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Basketball Insiders Week in Review 5/25

Basketball Insiders looks back at some articles from last week in case you missed them the first time around.

Kyle Cape-Lindelin

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Top Five Playoff Stories

By Bill Ingram

Every once in a while, the basketball gods align things just right and we wind up with two conference finals comprised of the two top seeds in each conference. That’s precisely what’s on tap as we await today’s tip-off of the Eastern Conference Finals between the top-seeded Indiana Pacers and the second-seeded Miami HEAT. Tomorrow, of course, we’ll see the West’s top-seeded San Antonio Spurs take on the second-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder. As we eagerly anticipate the start of what is sure to be a competitive week of basketball, here are five things we’ve learned about the NBA during this year’s postseason run.

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Time To Move Kevin Love?

By Steve Kyler

Are you ready for the worst kept secret in the NBA? Teams would love to trade for Minnesota’s Kevin Love. Seriously, a lot of them would trade huge assets to get him.

All joking aside, you can safely say that virtually every team in the NBA would make an offer to obtain Love.

Before we get too much further into this; that is not news. It’s not news that the LA Lakers would like to obtain Love, it’s even less of a shock that the Boston Celtics would potentially give up their lottery pick in the 2014 NBA Draft if it returned Love. The Houston Rockets would give up almost anything on the roster not named Dwight Howard or James Harden to get Love.

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Time for the Celtics to Trade Rajon Rondo

By Moke Hamilton

As the dawn of a new day becomes high noon, Rajon Rondo—even at the young age of 28 years old—is an old sage among his peers.

In basketball years, eight years with one franchise is a lifetime, and in Boston, Rondo has seen it all.

From a 24-58 campaign in which he played behind the likes of Delonte West and Tony Allen to being mentored and at times supplanted by Sam Cassell, Rondo’s drafting, emerging, thriving and surviving in Boston has been a tremendous story to behold.

Yet, just like the talented triumvirate in Boston that featured franchise cornerstone Paul Pierce, the legendary Kevin Garnett and the unbelievably durable Ray Allen, all good things must come to an end.

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NBA Charging Document Reveals League Strategy

By Nate Duncan

On Monday the NBA scheduled the official hearing on Donald Sterling’s future as Los Angeles Clippers owner for June 3, 2014. More notably, the “Summary of Sterling Termination Charge” released by the league reveals a number of interesting facets to the league’s strategy. The first confirms what was said in this space a few days ago, namely that Sterling was foolish to refuse to pay his $2.5 million fine. That refusal, as the league points out, provides clear and unequivocal grounds for franchise termination under Article 13(c). Sterling has not-and has stated that he will not-pay the fine, and the league’s release correctly points out that “[a]n NBA membership may be terminated upon the failure of a member or owner to pay any indebtedness owing to the league.”

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Trades Impacting The NBA’s Draft Lottery

By Yannis Koutroupis

The day that some teams have been waiting well over a year for is finally here. It’s Draft Lottery night and a little after 8 p.m. ET we will officially know the order for the 2014 NBA Draft. This is one of the most highly anticipated draft classes in recent memory, making spots at the top quite coveted. Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid – the projected top-three picks overall – are viewed as potential franchise players, while there’s a handful of players in the second tier, like Dante Exum, Marcus Smart, Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon and Noah Vonleh to name a few, who will also make teams feel like they’re walking away as one of the winners of the draft as well if they land them.

In today’s AM Report, Steve Kyler broke down what each team with a realistic chance to win the lottery would do if the ping pong balls bounce in their favor. At the conclusion of the lottery, Basketball Insiders will put out a lottery mock draft reflecting the impact the lottery has on the draft boards. In further preparation for tonight’s Draft Lottery, we take a look back at some of the trades that are going to have an impact on it, and those that would have if certain protections weren’t in place.

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David Lee On The Outs In Golden State?

By Lang Greene

The Golden State Warriors are a team on the rise. The franchise is coming off its first 50-win campaign since the 1991-92 season and has made the playoffs in consecutive years.

But the Warriors’ front office wants to be even better and the group is intent on using this offseason as a way to position themselves to join the ranks of the league’s elite in fairly short order.

