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'Hawks in the NBA

Multi-skilled Joel Embiid cooks Lakers for 46 points on career night

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, right, shoots as Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, in Los Angeles. The 76ers won 115-109. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, right, shoots as Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, in Los Angeles. The 76ers won 115-109. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Joel Embiid once again reminded the NBA of his massive potential Wednesday night in Los Angeles, where Philadelphia’s 7-foot-2 phenom cooked the Lakers for a a career-best performance.

Still in just his second season out of Kansas, Embiid’s new personal bests of 46 points, seven assists, seven blocks, 14 made field goals, 16 made free throws and 19 free-throw attempts — the do-it-all center grabbed 15 rebounds, too — fueled a 115-109 road win for the Sixers, who improved to 8-6 on the season.

“I was just playing basketball basically,” Embiid told The Inquirer’s Keith Pompey. “They just kept throwing the ball to me in the post. And I kept finding new ways to score the ball and I went to the free-throw line. That’s where I was best at last year. I felt like today I did a great job.”

Added the confident 23-year-old: “And with me using different moves and attacking them, they didn’t really know what to do.”

Most teams fall into that category of getting lost trying to stop Embiid. According to Synergy Sports Technology, the multi-skilled big man, who also shot 2-for-3 from 3-point range versus the Lakers, is the league’s best post-up player. He averages 8.6 points a night on post-ups in a modern NBA moving away low-block one-on-ones as an offensive staple.

Per Synergy, Embiid shoots 60 percent when single-covered in the post.

In his post-game television interview — after stopping to show some love to Philadelphia’s smallest big fan, Kevin Hart — Embiid said staying assertive keyed his ridiculous production.

“I did the same thing against the Clippers,” Philly’s biggest big said, referencing a 32-point, 16-rebound night two days earlier in which the man known most for missing games due to injuries and having his playing time restricted tallied a career-high 36 minutes. “I just wanted to come out and get down low and be a beast down there.”

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Embiid, who had to spend the majority of his offseason resting and recovering from a knee injury said he still isn’t up to speed from a conditioning standpoint, and estimated he is at about 69 percent on that front a little more than a month into the season.

That’s a frightening idea for the rest of the league, considering what Embiid and likely Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons already are doing to teams.

“It’s just not us, you’ve got to put it on our teammates, too,” Embiid said, crediting Robert Covington and J.J. Redick, as well as coach Brett Brown and his staff.

The Sixers, so bad for so long throughout “The Process” that landed them Embiid, Simmons and currently injured No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz, have won seven of their last nine games.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” Embiid said.

The 23-year-old from Cameroon became the first NBA player with 40-plus points, seven-plus assists and seven-plus blocks in a game since another Sixers legend, Julius Erving, did it in 1982.

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Embiid, averaging 23.0 points, 11.2 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and 51.6-percent shooting this year, in 29.0 minutes, has played in just 43 games over the course of the past two seasons after missing his first two seasons due to injuries.

His health remains the biggest “if” in the NBA. But if Embiid can put those devastating injuries that sideline him for months behind him (everyone knock on the closest piece of wood you can find), he looks to be on a trajectory to become one of the league’s most dominating players.

Reply 10 comments from Kenneth Johnson Oddgirltoo David Friend Kevin Woods Barry Weiss Dannyboy4hawks Creg Bohrer Jmfitz85 Forever2008

Andrew Wiggins goes glass at the buzzer for game-winning 3-pointer at OKC

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins (22) shoots the game winning shot between Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (12) and guard Alex Abrines (8) in the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017. Minnesota won 115-113. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins (22) shoots the game winning shot between Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (12) and guard Alex Abrines (8) in the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017. Minnesota won 115-113. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Maybe that Andrew Wiggins guy will turn out to be worth every penny of his recently inked five-year, $148 million extension.

While most sports fans nationally were locked in to an NFL Sunday and those locally obsessed over the Kansas basketball team’s Border War exhibition victory, an off-the-radar NBA game between Minnesota and Oklahoma City showcased Wiggins’ still-bright longterm future.

Moments after the Thunder’s Carmelo Anthony hit a go-ahead 3-pointer, the T’wolves, scrambling with no timeouts to use, got the ball in bounds to Wiggins. One Karl-Anthony Towns back-court screen and four dribbles later, the 22-year-old Canadian wing was pulling up a good six feet behind the top of the arc to bank in the game-winner.

While you might call the successful buzzer-beater lucky, Wiggins did plenty leading up to the decisive shot to put his team in prime position for a valuable Western Conference road win.

The highlight-worthy 3 to beat the game clock to 0:00 capped a 27-point performance in which he shot 10-for-20 from the floor, grabbed seven rebounds, passed out four assists and came away with two steals. Wiggins’ 2-for-7 shooting from 3-point distance was the only part of his stat line that didn’t impress.

As for his second 3-point make that caught the rest of the league’s attention Sunday night, there is the matter of whether he called glass.

“No,” Wiggins told the Star Tribune. “I did not.”

Averaging 24.7 points and shooting 49.1 percent from the floor three games into his fourth season, Wiggins has helped Minnesota to a 2-1 start with quality victories over Utah and OKC. According to NBA.com, he’s the youngest player in Minnesota history to score 20-plus in the team’s first three games.

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The Timberwolves are gunning for the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2003-04. They’ll rely on Wiggins’ scoring, for sure. But they’ll be in even better shape if he can help out on the boards, move the ball and try to become a lockdown defender, as well.

