Even with Joel Embiid out injured, Sixers rally in fourth to knock off Celtics

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PHILADELPHIA — Brett Brown gathered his team in the locker room to ring the postgame victory bell when the 76ers coach noticed a familiar face on general manager Elton Brand’s phone. There was Joel Embiid on FaceTime, calling in from New York where he’s set to have surgery Friday to repair a torn ligament. Embiid had to like the view — a Sixers team that gutted out a win hours after learning the All-Star center was out indefinitely.

“We’re going to miss Joel for however long it is,” guard Ben Simmons said, “but tonight was a good start.”

Josh Richardson scored 29 points, Simmons had 19 and Philadelphia won without Embiid, beating the Boston Celtics 109-98 on Thursday night.

Embiid will have surgery for a torn ligament in a finger in his left hand and will be evaluated in one to two weeks. Embiid, averaging 23.4 points and 12.3 rebounds in 31 games this season, tore the radial collateral ligament in the ring finger Monday night in a victory over Oklahoma City.

“I’m putting a blow torch, a bullet, many bullets into what we used to do,” Brown said. “Really. It doesn’t fit. So it’s on me to make it fit. We don’t have Joel Embiid. So when I say, ‘blow torch and bullet,’ I mean it.”

Mike Scott slid into the starting rotation, along with Al Horford, Tobias Harris, Richardson and Simmons. Simmons, an All-Star point guard, played center at times and drew a charge on Enes Kanter with 1:45 left in the first quarter.

“I’ve always been curious of what that could look like,” Brown said. “I thought he was good. I don’t know what the numbers bear out but it’s something we tried. I have wanted to try Ben at five, we did, and I suspect we’ll see it again.”

With Embiid out indefinitely, even the deep reserves are going to have to contribute to keep them afloat until he returns. That included Furkan Korkmaz, who buried a 3 late in the fourth that stretched the Sixers’ lead to 91-87. Horford, who left Boston in the offseason to sign a four-year deal with Philadelphia, converted a three-point play for a seven-point lead. The Celtics pulled within two, but the Sixers used a 9-0 run to put the game away and improve to 18-2 at home.

“It’s two big sports cities that really get behind their teams, so you appreciate that,” Richardson said. “I feel like everybody’s almost ready to fight about that game when it comes up.”

The Celtics had their own injury scare when Kemba Walker, ejected for the first time in his nine-year NBA career a night earlier, sprained his left thumb. Walker ran into Scott and instantly clutched his hand late in the second quarter. Walker, who scored 26 points on 10-for-20 shooting, tried to shake it off but left for the locker room shortly before the Celtics took a 55-48 lead into halftime.

Walker, wearing a wrap in the locker room, said he jammed his thumb and didn’t think he would need additional tests.

“When he first went down, we were worried about ligaments,” coach Brad Stevens said. “Right now, in a lot of ways, it feels like we dodged a bullet.”

Walker looked fine when he returned to the lineup. Jayson Tatum and Walker hit back-to-back 3s to tie the game at 69-all in the third and wipe out a hole caused by the Sixers’ 11-0 run to start the half.

“We just have to close out games better,” Walker said. “You can’t win ’em all, obviously. But we’ve got to be better.”

In wake of Kobe Bryant’s death, Kendrick Perkins seeks forgiveness from Kevin Durant

Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Kendrick Perkins
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Kevin Durant once called Kendrick Perkins his favorite teammate of all-time.

A couple weeks ago, they were beefing on Twitter,exchanging barbs that didn’t look as friendly as previously.

Kobe Bryant’s tragic death has Perkins reflecting.

Perkins:

Good for Perkins. Amid all the sorrow, Bryant’s death creates an opportunity for people to re-assess their priorities. Grudges almost always aren’t worth it.

Nick Kyrgios warms up for Australian Open in Kobe Bryant jersey (video)

Nick Kyrgios in Kobe Bryant jersey and Rafael Nadal
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Kobe Bryant was a great basketball player. His sport-specific skills – shooting, dribbling, positioning – were incredible.

But his competitiveness and work ethic transcended basketball. Those traits earned him admirers far and wide.

