Carmelo Anthony glad Joel Embiid is 'trusting the process'

Carmelo Anthony glad Joel Embiid is 'trusting the process'

Carmelo Anthony is a Joel Embiid fan.

"I'm glad to see him back out there playing. It's been a while," Anthony said at the Knicks' shootaround Wednesday morning before their game against the Sixers at the Wells Fargo Center. "There's been so much speculation about him."

Finally, the speculation about Embiid's health has been replaced by how far he can take this team. Especially once Ben Simmons returns.

"To see him out there, to see him healthy — what's the saying, trust the process? To see him trusting the process and the Philadelphia organization and the fans as a whole," the 32-year-old Anthony said, "for me as a fan, it's good to see him back out there. We need young guys like that as a part of this league."

Losers of eight of their last nine (see game notes), Anthony and the slumping Knicks are 17-21 and in third place in the Atlantic Division, one spot ahead of the 10-25 Sixers, who have won three of their last four. They didn't win their 10th game last season until April 5 (much more on that here).

"They're going to come in with a lot of confidence," Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek said. "Embiid's a big factor in there with his size, his abilities to clog the lane defensively, and then offensively to make you do things that you have to to keep him out of the paint. He's long — he's going to finish in there.  They're getting better. They're a team — you can't just show up and win."

Not anymore, thankfully. 

Now with Thunder, Jerami Grant still considers Sixers family

Now with Thunder, Jerami Grant still considers Sixers family

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Jerami Grant was the first familiar face to be traded in a season that has seen Nerlens Noel and Hollis Thompson exit town as well.

The Sixers dealt Grant to the Thunder on Nov. 1 in exchange for Ersan Ilyasova and a protected draft pick. The Thunder had already played the Sixers on opening night in Philadelphia, and nearly five months passed before Grant faced his former (and only other) team.

"It's still family, everybody in the organization," Grant said. "They're doing well, they're playing a lot better, so I'm happy for them."

Grant's life was thrown into a tailspin when he was traded. In a flash, he had to leave the city he had called home since 2014. So quickly, in fact, his family had to move out of his home in Philadelphia for him.

"I had to pack my bags and things in two hours," Grant recalled. "I had to get a physical so I could play the next day in L.A. At first it was a little shock, but once you settle down, it's OK."

Grant quickly found a role with his athleticism. He averaged 6.1 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 21.2 minutes before the All-Star break. The reunion with childhood best friend Victor Oladipo was an added bonus to the adjustment period.

"I settled in well," Grant said. "I think everybody did a great job of just bringing me in. I think the fans have done a great job of embracing me. Whenever I get on the court, they give me a standing ovation, so that's great. My teammates are great, too."

Grant's playing time waned when the Thunder acquired Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott from the Bulls. Grant is averaging 3.4 points, 1.5 rebounds and 0.2 blocks in 12.3 minutes since the break. He continues to stay focused on improving his three-point shot every day in practice, which was a focal point with the Sixers.

Grant played 11 minutes against the Sixers and scored three points (a trey, nonetheless), along with three rebounds and two assists (see game recap). Brett Brown has seen Grant play enough games to believe in spite of his lessened role on the Thunder, he will have a place in the league for years to come.

"He lives right, he's prideful, he wants to be good," Brown said. "He's athletic enough to feel like there's potential there. He's a wonderful person and a great teammate. There's a cleanliness, there's a wholesomeness to Jerami Grant along with pedigree, his family tree ... that makes him for sure to me an NBA longtime player."

Sixers pounded in 'bar fight' by Russell Westbrook, bruising Thunder

Sixers pounded in 'bar fight' by Russell Westbrook, bruising Thunder

BOX SCORE

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Sixers prepared for a basketball game against the Thunder. They got a lot more than that on Wednesday.

"I can say it was like a bar fight but they were the only guys in that bar who really destroyed us," Dario Saric said. 

The Thunder steamrolled the Sixers, 122-97 (see Instant Replay). Oklahoma City shot 54.5 percent, outrebounded the Sixers 54 to a season-low 25, and scored a massive 76 points in the paint. That's without getting into Russell Westbrook's 18-point, 14-assist, 11-rebound triple-double (notched in three quarters) and Enes Kanter's 24-point, 11-rebound double-double (see feature highlight).

All that amounts to ...

"Today, they just simply killed us," Saric said. 

Westbrook led the charge with his 35th triple-double of the season. He is now six from tying Oscar Robertson for most in a single season (41) and also six from tying Wilt Chamberlain for most all-time in the NBA (78). 

Westbrook accomplished his feat while taking just six shots (6 for 6 from the field and 6 for 6 from the free throw line). Per Elias Sports Bureau, he became the first player to record a triple-double while being perfect from the field and the charity stripe.

"He averages a triple-double for Christ's sake, so it's tough for us to stop him," T.J. McConnell said. 

This game was live demonstration of natural-born intensity that comes from within and cannot be taught in film sessions or drills. The Thunder rode the momentum of MVP-candidate Westbrook's triple-double and it spilled over to the entire team.

Kanter posted his double-double in just 20 minutes off the bench. Four Thunder players scored in double digits while the reserves combined for 63 points. Top to bottom, every player on the active roster fought.

"We have to have that killer instinct," Westbrook said. "We have to be able to come out when you're up 12 or 14 and be able to push it to 20 to 22, especially at home. To be a good team, you need to be able to do this consistently." 

Everyone that steps on the court against the Thunder, whether a lottery-bound team or a title contender, represents an opponent standing in the way of the their postseason aspirations as they hold down the sixth spot in the Western Conference. The Thunder's motivation was clear with less than a month left in the regular season.

"It's a fantastic example for our young guys on the physicality of playoff-type teams," Brett Brown said. "That side of it stood out to me more than it has in a long time. You look at (Steven) Adams and you look at Kanter and you look at Taj Gibson and you look at the discrepancy on the boards, the rebounding differential, and it felt that. It's just a reminder, if you want to play late in April and May, maybe June one day, that's the physicality the playoffs bring."

For the Thunder, this is one win closer to the postseason. For the Sixers, it is an example of grit they can follow to improve, and how many steps they have to take to get there.

"They are a good team, playoff team. We need to get a lot of experience from this," Saric said. "They are really tough, big, strong, and they have Russell, who will probably be MVP of the league. Then you put everything in one team, it's maybe too big for us in this moment."