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Joel Embiid – ‘No urgency to change anything’ on surging Philadelphia 76ers

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PHILADELPHIA — After beating the Boston Celtics to win for the ninth time in 11 games Friday night, 76ers superstar Joel Embiid said “there’s really no urgency to change anything” with his team with just under four weeks to go until the NBA’s trade deadline.

“I feel great, man,” Embiid said, after finishing with 25 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists in Philadelphia’s comfortable 111-99 victory over its old rivals here at Wells Fargo Center.

“When I look at where we are when we got most of the team in the lineup, especially me in the lineup, then we are 21 and 9. That’s not bad. That’s up there with the best records in the NBA. So, all that tells me is that we just got to stay healthy, keep doing what we’ve been doing.

“I feel pretty good, and I don’t think we’ve played our best basketball yet. We still got a long way to go. We’re missing guys here and there that could really help us. There’s really no urgency to change anything. I think we got everything we need. We’re gonna keep on going and I’m happy.”

The 76ers have played this entire season with All-Star guard Ben Simmons sitting out, as his ongoing trade demand goes unfulfilled. Still, when Embiid has been on the court, Philadelphia has won 70% of its games and has outscored its opponents by 6.9 points per 100 possessions.

The possibility of a Simmons trade — and what it could get Philadelphia in return — has loomed over the 76ers all season, however, ever since Simmons refused to report to the start of training camp in September.

But Embiid said he believes the Sixers are good enough to win with the players they have available to them right now — though he admitted that it would require the 76ers to play near-perfect basketball.

“I think so,” he said. “I think we all gotta, we all gotta be our best. And when we are at our best, I think we can beat anybody. We’ve seen it a couple of times this year. So, I just think we need to, I need to keep doing what I’ve been doing and then obviously we need consistency from everybody, not just Tobias [Harris] or Tyrese [Maxey] or Seth [Curry] or Danny [Green], guys coming off the bench, getting Shake [Milton] back [healthy].

“We need consistency, and everybody coming in every single night with the goal of just doing their job and chipping in offensively and defensively and just playing together and we’ll be fine.”

Philadelphia (24-17) was more than fine against Boston (21-22) Friday night, jumping on the Celtics with a 28-2 run in the first quarter and never looking back.

For Boston, it was a quick fall back to earth after some brief sparks of life during a season-long three-game winning streak. But with Marcus Smart out due to the health and safety protocols, the Celtics got nothing from his replacement, Dennis Schroder, who missed all six shots he took in 25 minutes and was called for a flagrant foul 1 for pushing 76ers forward Matisse Thybulle in the back on a dunk attempt.

Thybulle landed very hard on his back, and while he initially stayed in the game, he later left with right shoulder soreness. Before exiting, he had five steals and two blocks for a 76ers team that created 20 turnovers and scored 31 points off them.

“This was a tough night,” said Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, who finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists but had as many made field goals (7-for-17) as turnovers (7). “I don’t think we had any nights like this where … obviously, we’ve had some nights when we’ve started slow, but most of the time, we give ourselves a chance.

“For whatever reason, it was one of those nights where we just started slow and never [recovered].”

For Philadelphia, it was an emphatic bounce-back performance from Wednesday’s loss here to the Charlotte Hornets, a defeat that snapped the 76ers’ seven-game winning streak. Embiid said that Charlotte’s ball movement gave the Sixers a lot of trouble, whereas Boston’s more isolation-heavy offense was easier to guard.

“If you compare, you know, tonight from the other night, it’s kind of easier to guard,” Embiid said. “Charlotte, they move the ball extremely well. They have shooters all over the place, and they made a bunch of jump shots. Obviously, Boston is more of an iso-heavy team. So it kind of becomes easier to kind of load up and try to stop them.”

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Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis a game-time decision vs. Miami Heat on Sunday after 16-game absence

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MIAMI — Anthony Davis, out for the last five weeks with a sprained MCL in his left knee, has been upgraded to questionable for the Los Angeles Lakers‘ game against the Miami Heat on Sunday and is considered a game-time decision, according to the team.

Davis missed the last 16 games since the Minnesota TimberwolvesJaden McDaniels collided with the Lakers All-Star’s knee and L.A. went 7-9 without him.

“Whenever AD is ready, we’re going to love that, that’s for sure,” LeBron James said of Davis on Friday. “I mean he’s one of our biggest guns that we have, and having him on the floor, it just creates so much for us offensively and defensively, able to do so much more. But his health is what’s most important, and once we know that he’s healthy, he knows that he’s healthy, we get him back on the floor, and then we start getting his wind and his rhythm.”

Davis was averaging 23.3 points on 52.1% shooting, 9.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.2 steals this season prior to the injury. His jump shot, however, had been off. Davis is shooting just 60-for-185 (32%) on shots outside the paint this season, according to NBA.com.

Davis has used the rehabilitation to work on not only his knee but his shot mechanics as well, sources told ESPN.