Reply 4 comments from Plasticjhawk Kenneth Johnson Freddie Garza

Counting down the most interesting KU players to watch this 2017-18 NBA season: Nos. 5-1

Washington Wizards forward Markieff Morris, left, dunks the ball while Atlanta Hawks forward Kent Bazemore, right, watches during the first half in Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, in Washington, Sunday, April 16, 2017. The Wizards won 114-107. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Washington Wizards forward Markieff Morris, left, dunks the ball while Atlanta Hawks forward Kent Bazemore, right, watches during the first half in Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, in Washington, Sunday, April 16, 2017. The Wizards won 114-107. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

It’s tip-off week in the NBA, and for Kansas basketball fans that means it’s time to catch up with the whereabouts and chances for may former Allen Fieldhouse stars who now call The Association home.

Paul Pierce has retired, Thomas Robinson is playing overseas and Brandon Rush just got waived by Milwaukee. But 16 Jayhawks still appear on the league’s 30 rosters as the 82-game grind commences.

Some former Kansas standouts will be easier to find on national games and streaming highlights than others. To help those who love college basketball far more than the NBA, we decided to rank KU’s current pros, counting down from No. 16 to No. 1, in terms of which players will be the most interesting to follow in the months to come.

Remember, this isn’t a list of who’s best. We’re talking about which players you’ll want to make a point to watch when you see their team is playing on TV (or on your tablet or phone or laptop).

— Most interesting 'Hawks in the NBA: Nos. 10-6 —

— Most interesting 'Hawks in the NBA: Nos. 16-11 —

5. Markieff Morris

Now that he and twin brother Marcus have been acquitted of aggravated assault in a case dating back to their old F.O.E. stomping grounds in Phoenix, Markieff Morris can get back to plugging into one of the NBA’s most cohesive starting lineups, in Washington.

A hernia could have the Wizards’ Morris out for another month or so, and guards John Wall and Bradley Beal will be glad to have the 6-foot-10 forward back in the mix when he’s healthy again. In 2016-17, his sixth professional season and first full go-round with Washington, Morris put up 14.0 points on 45.7-percent shooting, and achieved career-highs with 71 3-pointers and 36.2-percent accuracy from downtown, as well as new personal bests of 6.5 rebounds per game and 83.7-percent shooting at the free-throw line.

Morris’ teammates love him for his diverse skill set, but also his toughness and trash-talking. They’ll miss all of those as he watches the first few weeks of the season from the bench. But Morris assured The Washington Post they’ll still hear from him while he rehabs his way back to full health.

“I’m a student of the game already, so I just want to give them input on what I see out there,” Morris said. “Still talk my lil’ [expletive] to the other team.”

4. Marcus Morris

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A crazy NBA offseason, filled with waves of transactions and trades, landed Marcus Morris with one of twin brother Markieff’s least favorite opponents, the Boston Celtics.

No, Marcus’s wonder-twin powers haven’t hampered him with hernia sympathy pains for Markieff, but like his brother the Celtics’ Morris begins the season on the mend. Knee soreness kept the former Rocket, Sun and Piston out of Boston’s lineup in its first two games.

It could be a week or two until Morris makes his Celtics debut, according to what coach Brad Stevens told ESPN. Because the Morris twins’ assault trial kept Marcus out for a chunk of training camp, Stevens said the team wants to effectively extend his preseason after the likely starting forward played in just one exhibition.

"I think we're going to be a better basketball team with Marcus available, but he's not," Stevens told ESPN. "We're going to need other people to step up."

Morris made a career-high 118 3-pointers in his final season with the Pistons, but made just 33.1 percent from deep. He averaged 14.0 points, 4.6 boards and 2.0 assists a year ago, and Boston will need even more production from him than expected after all-star Gordon Hayward suffered a horrific leg injury in the season-opener, dislocating his left ankle and fracturing his tibia.

3. Andrew Wiggins

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins #22 and Los Angeles Lakers forward Brandon Ingram #14 in actions during an NBA preseason basketball game between Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves in Anaheim, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins #22 and Los Angeles Lakers forward Brandon Ingram #14 in actions during an NBA preseason basketball game between Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves in Anaheim, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

Still just 22 years old with years of upside in front of him, former No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins looks to be fixture in Minnesota’s bright future after signing a five-year, $148 million extension before the season started.

Despite averaging 23.6 points and 4.0 rebounds and making a career-best 35.6 percent of his 3-pointers in his third season, Wiggins often caught flack for not doing more than scoring. He was accused of falling far short of his defensive potential, as a 6-8 wing with the bounce and wingspan to become devastating on that end of the floor.

Now that Wiggins is in his second year in coach Tom Thibodeau’s system and has all-star wing Jimmy Butler to learn from, the young Canadian could be close to making a significant leap as a pro.

Wiggins looked like a surefire NBA-level defender in his one season playing for Bill Self at KU. So far he hasn’t lived up to those expectations. If/when he does and learns how to become a more active rebounder and willing passer, Minnesota will be thankful.

It’s not all going to come together overnight or even over the course of one season. But Wiggins still has the majority of his career ahead of him and the potential — and time — to develop into a special player.

2. Josh Jackson

Phoenix Suns forward Josh Jackson (20) advances the ball up-court on a fast break as Utah Jazz forward Ekpe Udoh defends during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

Phoenix Suns forward Josh Jackson (20) advances the ball up-court on a fast break as Utah Jazz forward Ekpe Udoh defends during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

In a loaded rookie draft class, Josh Jackson was passed over by Philadelphia, the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston. The 6-foot-8 forward might have been too much of a questionable shooter to go in the top three picks, but Jackson also possesses the type of personality that could enable him to spend the rest of his career making those teams regret their decisions.

After one particular preseason display, Phoenix head coach Earl Watson compared the 20-year-old Jackson to the rookie-year version one of the league’s most fiery competitors, now reigning MVP Russell Westbrook.

“Very exciting to watch,” Watson told AZCentral.com. “Shooting the ball great from (3-point range). We knew that would eventually would happen. It’s before we thought it would happen. And sometimes, like Russ, it leads to turnovers. Reminds me of Russ but his future is bright. We want to encourage him to see the game. He moves so fast. Just slow down and make decisions.”

