Holiday has stiff competition for all-star nod

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Holiday has stiff competition for all-star nod

Nineteen and nine, said Thad Young when asked why Sixers point guard Jrue Holiday should be an all-star for the Eastern Conference this season.

Frankly, Youngs assessment of what the conference coaches will most prominently see when they submit their ballots on Wednesday for the All-Star reserves will speak the loudest. After all, with averages like 19.4 points and 9.0 assists per game, Holidays case should already be made.

His scoring average and assists are second among the point guards in the Eastern Conference with the leader in assists, Rajon Rondo, already voted in as a starter by the fans.

So that should do it, right?

Not so fast, says Holiday.

Even though being an all-star would be awesome, it would feel weird to me being an all-star and just losing, Holiday said. I think winning is way more important than all the accolades. Winning and being better as a team would be way better than individual accolades.

Holidays answer, of course, is the correct one. Even Sixers coach Doug Collins says Holiday will face a difficult task in securing an All-Star berth because the teams 17-23 record has it 3 games outside of the last playoff spot in the East (see story).

Besides, Collins said, there are plenty of other point guards just as deserving of the reserve spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team.

Really?

With Rondo already voted in and Derrick Rose still working toward a return from knee surgery, Holiday has a better than average chance to make the team. ...

Or at least he should have a strong case to earn the berth in comparison to the other point guards in the Eastern Conference.

Heres a look at Holidays competition amongst the guards in the Eastern Conference.

Kyrie Irving, Cleveland
23.1 ppg, 5.7 apg, 40 percent 3P

As one of the brightest young stars in the game, Irving kind of has to make it. After all, Irving is third overall in the Eastern Conference in scoring, and his player efficiency rating (PER), a per-minute rating of a player's performance, is third (21.81) amongst all guards in the East.

Where it works against Holiday: Aside from his superior scoring and PER numbers, Irving plays for a losing team. The Eastern Conference cant have a reserve backcourt with players from teams well below .500, can they?

Monta Ellis & Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee
Ellis: 18.8 ppg, 5.4 apg; Jennings: 18.6 ppg, 5.8 apg
Its been a weird season for the Bucks. Even though they are just three games off the pace in the Central and are solidly in seventh place in the East, coach Scott Skiles resigned with not-so favorable reviews from a few of his ex-players. Meanwhile, Jennings is headed for an offseason where he can be a restricted free agent and Ellis can opt out of his contract.

And yet the Bucks are winning.

Credit the double point-guard offense and the emergence of Larry Sanders for that as the Bucks are seemingly taking one last run with this group.

Where it works for Holiday: The Bucks tandem in the backcourt is averaging more that 37 points and 11 assists per game, but which player is the most deserving of the All-Star selection? Moreover, which players stats is most hurt by the other player?

Deron Williams, Brooklyn
17.0 ppg, 7.7 apg

Williams has been in the past two Olympics for the U.S. and the last three All-Star games. And though the Nets (24-16) are winning, Williams numbers are down a bit as he has shared production in the backcourt with Joe Johnson.

Still, there are some players that end up on All-Star teams because of reputation and history and that could work in Williams favor when the Eastern Conference coaches submit their ballots this week.
Where it works for Holiday: Williams doesnt think he should be an All-Star this season. I just think there's people playing better than me, Williams told reporters. Plus, Williams has added to his reputation as a coach killer when Avery Johnson was fired in December after the point guard complained about the Nets offense.

Other candidates worthy of consideration
Kemba Walker, Charlotte; Jose Calderon, Toronto; Kyle Lowry, Toronto; Jameer Nelson, Orlando; George Hill, Indiana; Raymond Felton, New York.

Frankly, there has not been any other player in the Eastern Conference more important to his team than Holiday has been to the Sixers. With Andrew Bynum not yet ready to play, Holiday and Oklahoma Citys Russell Westbrook are the only players in the NBA averaging at least 18 points and eight assists a game.