For starters the club dismissed head coach Mark Jackson earlier this month, despite the recent run of success the club had under his leadership.

Warriors management then took a huge gamble by hiring league veteran (and five-time NBA champion) Steve Kerr, who has zero NBA head coaching experience, to replace the well-liked Jackson.

However the changes for the franchise don’t appear to be stopping at the coaching level.

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Ainge To Weigh Options after Celtics Land Sixth Pick

By Jessica Camerato

Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge knew going into the NBA Draft Lottery the odds were not in favor of his team getting a top pick. But maybe, just maybe, the ping pong balls would make a surprise landing.

They did, for the underdog Cleveland Cavaliers who got the number one pick in spite of just a 1.7 percent chance. The night was more predictable for the Celtics. They received the sixth pick, which they had a 34.2 percent chance of landing.

“We (Ainge and staff) were all disappointed. But at the same time, we were prepared for this and we knew that this was a strong possibility,” Ainge said Tuesday night from Los Angeles, where he is watching draft workouts. “It’s a momentary disappointment. You hope to get the lucky ball, but now we have some clarity and some marching orders.”

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Top “Draft Day Values” From the 2013-14 Season

By Tommy Beer

Last month we handed out the hardware for Fantasy MVP and Rookie of the Year, as well as “All-Fantasy First Team” for the top overall performers from this past season. Today, we’ll glance back at drafts held last Fall and highlight the best “Draft Day Values.”

Many of the fantasy owners that won titles in 2014 ended up at the top of their league’s standings due to surprisingly impressive performances from mid-to-late round draft picks. So often, it is these underrated, undervalued stars that make all the difference in leagues across the land.

We all have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the elite, top-tier picks such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant or Chris Paul. However, when GM’s can get first-round production from a seventh-round selection or mid-round production from a waiver-wire add, those teams become very difficult to defeat.

Listed below is the 2013-14 All-Value Fantasy First Team:

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History’s Worst Playoff Injuries

By Joel Brigham

After watching two games of the Western Conference Finals, it has become pretty clear that Oklahoma City is not the same team, especially defensively, without star big man Serge Ibaka. With him, OKC may have been on their way to NBA Finals redemption and an eagerly-anticipated showdown between Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Without Ibaka, they just look like burnt toast.

With the recent news that Ibaka’s calf is healing and he is now day-to-day, his loss probably won’t prove to be among the most frustrating playoff injuries of all time, but here are some of the other most devastating postseason injuries in recent league history:

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Embiid Going No. 1?

By Alex Kennedy

Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker have been hyped up as No. 1 pick candidates for years. They have been in the spotlight seemingly forever and their YouTube highlights and mixtapes have amassed millions of views. Wiggins’ first mixtape was released when he was 13 years old, and he has had the “prodigy” label ever since. Wiggins and Parker have been on the NBA’s radar for a long, long time.

But something interesting happened this past season. Joel Embiid, who had only been playing basketball for four years, entered the NCAA season as a raw center but developed quicker than anyone expected. By the end of the season, most scouts around the league agreed that he had leapfrogged Wiggins and Parker as the top prospect in the 2014 NBA Draft, which seems crazy since Embiid came out of nowhere.

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Scott On Lakers: “I Thought It Was A Perfect Fit”

By Jabari Davis

Now that the NBA’s Draft Lottery has finally come and gone, not only can the Lakers move forward with their plans of how to reconstruct their roster with the knowledge they’ll have the seventh selection (barring a deal) come June 26, but they can also actively continue the process of filling their head coaching vacancy. Although GM Mitch Kupchak said there was no sense of urgency to necessarily hire a coach over the next few weeks, the team has already begun interviewing candidates for the position.

Former Lakers coach Mike Dunleavy (90-92) interviewed with the team earlier in the week, and reportedly felt ‘positively’ with how the conversation went. Dunleavy has either interviewed or been mentioned in relationship to the Lakers’ head coaching position each time it has been available over the past decade or so, but the 1998-99 NBA Coach of the Year has also interviewed with the Knicks.

