Philadelphia 76ers fire head coach Brett Brown

By Zac Wassink | Last updated 8/24/20

As has been expected following the club’s first-round playoff exit via a sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics, the Philadelphia 76ers fired coach Brett Brown on Monday.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the news and added that general manager Elton Brand will explore changes within the franchise’s front office while he continues to oversee basketball operations.

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76ers expected to fire Brett Brown ‘sometime soon’?

Originally posted on Hoops Rumors | By Arthur Hill | Last updated 8/23/20

Brett Brown might be coaching his final game with the  Sixers on Sunday, writes Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, who says the team is expected to fire him “sometime soon.” With the Sixers trailing Boston, 3-0, in their first-round series, it appears doubtful Brown would survive such an early playoff exit.

The embattled coach opted not to hold practice Saturday, replacing it with film study and optional shooting. There was also no media session, but Brown addressed his future after his team saw Game 3 slip away:

“I understand the circumstance. My job is to focus on what I really can do. My players deserve that. I’ve been in the city seven years and tonight’s loss is what’s most on my mind. My effort truly is to try to find a way to win, and keep this series alive. Do my job for my players.”

Brown still has two seasons and $10M left on his contract, but that may not stop the Sixers from pulling the trigger. They have taken several personnel gambles over the past two seasons to try to build a championship contender, including trades for Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris and the signing of Al Horford, and a coaching change might be the next step.

Brown has a 221-344 record in Philadelphia, but much of that is distorted because he oversaw the “Process” years when the team didn’t mind losing to acquire draft assets. He was hired in 2013 after spending nine seasons as an assistant with the Spurs, and Pompey notes that he was originally brought in to oversee player development with the expectation that someone else would take over when the team started to contend.

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

The Philadelphia 76ers will be without star center Joel Embiid for at least another week after he suffered a left shoulder sprain.

Shams Charania of The Athletic was the first to report this on Thursday night.

To continue reading the full article, click HERE.

Originally posted on Sportsnaut | By Jesse Reed | Last updated 2/27/20

Top-10 NBA MVP narratives, from Giannis to Simmons

In today’s social media-driven NBA, MVP candidates don’t just need the numbers, they need an accompanying narrative to take home the MVP award. Just ask James Harden. 

Three seasons ago, Harden finished second to Russell Westbrook in the MVP vote despite averaging 29.1 points, 11.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds and leading the Rockets to 55 regular-season wins. Westbrook edged Harden because he had the best narrative: Westbrook was the first player to average a triple-double since Oscar Robertson and  the superstar who stayed in OKC even after Harden and Kevin Durant had left

The next season, however, Harden beat LeBron James for the award, despite having inferior statistics, because he had the better narrative: It’s about time we recognize Harden’s greatness and reward him because he probably should have won last season.

Last season, Harden finished second to Giannis Antetokounmpo because people had crowned Giannis as the best two-way force in the league and the next face of the NBA. As Harden so aptly put it in a GQ interview, “[I had] a 32-game 30-point streak, eight 50-point games, two 60-point games… and all the talk was about [Giannis]? There’s no way. You can’t pout or be mad, and the kid had an unbelievable season, so did his team. But the things I was putting up were legendary. You going to look back in 10, 15 years from now and be like, is that really true? Did that really happen?”

Narratives matter in the MVP race. So, as a primer for this season’s MVP race, here are the top-10 MVP contenders and their accompanying narrative (in italics) entering the season (in alphabetical order):

May 19, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) shoots the ball as Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam (43) defends in overtime in game three of the Eastern conference finals of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

Based on the past two seasons, it’s clear Giannis is on a LeBron James-Kevin Durant kind of career trajectory. That being the case, we should expect Antetokounmpo to ascend even higher in this, his seventh season, in the middle of his athletic prime. Giannis’ MVP narrative will be one of dominance, a season where he erases any doubt as to whether he’s the best player in the world. Look for him to improve his game in some obvious way this season -– the most obvious hole in his game is his jump shot (26 percent from three-point land last season) -– but he could also double-down on his already one-of-a-kind post game or become a better playmaker.