Tennis star Nick Kyrgios wore a Bryant jersey to warm up for the Australian Open:

CJ Fogler:

After his fourth-round loss to Rafael Nadal, Kyrgios – wearing a different Kobe jersey – shared his perspective on Bryant:

Kyrgios:

Basketball is practically my life, and I watch it every day, and I’ve been following it for as long as I can remember.

If anything, it motivated me. If you look at the things he stood for and what he wanted to be remembered by, I felt like, if anything, it helped me tonight.

I’m a Celtics fan, and so when I saw Kobe do what he does and break the hearts of so many Celtics fans, it was tough to see. But I don’t think they make them like him anymore. He was different. The way he trained, the way he did things, the way he played was special. It’s just sad.

Reports: Kobe Bryant’s helicopter was in holding pattern, advised of flying too low

Kobe Bryant helicopter crash site
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Kobe Bryant’s shocking death has left millions trying to cope.

For some, questions turn to the technical: How? How did Bryant’s helicopter crash?

RadarOnline.com:

“Hold outside Burbank, I have an aircraft,” the recording revealed the tower employee advising Bryant’s helicopter during the communication.

“He’s been holding for about 15 minutes,” a flight tower employee said about Bryant’s helicopter around 9:30 a.m.

Emma Parry and Chris Spargo of The U.S. Sun:

The pilot, Ara Zobayan, was told he was flying too close to the ground.

Per audio from before the crash, Zobayan said: “OK, we’ll continue holding.”

RadarOnline.com:

As the flight towers try to assist in the helicopter landing, they are cautioned about the “overcast” weather and their low flight level, meaning they were dangerously close to the ground.

“You’re still too low level for flight following at this time,” the flight toward warned the pilot on the audio.

Bryant’s helicopter was reportedly traveling north along the 118 freeway, turned west and followed the 101 freeway. After hitting heavy fog around 9:40 a.m., the helicopter turned south and made a steep climb from 1200 feet to 2000 feet.

Moments later they reportedly flew into the mountain at 1700 feet and the vehicle was traveling at 161 knots.

There’s still more to learn, including whether the helicopter had mechanical issues. Perhaps, we’ll never get that answer. If we do, it won’t change anything.

Still, it feels natural to search for greater understanding of this inexplicable tragedy.

In Europe, Kobe Bryant recalled for his “Italian qualities”

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ROME (AP) — In Europe, where Kobe Bryant grew up, the retired NBA star was being remembered for his “Italian qualities.”

“All of the NBA players are important, because they’re legends, but he’s particularly important to us because he knew Italy so well, having lived in several cities here,” Italian basketball federation president Giovanni Petrucci told The Associated Press. “He had a lot of Italian qualities.”

“He spoke Italian very well. He even knew the local slang,” Petrucci added.

Bryant, the 18-time NBA All-Star who won five championships and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, died Sunday in a helicopter crash near Calabasas, California. He was 41.

Bryant lived in Italy between the ages of 6 and 13 while his father, Joe Bryant, played for several teams in the country before returning to Pennsylvania for high school. Kobe Bryant spoke fluent Italian and often said it would be a “dream” to play in the country.

The dream almost came true when Bryant nearly joined Virtus Bologna in 2011 during an NBA lockout, only for the deal to fall apart.

“He was a supernatural,” Italian coach Ettore Messina, who worked with Bryant as an assistant for the Lakers, told the AP via text message while traveling with his current club, Olimpia Milano.

“To hear him speak and joke in our language and to remember when his father played here and he was a kid drew a lot of people to the NBA,” Messina said. “He was also always very attentive to help Italian kids arriving in the NBA and to help them enter such a tough and competitive world. He also did that with me when I arrived at the Lakers and I’m still very grateful to him for that. It’s very sad that his family has been devastated like this.”

Dating from his time in Italy, Bryant was a lifelong soccer fan.

AC Milan, one of the clubs that Bryant supported, tweeted: “We have no words to express how shocked we are to hear of the tragic passing of one of the greatest sportsmen of all time and Rossonero fan, Kobe Bryant. All our thoughts are with the families of those affected by this tragic accident. You will forever be missed, Kobe.”

The International Olympic Committee noted in a tweet that Bryant was a two-time gold medalist, adding: “Rest In Peace #KobeBryant You will always stay in our hearts.”