Byron Scott is another available coach that interviewed with the Lakers’ brass this week, and would almost have to be considered one of the leading candidates for the position given all the variables. While UConn’s Kevin Ollie may have been the candidate many felt was ideal prior to his recently signed extension to stay in Connecticut for up to five additional years, Scott brings a lot of similar qualities to the table.

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Kyle Cape-Lindelin is based out of Portland, OR covering the NBA while being one of the newsline editors and contributor to "Out of Bounds."

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Morris Bringing Leadership To Celtics

Marcus Morris chats with Basketball Insiders for a one-on-one exclusive.

Spencer Davies

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Returning just one starter from last year’s top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics underwent wholesale changes this past offseason.

Gordon Hayward signed a super max contract. Danny Ainge pried Kyrie Irving away from the Cleveland Cavaliers in a blockbuster deal. Jayson Tatum was selected with the third overall pick in the NBA Draft.

In early July, though, there was an under-the-radar trade executed that hasn’t been mentioned much. Surprisingly, Celtics guard Avery Bradley was sent to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Marcus Morris, a heady wing with size and versatility to add to a revamped core of players.

Bradley was a mainstay with the franchise for seven years and played a vital role as a part of Brad Stevens’ system, but Boston decided to move in a different direction. As for the man they got in return, he’s thrilled to be there.

“It makes me feel good,” Morris told Basketball Insiders of Ainge dealing one of his best former players for him. “It makes you feel wanted.

“This is my first time since I’ve been in the NBA I’ve been on a team with a bunch of guys that [are] All-Stars. With the maturity of the team being this high and having them high expectations on us, I’m excited to get the season going and see how far we can take this.”

The Detroit Pistons likely wanted to keep him, but the organization clearly felt Bradley’s skill set was too good to pass up. For Morris, he insisted there was no indication that his old team would send him away, but he hasn’t been bashful about talking up his new home.

“Had no idea that I was gonna be a Boston Celtic, but I’m ready for the challenge, you know?” Morris said. “I’m excited. Boston, being a Celtic—it’s something that growing up you don’t really see happening, but when it happens it’s an amazing thing.

“It’s like playing for the Patriots, you know what I mean? One of the most heralded teams and most heralded franchises, and Boston is one of those.”

Entering the seventh season of his career, Morris has remained a steady part of the league. During his time in Detroit, he started nearly every game for the Pistons and found a comfort zone that he believes will carry over in Boston.

“Just continue to be consistent, continue to build on my last past couple of years,” Morris said of his personal goals. “I really felt like I carved my spot in the NBA the last two years—averaging 14 a year and helping my team get to the playoffs one of those years, so I really think I’ve carved a niche in this league.”

The success has come thanks to his versatility and the NBA’s current direction pointing towards that type of game. All of a sudden, not having a defined position makes a player more valuable, something Morris is thankful for as he continues to bring a little bit of everything to the table.

“For guys like me, it’s great,” Morris said. “Coming into the league, I had this ‘tweener’ thing on my back and now it’s like [freaking] great to be a ‘tweener’ at this time. I’m actually happy that it’s switching to my position and guys that can do multiple things are being utilized more in this league.”

Putting the ball in the basket has come fairly easy for Morris, who averaged 14.1 points per game on 42.6 percent from the field over 159 games with Detroit. He’s able to stretch the floor and provide solid spacing offensively, and he envisions doing more than that for this Celtics group.

“And leadership,” Morris said. “I’m not too much of a vocal guy, but I’m a passionate guy on the court. I think that’ll rub off on guys. I love scoring. I love shooting the ball. But that’s not the only thing I do.

“I’ve been a tough defender around this league for the last past years and I’m really looking forward to hanging my hat on that again and just doing whatever it takes for my team to get to that next level.”

Stevens is aware of the impact Morris can bring in the locker room and on the floor. When he returns from a sore knee to make his debut for Boston, that’ll show through his play.

“He’s a guy that can stretch the floor at the four,” Stevens said. “He’s a guy that can guard two through four. He’s tough. He’s smart. He works the right way. We’ll be better with Marcus Morris for sure. The versatility is a very important part of what we want to be.

