Philadelphia 76ers

NBA Notes: Lakers to retire Kobe Bryant's Nos. 8, 24 next season

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NBA Notes: Lakers to retire Kobe Bryant's Nos. 8, 24 next season

LOS ANGELES -- One retired jersey number just isn't enough for Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Lakers will retire Bryant's No. 8 and No. 24 in a ceremony Dec. 18 during their game against Golden State, the franchise announced Tuesday.

Bryant wore No. 8 from 1996 to 2006, when he switched to No. 24 for the remainder of a 20-year career spent entirely with the Lakers. He will be the 10th player honored by the Lakers with a retired number hung high on the Staples Center wall, but the first in NBA history to have two numbers retired by the same team.

"Kobe's jerseys are taking their rightful home next to the greatest Lakers of all time," Lakers owner Jeanie Buss said. "There was never any doubt this day would come. The only question was when. Once again, Lakers fans will celebrate our hero, and once again, our foes will envy the legendary Kobe Bryant."

The five-time NBA champion and 18-time All-Star selection is the Lakers' franchise leader in points (33,643), games played (1,346), 3-pointers (1,827), steals (1,944) and free throws (8,378), among countless superlatives.

Bryant is the third-leading scorer in NBA history after becoming the first player to spend at least 20 seasons with one franchise. He retired in 2016 with a bravura 60-point performance in his farewell game against Utah.

"As a kid growing up in Italy, I always dreamed of my jersey hanging in the Lakers rafters, but I certainly never imagined two of them," Bryant said in a statement. "The Lakers have bestowed a huge honor on me, and I'm grateful for the fans' enthusiasm around this game" (see full story).

Timberwolves: Muhammad reportedly returning to team
MINNEAPOLIS -- A person with knowledge of the situation tells The Associated Press that Shabazz Muhammad has agreed to return to the Minnesota Timberwolves on a one-year deal.

The Wolves and Muhammad agreed to terms on the veteran minimum deal on Tuesday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the contract has not been signed.

Muhammad has spent all four of his NBA seasons with the Timberwolves. He averaged 9.9 points last season and was a restricted free agent when the summer began. The Wolves eventually rescinded their rights to him to make him an unrestricted free agent. He never got the long-term offer for which he was hoping.

It was an important move the Wolves, who were thin on the wing behind starters Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler.

ESPN first reported the agreement.

Knicks: Oakley sues team owners for defamation
NEW YORK -- Former New York Knicks star Charles Oakley sued the team's owners Tuesday, saying he was defamed when they claimed he committed assault and was an alcoholic after his February arrest at a game.

The lawsuit details how Oakley was treated before and after he was forcefully removed from Madison Square Garden during the first quarter of a Feb. 8 Knicks' loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. It seeks unspecified damages.

Oakley was a Knicks fan favorite from 1988 to 1998. He was accused of striking a security guard during the February fracas.

Last month, prosecutors agreed to dismiss charges after six months of good behavior.

Many of the lawsuit's more venomous claims are directed at team owner James Dolan, who was near Oakley when the popular power forward was seen shoving security guards before they pulled him away from his seat.

The lawsuit says that long before the game, Dolan had "constantly disrespected" Oakley, refusing to make eye contact or shake his hand during meetings, denying him fan appreciation nights and making him pay for his own tickets to games.

The lawsuit blames Dolan for Oakley's removal from the game, saying Oakley "was treated like a common criminal" after Dolan directed security to "forcibly remove Mr. Oakley from the Garden and publicly embarrass him on live television" (see full story).

Sixers sign veterans Kris Humpries, Emeka Okafor

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Sixers sign veterans Kris Humpries, Emeka Okafor

Just about 24 hours before the start of the most anticipated training camp in years, the Sixers have brought two veterans into the fold.

The Sixers on Monday morning announced the signings of forward Kris Humphries and center Emeka Okafor.

Humphries, the 14th overall pick by Utah in 2004, is entering his 14th season in the league and the Sixers will be the ninth team he's played for after the Jazz, Raptors, Mavericks, Nets, Celtics, Wizards, Suns and Hawks. The University of Minnesota product and former Mr. Kim Kardashian's best season came in 2011-2012 in New Jersey when he averaged 13.8 points and 11.0 boards a night.

