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Amir Johnson on South Beach: 2006 Pistons ‘let the streets beat us’

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Amir Johnson is a savvy veteran on the young 76ers.

On the 2006 Pistons, he was a scarcely used rookie straight out of high school.

But he was learning lessons he’d apply to his current role.

Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press:

Philadelphia heeded Johnson’s advice. The 76ers won Games 3 and 4 in Miami to take a 3-1 series lead.

The Pistons went 0-3 in Miami during the six-game 2006 Eastern Conference finals. There was little shame in losing to those Heat. They pushed Detroit to seven games in the 2005 conference finals and were – with Dwyane Wade transcendent while Shaquille O’Neal remained in his prime – even better the following year.

But too much partying is a major charge and a somewhat surprising one. The Pistons were led by the same veteran core – Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace – that made the previous two NBA Finals and won the 2004 title. They’d been around long enough to know better.

Report: Sixers hope Joel Embiid will only miss one playoff game

Associated Press
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Joel Embiid has yet to have surgery to repair his fractured eye socket, the swelling has to go down before he can go under the knife. His absence has changed the Eastern playoff race — a few days ago there was talk of the Sixers passing the Cavaliers for the three seed and having a reasonable path to the conference finals, now they may not be able to hold off the Pacers and keep home court in the first round. And if Embiid is not back for that first round…

Want some good news Sixers fans? Want some hope?

The Sixers are optimistic that Embiid will only miss one playoff game, maybe two, if everything goes right, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN said on the NBA Countdown show today. That is on the short end of the 2-4 week timeframe for these injuries, it would require everything going right — he gets surgery this weekend, it’s not more complicated than they think now, there are no setbacks in healing — but it’s possible.

With Embiid back, and if he can step in and quickly be close to his old self, the Sixers become a real threat in the postseason. While Ben Simmons may be Rookie of the Year, and they have good fit role players such as J.J. Redick and Robert Covington, it is Embiid that makes it all work. When Embiid has been off the court this season the Sixers are 15.2 points per 100 possessions worse. When Embiid is sitting the Sixers defense goes from elite to about average, and the offense falls and becomes one of the worst in the NBA.

That’s not a formula that lasts long in the postseason.

The Sixers will try to plug the hole with some combination of Amir Johnson, Richaun Holmes, and Dario Saric at center, depending on the matchup, but the Sixers need Embiid back to have any real shot in the postseason.

Which is why this report matters. Hope, it’s the best of things.

Three Things to Know: Young, athletic Bucks make Cavaliers look step slow in loss

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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) Milwaukee is young, long, athletic, and for a night that made the Cavaliers look a step slow in loss. The Milwaukee Bucks had lost three in a row coming into Tuesday night because their already not-that-good defense had been abysmal. That didn’t really change Tuesday against Cleveland, the Cavs had an offensive rating of 118.9 for the game. That is a win most nights.

Not this time, not against a Milwaukee team who was just faster and more athletic than the Cavaliers all night.

Led by Giannis Antetokounmpo and his 27 points with 14 rebounds, the Bucks ran past the Celtics starting in the middle of the second quarter — on the night, Milwaukee had 24 fast break points to Cleveland’s three. The Bucks led by as many as 20 and seemed in control, until a 19-0 by the Cavaliers bench (with Jae Crowder as the lone starter) made it a game again. That meant LeBron James was back in and he had nine points in the final minutes of the game, he was an absolute force again on his way to 39 points on the night.

It was a back-and-forth ending, but a Tony Snell three (thanks to Eric Bledsoe pushing the pace) had the Bucks up two — more transition points the Bucks got in part due to Dwyane Wade not getting back fast enough to really contest. However, after a couple missed threes, it looked like the Cavaliers would have one more chance when LeBron stole the ball from Antetokounmpo — but the athleticism, speed, and long arms of the Greek Freak once again changed the game and sealed the win.

I did love that on their last chance, LeBron went playground inbounding the ball off the turned Antetokounmpo’s back so he could get it himself. It just wasn’t enough.

It’s one game in December, the Cavaliers have only lost two games in their last 20, and haven’t gotten Isaiah Thomas back yet (he’s got a G-League stint coming up first). Plus, there is no way I’d pick the Bucks over the Cavaliers in a seven-game series… but still, this was the kind of game that feels like it foreshadows things to come. The Cavaliers are older and slower than their rising challengers in the East, how many more years can they hold them off? And what does LeBron think about his future after games like this?

2) Kings beat Sixers, a reminder that when Joel Embiid sits the Sixers aren’t near the same team. When Joel Embiid is on the court this season, the Sixers have played like the equivalent of a 57 win team, but when he has sat they have played like a 23-win team. He means that much to them. So when Embiid sat out Tuesday night due to back tightness (the nearly 50 minutes he played against the Thunder had something to do with that), a game against the Kings went from what should have been an easy win to a real battle.