To Watson’s point, Jackson averaged 4.8 turnovers per exhibition in the preseason with a turnover percentage of 27.4% according to RealGM.com. A mature basketball prospect aware of his flaws, Jackson told AZCentral.com he quickly has learned the NBA is “more of a thinking game” than what he encountered in the college ranks.

“A lot of my turnovers have come from not being able to read what the defense is doing and trying to force a play when it wasn’t there,” Jackson said. “You can still play fast while doing all those things at the same time.”

The Suns love Jackson’s awareness and potential, and envision him as a possible future star to pair with young 2-guard Devin Booker. Between his defense, floor vision and ability to create and finish, Jackson’s rookie season figures to be a blast for Phoenix fans to watch, even though his flashes will come on a young team destined to lose a ton of games.

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In his NBA debut Wednesday night, Jackson scored11 points on 4-for-10 shooting, to go with two rebounds. He didn’t record a turnover or an assist in a 124-76 home loss to Portland.

1. Joel Embiid

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) goes to the basket against Washington Wizards forward Jason Smith, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017, in Washington. Smith was charged with a foul on the play.(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) goes to the basket against Washington Wizards forward Jason Smith, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017, in Washington. Smith was charged with a foul on the play.(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

One of the most intriguing players in the league due to his checkered past of injuries and seemingly unlimited potential when he’s actually on the floor, Joel Embiid could be an all-star this year.

Or he could suffer another setback that makes him irrelevant to Philadelphia’s wins and losses. No one knows for sure and that’s a large part of what makes every step of the 7-foot-2 phenom’s story so fascinating.

The guy is a showman and as talented a center as the league may see for years to come. What’s more, even he is sick of the restrictions the 76ers have placed on his availability over the past year-plus as they try to protect their investment.

Prior to his team’s season-opener, with the organization expecting to play Embiid fewer than 20 minutes, the typically happy big called that idea “----ing b------t" a week removed from signing an extension with the Sixers.

Sure enough, Philadelphia trusted “The Process.” Embiid started versus Washington on opening night and played 27 minutes — still a restriction, for certain, but on par with his playing-time plan as a rookie, before his season ended at 31 games. The face of the franchise, in a 120-115 loss, shot 7-for-15 from the floor, scored 18 points, snatched 13 rebounds, dished three assists and blocked a shot.

If Philadelphia — and the NBA as a whole — is fortunate, Embiid will stay healthy enough over the next six months to continue to flourish and maybe even lead a long-suffering franchise back to the playoffs.

When he’s playing, Embiid qualifies as one of the league’s must-watch talents.

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Counting down the most interesting KU players to watch this 2017-18 NBA season: Nos. 10-6

Houston Rockets forward Tarik Black (28) comes up with control of a loose ball against San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili (20) in the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game Friday, Oct. 13, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

Houston Rockets forward Tarik Black (28) comes up with control of a loose ball against San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili (20) in the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game Friday, Oct. 13, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

It’s tip-off week in the NBA, and for Kansas basketball fans that means it’s time to catch up with the whereabouts and chances for may former Allen Fieldhouse stars who now call The Association home.

Paul Pierce has retired, Thomas Robinson is playing overseas and Brandon Rush just got waived by Milwaukee. But 16 Jayhawks still appear on the league’s 30 rosters as the 82-game grind commences.

Some former Kansas standouts will be easier to find on national games and streaming highlights than others. To help those who love college basketball far more than the NBA, we decided to rank KU’s current pros, counting down from No. 16 to No. 1, in terms of which players will be the most interesting to follow in the months to come.

Remember, this isn’t a list of who’s best. We’re talking about which players you’ll want to make a point to watch when you see their team is playing on TV (or on your tablet or phone or laptop).

Most interesting 'Hawks in the NBA: Nos. 16-11

10. Tarik Black

While it’s entirely possible Tarik Black took on a cutback in playing time by signing this summer with Houston, the former Kansas big definitely found a better basketball situation with the Rockets than he experienced with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Houston, led by James Harden and Chris Paul, is positioned to be one of Golden State’s few challengers and one of the top seeds in the Western Conference.

If Tuesday night’s Rockets upset win on the Warriors’ championship ring night is any indication, Black might not experience much of the potential Houston-Golden State rivalry this season. His coach, Mike D’Antoni, only deployed one traditional post player, starting center Clint Capela, versus the perimeter-oriented defending champs.

Still, Black and Nene will be much more useful and playable against non super-teams. After two-plus seasons with the Lakers, Black might see his averages of 5.7 points and 5.1 rebounds in 16.3 minutes from a year ago take a hit. But the broad-shouldered, 6-9 center is bound to experience far more victories.

9. Wayne Selden Jr.

Memphis Grizzlies guard Wayne Selden Jr. poses during the team's NBA basketball media day Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Memphis Grizzlies guard Wayne Selden Jr. poses during the team's NBA basketball media day Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Not that one Jayhawk would ever wish an injury on another, but Ben McLemore’s broken foot just might open the door for Wayne Selden Jr. to cement his spot in the Memphis rotation.

Selden, after going un-drafted in 2016, proved himself in the G-League (then known as the D-League) this past year and turned that success into a spot in the NBA. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard, though battling a quad injury of his own entering the season, now has another chance in front of him.

Selden should have numerous opportunities between now and McLemore’s return — possibly in November — to demonstrate to his teammates and coach David Fizdale he’s a trustworthy option on the perimeter. His numbers in 14 games as a rookie, first with New Orleans, then with the Grizzlies, weren’t impressive. Selden shot just 7-for-28 from 3-point range and 43.1 percent from the floor, while averaging 5.1 points and 1.1 rebounds in 16.9 minutes.