In fact, without Holiday in four games this season, the Sixers went 0-4 and were outscored by 52 points. Indeed, the only reason the Sixers have had a chance this season has been because of Holiday.

He's been carrying us, Young said. We have to come up to help him out because the level that he's playing at is insane.
E-mail John R. Finger at jfinger@comcastsportsnet.com

Joel Embiid says he's '100 percent' back from foot injury, excited to play with Ben Simmons

Joel Embiid says he's '100 percent' back from foot injury, excited to play with Ben Simmons

AVALON, N.J. -- Joel Embiid has been waiting since 2014 to make his NBA debut. Two years later, the former third overall pick is nearing that day.

“I feel a hundred percent,” Embiid said Saturday at the Sixers Beach Bash. “I’m ready to get started. My summer has been great. We’ve been working out a lot this past summer, just getting some runs in. I’ve gotten a chance to play a little bit against the guys.” 

Embiid’s pro career has been sidelined by injuries, undergoing two foot surgeries in as many years. The first was to repair a stress fracture in his right navicular bone. The second, a bone-graft operation on the same bone. 

The 7-foot-2 big man has been rehabbing since then, traveling as far as Qatar in the process. This offseason Embiid was cleared for monitored, five-on-five drills. He joined the Sixers during the Las Vegas Summer League to continue his recovery away from game competition.

“It’s been really tough,” Embiid said. “The main thing is, I haven’t gotten a chance to get on the court and play, or help my teammates, or play in front of Sixers fans. I look forward to it and I can’t wait.”

Embiid said he “definitely” plans to be a go for training camp. He expects there will be a transition period once cleared to play given the length of his rehab, but notes he is a quick learner. Embiid also anticipates having restrictions, but has not discussed the specifics with the Sixers. 

“Probably,” he said. “But I think the restrictions would probably be about the fact that I haven’t played in two years. It’s not going to be about because people are worried that I’m going to re-injure myself, which I don’t think is going to happen.”

One player who is eager for Embiid’s return is rookie first overall pick Ben Simmons. The two have been friends since high school. They easily gel off the court, and plan to do the same in games. 

“He has great footwork, he has great touch, so I’m looking forward to playing with him,” Simmons said, continuing, “Off the court, we’re like brothers. We have fun.” 

Embiid has been present with the Sixers for games and practices. He has had numerous conversations with head coach Brett Brown about his days on the San Antonio Spurs coaching staff and how the organization achieved success with fellow big Tim Duncan, one of Embiid’s basketball role models. 

With an abundance of bigs, the Sixers will have to determine how they share the floor. For Embiid, who can also knock down long-range shots, he plans to fill whatever role the coaches outline for him.

“I think I’ll take a couple threes, but I’ll do what’s best for the team and whatever I’ll feel comfortable doing,” he said. “Obviously they’re going to need my presence inside and that’s what I’m going to do. But when I’m open, I might fire some threes.”

After a series of setbacks, Embiid is enthusiastic about the thought of making his NBA debut. 

“It feels great,” he said. “Especially after the past two years, I haven’t been able to do what I love. It just feels great.”  

Sixers trade Kendall Marshall to Jazz for center Tibor Pleiss, draft picks

Sixers trade Kendall Marshall to Jazz for center Tibor Pleiss, draft picks

The Sixers on Friday traded point guard Kendall Marshall to the Utah Jazz for center Tibor Pleiss, two future second-round picks and cash. 

Both second-round picks are in the 2017 NBA draft. The Jazz have four second-rounders — their own, as well as the ones belonging to the Warriors, Knicks and Pistons. The Sixers will receive the highest and lowest of those four picks.

The Sixers are likely to waive Pleiss. The team made a similar move in July, waiving center Sasha Kaun two days after acquiring him in a trade with the Cavaliers.

