Holiday, Celebrate: Sixers Sign on for Four More Years With Jrue

Holiday, Celebrate: Sixers Sign on for Four More Years With Jrue

When last night's game against the Nuggets came and went without news of
a contract extension for the Sixers' starting fourth-year point guard
Jrue Holiday, with Oct. 31st being the deadline for '09 draftee
extensions, it looked all but sure that Jrue would head to restricted
free agency next summer to seek the max contract he had reportedly been
asking. However, it appears team and player put their heads together
after the season-opening win and came to an agreement: A four-year,
$41-million deal with another five million being rumored in
"incentives," whatever that means.

Personally, I'm elated. First
and perhaps foremost, just because they've settled the issue and it
doesn't have to hang over the team all season, with everyone (especially
us) worrying about whether Jrue was playing himself into big money, or
playing himself out of a contract. Secondly, in today's NBA, four for
$41 is a very reasonable amount for a top 15 point guard yet to even
enter his prime, especially considering that the far-more-unproven DeMar
DeRozan of the Raptors signed for four and $38 just hours before.
(Stephen Curry and Ty Lawson of the Warriors and Nugs respectively both
got a little more, but their stats in the league have been superior to
Jrue's thusfar, so fair enough.) Considering Jrue was said to be looking
for a max deal (four years at roughly $15 mil), this could've been a
LOT worse.

It's also exciting because it means the team is
investing in Jrue as a critical part of their future. After three years
of reluctance to give the Damaja the ball and let him run with it, Coach
Collins and GM Tony DiLeo finally seem ready, with the trade of Andre
Iguodala and the goodbye-wave to Lou Williams, to make the leap of
faith. The game last night probably didn't have a huge impact on their
decision, but it was a good example of how even though Jrue has a long
way to go, he is at trustable team leader, both in getting his teammates
involved and making big plays in the game's key moments.

course, making this kind of commitment to Jrue means that the team will
have further difficult decisions to make regarding the remainder of
their roster, and as Michael Levin of LIberty Ballers rightly points out,
with Holiday's agreement and a likely extension for Andrew Bynum, it'll
be tough to pay big money to surrounding wings, which could mean
trouble for Evan Turner's future in Philadelphia if his play this year
doesn't merit a similar level of extension. With Thad and Jrue locked in
for sizable contracts, the team doesn't get to swing and miss on any
more from here if they expect to contend at all in the next few years.

these are issues for another day. Today, with a home victory over a
likely playoff team and a reasonably priced extension for one of our
core players, is a happy day. Let the Damaja-ing ensue.

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

The crowd erupted as Joel Embiid stepped to the free throw line. They chanted a phrase Embiid has been repeating for the past two years, a fitting welcome to his NBA debut.

“That was great,” Embiid said after the Sixers' 103-97 loss to the Thunder on Wednesday in the season opener (see Instant Replay). “That’s my motto, 'Trust the process.'”

After two years of rehabbing foot injuries, Embiid has his first regular-season game behind him. Embiid scored a team-high 20 points, shooting 6 for 16 from the field, 1 for 3 from long range and 7 for 8 from the line. He also recorded seven rebounds, two blocks, four turnovers and four fouls in over 22 minutes. 

“The beginning I was nervous, but once you make that first shot, it just goes away,” he said. “The fans were so into the game that it was fun. I love having fun.”

Sixers head coach Brett Brown enjoyed watching Embiid on the court as much as the big man liked being on it. Brown has seen the 7-foot-2 center grow and develop during his rehab. Finally, he was able to utilize his versatile skills in a real game setting.

“I can't say this loud enough,” Brown said. “For the city to be rewarded with a player that we all understand has unique gifts, special gifts, for him to go through all the things he has been through and play like he did on opening night, the city deserves it. Most importantly, he deserves it.”

Now that Embiid has been cleared to play, he would like to do so for longer periods of time. He began the preseason at 12 minutes and was increased to 20 in segmented spurts for opening night. Even though he exceeded that limit by over two minutes, Embiid is itching to be cleared to play more extensively. 