Still, he should find confidence easier now as a player with a two-year contract and a little experience. Selden shouldn’t have too much pressure on him as he and James Ennis battle for the starting 2-guard spot in McLemore’s absence. And the better he plays the more he will contribute once McLemore is back.

8. Frank Mason III

Sacramento Kings' Frank Mason III (10) looks to pass around San Antonio Spurs' Pau Gasol, of Spain during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game, Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

Sacramento Kings' Frank Mason III (10) looks to pass around San Antonio Spurs' Pau Gasol, of Spain during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game, Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

One of the more popular KU basketball players in recent memory, its not Frank Mason’s ability that kept him from cracking one of the top spot’s on this list. It’s the opportunity — or potential lack there of — awaiting him in Sacramento.

After the Kings selected a pair of point guards, Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox and Mason, in the June draft, they also signed veteran point guard George Hill. Right or wrong, that leaves the recent National Player of the Year as the odd man out in Sacramento’s rotation.

The good news for Mason fans is any time one of those two point guards ahead of him gets in foul trouble or has to sit out a game here or there, Mason will be on the floor showing the NBA flashes of what made him great at Kansas, with his speed, 3-point shooting, play-making and toughness.

(And an occasional backflip.)

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Mason’s new coach, Dave Joerger, recently told The Sacramento Bee about what he expects from Mason:

“It’s a tough league and he’ll go out and you know what you’ll get from him is a guy who’ll compete his tail off and can make some shots, try to get up and guard you,” Joerger said. “Pretty tough dude and not afraid of taking shots at the end of the clock and certainly at the end of games.”

7. Mario Chalmers

Memphis Grizzlies guard Mario Chalmers (6) drives between New Orleans Pelicans guard Jordan Crawford (27) and forward Cheick Diallo (13) in the second half of an NBA basketball preseason game Friday, Oct. 13, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

Memphis Grizzlies guard Mario Chalmers (6) drives between New Orleans Pelicans guard Jordan Crawford (27) and forward Cheick Diallo (13) in the second half of an NBA basketball preseason game Friday, Oct. 13, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

The Memphis Grizzlies — otherwise known as every KU basketball fan’s new favorite NBA team — apparently love the Jayhawks.

Not only do McLemore and Selden play into their plans, but the organization liked the idea of keeping veteran Mario Chalmers around so much they waived 2016 first-round pick Wade Baldwin to make sure they had room on the roster for Chalmers, whom they signed this past summer to a partially-guaranteed deal.

One of the league’s many ultra-talented point guards, Mike Conley will continue to run the show in Memphis. But when he needs a break, the 31-year-old Chalmers will be there to take over.

The former Miami Heat guard missed the entire 2016-17 season after rupturing his right achilles in late 2016, during his first stint with the Grizzlies. During Chalmers’ year-plus out of the league, Memphis changed head coaches, bringing in former Heat assistant Fizdale, who knows Chalmers as well as any coach in the league.

It shapes up as an ideal situation for the 6-2, ninth-year vet, who has averaged 9.0 points and 3.3 assists with 35.8-percent 3-point shooting over the course of his career.

“A lot of players come back in 6-8 months and they use the season to try to get prepared for the next season,” Chalmers told The Commercial Appeal recently. “I feel like I’m ready. Physically, I feel better than before. I’m just trying to come in and stay solid. I want to be the guy they asked me to be and pick up where I left off.”

6. Kelly Oubre Jr.

Miami Heat's Justise Winslow (20) drives to the basket as Washington Wizards' Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) defends during the second half of a preseason NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, in Miami. The Heat won 117-115. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Miami Heat's Justise Winslow (20) drives to the basket as Washington Wizards' Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) defends during the second half of a preseason NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, in Miami. The Heat won 117-115. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Washington has one of the best-fitting starting lineups in the NBA. The Wizards’ bench? Not so much.

Somebody has to step up and give D.C. a legit presence as a sixth man.

[Generic professional wrestling announcer voice] My GOD! That’s Kelly Oubre Jr.!

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Oubre might be best known in the NBA at this juncture for his run at Kelly Olynyk during the 2017 playoffs. But that soon could change, with Washington set up to be one of the Eastern Conference’s top teams, and Oubre a crucial role player on all-star John Wall’s squad.

In his second season in the league, Oubre quickly won over head coach Scott Brooks with his defensive ability. The 6-7 small forward’s 3-point shooting didn’t inspire much confidence, as he made 54 of 188 (28.7 percent) during the regular season. But Oubre at least picked it up in the playoffs, going 11-for-30 (36.7 percent).

Now entering Year No. 3 looking to improve upon his averages of 6.3 points and 3.3 rebounds in 20.3 minutes a year ago, Oubre figures to be more involved than ever on both ends of the floor for Washington.

“I’m super excited, man," Oubre told CBSSports.com. "That's what I work hard for each and every day. I hone in on my handles and my playmaking ability. But my main deal is defense. [Brooks] also told me as long as I'm playing defense at a high level, playing smart, competitive defense, that I would be able to do things."

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Counting down the most interesting KU players to watch this 2017-18 NBA season: Nos. 16-11

Denver Nuggets' Darrell Arthur drives to the basket as he is followed by Los Angeles Lakers' Luol Deng during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, in Ontario, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Denver Nuggets' Darrell Arthur drives to the basket as he is followed by Los Angeles Lakers' Luol Deng during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, in Ontario, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

It’s tip-off week in the NBA, and for Kansas basketball fans that means it’s time to catch up with the whereabouts and chances for may former Allen Fieldhouse stars who now call The Association home.

Paul Pierce has retired, Thomas Robinson is playing overseas and Brandon Rush just got waived by Milwaukee. But 16 Jayhawks still appear on the league’s 30 rosters as the 82-game grind commences.

