Daryl Morey is already making moves as Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball operations, parting with Al Horford and Josh Richardson in pursuit of NBA glory.

Horford and Richardson only joined the 76ers at the start of the 2019-20 season, but the pair are reportedly moving to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Dallas Mavericks respectively.

According to ESPN, the 76ers traded Horford, the 34th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, a protected 2025 first-round pick and the draft rights to Vasilije Micic in exchange for three-time champion Danny Green and Terrance Ferguson.

Horford signed a lucrative four-year, $109million contract with the 76ers as a free agent following his time as a Boston Celtic but the experiment involving the five-time All-Star proved to be an expensive mistake.

The 34-year-old big man failed to combine with Joel Embiid in Philadelphia, where he was eventually demoted from the starting five, having averaged 11.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game, as the 76ers were swept in the first round of the playoffs.

Philadelphia receive Green following his championship-winning run with the Los Angeles Lakers, who traded the former Toronto Raptors star for Oklahoma City's Dennis Schroder, while Horford's departure creates cap space amid links with Houston Rockets superstar James Harden.

Green, who won back-to-back titles with the Raptors and Lakers, averaged 8.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game in his sole season in Los Angeles.

It was Morey's first move since ending his 13-year tenure as Rockets general manager before joining head coach Doc Rivers – who replaced Brett Brown – in Philadelphia, where the 76ers remain committed to building around All-Star duo Embiid and Ben Simmons.

On the same day as the 2020 NBA Draft, which saw the 76ers select Tyrese Maxey with the 21st pick on Wednesday, Morey also reportedly dealt Richardson.

ESPN reports the 76ers acquired the Mavericks' Seth Curry for Richardson and pick 36.

Richardson swapped the Miami Heat for the 76ers following Jimmy Butler's sign-and-trade deal, though he only showed glimpses as Philadelphia struggled to gel throughout the season.

In 2019-20, Richardson averaged 13.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game, while Curry averaged 12.4 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists for the Mavericks last season.

The Philadelphia 76ers were mired in "The Process" of losing games to pile up assets not long ago.  

On Monday, the 76ers ushered in a new era, introducing yet another leadership regime as Philadelphia try to convert their years of misery into an NBA title.  

Daryl Morey was formally introduced as the president of basketball operations in a video news conference, sitting a safe distance on stage from general manager Elton Brand, new head coach Doc Rivers and managing partner Josh Harris.  

Morey, who made a mutual decision with the Houston Rockets to end his 13-year tenure as general manager last month, was hired Sunday to a reported five-year deal, and Brand was given a contract extension at the same time.  

While Morey's role gives him final decision-making power, he stressed that collaboration with Brand and the rest of the front office would be key going forward.  

The most pressing question for the organisation is deciding the fates of All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, who have yet to find the optimal blend of their talents on offense.  

"I think they absolutely can work together," Morey said to retort the popular belief that one of the stars needs to be traded immediately.   

When pressed, however, Morey would not commit to keeping the Embiid-Simmons partnership in place indefinitely.  

"I do think that we have a very, very good roster. Our championship team probably isn't going to have the same exact players that we have right now," Morey said.  

"My goal is to win a championship, so whatever gets us there is what we'll do.  

"But I would say to have two star-plus players at 24 and 26 years old, that is why I couldn't get Doc Rivers to come interview in Houston. Because he saw the [76ers'] roster, and he said it's amazing." 

That roster has failed to live up to expectations in the post-season, however, after a second-round exit in 2019 NBA playoffs and a sweep in the first round at Walt Disney World Resort in August.  

Last offseason, the 76ers parted ways with Jimmy Butler, who helped lead the Miami Heat to the 2020 NBA Finals.

In his stead, Philadelphia have invested heavily in Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Josh Richardson to support Embiid and Simmons, possibly limiting Morey's flexibility in making improvements.
  
Another point of curiosity is how Morey may try to blend the trigger-happy small line-ups played in Houston with an All-Star center like Embiid and unwilling shooter like Simmons.
  
With the analytics-driven Morey leading way, the Rockets hoisted three-point shots at record pace the last three seasons, attempting 42.3, 45.4 and 45.3 three-pointers per game from 2017-18 through last season – the top three totals in NBA history.  

The 76ers, however, attempted 31.6 three-pointers per game last season, the ninth fewest in the league.  

"The goal is not to shoot three-pointers - the goal is to win," Morey said. "You can score on offense in a whole bunch of different ways. 

"[Embiid] happens to be one of the most efficient post-up players in the league. I used to get the question in Houston, 'What would you do if you had [Shaquille O'Neal]?' I would give Shaq the ball about 100 times per game. 

