Three Things to Know: Brash, ‘good a**h***’ Joel Embiid is back, leads 76ers to win

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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) Brash, “good a**h***” version of Joel Embiid back, leads 76ers past Clippers. Joel Embiid says he was turning over a new leaf this season: A little less smack talk, a little more zen. Not stirring the pot. He didn’t like the results, so the old Embiid is back (quote via NBC Sports Philadelphia).

“This year I made a decision to change and I guess it hasn’t worked out. So, it comes with the good and bad. If it helps us win and it helps me help the team in a better way to win games, then I’m going to be that guy.”

“That guy” as in the guy who gets into it with Marcus Morris on the court.

The guy who’s a “good a**h***” on the court and social media.

Also the guy who puts up 26 points, had nine rebounds, and fit together well with Ben Simmons for a night leading the 76ers to one of their best wins of the season, 110-103 over the Clippers (another home win, but still). Simmons had a triple-double of 26 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists, but it was the way everything fit — with Furkan Korkmaz starting to provide more shooting (except he went 0-of-5) and Al Horford coming off the bench — that was impressive. This looked more like the Sixers team we expected before the season.

Simmons and Embiid seemed to be looking for each other more than usual, we’ll see if that continues. Other teams are still watching that pairing like vultures.

Embiid “shushing” the Philly crowd then taking it to social media — where overreaction and baseless conspiracy theories thrive — had the entire situation overblown. The version of Embiid who thinks all this is fun and uses it as fuel is back.

“They’ve been going at me,” he said of Sixers fans. “I went back at them. We’re all human beings. If I can take it, then everybody else can take it, too. We learn from it, we move on. I’ve gotta do a better job, they’ve gotta do a better job. I understand where they come from, but then again, if you dish it, you’ve gotta be able to take it back.

“But at the end of the day … it’s all love. I love my city. I’ve been here for a long time now. We have a special relationship. I’m happy to be here and I can’t wait for the future, especially this year. I think we can accomplish something great.”

2) James Harden and Russell Westbrook combine for 78 points, Rockets snap Celtics seven-game win streak. Houston’s small-ball lineup is fun. Unless you’re trying to defend it.

James Harden scored 42 points, Russell Westbrook added 36, and it all comes together like that the Rockets are hard to beat. Boston couldn’t, and Houston won 116-105. Harden sparked a 15-2 run in the fourth that sealed the game for Houston.

We’ll see if Houston’s commitment to small ball gets them wins and moves them up the West standings (and we can debate if it will work in in the playoffs), but when it all comes together is fun to watch. We are entertained.

3) The NBA’s television ratings are down, and that may not matter. On Tuesday, Forbes’ annual NBA franchise valuations came out, and it’s a reminder that the rich get richer — the average team value went up 14 percent in the past year. No team went up less than 6 percent in value, and no team is worth less than $1.3 billion, according to Forbes. If you care, your top five most valuable franchises are:

1. New York Knicks: $4.6 billion
2. Los Angeles Lakers: $4.4 billion
3. Golden State Warriors: $4.3 billion
4. Chicago Bulls: $3.2 billion
5. Boston Celtics: $3.1 billion

That’s not what caught my eye in Forbes’ report.

NBA television ratings are down this year, which has led to a lot of hand wringing in certain quarters, especially looking ahead to the next NBA television deal (2025). Maybe those concerns are overblown. Fewer people are watching NBA games the way your father and grandfather did, but in a streaming world are fewer people watching? From Forbes:

Yet as viewing gravitates more seamlessly to a streaming-centric world, the NBA’s younger demographic will be key. The NBA’s average viewership age is 43 versus 52 for the NFL and 59 for MLB, according to Nielsen. Streaming viewership of NBA games on ESPN and TNT is up more than 30% this season.

“This season’s NBA ratings story is silly. It is a small sample size. This is a year-round league with year-round stories,” says sports media consultant Lee Berke of LHB Sports. “The next NBA media agreements will be a substantially evolved set of deals because of streaming. There will be an increasing range of media companies that want the NBA for the U.S. and worldwide.”

The current $2.7 billion per year NBA deal with ESPN and TNT runs through the 2024-25 season, and Berke expects the next deal to roughly double in value.

Double. And that’s just domestic rights.

Predict where the media landscape will be in five years at your own peril, but maybe the bubble on broadcast sports rights is not about to burst. At least not for the NBA. Not yet.