Will injuries force teams like Sixers into a trade?


Will injuries force teams like Sixers into a trade?

If there has been one element to define the 2012-13 NBA season its been big injuries to franchise players. Obviously, Andrew Bynum has been among the most notably absent this season, but the Sixers are hardly alone.

The Mavericks missed Dirk Nowitzki for a long period while the Timberwolves have played without Kevin Love, the Bulls without Derrick Rose and the Wizards without John Wall. Then there are the Cavaliers who have been without both Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao and the Lakers have missed Steve Nash.

Thats an All-Star team of injuries right there.

In the Sixers Atlantic Division, every team has faced a significant injury to a key player, and for the most part, teams (and fans) have not panicked or rushed out to make moves to fill gaps.

At least not yet.

For now, the plan for the Sixers, as well as every other team in similar predicaments, is to hold the fort until the reinforcements arrive. For the most part, that plan has worked well for teams in the Atlantic, though it hasnt always been easy. Patience has won out across the league.

We just have to wait and be patient and try to get some answers, said Sixers general manager Tony DiLeo last Friday when discussing the shape of his roster. We want to see how Andrew fits in and how our players fit in with him.

Dont expect teams to be patient for too much longer, though. With the NBA trade deadline set for Feb. 21, GMs may be chomping at the bit with some big names reportedly being shopped around.

Could the Sixers be kicking a few tires and looking to make a move? Probably. Its no secret the team is looking to add a backup point guard with reported inquiries made for Oklahoma Citys Eric Maynor. But the Sixers likely wont make any type of move until Bynum returns or until closer to the deadline.

When we made the trade for Bynum, we built the team around him, DiLeo said. Thats one of the questions we have to answer.

In the meantime, here are a few of the players that could be traded before the Feb. 21 deadline:

Rudy Gay, Memphis
Why would one of the best teams in the West be looking to move its leading scorer? Easy ... money. Gay is signed through the 2014-15 season and is owed approximately 37 million over the next two seasons.

Tyreke Evans, Sacramento
The Chester, Pa. native is still just 23 years old and has an expiring contract. He also is playing in basketball limbo with the dysfunctional Kings and his stats have dropped off a bit as a result.

DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento
Incredibly talented, but troubled, Cousins may need a change of scenery. Then again, that change could be Seattle whenif the Kings become the Sonics.

Derrick Williams, Minnesota
Reports are that the Twolves have already soured on the 2011 No. 2 overall draft pick and are looking to move him. Then again, reports seem to indicate that all-star Love has soured on Minnesota.
Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers
What good is a list of players on the trading block without the perennially tradable Gasol? Where could Gasol go? How about to any team willing to pay his 20 million salary next year.

As for the Sixers potential trade chips:

Nick Young
He took his first DNP-CD during Saturday nights victory over the Rockets and isnt much of a defender. He does, however, have something that a lot of teams are interested in -- an expiring contract. Young was dealt at the deadline last season from Washington to the Clippers. Could he be on a fourth different team in a little less than a calendar year?

Dorell Wright
Another expiring contract and at a relative bargain of 4.1 million. What also makes Wright more attractive than Young is that he actually plays some defense.

Royal Ivey & Damien Wilkins
Expiring contracts.

E-mail John R. Finger at jfinger@comcastsportsnet.com

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 (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 fade away 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 guy’s 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) Olajuawon 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).