"Joel is a talent on both ends. We played the way we played in Houston because that was the best way to utilise the talents we had in Houston."

While the Rockets were 640-400 with 10 playoff appearances during Morey's 13-season tenure as GM, Houston never won a title – or even reached the NBA Finals.  

The 76ers are now banking on Morey's decision-making - combined with Rivers' championship pedigree and the continuity of retaining Brand - to author a victorious end to "The Process" and help them raise their first championship banner since 1983.

Is Doc Rivers the man to complete the process for the Philadelphia 76ers?

For so long, fans and pundits alike have been told to "Trust the Process" in Philadelphia, but things have not gone according to plan.

Having tanked and started from the bottom seven years ago following a drastic rebuild of Philadelphia's roster and psyche, the long-term vision delivered stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.

But it has only yielded two trips to the Eastern Conference semi-finals, with the 76ers humiliatingly swept by rivals the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs this season.

Bowing out with barely a whimper at Walt Disney World Resort cost head coach Brett Brown his job following seven gruelling years, and raised further questions over the compatibility of franchise pillars Embiid and Simmons.

General manager Elton Brand and the 76ers will be hoping championship-winner Rivers has the answers, having turned to the former Los Angeles Clippers and Celtics coach on a five-year deal, in pursuit of a first title since 1983.

As Rivers – who departed the Clippers following a postseason capitulation – tries to get the 76ers back on track, we look at the 58-year-old using Stats Perform data.

 

Rivers crosses the divide

There is no love lost between the Celtics and 76ers in the Eastern Conference, and Rivers has history in Boston.

Rivers spent nine years as head coach of the Celtics, delivering a championship to the storied franchise in 2008.

As the 76ers try to get the best out of Embiid and Simmons, they will be encouraged by Rivers' ability to bring stars Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo together en route to NBA Finals success 12 years ago.

Though, he was unable to take star recruits Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and the second-seeded Clippers to the decider this season.

NBA Coach of the Year in 2010, Rivers coached 827 games with the Celtics – including playoffs – which is the second most in franchise history.

Rivers is no stranger to the Celtics-76ers rivalry, having experienced 42 showdowns – boasting a 25-17 record between 2004 and 2013.

Chris Ford (30 with the 76ers and 439 with the Celtics) and Jim O'Brien (87 with the 76ers and 284 with the Celtics) also coached both teams.

 

Doc nearing top 10

Whichever way you want to look at it, Rivers is just a few wins away from joining an esteemed group of coaches.

He has 1,034 career wins (770 losses) across the regular season and playoffs – just three victories shy of entering the top 10 for all-time wins in the NBA, level with Red Auerbach. Current San Antonio Spurs great Gregg Popovich tops the list with 1,447.

If you are just looking at the regular season, Rivers has overseen 943 wins (681 defeats), one behind 10th-placed Bill Fitch. Former Milwaukee Bucks, Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks and Dallas Mavericks coach Don Nelson – a three-time championship-winning coach – stands alone at the top with 1,335.

 

Playoff woes after regular-season success

Rivers swapped the east for the west amid much fanfare and a lucrative pay cheque as the highest-paid coach at the time.

He oversaw the fifth-best record in the NBA with the Clippers – 356-208 in the regular season – but failed to reach the Finals.

The Clippers also top the list for most consecutive seasons with 40-plus wins on nine – seven of those campaigns were on Rivers' watch.

Rivers has a 66.2 winning percentage in his first four seasons with a team, only behind Steve Kerr (80.8), Avery Johnson (73.5), Mike D'Antoni (68.2) and Stan Van Gundy (67.7).

He went 217-11 in his first four seasons with the Clippers, winning at least 50 games each season. However, Rivers went 139-97 (58.9 per cent) over the last three campaigns, failing to reach 50 wins in each season (though he would surely have reached that total this season had it not been for the coronavirus shutdown). Los Angeles finished 49-23.

Rivers was unable to snap the Clippers' curse of never making the Finals – a run of 50 consecutive seasons without appearing in the NBA's showpiece. Only the Atlanta Hawks (59) and Sacramento Kings (69) have been waiting longer, though they have previously advanced.

He is the only coach in NBA history to blow multiple 3-1 leads in the playoffs following the Clippers' capitulation at the hands of the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semi-finals this season. His Clippers also surrendered a 3-1 lead in 2015, as did the 2003 Orlando Magic.

In another concerning postseason trend, there have been seven teams to lose a Game 7 at home by 13 or more points – Rivers was the coach responsible for the last three such games (2017 Clippers, 2009 Celtics, 2005 Celtics).

