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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.

Pacers All-Star Domantas Sabonis has 20 and 11, leads Pacers past Blazers

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INDIANAPOLIS — Domantas Sabonis had 20 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Indiana Pacers to a 106-100 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night.

Malcolm Brogdon had 17 points, eight assists, and six rebounds while T.J. Warren and Victor Oladipo scored 15 points each for the Pacers, who have four of their last five.

CJ McCollum had 28 points and eight assists, Gary Trent Jr. had 20 points, and five rebounds, and Hassan Whiteside had 18 points and 16 rebounds for the Trail Blazers, who have lost five of six.

The Pacers were able to hold off the Blazers’ late push.

After Brogdon made a jumper to give Indiana a 103-93 lead with 1:54 remaining, Portland went on a 7-0 run. McCollum’s floater made it 103-100 with 30 seconds to go.

Myles Turner drilled a 3-pointer with 9 seconds remaining to seal it.

The Trail Blazers went on a 10-1 run late in the first half to push ahead.

McCollum made a 3-pointer to give Portland a 42-40 lead with 3:13 to go in the second quarter. After a free throw by Oladipo, McCollum made another three and then a fadeaway to put the Trail Blazers in front 47-41.

Portland led 49-43 at halftime.

Report: Magic and Pistons talked trading for Nets Spencer Dinwiddie

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Leading up to the NBA trade deadline, at least two NBA teams talked about making a trade for Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie. SNY’s Ian Begley reports that the Detroit Pistons and Orlando Magic had internal discussions about trading for Dinwiddie.

Dinwiddie started his NBA career with Detroit before being traded to the Chicago Bulls. After being waived following his only training camp with the Bulls, Dinwiddie signed later that season with the Nets.

That signing has proven to be one of the best finds of Sean Marks’ diamond mining process in Brooklyn. With the Nets, Dinwiddie has become a key rotation player. Last December, Brooklyn inked Dinwiddie to a three-year contract extension that started with this season.

This past summer, Dinwiddie was a key part of the recruiting process to bring free agent Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to Brooklyn. Dinwiddie did that recruiting even though the addition of Irving cost him a spot in starting lineup.

Oddly enough, it’s the presence of Irving on the roster that could lead Marks to consider trading Dinwiddie. With Irving, Durant and Caris LeVert, that’s three players who need the ball a lot. And there is a lot of overlap in position there as well. With a hole at power forward, Begley posited that a Dinwiddie for Aaron Gordon swap might make sense for both Brooklyn and Orlando.

While no trade agreement was reached prior to the deadline, it’s possible that either Detroit (who projects to have $34 million in cap space this summer and needs to add talent) or Orlando (who needs offensive creators) could engage Brooklyn in trade talks this summer. It’s much easier to make a deal that involves big salaries in the summer when teams have more roster flexibility.

Report: Joel Embiid out at least one week with shoulder sprain

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NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Serena Winters reports that Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid will be out at least one week due to a sprained left shoulder.

Embiid underwent further evaluations Thursday after being injured the previous night in a game at the Cleveland Cavaliers. Those evaluations showed no structural damage. Embiid will be re-evaluated in one week.

That timeline makes it likely that Embiid will miss the entirety of the Sixers upcoming west coast trip, including games against both Los Angeles teams. Embiid’s absence, combined with that of Ben Simmons, will make it hard for Philadelphia to improve upon their woeful 9-21 road record.

With Simmons out due to an impingement in his back, and Embiid joining him on the sidelines, the 76ers have returned Al Horford to the starting lineup. Horford started with regulars Tobias Harris and Josh Richardson, and fill-ins Glenn Robinson III and Shake Milton in Philadelphia’s home victory over New York on Thursday. That group is likely to continue to open games for Brett Brown until he gets his All-Star duo back in the lineup.

Report: Clippers would like to re-sign Montrezl Harrell and Marcus Morris as free agents

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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The Los Angeles Clippers will have to focus on building their roster around Kawhi Leonard and Paul George moving forward. They locked up several role players to long-term contracts over the summer, but face two critical free agent situations this offseason with Montrezl Harrell and Marcus Morris. Jovan Buha of The Athletic reports that the Clippers would like to re-sign both players.

Harrell has blossomed into a Sixth Man of the Year candidate while with the Clippers, and will be one of the better big men on the market this summer. Only six to seven teams project to have cap space this summer, but all of them have a need for a player like Harrell. That means LA will likely need to pony up this summer to keep their reserve big man.

The Clippers likely face the same sort of situation with Morris. They acquired him at the trade deadline and gave up a first-round pick to do so. With several picks and swap rights pending to the Oklahoma City Thunder from the Paul George trade last summer, that was a heavy price for Los Angeles to pay.

With the team capped out and lacking draft picks moving forward, LA has little ability to replace either Harrell or Morris if they leave. On the other hand, it could push the Clippers deep into the luxury tax if they retain both Harrell and Morris. Steve Ballmer has the deepest pockets in the NBA, but every owner has their limits. In the end, everything might come down to just how the Clippers season ends. Winning a title, or at least making the NBA Finals, would make it a lot easier to pay to keep the team together.