This morning's headlines:
- Report: Embiid deal has specific injury clauses
- Smith 'absolutely' frustrated by benching
- Celtics enjoying riches of deep roster
- Warriors shaking off jet-lag from China trip
- Jazz's Mitchell still needs driver's license
Report: Embiid's deal has injury clauses built in -- The Philadelphia 76ers and young star center Joel Embiid agreed to a five-year contract extension yesterday, a move that secures a large part of the team's future. As much of a bright spot as this is for both parties, though, the issue of Embiid's injury history is also addressed in the deal in a way that will protect the Sixers in the future. Adrian Wojnarowski and Bobby Marks of ESPN.com have more:
Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid's five-year, $146.5 million maximum extension is essentially guaranteed but protects the franchise financially should Embiid suffer a contractually specific catastrophic injury, league sources told ESPN.
Here's how a perfect storm of calamity would have to unfold for Embiid to earn any less than the full $146.5 million: Across each of the final four seasons of the extension, ending with the 2022-23 season, the 76ers could waive Embiid for a financial benefit if he's lost because of a contractually agreed-upon injury that causes him to miss 25 or more regular-season games and if he plays less than 1,650 minutes, league sources said.
Specific injuries are laid out in the contract and include only past problem areas with Embiid's feet and back, sources said. Embiid has to miss 25 or more regular-season games because of injuries in those areas, and play less than 1,650 minutes, for Philadelphia to have the option of releasing him for cost savings.
For example, if Embiid hypothetically suffered a serious knee or wrist injury -- something outside the contractual language surrounding the feet and back -- the 76ers would have no avenue to waive Embiid to reclaim any portion of his salary. And given Embiid's rare talent, there's a belief that he'd have to suffer a career-ending injury to inspire the 76ers to release him.
If Embiid met that narrow criteria and the Sixers decided to waive him after the 2018-19 season, he would receive $84.2 million of his full contract; $98.2 million after the 2019-20 season; $113.3 million after the 2020-21 season; and $129.4 million after the 2021-22 season.
What's more, if Embiid played a minimum of 1,650 regular-season minutes in three consecutive years during the extension, or three out of four including the 2017-18 season, those benchmarks would eliminate the possibility of a reduction in the contract, league sources said.
For Embiid to reach the threshold of the super maximum contract criteria -- which would pay him 30 percent of the salary cap and ultimately as much as $176 million -- Embiid must earn first-team All-NBA honors or be voted the NBA's Most Valuable Player in the 2017-18 season.
Despite missing the entirety of his first two seasons with injuries, and underdoing season-ending surgery limiting him to 31 games in 2016-17, Embiid showed the promise of being a transformational talent. He averaged 20.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game in the 2016-17 season.
Cavs' Smith 'absolutely' frustrated by benching -- A week or so after moving Tristan Thompson from the Cleveland Cavaliers' starting lineup to the bench, the Cavs did likewise with J.R. Smith yesterday. Dwyane Wade is the Cavs' new starting shooting guard and Smith, for his part, isn't particularly happy about the change (but isn't about to make waves over it, either). Cleveland.com's Joe Vardon has more:
J.R. Smith said "absolutely" he is frustrated that he lost his place in the Cavaliers' starting lineup to Dwyane Wade, though neither he nor Tristan Thompson aim to make trouble now that they're both coming off the bench.
"We talked about it," Smith told cleveland.com. "It wasn't the most positive conversation, but we talked about it and we'll get through it together."
Smith and Thompson were starters for the Cavs in each of the last three Finals. First, Thompson learned early in camp he'd been moved to a reserve role so coach Tyronn Lue could start new forward Jae Crowder and move Kevin Love to center.
Smith said he "kind of knew it" was coming with Wade. LeBron James told cleveland.com he had talked to Smith "way before" Lue made the decision, which was perhaps an indicator for Smith that a change was coming.
"Was pretty much bracing myself for it," said Smith, who compared what happened with Wade to a situation he experienced with the New York Knicks.
"Was working hard all summer and then coming in and not even really having a chance to earn my spot, but it's alright," Smith said. "It is what it is."
"Me and JR, we know what we've brought to this team, what we've done the last three years, being in three Finals," Thompson told cleveland.com. "But at the end of the day, to win a championship you've got to sacrifice. We both know that and coming off the bench in that second unit, you gotta be a spark."
Thompson said he and Smith wanted "everybody to know" they weren't "upset or angry" over their new rules. There certainly is a difference between personal, human frustration and anger projected awkwardly toward teammates.
James said Smith "seems OK" and said he was going through an "adjustment period."
"Obviously, he's a competitor, he wants to start," James said. "Everyone would love to start but J.R. is in a position where he feels he wants to do whatever is best for the team. So if it's playmaking if he's out there with the second unit -- you saw what he did tonight. If it's giving up his starting job to D Wade.
"It's not about who starts or who comes off the bench, it's about who all can make sacrifices to win a championship. And that's what we're all here for."
Celtics enjoying their wealth of talent -- A discussion about which teams are the deepest in the NBA surely must now include last season's No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics. From adding All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward to youngsters Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to key veterans like Al Horford and Marcus Morris, Boston has all types of lineups to throw at opponents. Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald notes that both coach Brad Stevens and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge are loving that aspect of life:
“I think we’ll find some things out once the regular season starts and everybody’s playing their starters a lot more and everything else,” Stevens said. “But I trust all those guys to contribute with what they do best.”
We know Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Morris, Aron Baynes, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier are going to play significant minutes pretty much every game. But Daniel Theis, Semi Ojeleye, Guerschon Yabusele, Shane Larkin and Abdel Nader have also proven worthy of court time, as well.