Joel Embiid welcomed Doc Rivers to the Philadelphia 76ers after the former Los Angeles Clippers head coach reportedly agreed a deal with the NBA franchise.

Rivers is set to replace Brett Brown on a five-year deal at the championship-chasing 76ers, according to ESPN.

The 76ers, who sacked Brown after being swept by rivals the Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA playoffs, quickly turned to Rivers following his Clippers exit.

Rivers departed the Clippers after the Los Angeles team – boasting Kawhi Leonard and Paul George – sensationally surrendered a 3-1 lead against the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semi-finals.

And All-Star Embiid approved of Rivers' appointment ahead of any official announcement on Thursday.

"Welcome to the city of Brotherly Love Coach @DocRivers!!!!," Embiid wrote via Twitter.

"Excited for the future and what we’re building here #PhillyForever."

Rivers is poised to cross the divide, having previously coached the Celtics and guided Boston to the NBA championship in 2008.

The 58-year-old arrived at the Clippers in 2013 and led them to the playoffs in six of seven seasons, but never beyond the conference semi-finals.

Rivers finished with a 356-208 regular-season record at the helm of the Clippers, but was just 27-32 in the playoffs.

He is set to join a 76ers team facing questions over All-Star duo Embiid and Ben Simmons and their compatibility, after Brown struggled to fully utilise the franchise pair together in Philadelphia.

The 76ers, eyeing their first NBA championship since 1983 following two trips to the Eastern Conference semis under Brown, were reportedly targeting former Houston Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni and 2016 title winner Tyronn Lue before Rivers became available.

Embiid averaged 23.0 points, 11.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game in the regular season as the 76ers (43-30) finished sixth in the east, and 30.0 points and 12.3 rebounds in the playoffs at Walt Disney World Resort.

"Trust the Process" but where to now for the Philadelphia 76ers?

That mantra has become synonymous with the team's culture and identity since former 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie started a drastic rebuild of Philadelphia's roster and psyche in 2013.

The long-term vision, in pursuit of a first NBA championship since 1983, has delivered stars Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and two trips to the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

However, the 76ers find themselves looking for a head coach after Brett Brown – who was at the helm as Philadelphia tanked out and started from the bottom seven years ago – was sacked following a first-ever series sweep at the hands of rivals the Boston Celtics.

While the 76ers were forced to face the Celtics without Simmons due to injury, Philadelphia's failure has only raised further questions as to whether they should trade the Australian or Embiid amid ongoing doubts over the All-Star pair's compatibility.

Jimmy Butler also came and went, while the Al Horford experiment has proved to be an expensive mistake so far.

As GM Elton Brand tries to get the 76ers back on track, with the likes of Tyronn Lue and Jason Kidd linked to the coaching vacancy, we look at the issues facing the team heading into 2020-21 using STATS data.

 

Keeping Embiid and Simmons fit

One of the main issues for the 76ers has been the health of big man Embiid and guard Simmons – franchise pillars.

While much has been made of Embiid and Simmons' chemistry, with spacing the floor a problem for Brown, their fitness issues mean they have only played in 184 of 345 games since the latter was drafted first by the 76ers in 2016.

When Embiid and Simmons play, the 76ers boast a 119-65 win-loss record. But without one or both, they greatly suffer (67-94), Embiid's physicality in the paint and Simmons' superior defensive skills vital in Philadelphia.

The 76ers average 111.7 points, 107.5 opposition points, 47.4 rebounds and 26.4 assists per game with Embiid and Simmons involved, a clear improvement compared to when one or both miss a game – 106.7 points, 109.4 opposition points, 44.5 rebounds and 25.0 assists.

Philadelphia also have a superior field goal percentage (46.9) when Embiid and Simmons both play, with the 76ers shooting just 45.3 per cent. Opposition numbers also go up in their absence – field goal percentage (44.3 to 46.2) and three-point percentage (34.1 to 35.5).

 

Simmons and his shooting woes

Simmons is an elite defender and creator with unrivalled pace, but his shooting struggles have left him stuck between a star and superstar.

There have been signs of a shooter behind all of his usual brilliance, however Simmons' jump-shot is too few and far between.

Previously compared to LeBron James, Simmons does not shoot threes or free throws well – his career free-throw percentage of 59.3 is the worst in NBA history by a guard with at least 1,000 attempts.

And his career three-point percentage (two-for-24, 8.3) is the lowest among all guards who debuted in the NBA in 2000 or later (minimum 20 attempts).

Simmons, 24, also signed a five-year, $170million max contract prior to the 2019-20 campaign.

 

Embiid not so clutch?