Some former Kansas standouts will be easier to find on national games and streaming highlights than others. To help those who love college basketball far more than the NBA, we decided to rank KU’s current pros, counting down from No. 16 to No. 1, in terms of which players will be the most interesting to follow in the months to come.

Remember, this isn’t a list of who’s best. We’re talking about which players you’ll want to make a point to watch when you see their team is playing on TV (or on your tablet or phone or laptop).

16. Darrell Arthur

Yes, you read that right. Darrell Arthur is still in the NBA. Gainfully employed by the Denver Nuggets, the ninth-year backup forward probably won’t play much while earning approximately $7.5 million. Sweet gig.

The 6-foot-10 Arthur averaged 6.4 points and 2.7 rebounds this past season, his fourth with Denver, but finds himself buried even deeper in the Nuggets’ frontcourt rotation with the free-agent signing of Paul Millsap. Juancho Hernangomez, Trey Lyles and Kenneth Faried all figure to play larger roles than Arthur.

When (if?) Arthur does play, a Denver team hopeful to make the playoffs can count on the veteran big to play sound team defense and maybe even knock down some 3-pointers — he made a career-high 53 during the 2016-17 season while shooting 45.3 percent, also a personal best.

15. Cole Aldrich

The NBA’s summer spending spree of 2016 worked out well for Cole Aldrich, who made a homecoming signing with Minnesota. The 6-11 Aldrich remains a sturdy defender in the paint and a good-spirited guy who helps out in the community. But the Timberwolves and head coach Tom Thibodeau didn’t have much use for Aldrich on the court.

The former KU big man played just 8.6 minutes a game in 62 appearances off the bench a year ago and averaged 1.7 points and 2.5 rebounds.

If you turn on the T-Wolves and Aldrich is playing, odds are the game is already a blowout or the frontcourt rotation is lacking one or more of Karl-Anthony Towns, Taj Gibson, Gorgui Dieng and Nemanja Bjelica.

14. Nick Collison

There will be no farewell tour for Oklahoma City old head Nick Collison this season, but it very well may be the last go-round for the former KU star.

With 13 seasons of NBA mileage on his soon-to-be 37-year-old body, Collison won’t often hear Thunder head coach Billy Donovan call him up from the bench to direct him toward the scorer’s table.

Collison, who has played every game of his career for the same franchise, appeared in a career-low 20 games in 2016-17, leading to some minuscule averages, such as 6.4 minutes, 1.7 points and 1.5 rebounds. Those numbers might even decrease during his 14th professional season.

So why did Oklahoma City re-sign him to a one-year deal a few months back? Collison is a renowned locker-room presence and, honestly, even if the organization brought him back solely for the team’s annual Halloween party, it was worth it to see him as Woody Harrelson’s Billy Hoyle from “White Men Can’t Jump.”

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Catch Collison on one of OKC’s 27 nationally-televised games this season if you can. You’ll want to witness the Russell Westbrook/Paul George/Carmelo Anthony experiment anyway.

13. Jeff Withey

Milwaukee Bucks guard Rashad Vaughn (20) gets past Dallas Mavericks center Jeff Withey for a basket during the second half of a preseason NBA basketball game, Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Milwaukee Bucks guard Rashad Vaughn (20) gets past Dallas Mavericks center Jeff Withey for a basket during the second half of a preseason NBA basketball game, Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Through four NBA seasons with two different franchises, former KU shot-blocking specialist Jeff Withey has yet to become a key member of a team’s rotation. We’ll see if that changes with his new job as a Dallas backup center. His responsibilities with the Mavericks certainly have.

Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News reports Withey’s new team likely will deploy him not only as a rebounder and defender, but also a — wait for it — 3-point shooter(?!).

"We like his length, shot-blocking ability," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "Mark [Cuban] was really a key guy on this. He'd been studying him for a while. And he's shown that he can knock in some perimeter shots from time to time. Looking at his shooting technique on film, there may be a viability for him to become a 5-man who can shoot the ball from the perimeter. In certain situations, we have him popping. I understand it's going to be a process."

Keep in mind Withey’s career totals from beyond the arc are 0 makes — as in his next will be his first — on four attempts. This preseason, though, Withey drained three of eight from downtown. He’s definitely a better shooter than fellow backup pivot Nerlens Noel for those occasions when Carlisle wants to stretch the floor.

12. Cheick Diallo

Hey, remember Cheick Diallo? Good times. Good times.

The young big from Mali who only played 7.5 minutes a game for Bill Self at KU wasn’t exactly a staple of the New Orleans rotation as a rookie, but he did get 11.7 minutes of court time in his 17 appearances, averaging 5.1 points and 4.3 rebounds.

Early on this season, the 6-9 21-year-old could become far more involved. The Pelicans obviously will rely on two of the best big men in the league, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, the vast majority of the time. But Diallo should be the first big off the bench — for now — with Alexis Ajinca (knee) and Omer Asik (illness) out of the lineup.

“This is my chance. This is my time. So I’ve gotta do whatever to try and make it,” Diallo said in a recent interview posted on the Pelicans’ website.

After spending much of his rookie season in the former D-League (now G-League), Diallo has a chance to make himself a more memorable player.

11. Ben McLemore

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ben McLemore poses during the team's NBA basketball media day Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ben McLemore poses during the team's NBA basketball media day Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Finally, after four seasons of basketball purgatory with the Sacramento Kings, Ben McLemore has a chance to experience NBA basketball with a stable franchise … eventually.

A month after signing a two-year contract with Memphis this summer, McLemore broke his right foot in a pick-up game. The Commercial Appeal reports the 6-5 shooting guard isn’t expected to return until sometime in November.

When McLemore gets back to 100 percent he should be able to win a starting spot in the Grizzlies’ backcourt alongside Mike Conley.