Okafor was the second overall pick by the then expansion Charlotte Bobcats in the same 2004 NBA draft following a studded career at the University of Connecticut that included the 2004 national championship.

While he's averaged 12.3 points per game in his NBA career, he hasn't quite lived up to the billing that comes with being the No. 2 pick. In fact, after spending 2012-13 with the Wizards, Okafor hasn't played an NBA game since. That's because Okafor suffered a severe herniated disc in his neck that has required time and patience in recovery. Now feeling comfortable enough to play again, the 6-foot-10 Okafor, who's played for the Bobcats, New Orleans Hornets and Wizards in his career, is getting his next chance with the Sixers.

Okafor's best season was his rookie year in Charlotte when he averaged 15.1 points and 10.9 points per game.

Sixers training camp opens Tuesday while the annual media day takes place on Monday.

2017 Sixers training camp: 5 storylines

2017 Sixers training camp: 5 storylines

Monday is media day, which means the start of training camp is 24 hours away. The Sixers are positioned to be a team to watch in the NBA this season, and with that comes storylines to pay attention to before it kicks off. From health to new additions to contract extensions, here are five things to look for in training camp. 

Restrictions
Minutes. Games. Back-to-backs. Those are in question when it comes to Joel Embiid. Last season the big man was limited to 31 games, did not play in back-to-backs, followed a closely-watched minutes restriction, and underwent season-ending knee surgery in March. Embiid has not been cleared for 5-on-5 yet, making his game availability to be determined during camp.

“It’s not about being ready for the first practice or the first game,” president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said regarding Embiid last week. “And he will be out there for the first practice and the first game. The question is how much, how little, if at all. Those things will be determined by certain criteria along the way.”

It also remains to be seen if Ben Simmons, who missed all of last season because of a Jones fracture, will end up being placed under restrictions as well. The Sixers have enhanced their medical staff with the addition of Dr. C. Daniel Medina Leal to the newly-created VP of athlete care position. Leal previously worked for FC Barcelona.

Embiid contract extension
The Sixers and Embiid have a very significant decision to make before the start of the regular season. The deadline for Embiid’s contract extension is Oct. 16, two days prior to opening night.

For such a serious business matter, there are so many question marks involved on both sides. How many games will Embiid play? How is his health after yet another injury last season?

If the Sixers offer the max in the extension, would they be overpaying? If Embiid accepts a percentage of the max based on these uncertainties, will he be taking less than if he waited for restricted free agency?

These questions will be answered in less than a month.

Point guard role
The Sixers plan to utilize Simmons as an unconventional 6-foot-10 point guard. Expect him to be tasked with defending power forwards on defense. This role will lend itself to more versatile lineups wherein the Sixers can be a position-less team in many cases. With Simmons at the point, Markelle Fultz will slide over to the shooting guard spot when they are paired on offense. The Sixers traded up to draft him No. 1 in part for his ability to play off the ball.

The backup point guard roles will have to be sorted out. Jerryd Bayless is returning from appearing in just three games last season because of a wrist injury. The veteran can play both guard spots in the backcourt. T.J. McConnell, who started 51 games last season, will once again find himself fighting for minutes.

Jahlil Okafor's future
The Sixers are entering another season with a logjam of centers. Jahlil Okafor still does not have a clearly defined role with Embiid as the starter and Richaun Holmes making a strong case for increased minutes as the backup.

The team remains open to trading Okafor, as they attempted to do last season, if they find the right fit. Okafor’s health will factor into the Sixers’ opportunity to make a deal. He continued to battle right knee soreness after undergoing surgery for a meniscus tear in March 2016. Okafor last played on March 22.

Looking to improve his game, Okafor has gone “mostly” vegan. He is down to 258 pounds, 20 less than his weight in last year’s training camp.

Starting 5
The Sixers had 30 starting lineups last season and will be looking for more consistency this time around. Don’t expect standard roles, either. With Simmons running the point, players will be shifted into different positions depending on matchups.

Back in July, I projected the 2017-18 starting five and that group hasn’t changed, in my opinion. I am going with Fultz, JJ Redick, Robert Covington, Simmons and Embiid. 

There are many people who reacted strongly to the idea of Covington as a starter instead of Dario Saric. Covington is key to the Sixers' defense, though, and Saric can thrive as a go-to in the second unit if he embraces that role.