The third pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, Embiid has established himself as one of the best big men in the league but he has still been criticised for his lack of consistency and poor fitness at times. Nicknamed 'The Process', the 26-year-old knows there is room for improvement.

Embiid wanted to carry the 76ers in the absence of Simmons and while averaging 30.0 points and 12.3 rebounds per game in the playoffs – an increase on his regular-season averages of 23.0 points and 11.6 rebounds, which were a dip on his 2018-19 numbers – and he looked worn out.

There could be some concern that he does not play well at the end of close games. In his career – regular season and playoffs – Embiid has had 17 potential game-tying or go-ahead shots in the last 30 seconds of the fourth quarter and overtime, and he is just one-for-17.

The only shot he made was a dunk against the Cleveland Cavaliers in November 2019.

The Philadelphia 76ers are not looking to trade Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid following their elimination from the NBA playoffs, general manager Elton Brand said.

Head coach Brett Brown was sacked after the 76ers were swept 4-0 by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the postseason and the team is reportedly looking at further changes to the front office.

However, Brand has no plan to move on from either of the All-Star duo of Simmons and Embiid.

"I'm not looking to trade Ben or Joel, I'm looking to complement them better," said Brand. "They are 24 and 26 years old respectively, you try to make that fit as long as you can.

"They want to be here, they want to be with our organisation, and I see them here for a long, long time."

Simmons sat out the playoffs after suffering a subluxation in the left knee at the NBA bubble in Orlando and Embiid was unable to inspire a deep run that could have seen his team-mate return to the court.

Both players are under contract for at least the next three seasons and Brand plans to discuss with them how they feel the team should look going forward.

Brand acknowledged that 'The Process', the nickname given to the period in which Philadelphia rebuilt by tanking and acquiring draft capital, could now be deemed a failure.

"It didn't produce the results we expected. It's a results-based business and we're trying to right those wrongs and make sure we do better," he said.

"Currently, yes, we failed. But are we going to do everything to position ourselves to win? Yes."

A key factor in the Sixers' path forward will be the appointment of a new head coach, so Brand will not make a hasty decision.

He said: "We're not going to be in a rush because this is a pivotal point for our organisation. We're at a crossroads right now, so this hire is extremely important. There's not going to be a rush.

"All options are open. No one is in the lead, but I look forward to these interviews because there are going to be some talented people out there."

A lack of perimeter shooting has been a persistent issue for the 76ers, while Al Horford failed to gel with Embiid after arriving on a four-year, $109million contract.

Asked if Horford can fit into the line-up, Brand said: "That's for the next coach to make that decision and determination on how the line-ups work.

"Al Horford can fit on an NBA-calibre championship team. Whatever that role is, we're going to have to figure it out. But he can fit."

Joel Embiid is unsure about his future with the Philadelphia 76ers following their swift elimination from the NBA playoffs, though the All-Star reiterated his desire to retire at the franchise.

The 76ers were swept 4-0 by rivals the Boston Celtics in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs after Sunday's 110-106 loss in Orlando, Florida.

Philadelphia reached the Conference semi-finals last season, dramatically denied by the buzzer-beating shot of Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard, but the championship hopefuls now find themselves at a crossroads.

There is uncertainty over head coach Brett Brown, while there have been reports Embiid and fellow All-Star Ben Simmons could be traded.

"I don't make the decisions. I'm here in Philly. Whatever happens, happens," said Embiid, who signed a five-year, $148million contract extension in 2017 after being drafted with the third pick three years earlier.

"I've always said that I want to end my career here and if it happens, good. If it doesn't happen, well, you move on and all that stuff."

Dubbed "Trust the Process", the 76ers embarked on a drastic rebuild under former general manager Sam Hinkie as their struggles on the court led to Philadelphia drafting two potential franchise cornerstones in Embiid and Simmons.

They made the Conference semi-finals in 2018 and 2019, but in pursuit of a first championship since 1983, Philadelphia capped out and went all in on Tobias Harris and Al Horford on max contracts as they parted with numerous picks.

The 76ers gave up a lot in their deal to lure Harris from the Los Angeles Clippers and it was the same for Jimmy Butler in November, only for the All-Star to leave at the end of the 2018-19 season.

Horford, meanwhile, has struggled to fit since arriving from the Celtics.

Pressure is on GM Elton Brand and the 26-year-old Embiid – who led the 76ers in Game 4 with 30 points and 10 rebounds – said: "I just feel like, a couple years ago, when we made the playoffs for the first time, we had a bunch of great players that were drafted here or either formed in Philly and we had a bunch of guys especially that were in a great situation.