Marshall, who was later waived by the Jazz after the deal, was likely to be cut by the Sixers. The team signed guards Gerald Henderson, Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez this offseason. The deal gives the Sixers future assets and cash while unloading a player signed by the previous front office.

Marshall was one of the few free agents Sam Hinkie added, signing a deal for the 2015-16 season and options for the next three seasons.

It looked initially like Marshall would be the starting point guard last season. However, Marshall, was hurt to begin the season and struggled when he got on the court. He played just 30 games and started six, averaging 3.7 points per game in 13.3 minutes. His field goal, three-point and free throw percentages all regressed from his 2014-15 season with the Bucks.

Pleiss was originally a second-round pick by the Nets in the 2010 NBA draft. The German center's rights were dealt in three separate deals, eventually ending up with the Jazz last offseason. He signed a multi-year deal and spent the 2015-16 season bouncing between the Jazz and their D-League affiliate. He averaged 2.0 points per game in 6.8 minutes. 

NBA Notes: City officials declare Kobe Bryant Day in Los Angeles

NBA Notes: City officials declare Kobe Bryant Day in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES -- Lakers fans packed Los Angeles City Hall chambers to witness the mayor and other officials declare Kobe Bryant Day in honor of the retired NBA superstar.

Councilman Jose Huizar said Wednesday's declaration is the city's way of thanking Bryant for his excellence on the court and philanthropic efforts across Los Angeles.

Bryant attended with his pregnant wife and their two daughters. He called the experience "surreal" and jokingly said someone would have to explain to his unborn daughter why "daddy has a day named for him."

Fans cheered and chanted Bryant's name as he was presented a framed proclamation by Mayor Eric Garcetti and council President Herb Wesson.

Bryant played his entire 20-season career with the Lakers, leading them to five NBA championships.

Lakers: No. 2 pick Brandon Ingram, vet Yi Jianlian signed
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Lakers have signed top draft pick Brandon Ingram and Chinese NBA veteran Yi Jianlian and re-signed center Tarik Black.

Ingram was the No. 2 overall pick in this summer's draft. The Duke product's rookie contract is expected to be worth more than $23 million over four years.

The 28-year-old Yi hasn't played in the NBA since 2011-12 with Dallas. The former No. 6 overall draft pick by Milwaukee spent five seasons in the NBA, averaging a career-best 12.0 points and 7.2 rebounds for New Jersey in 2009-10.

Yi spent the past four seasons with the Chinese Basketball Association's Guangdong Southern Tigers. He is an eight-time MVP of the CBA, winning four championships.

The 6-foot-11 Yi averaged 20.4 points per game for China at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Black has averaged 5.3 points and 5.2 rebounds in two seasons with the Lakers.

Timberwolves: Towns chosen as face of 2K mobile app
MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns has been tabbed to be the face of 2K's mobile companion application to NBA 2K17 video game, which is set to launch on Sept. 8.

The reigning rookie of the year will be the icon cover athlete for MyNBA2K17, the latest in a series of high-profile endorsements for Towns. The NBA 2K franchise has been the No. 1 selling NBA video game for the last eight years.

"I've been a dedicated NBA 2K fan since I was young, and being selected as the face of MyNBA2K17 is an incredible milestone this early in my career," Towns said on Wednesday. "Playing MyNBA2K and NBA2K is an essential part of my offseason and keeps me grounded during the season with all my travel. I love that I will have the opportunity to connect further with my fans through MyNBA2K17."

The free app connects players to the NBA 2K17 console game and includes facial scanning technology. That allows fans to design players for the game on Xbox One or PlayStation 4 using their own facial features. The app also allows users to watch 2KTV on their mobile devices and play quick games and season tournaments against users around the world.

Towns also has deals with Nike and Samsung among others and made a guest appearance on the Disney television show "Gamer's Guide to Pretty Much Everything" this summer.

On the court, he is teaming with Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Ricky Rubio and Kris Dunn to try to end the Timberwolves' 12-year playoff drought.