Tobias Harris

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Joel Embiid on Jimmy Butler: ‘I wish he was still on the team’

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After Jimmy Butler had issues in Minnesota with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins (and reacted by blowing up the Timberwolves’ season), there were questions about how Butler would get along with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons in Philadelphia.

Turns out, pretty darn well.

Butler and Embiid formed a bond as they led the Sixers to a Game 7 against the eventual champion Toronto Raptors, a game the Sixers only lost because of an insane shot from the corner by Kawhi Leonard over Embiid. (Or, the Raptors got a lucky bounce if you’re viewing it through Sixers goggles.)

However, it turns out the bond wasn’t strong enough to get Butler to stay, he decided to take his talents to South Beach. Embiid wishes he would have stayed, he told Rachel Nichols on ESPN’s The Jump today (with the full interview coming Oct. 23 when the Sixers open the season).

“It was a big loss because me and him, we got to the point where we were really close – we’re still close. We talk a lot, that’s my guy, that’s my brother forever. I wish he was still on the team, because I feel like the relationship that I built with him could have gone a long way. When it was the fourth quarter, we knew the ball would either be in me or Jimmy’s hands. I knew I could count on him. This year it kind of changes around. Now other guys have to step up and I have to do more.”

That’s one of the big questions for the Sixers: Who has the ball at the ends of games? Embiid can get buckets, but he’s not a shot creator. Philly needs Ben Simmons or Tobias Harris (or someone) to step up and be the perimeter creator who can sometimes feed Embiid.

Even with the loss of Butler, the Sixers are one of the favorites to come out of the East. Embiid said they should right there, but he understands they have to fill Butler’s shoes.

“I think we should be up there. Obviously, we still have to prove ourselves. We lost a big piece in Jimmy, he did a lot of great things for us, but we should be up there. On paper, we got a really good team so now it’s on us to go out there and actually prove it.”

The Sixers are going to be really good, with one of the best defenses in the NBA. What that means next playoffs remains to be seen, but the Sixers have plenty of time to work out how to fill Butler’s shoes before then.

Report: Roy Hibbert joins Sixers as player development coach

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The Philadelphia 76ers have one of the best young defensive big men in the NBA in Joel Embiid. The team also now has Al Horford, who should be able to teach Embiid some tricks. Horford, conveniently, also won’t be annoying the Sixers star as an opponent.

And so Philadelphia has decided to run back its core with Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Tobias Harris. They let Jimmy Butler head to the Miami Heat, and it appears that the plan from here on out is to center things on Embiid and Simmons.

To that end, the 76ers have decided to hire 2-time all-star and former defensive stalwart Roy Hibbert.

Via Twitter:

Hibbert was one of the most dominant big men of the past decade. Playing for the Indiana Pacers, Hibbert was widely credited with popularizing verticality in the modern era.

He soon fell out of favor, and was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2015. He played for the Charlotte Hornets and the Denver Nuggets before ending his run in the NBA in 2017.

Embiid is already one of the best defensive big men out there, but having Hibbert to bang around with and pick up some words of wisdom can’t hurt. Hibbert is still just 32 years old, and he should be able to communicate well with the 25-year-old Embiid.

Kevin Love ‘expected’ to withdraw from Team USA World Cup training camp

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Add another one to the list of players who have dropped out of USA Basketball. So far, that list is

Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers)
James Harden (Houston Rockets)
Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)
CJ McCollum (Portland Trail Blazers)
Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards)
Eric Gordon (Houston Rockets)
Tobias Harris (Philadelphia 76ers)

Now Kevin Love is expected to join the list, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic. The good news is Kyle Lowry wants to play.

Love’s floor spacing skills, rebounding, and outlet passes fit well in the international game. Love won gold with Team USA at the London Olympics.

The motivations behind all the defections are, in general, a combination of three things. First, the NBA title chase feels wide open this season with as many as eight teams thinking they have a legit shot at it, and the majority of those dropping out are on those teams. The players are prioritizing club over country. Secondly, FIBA moved the World Cup from 2018 to 2019, meaning if a player is eyeing the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo they would be taking part in two straight summers of USA Basketball — likely after long playoff runs — to do both. Players are choosing to take the World Cup off. Third, this World Cup starts late, running Aug. 31 to Sept. 15, and runs right up against the start of training camps.