Davis had been eyeing the Lakers’ six-game road trip to return, as ESPN reported last week, and his presence could certainly help his team that has absorbed reports about Frank Vogel’s job security and Russell Westbrook‘s role in his absence.

If Davis makes his return against Miami, it could evoke warm memories for the Lakers big man. Davis averaged 25 points and 12.8 rebounds in the 2020 NBA Finals, downing the Heat in six games en route to his first championship.

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Damian Lillard, content to ‘make decisions that suit you for the long haul,’ slowly works his way back to Portland Trail Blazers’ lineup

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During the Tokyo Olympics last summer, when Damian Lillard‘s abdominal injury flared up, Jrue Holiday suggested it was time for surgery.

Lillard finally took his fellow Olympian’s advice and had the procedure Jan. 13. The Portland Trail Blazers‘ star point guard spoke to reporters Saturday for the first time since the injury sidelined him on Jan. 3.

Holiday, who plays for the Milwaukee Bucks, had similar core surgery during the 2018-19 NBA season when he was with New Orleans. He and Lillard were teammates in Japan last summer on the gold-medal-winning U.S. team.

“He was the first person that pretty much confirmed that I needed to have surgery, because I sat out of practice one day and I was like, ‘I can’t move,’ and I was kind of just holding it. And he just started describing every single symptom,” Lillard said. “And he was like, ‘I had it.'”

Lillard, a six-time All-Star, averaged 24 points and 7.3 assists in 29 games this season for the Blazers. It was clear from the start that the injury — lower abdominal tendinopathy — was bothersome.

“It was just one of those things where I’ve always had control over how I moved and everything, and it had reached a point where my body couldn’t do what my mind wanted it to do and go places that I wanted it to go,” he said. “At some point you’ve got to play chess; you’ve got to make decisions that suit you for the long haul and not just right now.”

While the injury flared up in Tokyo, Lillard said he first felt the abdominal pain in 2015, and it had been gradually getting worse ever since.

The Blazers have struggled without Lillard, the undisputed leader of the team. Playing under first-year coach Chauncey Billups, Portland is 19-26 and in 10th place in the Western Conference.

Anfernee Simons has taken over as Portland’s point guard and has averaged 15.1 points per game. Portland was also playing for an extended period without Lillard’s backcourt teammate CJ McCollum, who had a collapsed right lung before becoming a father for the first time.

McCollum recently returned and had 24 points in Portland’s 109-105 victory at the Boston Celtics on Friday night.

There was no timeline for Lillard’s return, but he’s already been doing yoga. The team previously said he would be reevaluated in six weeks.

“I’m just a week from surgery. We said we’ll reevaluate my situation weeks out, six to eight weeks, and we’ll talk about it then. But I’m not in a rush,” he said. “My No. 1 goal is to win a championship. I’ve got to be in the best form of myself to make that happen and to be a part of that. So I’m not in a rush. We’ll talk about whatever that timeline is when we get to that point.”

The Trail Blazers, as play began on Saturday night, occupied the 10th spot in the Western Conference race. They were two games ahead of the Sacramento Kings.

Lillard was asked if he’d play if the Blazers decided to forgo a playoff push and play for a draft pick.

“I mean, if we’re gonna play for a draft pick, it wouldn’t make sense to me. Because I’m not gonna play for no draft pick. I’m just not capable of that,” he said. “So it’d be best if that was what we were doing, or what was decided, then it wouldn’t make sense for me to play.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Chicago Bulls G Alex Caruso to have surgery for fractured wrist, out 6 to 8 weeks, says team

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Chicago Bulls guard Alex Caruso will undergo surgery early next week for a fractured right wrist, the team announced Saturday.

Caruso suffered the injury during the Bulls loss to the Bucks Friday night in Milwaukee. Caruso was fouled hard by the Bucks’ Grayson Allen who was assessed a flagrant two foul and ejected from the game.

Caruso will miss six-to-eight weeks, the team announced

Caruso went up for a layup on a fast break with 5:45 remaining in the third quarter, but Allen hooked Caruso’s right arm, turning Caruso in the air and sending him hard to the floor on his right wrist. Caruso said his wrist was “a little banged up” after the game, but X-rays came back negative.

“Dude just grabbed me out of the air,” Caruso said after Friday’s game. “It’s kind of bulls—. I don’t know what else you can do about it. I’m just glad that I didn’t have any major scary injuries right away.”

Caruso said his wrist continued to bother him in the second half, especially while shooting. He finished 1-of-6 from the field for 3 points in the second half, but said he did not think the injury would linger long term.

Caruso added that Allen did not come to check on him following the play.

The foul particularly irked Bulls coach Billy Donovan, who is normally mild-mannered and rarely singles out players. But following Friday’s game, Donovan called Allen’s actions dangerous and cited his history playing college basketball at Duke.

“For Alex to be in the air and for [Allen] to take him down like that, he could’ve ended his career,” Donovan said. “He has a history of this. That to me was really — it was really dangerous. I hope the league takes a hard look at something like that because that could have really, really seriously hurt him.”

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