“Whether he is starting in a couple of weeks or whether he’s coming off the bench, at the end of the day he’s gonna be a critical, critical part of our team.”

While he’s waited to come back, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have stepped up in his absence. With Hayward likely sidelined for the rest of the season, that success will have to be sustained. Morris is a big believer in this promising duo and sees how grounded they are to make that happen.

“They’re mature guys for their age,” Morris said. “Jaylen, I think he’s 20. He’s definitely a lot more mature than I thought. Jayson, too. He’s way more mature than your average 19-year-old.

“At the end of the day, it’s just basketball. I think those guys, they’re ready for the challenge. They love the game. They always in the gym, so I think it’ll be easy for ‘em.”

Part of Morris’ role is guiding those two and the other younger pieces that Boston has as they try and establish themselves as professionals. He’s kind of a coach per se, which is somewhat fitting considering what he did this summer.

Most basketball fans are aware of “The Basketball Tournament” that takes nationwide. For those that aren’t, it’s a single-elimination competition between 64 teams in which the champion receives a $2 million prize. Morris was the head coach of Team FOE—standing for Family Over Everything.

Along with his fellow Kansas alums, including his brother Markieff and Thomas Robinson, Morris coached his team to the final game. Team FOE was in front most of the game but ultimately fell to Boeheim’s Army, a squad filled with former Syracuse Orangemen.

“I was on my way man,” Morris said of coming close. “I actually liked it. I’m a smart guy. Me and basketball stuff, I can put it together real well. I was kinda upset we lost in the fashion that we lost, but we’ll be back next year.

“I’m a smart player,” he said regarding a potential future on the sidelines. “I know the game really well. Coaching comes easy for some guys and I’m just one of those guys.”

You could hear “Coach Morris” down the line, but for now and for years to come, Marcus is focused on his first year with Boston. It’s a team that surely has the talent to be the top team in the East it’s pegged to be. Stevens is a basketball savant with great leadership.

Even without an All-Star like Hayward and a 0-2 start, the Celtics should still be a force to be reckoned with. There’s an even greater demand for them to achieve their potential, especially knowing eyes will be on them, but Morris welcomes the challenge.

“Man, it’s pressure on every team,” Morris said. “It ain’t like it’s just all on the Boston Celtics. It’s pressure on every team. What’s a game without pressure anyway?

“Pressure makes it the best thing. That’s what we need to do anyway. I enjoy the pressure. Me personally.”

Shouldering the load won’t be easy, but if it comes down to it, Morris will be swimming instead of sinking. When all is said and done, he shares the same aspirations as most players do—raising the Larry O’Brien trophy in the summer.

“I want to the win the championship,” Morris said. “You put this type of team together to get to those positions. I’m looking to be playing in June and trying to get to a championship.”

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NBA AM: Dwight Howard’s Quest For Redemption Begins

Dwight Howard says he has been unfairly blamed for previous shortcomings. In Charlotte, he gets a chance to prove it.

Buddy Grizzard

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Prior to the start of training camp for the Charlotte Hornets, newly-acquired center Dwight Howard made an appearance at a charitable event for the Boys and Girls Club at a local elementary school. At that event, Howard laid out the stakes for his first season in Charlotte.

“This [is an] opportunity for myself to really get back everything that I would say has been taken away,” said Howard, according to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.

In an August interview with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Howard seemed to imply that the primary thing that had been taken from him was a major role in the offense of teams he’s played with since he left Orlando, noting that his shot attempts had decreased from double digits to about six per game in Atlanta.

“I think it’s all opportunity, the system,” Howard told Wojnarowski. “I haven’t had a system where I can be who I am since I was in Orlando.”

Earlier this week, Hornets GM Rich Cho told NBA.com that Charlotte was the right place to give Howard that opportunity because of his relationship with coach Steve Clifford, who coached Howard as an assistant at two previous stops.

“With the relationship that Cliff has with Dwight, I know ‘Cliff is going to get the best out of him like he has done with past players,” said Cho. The Charlotte GM also went into detail about how the trade for Howard fit the goals the organization set for the offseason.