"And then we, as you know, we decided to trade a lot of it with the picks and stuff for Jimmy, Tobias and we got a bunch of great players in return. Like I said, it just didn't happen. We could never find a rhythm this year.

"It is disappointing. There's a lot of regrets. I felt like the focus was not always there. And we got to do better, we just got to look at ourselves in the mirror and just do better."

Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid said he has to be more aggressive after his team's 109-101 defeat to the Boston Celtics in game one of the Eastern Conference first-round series.

Turnovers crippled the 76ers as rivals the Celtics made a winning start in the NBA playoffs at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida on Monday.

While Embiid put up 26 points and 16 rebounds in the absence of fellow All-Star Ben Simmons, it was not enough for the 76ers – who recorded 18 turnovers against the Celtics.

Embiid had five turnovers of his own, with the Celtics benefiting by scoring 21 points as a result in the first-round opener.

"Obviously not enough [shots]," Embiid – carrying the load with Simmons sidelined for the remainder of the season – said afterwards. "I've got to be more aggressive.

"Maybe we need to call some more plays but I don't know. That's another thing we've got to fix going into game two."

Championship hopefuls and sixth seeds the 76ers, who are looking to progress beyond the Conference semi-finals for the first time since losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2001 NBA Finals, face the Celtics in game two on Wednesday.

"I've got to do more. I got one job to do, to carry us," Embiid said. "I'm going to need my team-mates to help but I need to do more.

"I've got to take more shots, I've got to be more aggressive, I've got to help my team-mates."

Philadelphia head coach Brett Brown shared his thoughts on his team's turnovers, adding: "This is the double-edged sword where you have to figure out what line do you want to walk.

"This overplaying the volume of just smashmouth, bully-ball post-ups; if you do it all the time it comes with some level of punishment if you're not careful."

With the regular season over, it's time for business in the Orlando bubble.

The Portland Trail Blazers completed the NBA's playoff bracket with their play-in win against the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday.

Now, Giannis Antetokounmpo's Milwaukee Bucks, the LeBron-James led Los Angeles Lakers and Kawhi Leonard's Los Angeles Clippers are among the teams vying for supremacy at Walt Disney World Resort.

With the postseason scheduled to start on Monday, we use STATS data to preview the first-round series.

Eastern Conference

Milwaukee Bucks (1) v Orlando Magic (8)

Eyeing their first NBA championship since 1971, the Bucks head into the opening-round series struggling for form.

The Bucks, who went 52-8 from their first 60 games, recorded a 4-9 win-loss ratio from their last 13 fixtures – becoming the first team in NBA history to have more losses in their final 13 regular-season games than they did in the entire season prior to that.

Inside the bubble but in familiar surroundings, the Magic have the chance to snap a playoff drought, despite the odds being stacked against them.

Not since 2010 have the Magic won a playoff series. Orlando swept the Charlotte Bobcats and Atlanta Hawks en route to the Conference finals, before losing to the Boston Celtics. The Magic have since suffered first-round exits at the hands of the Hawks (2011), Indiana Pacers (2012) and Toronto Raptors (2019).

Toronto Raptors (2) v Brooklyn Nets (7)

Defending champions the Raptors have form on their side in pursuit of back-to-back championships.

Toronto went 27-5 over their last 32 games, easily the best record in the NBA during that period – ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder (21-10), Los Angeles Clippers (20-10), Bucks (20-11) and Celtics (21-13).

Nets star Spencer Dinwiddie has been one of the most clutch players this season, making an NBA-high seven go-ahead baskets in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime.

Dinwiddie's seven for 13 is better than the Denver Nuggets' Nikola Jokic (five), Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray of the Nuggets (both four).

Boston Celtics (3) v Philadelphia 76ers (6)

The Celtics renew hostilities with rivals the 76ers, having won the past four series between the two teams – Philadelphia have not claimed a series against Boston in the playoffs since 1982.

Philadelphia's hopes will rest on Joel Embiid in the absence of injured fellow All-Star Ben Simmons, who is the only player in NBA history to average 8.0-plus rebounds and 8.0-plus assists per game for his career.

The 76ers are 35-22 (.614 per cent) with Simmons in the team, while they are just 7-8 (.467 per cent) without the Australian star on the court. Philadelphia also allow more opposition points per game in his absence – 113.6 compared to 107.2.

Indiana Pacers (4) v Miami Heat (5)

All eyes will be on Indiana's T.J. Warren, who averaged 31.0 points per game with a .664 effective field-goal percentage this month following the restart.