Jun 7, 2019; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) shoots the ball against Toronto Raptors center Serge Ibaka (9) during the third quarter in game four of the 2019 NBA Finals at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Steph Curry, Warriors

Steph has a chance to remind everyone that he’s still the toughest player to game plan for in the league … and maybe ever. He’s back to being the unquestioned best player on his team and the player who won back-to-back MVP awards before taking a step back to make way for Kevin Durant

After having the second-highest usage percentage in the NBA during his record-setting 2015-16 MVP season, Curry finished the next three Durant seasons at 11th, 10th and 13th. With no Durant and no Klay Thompson for most of this season, Curry’s usage rate should easily jump back into the top-five again. Thus, his stats will almost certainly mirror his stats from that 2015-16 MVP season, when he averaged 30.1 points, 6.7 assists and 5.4 rebounds and made an NBA-record 402 three-pointers. If the Warriors are near the top of the West, and Curry leads the league in scoring and flirts with breaking his own three-point record, he’ll be right in the mix for MVP.

Sep 27, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward/center Anthony Davis listens to a question during the Lakers media day at the UCLA Health Training Center in El Segundo, CA. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Davis, Lakers

Like Shaquille O’Neal before him, AD is hitting his prime and poised for a Hall of Fame leap as the two-way centerpiece and next great big man for the Los Angeles Lakers

If he plays anything like he did during the second half of the 2017-18 season, when he averaged 31 points, 12.1 rebounds, 3.4 blocks and 2.1 steals over the last 27 games of the season, he’ll probably be a frontrunner for his first MVP award. And if he is playing like that, you can bet your bottom dollar that LeBron and Klutch Sports start campaigning for AD to take home the MVP award. In fact, you don’t even have to read between the lines from the Lakers’ media day to see that James is already doing that.

May 2, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) reacts after scoring against the Toronto Raptors during the fourth quarter in game three of the second round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Joel Embiid, 76ers

Embiid’s narrative began shortly after Kawhi Leonard’s fourth bounce fell through the basket in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. The world saw Embiid crying as he left the court, exhausted from a grueling seven-game series. If Embiid plays his way into the MVP conversation, it will mean he spent the offseason getting into the best shape of his life, vowing that he’d never lose another playoff series due to fatigue. He’ll have realized that few people on this Earth have been blessed with his size and athletic prowess, and he decided it’d be a travesty if he didn’t maximize those God-given gifts. It’s time to do what Shaq and Wilt and all the other historic NBA centers did before him: dominate

With Jimmy Butler taking his talents to South Beach, Embiid will have ample opportunities to show off his newfound conditioning as the closer for the Sixers.

Sep 27, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) poses for a picture during media day at Post Oak Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

James Harden, Rockets

The Beard knows first-hand how a narrative can swing an MVP vote. He believes he got robbed of the award last season. He has a point. And that means that Harden’s narrative this season will be one of revenge against the voters who wronged him out of capping off a historic season with no MVP trophy. Revenge against the people who think he isn’t the best player in the league. Revenge against the people who don’t think he can lead the Rockets to a title. 

An MVP season for Harden might not include the same massive scoring as last season (36.1 points per game) now that his high-usage buddy Russell Westbrook is in H-Town. But if his isolations and pick-and-rolls remain two of the most highly efficient plays in basketball and his assist numbers go back to what they were in previous seasons (10.0 per game from 2016-17 to 2017-18), Harden will have another crack at MVP.

LeBron James, Lakers

This is the most obvious narrative: LeBron’s “Forgot About Dre” season. LeBron is coming off of a miserable first season with the Lakers in which he suffered his first major injury and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2005-06. However, missing the playoffs means that he finally got an extended rest after eight straight trips to the NBA Finals. 

He’s also undoubtedly been listening to the media mock his team the past 12 months and declare that he’s no longer the Best Player on the Planet. It’s all set up perfectly for LeBron to come out and have a G.O.A.T. kind of season to remind the basketball world that he’s still the King.

An MVP season for LeBron won’t be his typical 27-7-7 season –- voters are too bored of that. Instead, look for him to average double-digit assists now that the Lakers have Davis, but a dearth at point guard.