Even with all the withdrawals, the USA team is loaded with enough talent to three-peat as gold medalists at the event. Kemba Walker, Kyle Lowry, Donovan Mitchell, Marcus Smart, Khris Middleton, Jayson Tatum, Kyle Kuzma, Harrison Barnes, Aaron Gordon, Thaddeus Young, P.J. Tucker, Julius Randle, Paul Millsap, Andre Drummond, Brook Lopez, and Myles Turner are among those invited.

Marcus Smart, Thaddeus Young reportedly added to USA Basketball training camp roster

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Elite NBA players have not dropped out of playing for Team USA like this since 2004, when nobody wanted to play for Larry Brown and rumors of potential terrorism in Athens had the NBA’s best backing out.

For the 2019 World Cup in China, USA Basketball has watched James Harden, Anthony Davis, Tobias Harris, Bradley Beal, Eric Gordon, and CJ McCollum all back out, robbing the American team of a lot of star power. Zion Williamson, who was projected to be part of the “select team” of young stars Team USA goes against also dropped out.

The Americans were down to 14 players heading into training camp (12 will be chosen to travel to China), and they needed more players. Enter Boston’s Marcus Smart and Thaddeus Young, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Don’t be surprised if another veteran name or two is added before training camp opens.

Smart and Young are a couple of smart selections, elite defenders who can shut down the best wing players on other teams (and in FIBA competition only a couple of teams have more than one top-flight wing player to handle).

So who is on the USA roster now? Let’s break it out by position:

GUARDS:
Damian Lillard
Kemba Walker
Kyle Lowry (questionable coming off thumb surgery)
Marcus Smart

WINGS:
Khris Middleton
Donovan Mitchell
Jayson Tatum
Harrison Barnes
Kyle Kuzma
Thaddeus Young

BIGS:
Andre Drummond
Myles Turner
Brook Lopez
Kevin Love
PJ Tucker
Paul Millsap

(We could argue about whether Mitchell is a guard or a wing, or other guys positions, but you get the basic picture.)

After Lillard, that roster does lack star power.

But the USA talent pool is so deep that it will overwhelm all but a couple of teams in the tournament. Serbia — led by Nikola Jokic and Bogan Bogdanovic — is the biggest threat to the USA and has good depth. Spain is impressive as well, but older.

The USA is and should be the World Cup favorite, but an improved rest of the world and a depleted USA roster is going to make things a lot more interesting in China.

USA Basketball is scheduled to begin its pre-World Cup camp in Las Vegas Aug. 5, with an intrasquad exhibition game at the T-Mobile Arena on Aug. 9. Then the team heads to Southern California for more training followed by an exhibition against Spain on Aug. 16 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Then the team heads overseas for the World Cup, which begins in China on Aug. 31.

C.J. McCollum, Eric Gordon both withdraw from USA Basketball for World Cup

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First Anthony Davis. Then James Harden.

Now add C.J. McCollum and Eric Gordon to the list, as reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Don’t be surprised if a couple of new players are added to the USA roster for training camp.

The loss of those four stars strips the Team USA of some international experience. As pointed out by John Schuhmann of NBA.com, now only four members invited to USA camp have played in the World Cup or Olympics: Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond, Kevin Love, and Kyle Lowry — and Lowry just had thumb surgery and is questionable for the playing in China.

USA Basketball can still roll out this starting five:

Damian Lillard
Bradley Beal
Khris Middleton
Tobias Harris
Andre Drummond

Then off the bench have Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Lowry, Jayson Tatum, P.J. Tucker, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez.

That’s still enough talent, coached by Gregg Popovich, to win the World Cup. The USA remains the heavy favorites for a reason.

USA Basketball is scheduled to begin its pre-World Cup camp in Las Vegas Aug. 5, with an intrasquad exhibition game at the T-Mobile Arena on Aug. 9. Then the team heads to Southern California for more training followed by an exhibition against Spain on Aug. 16 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Then the team heads overseas for the World Cup, which begins in China on Aug. 31.