Source: Sixers to interview Jeff Hornacek, Mike Malone

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Source: Sixers to interview Jeff Hornacek, Mike Malone

The Sixers have contacted Utah Jazz assistant coach Jeff Hornacek about the team's head-coaching vacancy, according to a league source.

They have also been granted permission to interview both Golden State Associate head coach Michael Malone and Pacers Associate head coach Brian Shaw, according to the source. But because both coaches are currently at work in the NBA playoffs, when they have a conversation with general manager Tony DiLeo and the Sixers' brass remains up in the air.

Hornacek, who had a 14-year NBA career, interviewed for the Orlando Magic head coaching position, a job that was later given to Jaqcue Vaughn.

Over the years, Hornacek was asked first by Boston president and GM Danny Ainge in 2004 to interview for the Celtics head coaching position. Hornacek declined the offer to spend time with his family.

Ainge ended up hiring a man who, nine years later, remains in place. Doc Rivers has won an NBA championship and made another trip to the NBA Finals

In 2008, John Paxson, Chicago’s VP of basketball operations, interviewed Hornacek for the Bulls' head coaching position. Later that year, Steve Kerr, then president of basketball operations and GM with the Suns, invited Hornacek to interview for the head coaching position in Phoenix. Neither interview worked out.

But Hornacek was not out of the NBA loop after he retired from playing. In 2007, he was hired by the Jazz as a shooting coach. He would fly from his Phoenix home to Salt Lake City to work with Andrei Kirilenko and others. It filled his desire to be in the game without sacrificing time with his family, something clearly he did over his 14-year playing career. He held that position for four years until he became an assistant coach to Ty Corbin in 2011.

Hornacek has a connection to the Sixers, albeit a short one. He played a season and a half in a Sixers uniform, coming to Philadelphia in the trade that sent Charles Barkley to Phoenix. He was asked to play point guard because Hersey Hawkins was entrenched as the Sixers' shooting guard.

Fifty-three games into the 1993-94 season, Hornecek was traded to Utah for Jeff Malone. There, his NBA career was extended for seven more seasons that included two trips to the NBA Finals.

Known for being a guy who ran defenders ragged coming off screen after screen after screen, one can only imagine how Hornacek could help an Evan Turner who, three years into his pro career, struggles mightily to move without the ball.

Hornacek would be the first to tell you he didn’t have a 14-year NBA career because of his athletic ability, but because he knew the game so well. He shot 49.6 percent from the floor for his career and 40.3 percent from three.

The son of a high school basketball and baseball coach, Hornacek has said he always wanted to be a coach and always thought he would be a coach.

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

NEW YORK -- John Wall had 29 points and 13 assists, scoring Washington's final four points in the last 32 seconds as the surging Wizards beat the New York Knicks 113-110 on Thursday night.

Otto Porter Jr. made six 3-pointers for the second straight night and added 23 points, but the Wizards needed big plays from Wall down the stretch to win their fourth in a row.

He made two free throws to put Washington back on top after New York had rallied to take a 110-109 lead, then rebounded Carmelo Anthony's miss and left all the Knicks in his dust as he raced down the floor for a dunk with 13.7 seconds to play.

Anthony finished with 34 points but Wall stole the ball from Brandon Jennings to prevent the Knicks from attempting a 3-pointer that could have tied it (see full recap).

Leonard scores 34 to lead Spurs over Nuggets
SAN ANTONIO -- Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points, rookie Dejounte Murray added a season-high 24 and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a pregame injury to Pau Gasol in beating the Denver Nuggets 118-104 on Thursday night.

Denver's three-game winning streak was snapped despite a career-high 35 points from Nikola Jokic.

Leonard had his fifth straight 30-point performance, right after learning he will start for the Western Conference in the All-Star Game for the second consecutive season.

The Spurs were unexpectedly without Gasol, Tony Parker and then coach Gregg Popovich. Gasol and Parker were both late scratches due to injury, and Popovich was ejected for the first time this season.

Gasol broke the ring finger on his left (non-shooting) hand by jamming it against Kyle Anderson's shoulder during pregame warmups while attempting a running hook. The 16-year veteran center immediately clutched his hand and left the court.

X-rays revealed the break, and the Spurs said there is no timeline for Gasol's return.

Irving, James lead Cavs over Suns
CLEVELAND -- Kyrie Irving scored 26 points, All-Star teammate LeBron James had 21 points and 15 assists, and the Cleveland Cavaliers looked more like themselves at home in a 118-103 win over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.

The Cavs were back in Quicken Loans Arena following a six-game road trip (their longest of the season) that concluded with an embarrassing 35-point loss at Golden State. But on their home floor, they had better offensive balance and ball movement while improving to 30-11 -- the same record Cleveland had at the halfway point of its 2016 NBA championship season.

Channing Frye scored 18, Iman Shumpert 17 and James Jones 14 while filling in for star forward Kevin Love, still bothered by back spasms.

Tyson Chandler had 22 points and 16 rebounds, but the Suns lost for the fourth time in five games (see full recap).

Joel Embiid not named All-Star starter, can still make it as reserve

Joel Embiid not named All-Star starter, can still make it as reserve

Joel Embiid will have to hope NBA coaches trust the process.

Embiid on Thursday was not named a starter in the 2017 NBA All-Star Game. LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jimmy Butler locked in the three Eastern Conference frontcourt spots. Kyrie Irving and DeMar DeRozan rounded out the backcourt.

James (25.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 8.1 assists) and Antetokounmpo (23.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists) were locks as starters. That left Butler, Kevin Love and Embiid as the next in contention. Butler is a two-time All-Star averaging 24.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists in 36.8 minutes for the 21-22 Bulls. Love is posting 20.7 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 31.6 minutes per game on the Eastern Conference-leading, 29-11 Cavaliers.

The Western Conference starting spots went to Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis. 

The voting was made up of fan votes (50 percent), player votes (25 percent) and media votes (25 percent). Embiid has a chance to be voted in by the NBA coaches, whose reserve selections will be announced on Jan. 26. 

Embiid would have been named a starter had the results been based on fan voting (50 percent). He finished third ahead of Love and Butler.

Embiid was in the running for a starting role during a breakout rookie season. He is averaging 19.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 25.4 minutes per game. Even though his playing time is capped at 28 minutes, he ranks seventh among all players in scoring per 48 minutes. He is eighth overall in free throw attempts per game (7.9) and 10th in those made (6.2).

Embiid had obstacles, though, when it came to the voting: rookie status, 28-minute restriction, limited games played (29) because of his allocated workload, and the Sixers’ record.

Even though the All-Star Game highlights individual achievements, team record is often taken into consideration. The Sixers have won seven of their last nine games (see story), but still stand well below .500 at 14-26.

When it came to the players’ vote, it is hard for a rookie who hasn’t even competed against every team in the league to make a strong enough impression for another player to influence their perception of the top talent. Embiid finished outside of the top five in the players' vote, behind James, Antetokounmpo, Butler, Paul George and Kristaps Porzingis. Meanwhile, the Sixers' big man finished fifth in the media vote.

Embiid and the Sixers were very active in pushing for the fan votes. Embiid received the social media support of celebrities including Triple H, Kevin Hart and MLB MVP Mike Trout, among others. The Sixers promoted Embiid through a Shirley Temple campaign based on his favorite drink.

Embiid picked up major steam in the last week of voting. He had trailed Love by 16,028 fan votes in the second returns on Jan. 12.

He took to Twitter to express his gratitude.