At the end of each week, The Ringer’s ace blog team will appoint a special counsel to determine which person(s) in the NBA world rose above the rest. This week’s pick is … Joel Embiid!
Even before Joel Embiid was cleared to play preseason basketball, the Sixers offered their Lord and 7-Footer a maximum contract extension.
He accepted, as an injury-prone big man who has played fewer than 800 minutes in his career is wont to do, and signed off to be with Philadelphia for five additional years for the price of $148 million. If he meets any of the supermax criteria this season, which includes—dream big, Philly—winning MVP, then he could earn as much as $178 million. Although it gets pretty dicey if he suffers a repeat injury.
That happened Monday; Wednesday evening, Embiid was in the Sixers starting lineup for the first time since January. He played under a time restriction, but as we learned in 31 games last season (during which he averaged just 25.4 minutes per game), limited time is time enough for Embiid. In 15 minutes against the Nets, he finished with 22 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and a block (two, if you count this swat):
Embiid: "They can't f--king guard me" pic.twitter.com/jwkgHTDjOO— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 12, 2017
Embiid wasn’t the only top-three pick from the 2014 draft to get a fat extension this week. Minnesota’s Andrew Wiggins, his teammate at Kansas, also finally agreed to a five-year maximum contract, which was made official on Wednesday. Doubts were raised after the signings because of Wiggins’s largely unrealized potential, and Embiid’s major durability concerns.
The latter, at least, quieted those naysayers with a preseason game.
Runner-up: LeBron James
Naturally, when Kevin Love learned that he would be shifting to the center spot to start the season, he heard it from Cleveland’s head coach: LeBron James.
“I had asked about a certain play on the defensive end,” Love recounted, “and whether it was the different coverages on the 4 or 5 man, and 'Bron kind of stopped me and goes, 'You know you're gonna be starting at the 5, right?'”
Tyronn Lue went on Mike & Mike Thursday to explain the lineup changes—Dwyane Wade will start in place of J.R. Smith, Jae Crowder will start at power forward, and Love will be the 5—and to also add that it was his idea. "I guess [Kevin] said LeBron told him in Santa Barbara,” Lue said. “But it was all my idea.”
Sure, Ty. We’ve heard this one before:
LeBron James' full explanation of how he overruled coach David Blatt on the final play of Game 4 win over Bulls pic.twitter.com/aDXjgmbzUI— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) May 10, 2015
Honorable mention: Tony Allen
The Grindfather will probably not end his career in Memphis. He left his home of the past seven seasons to sign with the Pelicans for the veteran minimum this summer, even though he voiced a desire to stay with the Grizzlies. “My heart is here,” he told reporters at the end of last season, mentioning that he wouldn’t need to “break the bank” if the team would have him back. Memphis—even for the veteran minimum—passed.
But on Thursday, owner Robert Pera announced that the Grizzlies would retire Allen’s jersey, and thanked him for his contribution to the Grit ’n’ Grind culture. A retired jersey would have been more than a last laugh (it’s a lasting laugh), but Allen was touched, tweeting that he loved the city and the organization.