During his final year with the Kings, McLemore played a career-low 19.3 minutes, shot a career-best 38.2 percent from 3-point range and averaged 8.1 points and 2.1 rebounds.

Memphis isn’t exactly the playoff lock it used to be, but McLemore is in a much better situation and should get chances to show whether he is capable of becoming a more impactful NBA player than he was in Sacramento.

None by Memphis Grizzlies

Reply 5 comments from Theodore Thadogweadore Stupidmichael Titus Canby Tim Orel Surrealku

Joel Embiid inks massive extension with 76ers; Good move or bad move by Philly?

None by Joel Embiid

By now, you surely all have heard about the massive contract signed by former Kansas center Joel Embiid, who on Monday inked a five-year, $148 million contract to stay with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Not bad for a guy who has played in just 31 NBA games since leaving Kansas as the No. 3 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. Granted, those 31 games produced some pretty impressive results — 20 points, 8 rebounds and 2 assists per game — and nearly led to Embiid being named the rookie of the year last season despite the small sample size.

And those numbers, while solid, don’t even tell half of the story as the former KU standout whose college career ended early because of injury has rejuvenated an entire franchise and city and become a sort of cult hero across the country for his skills, confidence and never-ending social media presence that has provided some of the best NBA entertainment of the past three seasons.

But forget for a second about his game or the future. The big question now that Embiid has signed the deal is simple: Was he worth it?

The NBA world seems to be mixed in its response and who could blame anyone for questioning whether that kind of max deal, which, according to reports, could grow to as much as $178 million by the end of it, is the right move for an oft-injured player such as Embiid.

There’s no question that when he’s healthy and on the floor, Embiid is a game changer, the kind of player you can build a team around and ride to enormous heights.

But staying healthy has been a struggle and, with that frame and the way he uses such explosive movements to play the game, it’s certainly fair to question whether he will remain healthy and become the player the Sixers need him to and hope he will become.

With Embiid and the Sixers slated to be in Kansas City, Mo., for an exhibition game on Friday night, this topic certainly figures to be hot around this area for at least the next few days.

And while the Sixers did include some language in the contract that offers them some measure of protection against injury, it’s still a massive commitment for a player who, as of today, has to be considered at least somewhat of a question mark.

To that end, here’s my favorite recap of the Embiid situation, from Paul Flannery at SB Nation, who spells out the five appropriate responses to Embiid’s contract extension.

It seems as if Flannery covered all of the emotions and opinions that many had after hearing the news about the extension, but, knowing Embiid, it’s certainly possible that his career path will take us on an unexpected journey that nobody has talked about thus far. You know, like him playing point guard or becoming Philly’s player-coach.

Anything is possible with The Process.

Let's just hope that most of what we see during the next five years is Embiid on the court wowing the world with his skills and ability and earning every dime of that lucrative contract.

Reply 9 comments from Oddgirltoo Barry Weiss Brian Mellor Andrew Whitehead Boardshorts Rockn_chalkn_ku Tim Orel Pius Waldman Phil Leister

Six former Kansas standouts entering free agency

Los Angeles Lakers forward Thomas Robinson, left, and Sacramento Kings guard Langston Galloway reach for a rebound during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, April 7, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 98-94. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Lakers forward Thomas Robinson, left, and Sacramento Kings guard Langston Galloway reach for a rebound during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, April 7, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 98-94. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

It’s safe to assume NBA executives and head coaches won’t be jostling for position at the front doors of any former Kansas basketball players before the stroke of midnight Friday night, when it officially becomes July 1 and the league’s anticipated free agency period commences. But some of the biggest names in recent KU history will hit the open market this summer.

To get a sense of the demand — or lack there of — for the Jayhawks looking to sign new contracts, peruse Matt Moore’s list at CBSSports.com of the top 60 available free agents. You won’t find a single former Kansas player.

Still, six one-time KU stars whose college successes paved the way to lucrative careers in basketball figure to either re-up with their current employers or find new niches with other organizations as they ink new deals. Here’s a rundown of the available Jayhawks.

Thomas Robinson

Every time former KU All-American Thomas Robinson joins a different NBA team, it’s easy to think the change of scenery and/or playing for a new staff will help him achieve the breakout season that has eluded him since Sacramento made him the No. 5 overall pick in the 2012 draft. Five seasons and six teams into his career, though, the 6-foot-10 power forward has yet to emerge as a consistent contributor.

It took until September, just before training camps opened, for Robinson to sign with the Lakers in 2016, and some uncertainty likely awaits the explosively athletic 26-year-old again. After averaging 5.0 points and 4.6 rebounds in 11.7 minutes (48 appearances) for L.A., Robinson said following his end-of-season exit interview with Lakers brass they neither told him they wanted to re-sign him nor that they didn’t.

What he did learn, however, from Lakers president Magic Johnson, general manager Rob Pelinka and coach Luke Walton was that Robinson, in his fifth season, began to pick up on the smaller nuances of the game. The free agent big said he used to overlook such details, and heard from Lakers brass those areas should be his focus this offseason.

“I plan to commit myself to getting better at the mental part of the game and seeing the game a little better,” Robinson said, adding he wants to reach the level of a grizzled veteran who knows it all. “I want to get that part of my game better, and I think that’ll take me to another level and also help me in helping the team.”

Which team that will be next season remains to be seen.

Ben McLemore

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore (23) in the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, March 6, 2017, in Denver. The Nuggets won 108-96. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore (23) in the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, March 6, 2017, in Denver. The Nuggets won 108-96. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

After four seasons of toiling with the Kings, Ben McLemore’s days in Sacramento are all but officially through. The organization declined to extend a qualifying offer to the shooting guard, making him an unrestricted free agent, capable of reaching terms with the franchise of his choice without the fear of the Kings having the right to match an offer and retain his services.

