Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
The Philadelphia 76ers‘ offense changed a bit during Joel Embiid‘s three-week absence due to injury. The All-Star center said Wednesday that he’s getting acclimated to those changes. But if there’s something he feels very comfortable doing at the moment, it’s playing against single coverage.
Embiid on Wednesday said that he feels he’s “unstoppable” against a single defender.
“They wanted to guard me one-on-one and I feel like I’m unstoppable,” Embiid said. “So I just have to take advantage of it.”
“By and large, we’re going to stick to the very, very large majority of what we did and just try to do it better,” he [Brown] said.
Said Joel Embiid: “We’ve just got to do us. . . . We’ve got a lot of talent, so our message is go out and execute.”
As for what will be different tonight, Embiid said, “Definitely better defense, and I’m sure our snipers are going to show up and they’re going to make shots. But it starts on the defensive end. Because if what I’ve done in the past, I was really mad. There’s a lot of stuff I can correct.”
The outcome of game one surprised a lot of people (me included) and with two full days off in between, it’s allowed folks to speculate whether or not game two will produce a similar result. Will the team with more talent and with a scorching hot streak coming into the series get stymied once again by a team with a game-plan and personnel that is designed to slow them down?
When the sixers are on offense, it should be fascinating to see if either they, or the Celtics on defense change their approach. My guess is that the Cs won’t. They’ve played most teams without providing help defense or a second defended this entire season, and they looked mighty comfortable keeping Aron Baynes or Al Horford on an island against Joel Embiid.
Embiid should welcome this one-on-one match-up, and he probably should feel unstoppable on the low block against either guy, but the Celtics are almost inviting that.
Embiid may have to score 50 in one of these games in Boston and carry the sixers offense to a victory (of course, Philly could win in two other ways — they lock down the Celtics on the other end, or their role players start hitting contested 3s), especially if he’s going to continue to get one-on-one match-ups. I’m excited to watch for this tonight.
Speaking of possible adjustments, Zach Lowe took a deep-dive into game one of the series, and as usual, it’s chock full of insightful nuggets.
On page 2, Kyrie speaks
Irving has been around the team for parts of the postseason and enjoys trying to pass along knowledge to the younger players.
“I’m not so much separated in age; I’m more separated in my years of experience,” Irving, 26, said. “I try to offer a lot of knowledge from my unique opportunities of being in Cleveland and learning a lot of things, then coming to Boston and being with these young guys that just have a thirst for knowledge.
“They want to be great. It’s easy to help individuals like that. They’re in the gym every single day, they’re dedicated to film work, making sure they take care of the bodies, and, also, I think that the strongest trait about them is that they all want to learn. I’m just happy to be part of their journey. I just want to see them be great.”
While Gordon Hayward remains, understandably, away from the team, the young Celtics are getting a boost in the form of perspective from their injured, all-star point guard. Kyrie Irving’s been around the block in the post-season, and it’s been fun to watch him engage with players from his perch at the end of the Celtics’ bench.
I’m sure there’s not only still a piece of Kyrie pining to return to the parquet, but also a piece of him wondering just how far his presence could take this team in these playoffs.
Fortunately, it sounds as though Kyrie has all of the right perspective, and I’m sure he’s letting his mind wander to next season and what a full healthy version of this team can be.
And finally, more smoke around Kawhi Leonard rumors
Kawhi Leonard-to-the-Celtics rumors have existed throughout the 2017-18 season, and it looks like they’re only going to heat up.
Hall of Fame NBA writer Peter Vecsey wrote on his Patreon page that the Spurs are looking to part ways with Leonard this offseason, citing a source that said head coach Gregg Popovich didn’t even want the two-time Defensive Player of the Year attending practices.
According to Vecsey, a Western Conference executive told him, “I’m convinced Kawhi will be traded, but it’ll be to an Eastern team.”
About a week ago, someone asked me what I thought the perfect off-season will look like for the Celtics. My response was that it would look like very little happening — Irving, Hayward and Theis returning from injury, signing Marcus Smart if the money doesn’t get out of control, and then running it mostly back with this group.
It’s never that simple in the NBA, though, is it? Especially when you have Danny Ainge manning controls and his still impressive trove of assets. It’s also never that simple because there’s always going to be a big name out there with rumors swirling around his head. This summer, in addition to Paul George, it’s Kawhi Leonard.
Peter Vecsey is clued in (used to be, maybe?) and I’m sure we’ll hear more reports just like his in the weeks to come. The Celtics season may end anywhere from the next few weeks to the next month, but the next season, the off-season, is coming.