Joel Embiid in favor of changing All-Star ballot to bring back centers

Joel Embiid in favor of changing All-Star ballot to bring back centers

Joel Embiid already is on a path to becoming an All-Star. He's not alone in the young group of emerging centers with the potential to reach that caliber. 

Embiid sees a bright future for the center position in the NBA. He would be in favor of changing the All-Star voting to reflect that. 

"You've got KAT (Karl-Anthony Towns), you've got Myles Turner, you've got Kristaps (Porzingis), so a lot of young guys, a lot of dominant big men, Andre Drummond. I'm hoping they bring back the center position for All-Star," Embiid said after battling Hassan Whiteside in the Sixers win over the Heat. "Around the league, there's a lot of young big men and I think we're starting a comeback."

The NBA removed the center position from the ballot in October of 2012. The league changed the voting criteria from two forwards and one center to three frontcourt players. 

"It made sense to our Competition Committee," former VP of basketball operations Stu Jackson said at the time.
 
"Having a center is the only specific position that was singled out on the ballot. It just seemed a little outdated and didn't represent the way our game has evolved. By the same token, it also affords the same opportunity, if you have two good centers in a given year, pick 'em both. They both can be selected. Which is impossible right now."

In a league where many teams are trending toward small ball, Embiid believes the five-man is imperative to success.

"First of all, defensively, without a big man I think you can't be a good defensive team," he said. "I think the big man is the main piece. Offensively, getting rebounds, and when you've got a big man that can score down low and do everything else is always good for the team."

Embiid is having a standout rookie season, averaging 18.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in his first 10 games, all while being restricted to 24 minutes.

On Monday, Whiteside scored a career-high 32 points along with 13 rebounds in the Heat's loss to the Sixers.

"I told him, ‘Keep killing it,'" Embiid said. "As big men, we all want each other to do good. I've always thought, even in the past, it's always been a big man league. I want it to stay like that."

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."

Best of NBA: Celtics win, Cavs fall to tighten race for East's top seed

Best of NBA: Celtics win, Cavs fall to tighten race for East's top seed

BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas scored 25 points, Avery Bradley had 18 with eight rebounds and the Boston Celtics beat the Indiana Pacers 109-100 on Wednesday night for their fifth win in six games.

Al Horford added 15 points with eight boards and eight assists, and Jae Crowder also scored 15 points for Boston, which won for the 12th time in 13 home games.

Paul George led the Pacers with 37 points and Jeff Teague had 25. Indiana has alternated by winning and losing in its last 15 games.

The Celtics turned a red-hot shooting third quarter into 39 points, pushing a seven-point halftime lead to 14 after three quarters.

Boston hit 17 of 25 shots from the field, with Marcus Smart's last-second bank shot in the lane capping the shooting. He was fouled on the play and made the free throw, giving the Celtics an 88-74 lead entering the final quarter (see full recap).

Chandler sparks Nuggets' win over Cavs in return
DENVER -- Wilson Chandler scored 18 points in his return from a pulled groin and provided stellar defense on LeBron James in the Denver Nuggets' 126-113 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night.

The Nuggets bounced back from consecutive heartbreaking last-second losses to Houston with a signature win that increased their lead to 1 1/2 games over idle Portland in the race for the final playoff spot in the West.

Will Barton scored 20 points, Kenneth Faried added 17 and Jamal Murray had 15 off the bench for Denver, which also got 21 points from Gary Harris and 16 from Nikola Jokic.

Kyrie Irving lead the Cavs with 33 points but James had just 18 and the two stars sat out much of the fourth quarter with Cleveland trailing by double digits (see full recap).

Beal, Wall help Wizards rally past Hawks
WASHINGTON -- Bradley Beal scored 28 points and John Wall added all 22 of his in the second half to help the Washington Wizards to a 104-100 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night.

Wall also had 10 assists on a night he shot just 6 of 21 from the floor, including two assists to Beal during a late 14-2 run that helped Washington ensure victory after Atlanta had led by as many as 12 early.

Ian Mahinmi had 10 rebounds off the bench as the Wizards used a 55-44 edge on the glass to overcome 40 percent shooting.

Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 29 points and Dennis Schroder had 18 to lead the Hawks, who fell to their fifth consecutive defeat (see full recap).