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#pounditThursday, January 28, 2021

Basketball

Joel Embiid accuses LeBron James of receiving special treatment on foul

LeBron James

Joel Embiid thinks LeBron James received preferential treatment after committing a hard foul on Wednesday night.

James pushed Embiid as the Philadelphia 76ers big man was going up for a dunk in the third quarter of their game. Embiid landed hard on his back and was on the ground in pain.

James showed little remorse for the move after Embiid went down. He also escaped being called for a flagrant 2 foul, which would have triggered an automatic ejection.

Embiid feels if the situation were reversed, he would have been ejected.

James stayed in most of the game and finished with 34 points, six rebounds and six assists. Embiid played 38 minutes and finished with 28 points.

Embiid could be right, and if anyone would get special treatment, it’s probably James. Embiid is known for having beefs with various players, but he’s always seemed to be on a good basis with James. This foul may change things.

Steph Curry, Joel Embiid wear special Kobe Bryant tribute shoes

Kobe Bryant tribute shoes

Both Steph Curry and Joel Embiid wore special shoes on Wednesday as tributes to the late Kobe Bryant.

Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, 2020. Curry’s Golden State Warriors and Embiid’s Philadelphia 76ers did not play on Tuesday, so the star players wore the shoes in their games on Wednesday.

Here are Embiid’s shoes, which feature Bryant’s jersey numbers and a photo of Kobe and Gianna.

And here are the shoes Curry wore, which feature the Bryants as well as Curry and his daughters.

The hashtag “#girldad” is on the shoes as well, which is a tribute to Kobe.

Bryant was a beloved superstar whose death hit the basketball community — and world — very hard. A year later, players are happy to keep his memory alive with the nice tributes such as this one.

Andre Drummond expected to join Nets?

Andre Drummond

Could the Brooklyn Nets’ Big Three soon be becoming a Big Four?

Zach Harper of The Athletic reported on Wednesday that multiple league sources believe it is “only a matter of time” before Cleveland Cavaliers big man Andre Drummond joins the Nets following the James Harden trade. The move would be contingent upon Drummond securing a buyout from the Cavs. He is on an expiring contract, owed $28.75 million this season.

Drummond, the league’s best rebounder, would be a fearsome addition to Brooklyn’s new superstar trio of Harden, Kyrie Irving, and Durant. But he would also be an imperfect fit. The 27-year-old commands a lot of touches (averaging 15.9 shot attempts a game this year) and can become disengaged when he is not getting the ball enough. Drummond is also a questionable rim protector despite his physical gifts. He has a below-average 56.2 field goal percentage allowed at the rim this season (per NBA.com).

The Cavs might not be too willing to buy out Drummond either. They are currently in the thick of a wide-open playoff hunt in the East, sitting at No. 7. That may be why Brooklyn is also pursuing a more available big man.

Mitchell Robinson unhappy with his lack of touches for Knicks

Mitchell Robinson

Mitchell Robinson is finally getting starter’s minutes, but he still feels that he is being underutilized.

The New York Knicks big tweeted and deleted a message after Tuesday’s loss to the Utah Jazz. The message read, “One day they’ll let me play.”

The 22-year-old Robinson is now the Knicks’ full-time starting center, averaging a career-high 29.6 minutes per game. But he is still only scoring 9.1 points on 6.3 shot attempts a night. Marc Berman of the New York Post adds that Robinson does not have any plays run for him. The seven-footer has also hinted at a desire to start taking jumpers for the team with some of his workout videos on Instagram.

At 8-11 this year, the Knicks are better than they usually are. But regardless, the ball is mostly dominated by Julius Randle down low or by RJ Barrett on the perimeter. Robinson is a bit of an enigmatic player, so unhappiness over his offensive role seems very plausible.

Photo: Tdorante10/Wikimedia via CC-BY-SA 4.0

Daryl Morey shares why he thinks Joel Embiid has taken his game to next level

Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid is having a big year for the Philadelphia 76ers, and Daryl Morey thinks he has an idea of why.

Embiid is averaging 27.7 points, 11.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.4 blocks per game this season. The points and steals represent career-high amounts, and his field goal (55.4), 3-point (40.5) and free throw percentages (83.3) are all career-highs.

So why is Embiid doing so well? Morey credited the big man for putting in work during the offseason.

“I think Joel gets the most credit. I think he really took a step back after last year and has put a ton of work in. And I think you add on top of that Doc Rivers, a championship coach who is making sure he’s getting the ball in great spots. Plus adding a Danny Green who’s had multiple titles, who knows how to win and shoot. Adding shooters like Seth Curry. I think it’s all coming together,” Morey told Stephen A. Smith in an interview that aired on Wednesday.

“And I think the relationship that Ben and Joel have developed, where they both are actively trying to look for each other and make each other successful, has been a big factor as well.”

