NBA Notes: Nets' Joe Johnson close to return

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NBA Notes: Nets' Joe Johnson close to return

Even though the Sixers' chances at making the playoffs have all but disappeared, Doug Collins and his squad want to finish strong in their final nine games.

Here is a look at the news around the league:

Joe Johnson nears return
Joe Johnson should make his return to the court sometime this week for the Nets.

Johnson, who has been dealing with a quadriceps contusion and a sore heel, practiced fully on Tuesday for the first time since Match 23, according to SNY.tv.

"Practice went great, it felt great to get up and down a little bit and see where I'm at," Johnson said. "I felt great, finished practice and we'll just see how it feels [Wednesday]."

Johnson should return for either Wednesday's game at the Cavaliers or Thursday's game versus the Bulls.

In his first season with the Nets, Johnson is averaging 16.4 points, 3.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game.

Okafor to stay with Wizards
Emeka Okafor will remain with the Wizards next season after choosing to not opt out of his contract, according to CSNWashington.com (via ProBasketballTalk).

"My plan is to be here next year," Okafor told CSNWashington.com. "My mindset is to be here next year. I just think that this team has a lot of potential. If we had everybody healthy, it would be different around here. We'd be playing for (playoff) position."

Although it won't be official until signing period beginning on July 1, Okafor will make $14.48 million next season.

Okafor is averaging 9.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game this season.

44,000 tickets requested in Seattle
SEATTLE -- The man who's trying to bring the NBA's Sacramento Kings to Seattle says fans have requested 44,000 season tickets in the event the team actually relocates.

Hedge fund manager Chris Hansen had urged Seattle fans to join a "priority ticket waitlist" to show the NBA how strong support is for bringing professional men's basketball back to the city and calls the result "nothing short of stunning."

Seattle has been without an NBA franchise since the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City in 2008.

Hansen and Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer have agreed to buy a majority stake in the Kings from the Maloof family for $341 million, but the deal needs league approval.

Owners are meeting Wednesday to discuss the sale and a counter-offer to keep the Kings in Sacramento. A decision expected this month.

--The Associated Press

Ex-Wizard indicted on murder charge
ATLANTA -- Former NBA player and Atlanta native Javaris Crittenton has been indicted on charges of murder and gang activity.

Fulton County District Attorney's spokeswoman Yvette Jones said Tuesday that 25-year-old Crittenton and his cousin, Douglas Gamble, are charged in the death of an Atlanta woman and the attempted murder of another man.

Julian Jones was shot and killed while walking with a group in August 2011. Authorities say that incident and a second shooting were gang-related, and may have been retaliation after Crittenton was the victim of a robbery.

Crittenton was drafted by the Lakers in 2007 and has also played for the Wizards and Grizzlies. He was suspended in 2010 for pulling a gun in the Wizards' locker room.

--The Associated Press

Sixers beat Pelicans without Joel Embiid leading the way

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USA Today Images

Sixers beat Pelicans without Joel Embiid leading the way

BOX SCORE

NEW ORLEANS -- Joel Embiid shot just 5 for 15 from the field and the Sixers … wait … the Sixers won. 

Surprising? Actually, that’s just how the Sixers envision finding success.

It’s not about Embiid having a relatively quiet night on offense with 14 points, especially going 0 for 5 from three. It’s about other players getting involved and taking the burden off the rookie. Embiid has proved he can do a lot of things, but carrying a team each night in his first season isn’t what the Sixers have in mind. 

“I think that’s when we’re at our best,” Nik Stauskas said after the Sixers beat the Pelicans 99-88 (see Instant Replay). “Obviously there are a few guys in the NBA like a LeBron (James), KD (Kevin Durant) or Steph (Curry) that can single-handedly win a game throughout the entire season. But most of the teams are going to rely on bench players to step up and make shots and make plays. I think that’s when we’re most effective.”

Embiid entered Thursday night averaging 24.3 points and shooting 48.9 percent in Sixers wins (three games played). His 14 points against the Pelicans were his fewest in a victory this season. He also grabbed seven boards with four blocks and three steals. Embiid was a game-high plus-27, which Brett Brown called "massive."

Instead of being powered offensively by their centerpiece, the Sixers received solid efforts from the starters and reserves. Ersan Ilyasova scored 23 points (along with eight rebounds) for the second straight game. Sergio Rodriguez chipped in 16 points and eight assists. Off the bench,  Stauskas hit three treys en route to 14 points while Dario Saric scored 10 points with five rebounds as the team snapped an overall eight-game losing skid and a 23-game road losing streak. 