Nikola Jokic, Nuggets

The Joker’s narrative is mostly tied to his team’s success. If the Nuggets, who should have some of the best chemistry in the league, are the best team in the Western Conference and flirt with winning 60 games, Jokic will get plenty of MVP votes and his narrative will sound something like this: Jokic is doing it all alone as the lone superstar in a conference loaded with superstar tandems. He flashed his true potential as a franchise centerpiece in last season’s playoffs, averaging 25.1 points, 13 rebounds and 8.4 assists. That performance has carried over into the 2019-20 season as he has Denver at the top of the league earlier than anyone would have imagined. 

September 29, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard speaks with media during media day at LA Clippers Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Kawhi Leonard, Clippers

After last season’s playoff run and subsequent free-agency power flex, Kawhi is the Alpha Dog of the NBA, and he isn’t ready to relinquish that title just yet. In fact, as a little more of Kawhi’s personality has come to the forefront, it has become apparent that he relishes destroying opponents the same way MJ and Kobe did, albeit in a less expressive way. 

With Paul George out at the beginning of the season, the Clippers will need Playoff-Kawhi (30.5 points and 9.1 rebounds on 49-38-88 shooting splits) to keep them near the top of the Western Conference until George returns, which should force Kawhi to get rolling a lot earlier than last season’s load-managed season.

May 12, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) reacts following the win over the Denver Nuggets in the second round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers

Lillard’s MVP narrative is similar to Jokic’s in that it’ll be tied to the Blazers’ record this season. Most analysts seem to think that the Blazers will finish closer to .500 than the 53 wins the team had a season ago. Thus, if Lillard leads Portland to another top-three finish in the West, and with his typical Curry-lite numbers (25.8 points, 6.9 assists, 4.6 rebounds with 44-37-91 shooting splits last season), and none of the other candidates on this list are having other-worldly seasons, Lillard could start to garner some late season MVP buzz. 

He’s the best leader in the league, the superstar who chose to stay when most would have demanded a trade –- he’s as important to his team as any player in the NBA. Isn’t that everything you can ask for from an MVP candidate?

https://www.yardbarker.com/nba/articles/yardbarkers_top_10_nba_mvp_narratives_from_giannis_to_simmons/s1_13132_30133574

By: Pat Heery

Top takeaways from Raptors’ dramatic Game 7 victory over the 76ers

It all came down to a single game as the Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors were even at three games apiece heading into Game 7.

With the game being a see-saw affair throughout, it should surprise nobody that the final contest of this highly competitive series went down to the wire. The game was all tied up at 85-85 with less than two minutes remaining. From there, the Raptors did what they had to and pulled away thanks to a clutch game-winner with time expiring by Kawhi Leonard.

These are the top takeaways from Game 7 between the Sixers and Raptors.

Toronto almost doomed itself early

The Sixers opened Game 7 going 0-for-10 from the field. Yet somehow, when JJ Redick finally broke the spell and drained a three, Toronto had just a three-point lead with half the first quarter gone by.

By the end of quarter No. 1, Toronto led 18-13, despite Philly going 5-for-19 from the floor and attempting just two shots from the free-throw line. Of course, Toronto couldn’t buy a bucket either and had the lead only because of eight made free throws.

That’s not the start either team was looking for. But Toronto failing to take advantage of the Sixers early — playing at home, against a team that couldn’t buy a bucket — was a huge storyline in this game, because at halftime the Raptors led by just four points in a game that was decided at the last second.

Marc Gasol was a liability

It’s a good thing that Serge Ibaka had a strong first half, because Gasol was almost completely invisible. The big man went 0-for-4 from the field in the first two quarters, despite playing 22 minutes. In fact, he was the only Raptors starter who had a negative plus/minus in that first half (minus-5).

The most notable thing Gasol did in that first half was barely brush Joel Embiid’s hair as the center stroked a three — earning three free throws in the process after an award-winning flop.

Things did not improve in the second half, either. Although Gasol scored seven points and hauled down 11 rebounds, the Raptors were minus-10 with him on the court in Game 7.