Since 1985-86, the players with 30.0-plus points and a .650-plus effective field-goal percentage in a month (minimum five game played) are Charles Barkley (1990), Stephen Curry (2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019), Antetokounmpo (2017 and 2019) and Karl Anthony-Towns (2019).

With Heat pair Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson, Miami are the first NBA team to have two undrafted players averaging 13.0-plus points per game in the same season – minimum 70 per cent of team games played – since the Philadelphia Warriors in 1956-57 (Joe Graboski and Neil Johnston).

 

Western Conference

Los Angeles Lakers (1) v Portland Trail Blazers (8)

Making their first postseason appearance since 2013, the Lakers – who have a 74.6 per cent chance of winning this series using Stats Perform's advanced simulation tool – are one of the favourites to go all the way thanks to James and Anthony Davis.

James and Davis have combined well in LA, where the former has supplied 184 assists for the All-Star recruit this season – the most to one player in 2019-20, ahead of Damian Lillard to Hassan Whiteside (132). Three-time champion and four-time MVP James is also the second-oldest player to average 10 assists or more in a season in NBA history, with Steve Nash averaging 10.0-plus assists in each of his final three campaigns.

This will be the second playoff meeting between James and Carmelo Anthony. James and the Heat eliminated Anthony and the New York Knicks in the first round in 2012. Both averaged 27.8 points in the series. James was the first overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, while Anthony was the third pick. Their matchups date back to high school, when LeBron was at St. Vincent St. Mary's and Carmelo at Oak Hill Academy.

Portland's go-to man Lillard leads the NBA in scoring inside the bubble at 37.6 per game, including the play-in clash. The Trail Blazers star is averaging 46.3 points in his past four games following a career-high 61 against the Dallas Mavericks earlier this month. He has contributed to Portland averaging a league-high 126.0 points per game at Walt Disney World Resort, while the Lakers have only managed 106.4 points per game – the second worst behind the Washington Wizards.

How about most points per game by team-mate duos? Lillard and CJ McCollum (52.2) are second to James Harden and Russell Westbrook (61.5) but ahead of third-placed James and Davis (51.4).

Los Angeles Clippers (2) v Dallas Mavericks (7)

Can Leonard claim consecutive NBA titles after leading the Raptors to their first champion last season? Well it all begins against the Mavericks.

Leonard – the 2019 Finals MVP – averaged a career-high 27.1 points per game this season, while he averaged 30.5 during last year's playoffs. The four-time All-Star has also averaged 31.0 points per game in three games against the Mavericks this term, with the Clippers sweeping the season series.

Led by Luka Doncic, the Mavericks boast the second-highest offensive rating ever – 113.7 – behind last year's Golden State Warriors (113.9). The Clippers have a 111.1 rating, tied with the Trail Blazers for second this season.

Doncic is averaging 30.0 points, 10.1 assists and 9.7 rebounds in the bubble. The reigning Rookie of the Year also has three triple-doubles, including a 20-rebound triple-double.

Denver Nuggets (3) v Utah Jazz (6)

A Jazz team boasting the likes of Joe Ingles and Mitchell are the best three-point shooting team at 38.0 per cent, though Utah went 2-5 in their last seven regular-season games – allowing 110-plus points per game.

Rudy Gobert is also one shy of 250 career double-doubles as the Jazz look to avenge their season sweep at the hands of the Nuggets, though each game was decided by six or fewer points.

The Nuggets made the Conference semi-finals last season, snapping a five-year playoff drought. Jovic will be key for Denver, having averaged 7.0 assists per game for a second successive season – the most by any center in the NBA.

Houston Rockets (4) v Oklahoma City Thunder (5)

It will be a reunion as Harden, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul face their former teams.

The Rockets have advanced to at least the second round of the playoffs in three straight seasons and their hopes will depend on the team's starting five – their starters are averaging 89.1 points per game, the most in the league.

Former Thunder star Harden is also coming off his third consecutive season averaging 30 or more points per game (34.3 in 2019-20). He is the franchise's all-time leader in postseason assists (510) and second in points (2,061) behind Hakeem Olajuwon (3,727).

Westbrook, who arrived from the Thunder in a blockbuster trade at the start of the season, is second all-time for Oklahoma City in playoff points (2,489), behind Kevin Durant's 2,620, third in rebounds (686), first in assists (778) and first in steals (184).

The Thunder, boasting ex-Rockets guard Paul, have not progressed beyond the first round of the postseason since 2016 after blowing a 3-1 lead against the Warriors in the Conference Finals.

Joel Embiid exited the Philadelphia 76ers' game against the Toronto Raptors with a wrist injury, leaving Brett Brown waiting to learn how serious it might prove.