Philly still led by 16 in the third quarter and 10 at the start of the fourth, but couldn’t hold off the Kings, who got 10 points out of Buddy Hield in the fourth (and 24 for the night). Again it was turnovers that did in the Sixers when they blew the lead — Philly turned the ball over on 20.3 percent of their possessions in this game, one in five trips down the court. The Sixers lead the league in turnover percentage, and it’s not close. Simmons and Embiid’s replacement as a starter, Amir Johnson, were the big culprits. Mix the turnovers with inconsistent defense and a team that makes poor shot decisions down the stretch, and you get a loss. This time it was 101-95 to the Kings. The Sixers have now lost 7-of-8.

Also, with Embiid not patrolling the paint, the Sixers had no answer for Zach Randolph, and the old-school big man went off for 27.

3) The Wizards got an easy win because New Orleans had no answers for John Wall and Bradley Beal. When Washington is focused and brings its “A” game, they have one of the top backcourts in the NBA in Wall and Beal. That focus has been wildly inconsistent this season — if Washington wants to know why it’s not considered a threat to the top of the East it starts there — but those two brought it on Tuesday night.

And the Pelicans had no answers. Wall and Beal combined for 44 points and 14 assists, and that overwhelmed New Orleans (despite 63 points combined from Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins). Check out the Washington backcourt’s highlights from the 116-106 win.

Reports: Jahlil Okafor, Nik Stauskas traded to Brooklyn for Trevor Booker

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Jahlil Okafor is going to get his chance to prove he can contribute in the NBA.

For their trouble, Philadelphia is going to get some veteran depth up front.

The Sixers are sending Okafor and shooting guard Nik Stauskas, plus a second-round pick, to Brooklyn for veteran power forward — and impressive dunker — Trevor Booker, a story broken by Zach Lowe of ESPN.

Okafor has been on the trade block for more than a year, the Sixers finally found a deal they like. This was a good deal for both teams.

It’s good that Okafor, the No. 3 pick in the 2015 draft (one spot ahead of Kristaps Porzingis) who has battled injuries and an NBA game that has moved away from his skill set. Okafor is a project, he doesn’t have much shooting range nor can he defend very well (in space or at the rim). He plays below the rim. He may not be the star that he was projected to be, but in Brooklyn Okafor will get a chance to show he can get buckets around the rim and out of the post, and that he has a role in the league. There is potential for him in an Al Jefferson/Zach Randolph kind of role (likely off the bench).

Brooklyn also gets a shooter in Stauskas who was out of the rotation in Philly (with J.J Redick and Timothe Luwawu getting run ahead of him). The Nets are rebuilding, and taking a flier on a couple of former first-round pick is the kind of gamble they should be taking. The Nets now have two of the top three picks from the 2015 draft, they got D'Angelo Russell from the Lakers last summer.

Philadelphia is eyeing the playoffs, and Booker gives them a solid big man off the bench that they can pair with Amir Johnson and/or Richaun Holmes. Booker is a glue guy who plays with energy every night — exactly the kind of veteran the Sixers have tried to surround their young core with. The Sixers get better in the short term with this move.

Report: Jahlil Okafor trade could be based on second-round picks

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Jahlil Okafor wants the 76ers to trade him or buy him out.

76ers president Bryan Colangelo, as relayed by Okafor himself, refuses a buyout. But a trade? That would work for Philadelphia, which just declined Okafor’s fourth-year option.

What do the 76ers want?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Colangelo has remained determined to find an Okafor trade that will bring the Sixers back an asset, but the Sixers ultimate deal point could be centered on future second-round draft picks, league sources told ESPN.

Okafor reportedly believes the 76ers have passed on viable trades, and if they’re waiting for second-rounders – plural – they probably have. At this point, I’d take the best second-rounder I could get for Okafor, who’s definitely leaving Philadelphia this summer in unrestricted free agency if not traded first. And it’s not as if Okafor – behind Joel Embiid, Amir Johnson and Richaun Holmes (once he gets healthy) in the rotation – will contribute much before then.

Okafor’s flaws – defense, floor-spacing – remain troubling. His trade value was low, even as the 76ers shopped him for more than a year. It got even lower when they declined his option for next season.

If Philadelphia can get a pick for Okafor, it’s time to do it.

(If the 76ers can’t get a pick for Okafor, they should hold him at least through the trade deadline in the hopes a suitable offer emerges. That might grate Okafor, but Philadelphia shouldn’t just dump a potentially positive asset in a buyout.)