“When we entered the offseason, there were a number of things we wanted to accomplish,” said Cho. “One was, we wanted to get a rim protector and some shot blocking. Two, we wanted to add some more physicality. And three, we wanted to add a lot more depth overall and improve our bench play.

“So with Dwight, I think we’ve added all those things. He’s a great rim protector and shot blocker. He’s averaged a double-double every year he’s been in the league. It adds a lot of physicality with him going to the starting lineup and moving Cody [Zeller] into a backup role. It also increases our overall depth.”

Controversy has followed Howard after every NBA stop, and his brief stint with the Hawks was no different. ESPN’s Zach Lowe said on a podcast that he was told that a former teammate of Howard celebrated when informed he had been traded to Charlotte. If Lowe’s story is true, it only shows how divided and factional Atlanta’s locker room was last season. Several of Howard’s younger Hawks teammates took to Twitter to refute Lowe’s account, and Howard was voted Best Teammate by Hawks players in the NBA Players Association’s 2017 Players Voice Awards.

With so many contradictory accounts, it’s understandable why Howard sees a fresh start with the Hornets as an opportunity to counter the narratives that have followed him from stop to stop.

“Throughout all the mess that has happened the last couple of years, this is a great opportunity for me to prove to myself that I know exactly who I am — to just shut people’s mouths,” Howard told Wojnarowski.

With that goal in mind, Howard’s quest for redemption got off to a rocky start in Detroit in Wednesday’s season-opening loss to the Pistons. Howard came close to the double-digit shot attempts he craves, hitting five of nine for 10 points and 15 rebounds. Only Kemba Walker (13) and Jeremy Lamb (10) shot the ball more for Charlotte. But Detroit’s Tobias Harris erupted for 27 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists to help the Pistons open the new Little Caesars Arena with a win.

“We’re going to get it right,” Howard said after the loss. “We’ve just got to stay together, stay focused and get Game 2.”

Awaiting the Hornets in that second game for tonight’s home opener are the same Atlanta Hawks that cut him loose after just one season. In addition to trading Howard, Atlanta allowed All-Star forward Paul Millsap to depart to the Denver Nuggets as a free agent. The Hawks appear to be rebuilding, but Atlanta didn’t look like a team aiming for lottery balls in Dallas Wednesday as the team won its season opener. Point guard Dennis Schroder led the team with 28 points and seven assists while rookie John Collins scored 14 with five rebounds off the bench — the highest-scoring debut by a Hawks rookie since Rumeal Robinson in 1990 — including several thunderous dunks.

In the preseason, Collins addressed the low external expectations for the young Hawks.

“It’s on us to do what we need to do to get these wins,” said Collins. “The chemistry’s great. I’m not really too worried about it.”

While chemistry could help the young Hawks exceed expectations, it will play a key role in Howard’s quest to prove that he was not the root of all the ailments of his past teams. Zeller had a breakout season for the Hornets before the Howard trade moved him to the bench. With Cho declaring that Howard addressed most of the team’s offseason goals, Charlotte should be much closer to a finished product than the retooling Hawks.

Howard is in the best possible position to succeed, with a coach that believes in him and the central offensive role he says he’s been denied in the past. Howard has stated his case, and now it’s up to him to prove it on the court.

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Philadelphia 76ers and Joel Embiid Are Trying To Run Into The Playoffs

The Sixers are going to get out and run. If they want to make the playoffs, Joel Embiid will have to start catching up.

Dennis Chambers

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“We were up on the NBA champions 19 to zero,” Brett Brown said as he recalled his first game as the Philadelphia 76ers head coach back in 2013.

Brown continued his recollection of the events that night, Oct. 30 to be exact, of how a ragtag roster upended LeBron James and the Miami Heat on opening night.

“We won three in a row,” Brown said. “I felt we surprised ourselves and the league. We were in great shape. We were in great cardio shape, we ran.”

Despite a three-game winning streak to start that season, Brown’s Sixers would end the year with just 19 victories. But the head coach kept his team in shape and running, all the way to being the fastest paced team in the league that season.