Center Embiid left the game in the first half after being hit on the wrist and did not return, the Sixers going on to succumb to a 125-121 loss on Wednesday.

The three-time All-Star, who was returning after sitting out against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday with an ankle injury, is reportedly not expected to be out long term after X-rays came back negative.

Speaking after the game, 76ers coach Brown said: "I really don't know a lot to share. I do know it was whacked twice. As it relates to what's next, or the evaluation of it, I am sorry, I can't comment on that."

The defeat meant Philadelphia are guaranteed to finish as the number six seed in the Eastern Conference and face the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs.

This season was the first since 2013-14 in which the 76ers had won their season series against the Celtics, who defeated them in the 2018 Eastern Conference semifinals.

Brown is looking forward to the challenge of going up against Boston coach Brad Stevens.

"I've got a lot of respect for Brad. We have had tons of experiences, regular season, playoffs, over the past few years," said Brown.

"I think their team is very unique, in that there is so much firepower at several positions. You know the Philly-Celtics rivalry is historic.

"We are excited and treat this series with tremendous respect. We are excited to compete against them."

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown is optimistic All-Star Joel Embiid will return to the court before the NBA playoffs get underway.

Embiid will sit out Philadelphia's clash against the Phoenix Suns in Orlando, Florida on Tuesday due to an ankle injury.

The three-time All-Star hurt his left ankle in the opening quarter of Sunday's loss to the Portland Trail Blazers at Walt Disney World Resort.

Philadelphia – sixth in the Eastern Conference with a 42-28 record – conclude their regular-season campaign against defending champions the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday and the Houston Rockets on Friday.

Brown, though, is hopeful Embiid will play prior to the postseason, telling reporters on Monday: "I do expect him to [play before playoffs], that's just one man’s opinion.

"Nobody's doing cartwheels over if something severe, but I do believe it would be good for him to play for the playoffs begin."

Embiid has been averaging 23.5 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game for the 76ers this season.

Meanwhile, fellow 76ers All-Star Ben Simmons underwent surgery and is expected to miss the remainder of the campaign.

The 76ers said Simmons had surgery to remove a loose body in his left knee, with the Australian set to begin rehabilitation in Philadelphia immediately.

 

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown played down concerns after Joel Embiid sat out the team's scrimmage due to a calf problem.

Embiid missed Sunday's 102-97 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder as the 76ers stepped up preparations for their NBA return against the Indiana Pacers in Orlando, Florida on August 1.

The three-time All-Star posted 10 points, six rebounds and an assist in just under 13 minutes of Friday's 90-83 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies at Walt Disney Resort.

But the 76ers opted not to take any risks after Embiid – whose fitness has often been questioned – began feeling calf tightness against the Grizzlies.

"Not really," Brown replied when asked if there is any frustration about Embiid missing game time with injury. "It's the second game.

"If this had happened three to four games into what we are calling the regular season, [yes]. There is always frustration, selfish frustration, and I know frustration, at times, for Joel. But initially, [we're] just trying to be smart with everything and move on."

"I believe we're just getting out in front of stuff, and being smart with it," Brown said.

Embiid was averaging 23.4 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game prior to the coronavirus pandemic forcing the NBA to be suspended in March.

The 76ers (39-26) are sixth in the Eastern Conference, sharing the same record as the fifth-placed Pacers ahead of the league's resumption.

The NBA will restart via a 22-team format at Walt Disney Resort in Orlando, Florida.

Brett Brown said the Philadelphia 76ers have been preparing NBA All-Star center Joel Embiid for double-team defence in the playoffs as the team eye a deep postseason run.

The 76ers will renew their season and championship bid against Eastern Conference rivals the Indiana Pacers on August 1 following the coronavirus-enforced break, which suspended the NBA in March.

Philadelphia have failed to progress beyond the second round of the playoffs in back-to-back seasons – heartbreakingly eliminated by eventual champions the Toronto Raptors in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals last year following Kawhi Leonard's stunning buzzer-beater.

The 76ers have struggled offensively in the postseason with all eyes on Embiid, but head coach Brown said the franchise have been working on the three-time All-Star's ability to deal with the extra attention.

"He's going to be double-teamed more than he isn't," Brown told reporters following Thursday's practice. "You can book it – he spins baseline, the whole gym is coming, I don't care who we are playing.

"What is happening [on his post-ups] in the playoffs, it's because they go at him more repetitively in a seven-game series. It's that heightened awareness for an NBA First Team All-Star.

"And, so I think this camp one of the things I have been doing is damn near every time he catches it, we're coming [with a double team] ... He's done a really good job passing out of it.