Even on off night, Embiid continues to be key factor

For the fourth game in a row, Joel Embiid was unable to come close to his seasonal scoring average. He came out of the gate slowly and struggled to find his shooting stroke throughout. Embiid also wasn’t nearly as aggressive as we’ve grown to expect in the paint. All told, he hit just 6-for-18 shots from the field and scored 21 points.

Yet, as we’ve seen throughout the series, even without dominating offensively, Embiid found ways to make a positive impact. While he was on the court for the Sixers, they were plus-10 in Game 7. That’s just incredible considering the contest was decided by two points and Embiid played 45 minutes. It just goes to show how valuable the big man is — even when he’s off his game.

Serge Ibaka was the X-factor

As we mentioned while discussing Gasol, Ibaka was incredible off the bench in Game 7. He and Fred VanVleet were the only reserves utilized by Raptors head coach Nick Nurse in this pivotal game. And when his number was called, Ibaka delivered an amazing performance.

The backup center played 29 minutes, putting up 17 points, eight rebounds and three assists. With him on the floor, Toronto went plus-22 on the scoreboard. That’s an unbelievable impact, and it was the difference in the game.

Kawhi wouldn’t be denied

May 12, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard (2) dribbles the ball against Philadelphis 76ers guard Jimmy Butler (23) in the first half of game seven of the second round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

It was a weird night offensively for the Raptors. Kyle Lowry suffered a hand injury on his non-shooting hand early and was out for a while. Pascal Siakam disappeared for long stretches. We already touched on how poorly Gasol played most of the game. Danny Green was allergic to shooting.

With all those guys failing to step up, Kawhi Leonard went ham.

Launching an absurd 39 total shots, he wasn’t sharp hitting just 16 of his attempts. However, Leonard got hot late and ended up pouring in 41 points to lead the Raptors to a legendary victory and a ticket to the Eastern Conference Finals. He’s been absolutely unstoppable in the playoffs thus far.

NBA players who are deserving of All-Star consideration

This is not about LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry or Giannis Antetokounmpo. Rather, it’s focused on the players who are playing well enough to receive serious consideration but aren’t quite locks to play in the All Star Game. For simplicity’s sake, any player who is an obvious All Star (Joel Embiid) or has been selected to the All-Star team two of the last three seasons (Kemba Walker, LaMarcus Aldridge) was not considered. Further, context matters. If certain players are not playing up to expectations (Jayson Tatum, Ben Simmons) or having weird seasons (Jimmy Butler), they weren’t included either.

With that introduction, here’s the list of NBA players who are deserving of All-Star consideration.

1 of 15

Bradley Beal

Bradley Beal is probably too good to even be on this list, but I’m including him because he has made only one All-Star team so far in his career. His stat line (25 points, five rebounds and five assists) would suggest that he’s a virtual lock to make the All-Star team from the Eastern Conference. His play since John Wall got injured would also indicate that he’s a shoo-in for an All-NBA team, as he is averaging over 29 points, six assists and five rebounds per game. He’s elevated his game from borderline All-Star to clear-cut All-Star in his seventh NBA season.

Jrue Holiday

Jrue Holiday is an elite player. Yeah, I said it. The stats are quite good — 21 points, eight assists and five rebounds per game — but watching him live is a treat. He’s a rugged defender who will man up on anyone, from Damian Lillard to James Harden to Kevin Durant, on defense. On offense he’s as smooth as any guard in the league at finishing at the rim — left hand, right hand; it doesn’t matter. He deserves to be recognized as one of the top guards in the NBA.

3 of 15

Luka Doncic

Luka Doncic is set to be the first rookie to make the All-Star Game since Blake Griffin did it in 2011. Doncic will likely get voted in by the fans, but he’s played so well this season that he has a compelling case either way. His numbers are awesome — 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game — and his highlights are even better. Expect this to be the first of many All-Star Game selections for the Croatian prodigy.

Clint Capela

Although he has a thumb injury and will likely miss the All-Star Game, Clint Capela still deserves All-Star consideration and recognition for the season he’s had. With his teammate James Harden on a historic tear lately, Capela’s marked improvement has barely been a story despite his averaging 18 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks per game. The advanced statistics are also quite favorable for the fifth-year big man from Switzerland, as he ranks in the top 20 in a number of categories, including player efficiency rating, effective field goal percentage, offensive rating and offensive win shares. He’s an All-Star-caliber player no matter how you slice it.