McLemore played a career-low 19.3 minutes a game this past season, when he averaged 8.1 points and shot 43 percent from the field (38.2 percent on 3-pointers).

At 24, the 6-foot-5 guard remains young and athletic enough for teams to take interest in him as a backup guard. The Kings’ poor reputation within the league means some decision-makers will give McLemore a pass on proven shortcomings with the plan to stimulate his career.

Jeff Withey

Utah Jazz's Jeff Withey (24) drives against Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James (23) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, March 16, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Utah Jazz's Jeff Withey (24) drives against Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James (23) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, March 16, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Another career NBA backup from KU, center Jeff Withey spent the past two seasons in a limited role for Utah. The 7-footer appeared in 51 games for the Jazz both years, but Withey only played 8.5 minutes a night in 2016-17, averaging 2.9 points and 2.4 rebounds.

Nonetheless, Withey recently told the Journal-World he’s open to re-signing with Utah, where he would continue to make cameo appearances, playing behind Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors.

“Utah, in general, is just a great organization,” Withey said. “I love my time there.”

The 27-year-old big man likely would take on similar playing time for another franchise, should he sign elsewhere.

Brandon Rush

Minnesota Timberwolves' Brandon Rush plays during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks Friday, Feb. 24, 2017, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Minnesota Timberwolves' Brandon Rush plays during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks Friday, Feb. 24, 2017, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Looking to join up with a team to become a 10-year veteran in the league, Brandon Rush, who turns 32 in July, is in the latter stages of his career.

Even so, Rush is coming off a season in which he played 21.9 minutes a game for Minnesota — his highest average since the 2011-12 season — putting up 4.2 points and 2.1 rebounds.

That doesn’t mean the Timberwolves will bring Rush back as a bench wing capable of defending and knocking down an occasional 3-pointer (44-for-114 in his ninth year). The team already made a big offseason splash by trading for all-star Jimmy Butler, and free agency provides Minnesota with a chance to bring in another major contributor. In order to facilitate the cap space, though, role players such as Rush likely won’t be re-signed.

Nick Collison

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison (4) shoots a basket against the Los Angeles Clippers during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Friday, Nov. 11, 2016. Los Angeles won 110-108. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison (4) shoots a basket against the Los Angeles Clippers during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Friday, Nov. 11, 2016. Los Angeles won 110-108. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)

With 13 NBA seasons behind him, veteran power forward Nick Collison won’t play much in Year 14, but the longtime Oklahoma City reserve plans to stick around for at least another season.

Considering Collison’s days with the franchise date back to before the Thunder relocated from Seattle, it would be strange to see him in another NBA uniform. The 6-foot-10 big who will turn 37 before the start of next season indicated following his OKC exit interview a couple months back he had a strong enough relationship with the front office that they should be honest with each other about their expectations once negotiations begin.

“I think both sides just have to find the best thing,” Collison said, “and we'll figure it out.”

Mario Chalmers

Memphis Grizzlies guard Mario Chalmers (6) controls the ball against Los Angeles Lakers guard Louis Williams (23) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

Memphis Grizzlies guard Mario Chalmers (6) controls the ball against Los Angeles Lakers guard Louis Williams (23) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

Mario Chalmers missed the entire 2016-17 season as he rehabbed a torn Achilles tendon in his right foot. But the former KU star is only a little over a year removed from averaging 10.8 points a game for Memphis.

Back in Lawrence earlier this month to play with and against current and former Kansas players, Chalmers said he felt close to returning to the NBA this past spring as a late-season signing.

“But within myself I just wasn’t comfortable,” Chalmers added. “So I was the one who told my agent, ‘I’m going to shut it down for the year and just get healthy.’”

Any number of teams in search of a veteran guard would put a healthy Chalmers on their lists of possible targets. Now 31, the combo guard who made a name for himself with Miami and LeBron James, should resurface next season.

He said he’d be open to taking on a starting or reserve role, and will be searching for the best overall opportunity.

Reply 2 comments from Oddgirltoo

Paul Pierce makes list of top 40 NBA players of past 40 seasons

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce, center, dunks as Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, left, and center Anderson Varejao of Brazil, right, watch during the second half of Game 4 in a second-round NBA basketball playoff series, Sunday, May 9, 2010, in Boston. The Celtics won 97-87, tying the series at 2-2. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce, center, dunks as Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, left, and center Anderson Varejao of Brazil, right, watch during the second half of Game 4 in a second-round NBA basketball playoff series, Sunday, May 9, 2010, in Boston. The Celtics won 97-87, tying the series at 2-2. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Debating where basketball players rank in the annals of history is a time-honored tradition in the NBA — like Marv Albert yelling “Yes” on a broadcast or the Los Angeles Clippers failing to advance past the second round of the playoffs.

So you can imagine the arguments ignited by The Washington Post’s newly published list of The Top 40 players since the ABA/NBA merger, 40 years ago, as constructed by Tim Bontemps. The Michael Jordan-LeBron James disputes, of course, are inevitable. But so, too, are the “Why isn’t Player X on this list?” and “Who put THAT guy on here?” dissensions.

Although others might debate his inclusion, University of Kansas basketball fans will be glad to know the Jayhawks are represented among The Post’s top 40 of the past 40 seasons, with Paul Pierce coming in at No. 36 — even ahead of a pair of hall of famers, Kevin McHale and Reggie Miller.

A recent retiree and future hall of famer himself, Pierce averaged 19.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.3 steals over the course of 19 seasons, after Boston made him the No. 10 pick in the 1998 draft. “The Truth” was a 10-time all-star, four-time member of one of the three tiers of all-NBA teams and the 2008 NBA Finals MVP.