Embiid’s teammates attribute their success to the fact he is such a focal point of the opponents’ defense. In comparison to the beginning of the season when Embiid was getting stifled by double-teams, he has been learning how to pass out of them. Embiid expects to see two defenders every game and has been making adjustments to create opportunities for others to shoot rather than committing turnovers. 

“We’re not standing around a lot and just focusing on what Jo can do,” Robert Covington said. “Jo is making great moves to find guys that are open. He’s willing to pass. We’re starting to build the chemistry that everyone’s been looking for.”

Ilyasova has noticed a change in the flow of the offense and has capitalized on defensive mismatches when opponents swarm Embiid. 

“We just share the ball well,” Ilyasova said. “I find myself open. Obviously Joel does a great job of as far as when there is a double-team, just kicking out. When I see the open look, I try to knock that shot down.” 

This style of play is mutually beneficial for both Embiid and his teammates. Just because Embiid is passing out doesn't mean he's not getting his looks. Oftentimes, dishing out of a double-team allows him to get a better look on the next touch. 

“It’s a team effort," Covington said. "We’re doing so much as a unit that we’re not just focusing on just get Jo the ball and let him do his thing. He’s getting the ball, he’s surveying the floor and then he’s making his moves. He’s reading the defense really well. He’s doing a lot of [kicking out]. Then we find him a lot of re-posts and finding the open shot and making it easy for him to find the easy bucket.” 

Embiid is capable of scoring 20-plus in spite of his 28-minute restriction. The Sixers are making strides, though, by finding ways to win when he isn’t the running up the scoreboard. 

“I think there’s no doubt Jo is our best player and our offense is going to revolve around him most of the time,” Stauskas said. “But we’re playing our best when he’s posting up and kicking out to guys and they’re hitting threes or we’re taking pressure off him by making plays and the defense can’t just be solely focused on him. In a game like tonight, that’s kind of what you saw.”

Instant Replay: Sixers 99, Pelicans 88

Instant Replay: Sixers 99, Pelicans 88

BOX SCORE

NEW ORLEANS — The Sixers avoided setting a franchise mark of consecutive road losses with a 99-88 win over the Pelicans in New Orleans.

Prior to Thursday’s victory, the Sixers had lost 23 straight away from Philadelphia. Their last road win was Jan. 20, 2016, against the Magic. They also had dropped 23 consecutive games on the road from March 29-Dec. 23, 2015. 

The Sixers held Anthony Davis, the NBA’s leading scorer, to 26 points, below his season average of 31.6. They were led by Ersan Ilyasova, who dropped 23 points again after scoring 23 in the Sixers’ last game against the Grizzlies. 

Third-quarter transformation
The Sixers trailed the Pelicans, 57-52, at halftime and struck back defensively in the third. They held the Pelicans to 5 for 25 shooting from the field and 2 for 12 from three in the quarter. The Sixers outscored the Pelicans, 19-12, in the quarter to regain the lead. 

Inside the box score
• Davis recorded a 26-point, 11-rebound double-double. He shot 8 for 21 from the field, 0 for 2 from three and 10 for 12 from the line. 

• Ilyasova scored 23 points (9 for 16 from the field, 2 for 6 from three, 3 for 4 from the line) to go with eight rebounds and four assists.

• Joel Embiid contributed 14 points (5 for 15 from the field, 0 for 5 from three, 4 for 5 from the line), seven rebounds, two assists, four blocks and three steals in 27 minutes.

• Sergio Rodriguez gave a solid 16 points (6 for 13 from the field, 4 for 8 from three) and eight dimes.

• Nik Stauskas and Dario Saric combined for 27 points off the bench.

• St. Joe’s alum Langston Galloway dropped 19 points (8 for 16 from the field, 3 for 6 from long range) off the Pelicans’ bench.

Trusting the process in New Orleans
It follows Embiid on the road. Fans chanted “trust the process” while he was at the free throw line. The volume was more quiet than at the Wells Fargo Center, but the effort was there nonetheless. 

Injury updates
The Sixers were without Jahlil Okafor, who remained in Philadelphia battling gastroenteritis. Jerryd Bayless also missed the trip because of left wrist soreness. Former Sixer Jrue Holiday sat out with turf toe. 

Up next
The Sixers will return home to Philadelphia to get in some practice before heading back on the road. They will play the Pistons in Detroit on Sunday.