Sixers working Nerlens Noel into rotation, showcase for trade?


Sixers’ coach Brett Brown said he wanted to use eight games to get a good look at the Jahlil Okafor/Joel Embiid pairing. He watched six games where the defense was a flat-out disaster with them together (allowing 117 points per 100 possessions) and the team went 1-5. That was enough.

Next up in the “how do they fit together” rotation will be Nerlens Noel, reports Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.

“We want to see Nerlens and Joel a little bit,” Brett Brown said. “I think the Jahlil-Joel pairing we’ve seen. … I think it’s fair to say, mostly, there’s nothing 100 percent certain with all of this.”

“Defensively, it’s obviously going to be to our advantage,” Noel said. “It has its hits and misses with playing big lineups like tomorrow. Maybe it’s beneficial because they have Gorgui (Dieng) and Karl (-Anthony Towns), so it evens out a little bit. I think we’ll be able to play just fine.”

Noel and Embiid may pair better together, but whether they are the long-term answer is another question. And all of the dynamics will change when Ben Simmons steps on the court as the primary playmaker. Ultimately, Dario Saric may be the best call at the four.

It’s no secret that the Sixers will listen to trade offers for Noel or Okafor, they have an overcrowded front line that doesn’t fit all that well together. If they are going to trade Noel, they need to showcase him, which is one of the reasons he needs to get on the court.

Expect Noel and Okafor to come up in a lot of trade rumors by the deadline — and maybe in a trade.

Paul Millsap says his heart is in Atlanta, wants to stay with Hawks

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Did anyone expect Paul Millsap to say anything else? I don’t doubt that he means it.

Over the weekend, trade rumors surfaced that the Hawks were starting to listen to trade offers for All-Stars Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver, plus Thabo Sefolosha. The rumor goes that the Hawks were burned by Al Horford leaving for nothing last summer, and they don’t want to be similarly burned by their current stars. There is logic there — if you believe Millsap is going to leave. Millsap is too smart to commit to anything right now, but he said exactly what was expected — he doesn’t want to go anywhere.

Of course, it’s going to come down to money. Millsap will be a 10-year NBA veteran demanding a max contract next summer (likely starting at $36 million a season). The concern isn’t is he worth it right now — he’s a certain max player, a guy who can score around the basket, knock down threes, and is a smart defender — but what about the end of the contract? Millsap will be 32 when he signs that deal, do the Hawks want to lock him in for four or five years at the max?

That’s just one of the questions the Hawks as an organization needs to answer. Another is: How badly do we want to make the playoffs this season? Because if they move Millsap, they will be trading their best player and not getting equal value back (at least in the short term). They will miss the postseason.

Atlanta should see what the market is for these players — which is why they are listening now. But moving Millsap is another thing entirely. Not sure the Hawks are there yet, or that they will ever get there.

It’s official: Pelicans sign Donatas Motiejunas


For the Pelicans, it’s a smart roll of the dice as they look for bigs to pair with Anthony Davis.

For Donatas Motiejunas, it’s a lot less money than he was hoping to get — much less than the contracts he had agreed to then didn’t get to sign — but it’s a foot in the door and a chance to prove he can play.

What had been reported more than a week ago became official: The Pelicans have officially signed Motiejunas.

He signed a veteran minimum deal through the end of this season. Just a few weeks back, the Nets had signed him to a four-year, $37 million offer sheet — a contract that was incentive heavy. Then the Rockets matched the $31 million of the deal they had to (only this season was guaranteed). After that Motiejunas’ agent and the Rockets worked out a $35 million deal that gave Houston more time to opt out next summer, but that deal fell apart when Houston saw the results of his physical. They released him and made him a free agent.

The 7-foot Lithuanian big man has skills as a stretch four — two seasons ago he shot 36.8 percent from three, he can be physical inside, he’s got enough of a post game to make smaller players pay (and he’s okay against bigs), he can be physical on the boards, and you can see how he might pair well with Davis in an uptempo system for Alvin Gentry.

That is, if he’s healthy — he’s missed a lot of time with back issues, there has been surgery, and the Rockets clearly were concerned enough after his physical they were willing to let him walk rather than keep him on even through the end of this season. We may never get to see Motiejunas’ potential.

But for the Pelicans, it’s a low-risk gamble.


Kevin Love eats bad fish, gets sick, drops 10 pounds, still puts up 12 points, 11 boards

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Kevin Love sounds like he was in a scene out of the movie “Airplane” — he shouldn’t have had the fish.

It all came to light Monday night he went out and played but wasn’t terribly energetic, shooting 5-of-19 and missing all his threes. He still had 12 points and 11 boards, which after we found out why he was off made that performance far more impressive.

Not that you want or need them, but here are more details via Dave McMenamin at ESPN.

“When I got the call from [Cavs head athletic trainer] Steve [Spiro], he said [Love] had lost 10 pounds and he was throwing up and whatever else I can’t say,” Lue said.

Love wasn’t the only person spending Sunday in the bathroom a lot, he was wasn’t there because of how he spent New Year’s Eve. LeBron James also was not feeling well during the Cavaliers win Tuesday, but he still dropped 26 points.

Report: Hornets will waive guard Aaron Harrison

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There seemed to be hope that Aaron Harrison would develop a catch-and-shoot game that could make him more of a “3&D” guard off the bench in Charlotte. He was a solid defender, and he could drive and score/draw contact, but he needed more offensive versatility to make it work.

He also needed time on the court to develop his game, and he wasn’t getting that from a Hornets team chasing a playoff spot. On Wednesday, the Hornets will waive him, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Harrison, 22, has seen limited minutes behind veterans Marco Belinelli and Jeremy Lamb. With both signed through the 2017-18 season, there was little opportunity for Harrison’s role to grow in Charlotte.

He will be one of a number of players waived on Tuesday — players with non-guaranteed contracts need to clear waivers by Jan. 10 or their contract becomes guaranteed for the season. It takes 48 hours to clear waivers, so the releases will happen today.

The Hornets roster is at 14.

Harrison has played well in the D-League this season — 20.6 points, 5.4 rebounds a game for the Greensboro Swarm — and he likely will latch on there looking for another call up and chance.

Aaron’s brother Andrew Harrison is having an impressive season for the Grizzlies.