“It sucks,” Embiid said. “I feel like I could have played more but you know you’ve got to trust the process, got to trust those guys. If I have my minute restriction at 20 minutes, I guess I’m going to go with that. But obviously I want to play more and more and I think it can help the team better. But they have a plan for me and I’ve got to follow it.”

Embiid has maintained he wants to be a clutch player. Brown looked to him toward the end of the game as the Thunder pulled ahead late in the final quarter. He drained a fadeaway jumper to tie the game at 97 apiece with 50.7 to go. 

Later trailing by four with 10 seconds left, the Sixers went to Embiid. While he was whistled for an offensive foul, Brown was glad to have a go-to unlike in years past. 

“You have a target,” Brown said. “We tried to get the ball to him a lot. … By and large, to have somebody like Joel, where the mystery is solved like, 'What do you do?' You get him the ball as much as you can.”

The more the Sixers found Embiid, the more the Thunder had to try to defend him. Thunder head coach Billy Donovan knew what his team was going up against. He watched Embiid as a high schooler and coached against him during his tenure at Florida. 

“He’s gifted and skilled,” Donovan said. “It was probably our guys' first time seeing him … I knew the talent, the gifts. The one thing with him is, he’s got great footwork. He’s hard to guard because he’s herky-jerky. He moves. He’s got a lot of [Hakeem] Olajuwon to him.”

Opening night had been two years in the making. Even though the Sixers didn't win, the significance of the evening didn't disappoint. 

"I thought this moment was going to be special," Embiid said, "and it was just great."

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

NEW ORLEANS -- Jusuf Nurkic scored 23 points, Will Barton added 22, and the Denver Nuggets survived a dominant performance by Anthony Davis to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 107-102 in both teams' regular season opener Wednesday night.

Davis had 50 points, 16 rebounds, seven steals, five assists and four blocks. His production helped New Orleans trim a deficit as large as 14 late in the second quarter down to two points in the waning minutes. He simply didn't have enough help.

The rest of the Pelicans combined to shoot 21 of 58. Tim Frazier scored 15 for the Pelicans. E'Twaun Moore added 10 points, but missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied it with 24 seconds left.

Danilo Gallinari scored 15 for Denver and Wilson Chandler added 12 points (see full recap).

Celtics top Nets in Horford's home debut
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas had 25 points and nine assists, Jae Crowder added 21 points and Al Horford pitched in 11 in his Boston debut on Wednesday night as the Celtics survived a late scare to beat the Brooklyn Nets 122-117 in their season opener.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 for Brooklyn, including a 3-pointer to make it 120-117 with 47 seconds left after the Nets erased most of a 23-point deficit against the Boston bench. But he missed one with a chance to tie it after Joe Harris intercepted Thomas' cross-court pass, and the Celtics were able to hold on.

Justin Hamilton came off the bench to score 19 points and grab 10 rebounds for the Nets in coach Kenny Atkinson's debut (see full recap).

Turner's opening act leads Pacers past Mavs in OT
INDIANAPOLIS -- Myles Turner scored 30 points, tied his career high with 16 rebounds and made a 3-pointer with 1:18 left in overtime to start an 8-0 run that allowed the Indiana Pacers to close out a 130-121 victory Wednesday night over the Dallas Mavericks.

Three-time All-Star Paul George added 25 points, including another 3 with 55 seconds left to seal Indiana's fifth season-opening win in six years.

Deron Williams scored 25 points, while J.J. Barea and Dirk Nowitzki each added 22 as the Mavs lost their fifth straight in the series. They still haven't won in Indianapolis since February 2014.

Dallas didn't tie the score or take a lead until the fourth quarter, yet still forced overtime when Harrison Barnes' open 3-pointer made it 115-all with 2.3 seconds left.

Turner could have won it with a long buzzer-beating 3, but it bounced off the back of the rim (see full recap).