Blake Griffin

Believe it or not, Blake Griffin hasn’t been an All-Star since 2015. Despite averaging a career-high 26 points per game to go along with eight rebounds and five assists, Griffin somehow isn’t a lock to be an All-Star this year, but he absolutely should be. He used to rely on his athleticism to impact games, but now he’s one of the best big man playmakers in the league and a more than adequate shooter (48/36/76 shooting splits). He may not be as aesthetically pleasing to watch as he once was, but give credit where credit is due.

Tobias Harris/Danilo Gallinari

The two best players on the Clippers, Tobias Harris and Danilo Gallinari, are having great seasons and deserve All-Star consideration. If one of them earns a spot, it will probably be Harris, who actually won Western Conference Player of the Month in November and is averaging 20 points and eight rebounds on insanely efficient shooting splits (50/44/89). Gallinari is also shooting the crap out of the ball this year with shooting splits (45/45/91). Even if he doesn’t make the All Star team, Gallinari is playing the best basketball of his career right now.

Devin Booker

With no real NBA point guards on their roster, the Suns have decided to put the ball in Devin Booker’s hands this season in a James Harden-esque lead guard role. The increased usage has paid dividends so far: Booker is averaging an impressive 25 points and seven assists per game. Are his offensive stats enough to justify an All-Star selection? Possibly, but he has his team’s putrid record and the sheer number of great guards in the Western Conference working against him.

JJ Redick

JJ Redick is having a Benjamin Button-like finish to his career, posting career-highs in scoring each of the past two seasons. Despite being 34-years-old, Redick is averaging almost 19 points per game and is arguably the second-most important player on the 76ers besides Joel Embiid because of his ability to space the court. Why not reward Redick with his first-ever All-Star team selection of his career? If he makes the team, he’ll be the oldest first-time All-Star in NBA history.

Steven Adams

Steven Adams, who is still only 25 years old, has steadily improved every season of his career. At this point, he’s an All-Star-caliber center for the Thunder. In addition to anchoring the fourth-best defense in the NBA, Adams is averaging a career high in points (15.4 per game) and rebounds (10.1 per game). He’s the perfect selfless teammate and bodyguard for an intense franchise player like Russell Westbrook. Even if he doesn’t make the All-Star team, he’s playing as well as anyone could in his role with the Thunder.

Pascal Siakam

Along with Kawhi Leonard’s return to superstardom, Pascal Siakam’s leap has the Raptors playing better than any team in the NBA halfway through the season. Siakam spent his first two years as a defensive specialist off the bench for Toronto, but this season he broke out and became a contender for the Most Improved Player Award. His stats are nice — 15 points, seven rebounds and three assists per game — and his defense is excellent. He also jumps off the screen a bit by making winning plays all over the court.

Full List

By: Pat Heery

Report: Sixers’ management split on what to do with Fultz

The Sixers’ front office is divided over whether to trade Markelle Fultz and would expect a quality first-rounder in return if he does get moved, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Fultz, currently sidelined while dealing with neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome, has improved his numbers slightly after a disappointing rookie season. He is averaging 8.2 PPG in 19 games, 15 of them starts, but continues to struggle with his shot, hitting just .419 from the field and .286 from 3-point range.

The Sixers entered win-now mode after the Jimmy Butler trade, Pompey notes, and don’t need the distraction of trying to develop a young player. However, they are wary of seeing him turn into a star somewhere else, knowing that former GM Bryan Colangelo will get the blame if Fultz fails in Philadelphia, but the current group will be held responsible if he is traded away cheaply.

The Sixers have already refused several offers for Fultz, which indicates that other teams aren’t willing to part with potentially high first-round picks. Pompey states that rival organizations believe Philadelphia will lessen its requirements as the Feb. 7 trade deadline draws nearer, adding that teams remain unconvinced that Fultz will overcome his shooting problems or shoulder injury any time soon.