It’s probably a combination of those two things: Embiid putting in more work, and the Sixers putting better pieces around him. Morey was great at doing that in Houston and is doing the same thing in Philly now.

When you think about the changes Embiid made this offseason, it makes you wonder why he didn’t do any of that before.

David Griffin: LeBron James makes you an instant Finals contender

LeBron James

David Griffin has seen first-hand the type of impact LeBron James can have on a franchise, and the New Orleans Pelicans executive feels there is no other player in the NBA who can do what King James does.

Griffin, who was the general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers when LeBron led the team to an NBA title, told the Ringer this week that James is the only player in the NBA who makes a team a championship contender by himself.

“I’ve never really been able to say unequivocally ‘go flip the switch,’” Griffin said. “LeBron is the only player in the NBA whose presence alone makes you a Finals contender. So when LeBron came back to Cleveland, it was time to rock and roll.”

You can understand why Griffin would feel that way, though it is not entirely accurate. Just look at the Los Angeles Lakers, who didn’t even make the playoffs in LeBron’s first season with the team. It wasn’t until the Lakers paired Anthony Davis with LeBron that they were able to win a title.

NBA stars need help to win, and LeBron is no exception. He certainly puts any team in the Finals conversation, but there’s a reason he has reached the Finals 10 times and won four championships. The supporting cast simply wasn’t good enough more than half the time he reached the Finals.

Griffin made headlines over a year ago when he appeared to question LeBron’s desire to win, so perhaps he is simply making up for that.

Video: Bradley Beal looked so defeated after ugly Wizards loss

Bradley Beal upset

Bradley Beal looked completely defeated after his Washington Wizards suffered an ugly loss on Tuesday night.

The Wizards lost 107-88 to the Houston Rockets and are now 3-10 on the season. Beal went 12/28 for 33 points but didn’t get much help from his depleted team.

He seemed to be mired in disappointment at the end of the game.

Beal’s frustration is understandable as his Wizards have been put in a difficult spot. They had a bad COVID outbreak and didn’t play for several days. Russell Westbrook is working his way through a quad injury. Thomas Bryant, Rui Hachimura, Davis Bertans and Deni Avdija are not playing, which puts a lot of strain on Beal to get the job done.

But Beal has been frustrated even going back before the team’s COVID outbreak. He previously commented on the team’s defensive struggles. Coach Scott Brooks reportedly is on the hot seat. Outcomes like this one aren’t going to help things.

John Wall feels Wizards didn’t believe in him anymore

John Wall

John Wall is in his first season with the Houston Rockets after playing his entire career with the Washington Wizards, and he feels his old team gave up on him.

Wall’s Rockets beat the Wizards 107-88 on Tuesday night. Wall had 24 points and five assists in the win.

After the game, Wall said he felt the Wizards were done with him.

“I just feel like their organization thought I was done. No matter how much hard work I put in over the summer, they came and watched me, I thought they thought I was done,” Wall said.

Wall also took responsibility for some things he believes he could have done better with the Wizards. That could be an allusion to some of the partying that got him negative attention a few years ago.

The good thing for basketball fans is that after experiencing serious injuries the last few years, Wall is finally back on the court and helping a team. His Rockets are now 7-9.

Beloved NBA reporter Sekou Smith receives tributes after his death

Sekou Smith

Beloved NBA TV reporter Sekou Smith died due to complications from COVID-19. The popular reporter received numerous tributes online following his death at age 48.

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr called it “crushing news” and said Sekou has been part of the NBA family for a long time.

Numerous fellow reporters and members of the media shared their thoughts on the late Smith.

Last week, Stan Van Gundy sent his thoughts about Smith, when the reporter was battling COVID. Unfortunately, Smith has died.

Smith was a Senior Analyst for NBA Digital and had been with Turner since 2009. Prior to that, he covered the Hawks for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and the Pacers for the Indianapolis Star. He was a graduate of Jackson State University.

Ex-Warriors teammate tells crazy story of how Stephen Curry motivates himself

Steph Curry

Andrew Bogut has a story to tell to anyone who has doubts about Stephen Curry’s killer instinct.

Speaking this week on his “Rogue Bogues” podcast, the retired ex-Golden State Warrior had a crazy revelation about how Curry motivates himself.

“He’ll check his [social media] mentions at halftime, when he has a bad half,” said Bogut. “It’s the craziest s— I ever saw. Yeah, Steph, if he had a bad half, he would go on social media and then come out and drop 30 [in the second half].”

For Bogut, who was teammates with Curry for five seasons and an NBA championship victory in 2015, the story seems very plausible. Especially during their dynasty years, the Warriors were famous for coming out with a vengeance in the third quarter of games specifically. As the leader of the team, Curry was often the catalyst for those deadly runs.

The two-time MVP Curry has more motivational material to go off this year. But the lesson here is probably to try tweeting at Curry during halftime of Golden State’s games. Based on Bogut’s story, he just might see it.

H/T CBS Sports