Three Things to Know: Some players switching numbers away from 8, 24 to honor Kobe

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Some players are switching numbers away from 8, 24 to honor Kobe. Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban made the first move, saying on Sunday that no Dallas player would again wear No. 24 in honor of Kobe Bryant. It was a decision made to honor Kobe in the wake of his death (along with his daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash).

Now some players who have been wearing No. 8 or No. 24 are switching numbers for the same reason, a sort of unofficial number retirement. The first was Brooklyn guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who wore No. 8 but asked the league (and got rare in-season permission) to change to No. 26.

The next name we heard was Orlando’s Terrence Ross, who wore No. 8 but is switching to No. 31. New Orleans center Jahlil Okafor and Philadelphia guard Zhaire Smith are making changes.

Is that the best way to honor Kobe’s legacy?

Or, would it be to continue to wear his number but play with the passion, dedication, and pride that made Kobe special?

There is not a one size fits all answer to that question. Kemba Walker, who wears No. 8 for the Celtics, is grappling with that. (Walker wore No. 15 in Charlotte, but in Boston that number is retired in honor of Tommy Heinsohn.)

There were 30 NBA players this season wearing numbers 8 or 24, and they have a personal decision to make.

Personally, I like how Joel Embiid handled it.

2) 76ers Joel Embiid returns after a nine-game absence, wears No. 24 to honor Kobe, scores 24 points, leads Sixers to win. Joel Embiid was one of many NBA players hit hard by Kobe’s sudden and tragic death.

Embiid returned to action Tuesday after a nine-game absence and donned No. 24 for the night (getting permission from Bobby Jones, the number was retired in his honor), then went out and scored 24 points to spark the 76ers win against Golden State — yelling “Kobe” as he hit his final shot.

Philadelphia needed Embiid back in the lineup.

The Sixers did go 6-3 while Embiid was out — and Ben Simmons stepped up, he averaged 24 points a game on better than 70 percent shooting in the final five without Embiid. However, Philly’s offensive rating in the nine Embiid-less games was 104.9, 29th in the NBA in that stretch. Even in the last five it was 103.2, still 29th in the league. Ben Simmons may have been playing better but the offense was not, and on the road the team really struggled.

If the Sixers are going to make any run the second half of this season and into the playoffs — if they are going to prove the best of a crowded second tier in the East — they will need a lot more from Embiid.

3) Khris Middleton makes his All-Star case, drops 51 on Wizards with Greek Freak out. Giannis Antetokounmpo has a sore shoulder and the Milwaukee Bucks — with their comfortable eight-game cushion on top of the East — gave him Tuesday night off to get healthy.

Khris Middleton said, “I got this,” stepped up and dropped a career-high 51 on the hapless Wizards’ defense (worst in the league).

Middleton was an All-Star last year and wants to get back to the game this season, but he is in the mix with players such as Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo from Miami, Jayson Tatum from Boston, Domantas Sabonis of Indiana, and a lot of quality guards in the East who are deserving. There will be “snubs” when the All-Star reserves are announced Thursday night on TNT.

I would have Middleton on the roster, but its the coaches who cast that ballot.