Fultz hasn’t played since Nov. 19 and is working out in Los Angeles while rehabbing the shoulder. His agent, Raymond Brothers, said on Dec. 4 that Fultz would miss three to six weeks, which could put his return as late as mid-January.

Pompey speculates only a few teams — possibly as many as 10 — might take a chance on Fultz. He lists the Pistons, Magic and Heat as potential landing spots, stating that a league source confirmed Detroit was among three teams that reached out to the Sixers. Whoever winds up with Fultz will be committed to playing him $9.7M next season and will have to make a decision on his fourth-year option in October.

Original Article

By: Arthur Hill

NBA Power Rankings: Week 6

The Clippers climb into the top-10, and the Bucks bounce all the way up to the top spot in this week’s updated NBA Power Rankings.

1. Milwaukee Bucks
Record: 11-4
The Bucks are balling. They boast the league’s most effective and efficient offense. Milwaukee leads the NBA in Offensive Rating, averaging 115.3 points per 100 possessions. They also are near the top in Defensive Rating, allowing 104.4 points per 100 possessions. The Bucks are the only team in the league to rank in the top-five in both Offensive and Defensive Efficiency. Unsurprisingly, Milwaukee leads the NBA in Net Rating by a wide margin, outscoring their opponents by 10.7 points per contest.

2. Toronto Raptors
Record: 13-4
Despite losing three of their four games last week, the Raptors have already notched 13 wins this season. No other team in the Eastern Conference has more than 11. Kyle Lowry exited Saturday’s blowout victory over the Bulls in the third quarter and did not return to the contest. However, coach Nick Nurse downplayed the severity of the injury when speaking with reporters after the game.

3. Golden State Warriors
Record: 12-6
The Warriors have lost five of their last seven games, which is the team’s worst seven-game stretch under Steve Kerr, and are now 12-6 on the season. In 2016-17, Golden State didn’t lose their sixth game until January 6th. In 2015-16, the year before Kevin Durant arrived, when they won an NBA-record 73 games, they didn’t lose their sixth game of the season until March 6th! Nonetheless, Steve Kerr said that the team would be “very cautious” bringing Stephen Curry back from his groin injury. Draymond Green is also ailing. He missed this past weekend’s game due to a nagging toe injury.

4. Portland Trail Blazers
Record: 11-5
The Blazers .688 winning percentage is tops in the Western Conference. Portland is the middle of an arduous six-game road trip; after playing the Knicks on Tuesday, the travel to Milwaukee to take on the Bucks Wednesday night and then face the Warriors in Golden State on Friday.

5. Oklahoma City Thunder
Record: 10-5
Prior Saturday night, Russell Westbrook had missed each of the Thunder’s previous five games due to an ankle sprain. However, Westbrook was able to take part in practice on Friday, including part of the contact portions, and went through shootaround on Saturday. Then, Westbrook’s wife gave birth to twins over the weekend, and Russ left to be with his family. Coach Billy Donovan said that they didn’t know if Westbrook would’ve been physically able to play on Saturday if he was there and they never got to the point where they tried to test him to find out. Russ is listed as out for Monday’s game vs. Sacramento. Nonetheless, the streaking Thunder has won 10 of their last 11 games. That 10-1 record is the best in the league over that stretch.

6. Philadelphia 76ers
Record: 11-7
Jimmy Butler has only been a Sixer for a week, but he’s already made quite an impression. Butler was incredibly clutch late in overtime on Saturday to carry Philly past the Hornets in Charlotte. With less than 15 seconds remaining in the game, Butler blocked Kemba Walker’s final field goal attempt and saved it inbounds to a teammate. Then, Jimmy Buckets came down the other end of the floor and drilled a game-winning dagger 3-pointer with less than a second left on the clock. Welcome to Philadelphia.

7. Los Angeles Clippers
Record: 10-5
The Clippers are rolling right now. They have won six of their last seven, with three of their most recent victories coming against the Bucks, Warriors and Spurs. Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari and Lou Williams are all averaging over 19 points per game. The only other teams in the league with a trio over players averaging over 19 ppg are the Warriors and Pelicans.

