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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.

Rumor: Patrick Beverley may meet with five teams before Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers want to bring Patrick Beverley back next season, his spark was at the heart of why this team made the playoffs and impressed with their potential.

First, however, the Clippers are going big game hunting for the likes of Kawhi Leonard and/or Kevin Durant (even with the Achilles injury). Beverley isn’t just going to sit around and wait for them, reports longtime NBA reporter Sean Deveney Tweeted.

The Bulls need a point guard and Beverley — a Chicago native — has said he is interested.

The Lakers also are reportedly big game hunting, but Beverley is the kind of guard they could use around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Phoenix and other teams have been mentioned.

Beverley is going to have options, but he loved his time with the Clippers last season, and that means something.

Pelicans reportedly pick up option year on coach Alvin Gentry

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David Griffin, the guy with the hammer in New Orleans, likes Alvin Gentry. They have a relationship that goes back to Phoenix, where Gentry was the coach and Griffin was in the front office (and was eventually GM).

Gentry also has a style of play — he wants to run and be up-tempo. That should fit very well with soon-to-be No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise the Griffin and the Pelicans want to keep Gentry around, as reported by Malika Andrews of ESPN.

This is another smart, stabilizing move by Griffin. The Pelicans want to build an athletic, fast-paced team and Gentry is the right coach for that style.  Maybe it doesn’t pan out, maybe the Pelicans ultimately need to go another direction with their coach, but right now this seems a good fit.

Report: Utah “frontrunner” to land Mike Conley Jr. if Memphis trades him this week

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Utah feels like it is close — a 50-win team two seasons in a row, an elite defense, an All-NBA center in Rudy Gobert and an elite shot creator in Donovan Michell. They look at the West next season, with a depleted Warriors team, and see an opening.

Yet when Utah fell to Houston 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs this year, it was reminded of what is keeping the team from being truly elite, and another shot creator and shooter is at the top of that list.

Enter Mike Conley Jr. He averaged 21.1 points and 6.4 assists per game last season, shot 36.4 percent from three, and plays strong defense. Conley would be an upgrade over Ricky Rubio at the spot.

The almost All-Star point guard out of Memphis is available via trade. He’s the kind of veteran floor general, shooter, and shot creator Utah could use. The Jazz and Grizzlies talked but couldn’t come to an agreement at the trade deadline, but the sides are talking again and conversations are “intensifying” in the run-up to the NBA Draft Thursday, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Grizzlies are intensifying talks to potentially move franchise cornerstone Mike Conley Jr., league sources told The Athletic. Memphis has been in conversations with the Jazz and Utah is a frontrunner to acquire Conley should the Grizzlies trade the point guard during draft week, league sources said.

What would be in a trade package? Certainly the No. 23 pick in this draft, plus some young players the Grizzlies like (maybe Grayson Allen, Royce O’Neal, and even someone like Jae Crowder. Reports say Derick Favors is not part of the discussion.

While anything can happen the week of the draft — and things change quickly — don’t be surprised if some version of this trade gets done.

Kawhi Leonard wins day with last laugh — his viral laugh — at end of speech

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Kawhi Leonard just won again.

He won his second NBA title leading the Toronto Raptors to the franchise’s first crown. He earned his second Finals MVP in the process.

Then on Monday he had the last laugh and won the Raptors’ championship parade in Toronto by ending his speech with his laugh, the same one that went viral at the start of the season.

Of course, what Leonard will do on July 1 was a cloud hanging over the parade, Leonard is a free agent this summer. Kyle Lowry at one point started a “five more years” chant during the parade, which is the maximum number of years Toronto can re-sign Leonard for.

Leonard, exactly as we all should have expected, dodged the question, while praising his time in Toronto.

Unfortunately, this was a parade marred by more serious concerns.