at a certain point, if her claims can’t be credibly substantiated, Rose deserves a chance to move on. Police also investigated Rose and didn’t charge him.

The Court of Appeals has not yet ruled on Doe’s appeal, but it sounds like Rose is one step closer to putting this behind him legally.

Mark Cuban on Mavericks’ sexual-harassment scandal: ‘It’s behind us now’

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Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said he erred by not being involved enough in the franchise’s business side, allowing a predatory work environment to fester.

But he also didn’t appear at the press conference after the investigation’s results were released, leaving new CEO Cynthia Marshall to face the public.

Why?

Cuban on 1310 The Ticket, via Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News:

Because it’s Cynthia’s company now to run on the business side.

I’m the owner of a lot of different companies and I have CEO’s who run them. And it’s her’s to run and she’s good. And when you find someone that’s great at what they do, you let them do their job. Now, did I learn and I’ll communicate more with it? Yeah. But I’m not going to go into any of the details other than do say she is phenomenal at what she does and she deserves the respect that she’s earned and the Mavs are a much better organization and will be. And the NBA will be better because other teams and the NBA itself also are using her as a resource.

all the people that were involved are gone. . . The reality is, it’s behind us now. We did what we had to do. We’ve moved immediately. We brought in Cynt. Cynt’s a superstar. She’s changed the culture completely. That’s all you can do.

No organization is perfect. I’ve made my mistakes. The organization made its mistakes and we fixed them. There’s really no reason to suspend me or do a lot of the things people speculated about.

The difference between now and before is I talk to Cynt almost every day. Whereas the previous leadership . . . I talked to Cynt more the first month than I did per year, or five years, than I did in the past, because I was focused on basketball. And I don’t care what anybody writes. I don’t care what anybody thinks. I don’t care what anybody says. Anybody who watched and was there, recognized it.

Cuban clearly trusts Marshall to run the organization well. But he also trusted the previous regime to run the organization well, and look how that turned out.

I hope Cuban talking to Marshall daily creates the appropriate level of accountability. I hope Cuban is correct that the Mavericks’ problems are behind them.

But a new problem – the continued employment of a team photographer accused by multiple women of sexual harassment – arose under Marshall’s watch. The photographer, Danny Bollinger, was still travelling with the team and fired only after his accusers – felt unheard by the Mavericks – went public.

That creates plenty of questions about whether the appropriate mechanisms are in place to protect employees.

Cuban and the Mavericks must prove much more before deserving the benefit of the doubt this is behind them.