Present day, nearly four years after the events of Brown’s first night manning the sidelines for Philadelphia, and much has changed with the team. There are new faces, a new attitude, and certain expectations that are developing within the walls of the Sixers’ training facility.

But on the court, not much is changing.

“I feel like that part of it, and the base of it, this year is far superior because of the pieces,” Brown said referring to his offense. “We’ve had however many years to try to have our system in place and coach the coaches. I think from a ‘how do we do things’ perspective, we’re far advanced than that timeframe.”

As Brown kicked off his fifth season at the helm of the Sixers on Wednesday night in the nation’s capital against the Washington Wizards, his team’s play embodied the notion of being superior to years past.

Despite a 120-115 loss to arguably the second best team in the Eastern Conference, Philadelphia flashed the promise of the new pieces the team’s head coach boasted about. Making his NBA debut as a 6-foot-10 point guard, Ben Simmons quickly asserted himself in the game and displayed his affinity for grabbing a rebound and beginning a fast break—just as his coach preached.

Against the Wizards, a team with a point guard in John Wall who is known for running himself, the Sixers outscored Washington in fast break points, handily. Although Philadelphia forced just 10 turnovers, they managed to score 23 points off of their opponent’s mistakes. On top of that, they pushed the paced and outscored Washington 19-4 in fast break points.

Things aren’t perfect for the team, however. Regardless of their superiority in comparison to the team and personnel four years ago, the Sixers still feature a rookie point guard in Simmons, as well as another in Markelle Fultz. Youth leads to mistakes. Whether directly caused by the newcomers or not, a bit of sloppiness led to 17 turnovers by Philadelphia on Wednesday night’s opener.

“I still want to have Ben play with a higher pace,” Brown said. “I want to act responsibly at the end of the break where we can be a little more organized, a little bit more disciplined at the end of a break. But putting up 115 points, and I don’t think we played that well offensively, 13 turnovers in the second half, four or five to start the third period. We have the answers to the test. When people say what’s it going to take for you to get into the playoffs, it’s Joel Embiid’s health and we gotta care way better for the ball.”

The biggest question mark for this Sixers team is obviously Embiid’s health. Starting the season on a minutes restriction, Embiid logged just 27 minutes. Still, that was more time than either Embiid for Brown expected.

During the early stages of this season, Embiid’s minutes will be dictated primarily on the big man’s conditioning. For a team that likes to get out and run the way the Sixers do, that could present a few bumps in the road from the get-go in getting Embiid adjusted to the pace of their game.

Monitoring Embiid’s minutes intelligently and effectively is always at the forefront of Brown’s mind, though. Just like the pace of his team’s play.

“I sat down with the sports science people this morning, and they’re very thoughtful with how they come up with this decision in relation to the loading,” Brown said in reference to Embiid’s minutes. “You can judge the loading scientifically in blocks. There was only one section of his loading, his chunk of minutes, that they deemed to be in the high area. It was torrid pace up and down. The other times he came in he played at a reasonable pace.”

Should the Sixers find themselves in a run-and-gun game, be it by their own doing or their opponent’s, Brown thinks Embiid’s minutes could see a drop off from the opening night number in those instances.

“We’ve done two things,” Brown said. “We still have his health at the forefront, and selfishly for me, and the team, and Jo, you’re able to get maybe eight more minutes than you thought you were gonna get from him.”

While the Sixers look to progress through the season, so will Embiid and his minutes total. Brown isn’t going to change the principles of his offense, with Simmons at the helm he’ll look to enhance the pace at an even higher rate. For the 7-foot-2 center, getting back into game shape so he can consistently run with his team is the most important thing for Philadelphia at the moment.

“It was all on me,” Embiid said about his minutes total. “The way I looked, if I wasn’t tired I was going to play. It’s just about the way I feel. If I look tired, they’re gonna take me out. If I don’t look tired, I’m gonna stay in and keep playing. I thought yesterday I was fine. There was a couple stretches that I was a little bit tired, but it’s all about pacing myself.”

As Brown mentioned, Embiid is Philadelphia’s answer to the playoff questions. For the 76ers, and Embiid himself, pacing will become the staple of their study guide over the course of this season.

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