And president of basketball operations Danny Ainge thinks the depth is even, well, deeper.
“It’s almost too early to say that, but those guys have played really well,” Ainge said. “We have a lot of good, young players, and I think any of our 14-man roster that we have right now, I think we feel comfortable if they’re out into position to play significant minutes. We feel good about it.
“And then the way Jabari (Bird, who’s on a two-way contract) has played real well. I think Brad would feel confident playing him in any situation right now. We also have a roster spot open, and we’ll continue to look and see if we can fill that in any way we need to. But we’re in no rush, because we like our guys and you can only have 13 dressed.
“I think we’ve got guys that will be playing most of the year in Portland, Maine, that can play,” he added. “I mean, there’s not a great deal of separation between the group that is on the end of NBA benches and guys that are trying to make it through the D-League (now G-League).”
“I think we’ve had a good group of the past couple of years,” he said. “Our depth has been one of our strengths. And I think one of the best things about our team is the guys that prepared for their time. I thought the way Gerald Green played last year in the playoffs proved that. And I think that obviously when you look at some of our bench players and how they’ve been able to really contribute in different ways but always be ready on call, it’s been one of our strengths.
“The season’s going to start next week, and we’re only going to play five guys at once because that’s what we’re allowed to play. Everybody understands that, and I think it’s our job to just keep everybody in the mind of, ‘Your time will come; just be ready for your time.’ ”
And as for how that time will be apportioned later in the mix, Stevens said, “It could be game to game.”
Warriors working to shake off jet-lag -- After playing a pair of preseason games across the world in China, the Golden State Warriors are back in Oakland. As they finish out their preseason slate and gear up for opening night on Oct. 17, many of the coaches and players are just trying to get their body clocks right, writes John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle:
After squeezing in just two practices during a busy schedule overseas, coach Steve Kerr had planned a scrimmage to see his players in game form — three days before the preseason finale and a week before the season opener.
But in the morning, assistant coach Ron Adams walked into Kerr’s office.
Adams’ message, according to Kerr: “We should not scrimmage. The guys are walking around like zombies.”
Kerr’s response: “That’s probably a good idea, Ron.”
So the Warriors ran a noncontact practice that lasted no more than 40 minutes. Some running, some shooting, some laughing. Kevin Durant said the session was to “sweat that jet lag out.”
Another full practice will come Thursday, and the Warriors will host the Kings in Friday’s final preseason game. The opener is Tuesday against the rebuilt Rockets.
Can the Warriors catch up in time?
“Catch up to what?” asked Durant. “I mean, we’re a veteran group. In the NBA, when you’ve got a veteran group, it’s guys playing basketball for 20, 25 years. So the game is second nature to them, especially when you’ve got an offense like ours that is predicated on being in the right spot, passing and moving and cutting, everybody knowing what all the options are.
“It makes it a little easier if you missed a couple of days of practice. You can lock back a little quicker because you know the schemes, you know exactly what we have to do in order for us to win a basketball game. When that stuff is unclear, that’s when a couple of days off might set you back.”
By all accounts, the China trip was a blast for the players, coaches and staff and huge financial success for the team and league. The Warriors were cherished wherever they visited and were the people’s choice in the two exhibitions against the Timberwolves.
Now it’s back to the business of playing ball.
Jazz rookie Mitchell working on getting driver's license -- A standout career at Louisville led Donovan Mitchell to become the No. 13 pick in the 2017 Draft and a rookie the Utah Jazz are counting on in 2017-18. Mitchell has impressed on the court since Summer League for Utah and getting him minutes may not be an issue, but how he gets to home games will be interesting for a while. Kyle Goon of The Salt Lake Tribune has more:
Life might be different now if Donovan Mitchell only had listened to his mother.
From his years at Connecticut boarding schools to his tenure at Louisville, he heard a consistent refrain from Nicole Mitchell: Go get your driver’s license. At the time, he did not heed her words.
“I’m regretting it now,” he said last week. “My mom always told me to go get it, and I never really listened to her. My sister, too.”
So now the 21-year-old is the only member of the Utah Jazz who can’t drive himself to games. That may seem odd to Utahns, but for the New York-raised and Connecticut-educated Mitchell, it came down to convenience. He could get everywhere he needed to go without driving.
There wasn’t really anywhere to drive at boarding school. Everything he wanted was close by at Louisville.
Mitchell always assumed he would have time to get his license before he had to drive anywhere. But that time evaporated this past spring when he surprised himself by deciding to stay in the NBA Draft.
“Never needed it,” he said, laughing. “I never expected to be here so fast.”
It’s not that Mitchell doesn’t know how to drive. He’s gone through familiar rituals of driving: His dad taking him for practice in the parking lot and those initial short voyages down the street to pick up something at the store. And being from New York, he’s experienced much more aggressive driving than Utah’s roads offer.
“It’s not so much intimidating,” he said. “New York you get the crazy driving. Out here, it’s really slow to me. Everyone is cautious and there’s really only two highways.”
But the driving tales continue to trickle out. Mitchell revealed at media day last month that he was getting rides from fellow rookie Tony Bradley to practice. While the 6-foot-10 Bradley would drive to practice or to P.F. Chang’s, Mitchell would control the music.
These days, he has a driver who takes him around wherever he needs to go, so maybe he’s not in the biggest rush to get to the DMV
“I wanted to give [Bradley] a break for a bit,” he said. “It’s not actually as bad as it may sound not having a license.”
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