8. Boston Celtics
Record: 9-7
The Celtics notched an important victory on Friday, when they knocked off the Raptors in overtime, behind 43 points courtesy of Kyrie Irving. However, they scored just 86 points in a home loss to the Jazz on Saturday. Boston’s offensive struggles this season have been puzzling. They are currently averaging fewer than 104 points per 100 possessions and rank 27th in the league in Offensive Efficiency, ahead of only the lowly Suns, Bulls and Hawks.

9. Indiana Pacers
Record: 10-6
Victor Oladipo (right knee) was a game-time decision on Saturday night but did end up starting. However, just four minutes into the game, he tumbled into the front row after a foul and reaggravated his right knee injury. He has been ruled out of Monday’s game vs. the Jazz, but, fortunately, it doesn’t sound like it will be a long term issue. “A little sore, but I’m good,” Oladipo told reporters Monday morning.

10. Houston Rockets
Record: 8-7
The Rockets are back over .500 after stringing together a four-game winning streak, which included victories over the Pacers, Nuggets and the Warriors in Golden State. During this four-game surge, James Harden is averaging 30.8 points, 7.8 assists, 4.8 rebounds, 4.5 triples and 2.3 steals.

Full List

By: Tommy Beer

Nets Trade For Jah Okafor

Written by Zach Lowe at ESPN.com

Jahlil Okafor got his wish on Thursday when the Philadelphia 76ers finally traded the beleaguered No. 3 overall pick of the 2015 draft to the Brooklyn Netsin exchange for forward Trevor Booker.

The deal ends the stalemate that had kept Okafor on the bench for all but two games this season.

Once a prized piece of The Process, Okafor rapidly fell out of favor with the rise of star center Joel Embiid.

“Love you. New beginnings,” Embiid said he texted Okafor. “Good luck. And I made sure to let him know I was going to kick his ass.”

Team president Bryan Colangelo said he reached a deal with a team he declined to name to trade Okafor last season until it fell apart at the last minute. That led to an awkward situation where Okafor didn’t even travel with the team during the trade deadline. Okafor led the Sixers in scoring as a rookie with Embiid out with injuries. Okafor played 55 games last season and never really meshed with the franchise center. Okafor started piling up DNP-CDs and those stretched into this season, where the Sixers will chase a playoff berth without him.

“He can go play basketball again,” coach Brett Brown said.

The Sixers also sent seldom-used guard Nik Stauskas, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2014 draft, and a 2019 second-round pick to the Nets for Booker. Booker, the 23rd overall pick of the 2010 draft, averaged 10.1 points and 6.6 rebounds with the Nets.

 “There is a level of toughness and versatility that interests me,” Brown said. “He’s shown that he can play, handle not [playing] and be good people and handle himself like a pro.”
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Jah Could Land In Chicago or Atlanta

Written by Chris Barnewell at CBS Sports.com

Jahlil Okafor has been odd fit with the 76ers ever since he was drafted. Not only because of the multiple bigs that were already on the roster, but also because of his style of play. Okafor is best as a traditional back-to-the-basket big. He can face his man and also play in the pick-and-roll, but teams in the NBA are starting to phase out the style of play that made him a highly-coveted lottery pick out of college. It’s something that teams need to take into account when it comes to the offensive side of the ball and it just doesn’t work in Philadelphia

That’s why Okafor needs to go somewhere that won’t have expectations for him. He can just be himself, play his game and finally get some real chances as an NBA player. According to David Aldridge, two spots where he can get that are the Bulls and Hawks. Via NBA.com:

“League sources indicate the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks are the most likely destinations for Okafor. But the Sixers are still holding out for at least a Draft pick, and could still opt to keep Okafor either as insurance against further injury to Embiid, or as a potential expiring contract to aggregate as the trade deadline nears.”

Philadelphia has had a hard time creating trade value for Okafor. When they declined his option it made teams that might want him have no reason to give up anything of value. If they really want Okafor then they can just sign him to a contract in the summer. However, in the case of the Bulls and Hawks, trading for Okafor right now is a risk they may be willing to take. Both teams are in the midst of a rebuild and a young player like Okafor would be able to freely make mistakes and grow on those teams.

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