"So whether they come at him, whether he's going to be able to architect a quarterback mentality out of that post up or whether he's just going to play bully ball and go dunk and score, I think that we're moving toward the reads that are coming."

Embiid was averaging 23.4 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game this season prior to the postponement.

The 76ers (39-26) are sixth in the Eastern Conference, sharing the same record as the fifth-placed Pacers ahead of the league's resumption.

The NBA will restart via a 22-team format at Walt Disney Resort in Orlando, Florida.

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown is thrilled with Ben Simmons in the power forward position as the championship hopefuls look to change things up when the coronavirus-affected NBA season resumes.

The 2019-20 NBA campaign is set to restart via a 22-team format at the Disney World complex in Orlando, Florida on July 30 after the season was postponed due to COVID-19 in March.

Philadelphia will return to action against Eastern Conference rivals the Indiana Pacers on August 1, boosted by the comeback of All-Star Simmons.

Simmons – averaging 16.7 points, 8.2 assists and 7.8 rebounds per game this season – is back to full fitness after a back injury sidelined him in February, showcasing his ability at power forward, having played as a point guard.

"He's so dynamic," Philadelphia's Brown said on a conference call with reporters on Monday. "Let's just talk about running. There's nobody faster in the NBA. So to always have the ball and dribble it up against five guys ... to do that dilutes some of his potent weapons.

"So, watching him fly up the floor, watching him and Joel [Embiid] play off each other, has been a really good look. I think they've been fantastic together."

Brown, whose 76ers (39-26) are sixth in the Eastern Conference, added: "You take somebody and say, 'Here's the ball.' It's not like Ben came in and we had Chris Paul on the team or Damian Lillard on the team. We were young, and really not that good, so it was my decision, 'You take the ball. We're going to make you the point guard.' It's not like there was an established point guard that he had to bump out.

"[And] how has he responded to that? Like a star. Just a mature, 'Whatever it's going to take to get this team to be the best it can be with the pieces that we have that can be, I don't know, just designed into a smooth thing' ... that is one of the pieces he has to offer. He's been great accepting that, and really killing it in the environment that I just said."

With the 76ers trialling Simmons at power forward, it means Shake Milton is set to replace the Australian as point guard, leaving Al Horford on the bench following his struggles since arriving from the Boston Celtics.

Milton has averaged 9.5 points, 2.2 assists and 2.1 rebounds per game in 2019-20, while he scored a career-high 39 points against the Los Angeles Clippers prior to the coronavirus outbreak.

"He's been amazing," All-Star Joel Embiid said of Milton. "He's been the starting point guard, and I think he has a huge opportunity to help us accomplish what we believe we can.

"He's been doing an amazing job and he's running the team and we're going to need him to knock down shots, which he did, before the league got shut down. He was on a roll so we're going to need him to keep it going. But it's great."

Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid said he can carry the championship hopefuls as the league prepares to return following the coronavirus-enforced break.

The 2019-20 NBA season is set to restart via a 22-team format at the Disney World complex in Orlando, Florida on July 30 after the campaign was halted due to COVID-19 in March.

All eyes will be on three-time All-Star center Embiid when the NBA returns following the coronavirus pandemic.

Philadelphia will recommence against Eastern Conference rivals the Indiana Pacers, who share identical 39-26 records to be fifth and sixth respectively, on August 1.

Embiid, who had been averaging 23.4 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game this season, insisted the 76ers' offense should go through him.

"I know what I'm capable of, and I know what my team-mates think of me," Embiid said in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday.

"I know I'm capable of carrying the team, so it's all about me being assertive. If I feel like I'm not getting the ball, I just got to talk to them and do what I have to do.

"But at the end of the day, I should never be in a position to complain about getting the ball, just because of who I am.

"I believe I can carry the team, and I believe being able to do that, I just got to take matters into my own hands. And obviously, I need to be in positions where I feel comfortable, and I believe my team-mates are going to help."

The 76ers – 14 games behind the Eastern Conference and NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks (53-12) – are also set to be boosted by the return of fellow All-Star Ben Simmons.

Simmons has been sidelined since February due to a back injury, while there continues to be doubts over whether the Australian and Embiid can coexist in Philadelphia due to their contrasting styles.

"We're going to need him," Embiid said. "It's a team game. I'm going to do my best to keep helping him and create some space for him, and we all got to do the same thing just to help each other.

"At the end of the day, it's all about winning a championship, and I feel like he has the right mindset, that's what he wants to do. I know one thing about him, he wants to win, and he's going to do what it takes to win. So whatever we're going to need him to do, that's what he has to do."

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