Bontemps explains his place in NBA history:

“Pierce’s quiet end to his career with the Los Angeles Clippers shouldn’t diminish what was a remarkable run, largely with the Boston Celtics, where he partnered with (Kevin) Garnett and (Ray) Allen to usher in a new era in the sport. He also had the most duels with James, and came out on the winning end more times than just about anyone else, too.”

As referenced by Bontemps, Pierce and LeBron put up some classic battles before the former KU star hit the declining years of his career arc. Pierce and the Celtics knocked James and the Cavaliers (the pre-Miami, pre-Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love incarnation) out of the playoffs in both 2008 and 2010. And although LeBron’s Heat teams would later defeat Pierce and company in three other postseasons (once after Boston traded him to Brooklyn), giving “King James” a 3-2 advantage over Pierce in terms of playoff series won (17-13 in postseason games), this generation’s greatest talent, who has since won three titles, learned much from his early battles with “The Truth.”

"Obviously he gets a Cliff note or a couple notes in my book as far as guys that helped me get over the hump or kept me where I was at the time," James said in 2015 of Pierce. "I knew I had to become much better individually. He's one of those guys."

That praise, along with Pierce’s many accomplishments, some may — you know — argue, should be enough to rank Pierce higher than 36th on this compilation of all-time greats.

Check out The Post’s interactive top-40 graphic and decide for yourself.

Among the 40 players highlighted, Pierce ranks 26th in points, 27th in rebounding, 25th in assists, 24th in steals and 25th in blocks.

Reply 4 comments from Oddgirltoo Stupidmichael Tim Orel David Robinett

Joel Embiid re-imagined as ‘Game of Thrones’ character in new video

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid reacts during the final minutes of an NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, in Philadelphia. Philadelphia won 94-89. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid reacts during the final minutes of an NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, in Philadelphia. Philadelphia won 94-89. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

If you ever wondered what former Kansas big man Joel Embiid would look like in George R. R. Martin’s fictional world of Westeros, you now have your answer — in cartoon form at least.

Finally, after four seasons worth of parodies, BleacherReport’s NBA-meets-“Game of Thrones” mash-up is trusting the process.

On the latest episode of “Game of Zones,” posted Thursday at BleacherReport.com, Embiid plays a central role as the popular online video series pokes fun at the Philadelphia 76ers’ run of tanking and selecting big man after big man near the top of the draft.

While Embiid missed most of his twice-delayed-by-a-year rookie season with more injury setbacks, he is expected to be back on the floor next season. If his ‘Game of Zones’ persona is true to life at all, some Shirley Temples should help speed up the 7-foot-2 prodigy’s latest recovery.

Embiid and the Sixers will find out at the league’s inaugural NBA Awards, on June 26, whether his 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists in just 25.4 minutes a game (in only 31 games) was enough for him to win Rookie of the Year.

In the meantime, enjoy Embiid’s likeness in “Game of Zones.”

Reply 1 comment from Jayhawkmarshall

Joel Embiid expects to be back playing basketball in 2-3 weeks

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid in action during an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Friday, Jan. 27, 2017, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid in action during an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Friday, Jan. 27, 2017, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Philadelphia’s favorite 7-foot-2 Cameroonian is returning to the court soon. Even though the Sixers don’t have a game on their schedule for more than five months, any time Joel Embiid has good news on his basketball well being, it qualifies as a significant development for the potential franchise center.

Although he put up Rookie-of-the-Year numbers in his debut season, the former Kansas center remained a victim of the injury bug that already had cost him two entire NBA seasons. Embiid at times dominated offensively while playing 31 games for Philadelphia, but had his rookie season cut short in late January due to a meniscus tear in his left knee.

Embiid’s most recent rehab stint, at least, has gone well, he reported Tuesday, during an appearance in New York for ESPN.

“I’m doing great,” the 23-year-old big man told Michael Smith and Jemele Hill. “… I’m supposed to be back on the court in about two or three weeks. But I’m doing good. It’s been going good.”

In town to represent his franchise at the NBA Draft Lottery, in which the 76ers could end up with two choices near the top of the board, Embiid felt typically confident about serving as a lucky charm of sorts.

None by Philadelphia 76ers

But if he and the organization have their way, Philadelphia will break into the playoffs in 2018 and no longer have to count on the bounces of some Ping Pong balls when planning for their future.

“Hopefully this is the last time we’re gonna be doing this,” Embiid said. “I hate losing.”

Already an NBA social media superstar, despite his limited in-game chances to date, Embiid also explained why he stays authentic to himself when he posts on Twitter and Instagram.

“Social media is a way for me to connect with fans, and I love being on social media. I love being funny on there,” Embiid said. “… Especially in Philly they show me a lot of love, and it goes all over the world, too. So I love social media.”

On that front, Smith and Hill brought up Embiid’s longstanding aspirations to go on a date with music superstar Rihanna, and because singer Kelly Rowland also was in attendance for the event, asked him to make his case to Rihanna through her friend, Rowland.

“Why should Rihanna give you a shot?” Hill asked.

“I mean, look at myself,” a grinning Embiid responded. “… I’m 7-2. I’m good-looking. You know, women usually love my accent, because I’m from Cameroon, in Africa. And I’m pretty intelligent, too.”

Seriously, though, now nearly three years removed from becoming the No. 3 pick in the draft, Embiid, who averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists for the Sixers in just 25.4 minutes a game, appears on schedule to return for the 2017-18 season. For him, that’s an even better development than Rihanna accepting his open invitation.

And — who knows — if the lottery shakes out the right way, Embiid might end up with another one-and-done KU prodigy as a 76ers teammates soon.

If Embiid is able to play a whole season for Philadelphia next year, along with 2016’s No. 1 pick, Ben Simmons, a run at a playoff berth and an end to the team’s spring lottery tradition just might be possible.

(Insert your own “Trust the Process” joke here.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEhuoga3BnE

Reply 1 comment from Plasticjhawk

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