NBA

NBA playoffs 2021: Embiid's status for Conference semi-final opener still uncertain – 76ers' Rivers

By Sports Desk June 04, 2021

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers said no decision has been made on Joel Embiid's status for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals in the NBA playoffs.

The top-seeded 76ers are set to open their second-round series against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday with doubts over the fitness of All-Star Embiid.

Embiid suffered a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee during Monday's Game 4 loss to the Washington Wizards, forcing him to sit out Wednesday's Game 5 as the 76ers won 129-112 to clinch the opening-round series 4-1.

As the 76ers continue their championship bid against the fifth-seeded Hawks, Rivers was asked about MVP finalist Embiid – who missed 10 regular-season games due to bone bruising in his left leg – on Friday.

"He went through a lot of the stuff today," said Rivers. "He didn't do a lot of live stuff obviously, we're not gonna allow that yet.

"Nothing's changed. He's got to go through his treatment, but as far as when we were doing shooting and stuff like that, he looked great.

"It's too early [to rule him out]. I don't want to say one way or the other. We'll just find that out."

It has been a stellar season for Embiid, who has averaged career highs for points (28.5), field-goal percentage (41.3), three-point percentage (37.7) and free-throw percentage (85.9).

The 27-year-old has also been averaging 10.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and a career-best 0.98 steals per game to lead the 76ers – eyeing a first NBA title since 1983 – to their first Eastern Conference championship since 2001.

Philadelphia team-mate Dwight Howard, gearing up for a reunion with former team the Hawks, added: "He looked good. His movement looked good and laterally, he was able to move around so he looked good.

"I think he should be ready to go. Now he can make sure he gets his body right and I don't want him to rush back or anything like that because we need him.

"We want to make sure we hold down the fort until he's back, but he looked great."

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    Barcelona have no intention of selling Frenkie de Jong to Manchester United, according to club president Joan Laporta, although he admitted the club's perilous financial situation could create the "need" for a sale.

    Meanwhile, Laporta labelled Cristiano Ronaldo's apparent desire to leave United "interesting" but would not be drawn on whether the Blaugrana would target the Portuguese legend.

    De Jong, who starred in Erik ten Hag's Ajax side before moving to Barcelona in 2019, has been touted as United's top transfer target since the Dutchman was announced as the club's new boss in April.

    While the midfielder expressed his desire to stay at Barcelona in May, the club's need to reduce their wage bill has led to suggestions a sale could still be possible.

    Laporta said last week he would do "what is in my power" to keep De Jong but acknowledged the Netherlands international would need to agree to a salary adjustment to remain at Camp Nou.

    The Blaugrana president repeated that stance at Wednesday's unveiling of new signing Franck Kessie, saying of De Jong: "He's a Barca player and if we don't have the need, we won't sell him. We don't want to sell him. 

    "We know he has offers, but right now we're not selling this player."

    While Ten Hag appears to see De Jong as the ideal candidate to be the fulcrum of his new United side, it remains to be seen whether Ronaldo will remain at Old Trafford after widespread reports of his desire to leave for a Champions League club emerged last week. 

    Ronaldo scored 24 goals in all competitions for United last season, but the club ended the season in sixth place with their lowest-ever Premier League points tally (58).

    But Laporta refused to be drawn on whether Barcelona could make a remarkable move for the 37-year-old, who starred in four Champions League triumphs with their historic rivals Real Madrid.

    "I had dinner on Monday with [Ronaldo's agent] Jorge Mendes and we talked about the market in general," he added.

    "Cristiano? I'm not going to talk about the players who came out of the meeting, but it's always interesting to know how some names are on the market.

    "I'm not going to talk about players in one way or another, it could be misunderstood. It doesn't contribute anything to the interests of Barca. We have to respect the players who have contracts with other teams."

    Meanwhile, Barcelona's need to adjust their finances in order to strengthen Xavi's squad has led to uncertainty over the future of winger Ousmane Dembele, whose contract with the club expired last month.

    Dembele made more assists (13) in all competitions than any other Barca player last season, and while Laporta is keen to keep the 2018 World Cup winner, says the 25-year-old is yet to respond to the club's offer.

    "We are in a situation of uncertainty. Right now, we still can't sign [him]," he said.

    "We are talking to players we are interested in so they can wait for us. Ousmane is not a Barca player, but we have made him an offer.

    "He has not accepted our proposal, but he wants to continue talking. We will continue talking, at least for now. 

    "Salary balance is necessary for the team to be competitive. All discussions are framed in this context. We're not in a hurry, although we're aware that we can't delay. Let no one expect us not to act with the utmost prudence".

  • Stokes 'absolutely loved' watching Pant: 'He would fit in our team' Stokes 'absolutely loved' watching Pant: 'He would fit in our team'

    Ben Stokes intends to "create a legacy" with his new approach to Test cricket, and the captain of England's entertainers was further inspired by facing India's Rishabh Pant.

    Since Stokes was named captain and Brendon McCullum head coach, England have won four consecutive Tests in thrilling fashion.

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    Stokes' side were ultimately dominant against India, winning by seven wickets despite requiring 378 in the fourth innings – the highest target they have ever successfully pursued.

    An unbroken partnership of 269 between Joe Root (142 not out) and Jonny Bairstow (114 no) completed the job, with the pair scaling new heights.

    Root now has 11 Test centuries since the start of 2021 and continues to improve, "which I thought was impossible", Stokes said, referring to his former skipper as "a freak".

    But the exciting 'Bazball' tactics of the past month have not been restricted to just those two players, with Stokes confirming Stuart Broad had been padded up on day four to go in as a "nighthawk", rather than a nightwatchman.

    His aim? "Thirty off 10 or nought off one."

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    "He is someone who would fit very well in our team at the moment, Rishabh, the way that he goes about to play the game," Stokes said.

    "That wicket was huge for us because we know what he can do. We know how he likes to play the game, and he could really have taken it away from us in real quick time."

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    "Rishabh Pant's innings for India in the first innings was obviously against us, but I absolutely loved watching it," he said. "Being on the receiving end of something like that is just is incredible to watch.

    "And it's great to see now that someone like Rishabh, who's obviously received his criticism over the years, is now getting applauded for that.

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    "Test cricket has always been a spectacle, but it's about doing it differently now. So cheers, Rishabh."

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    "Having acknowledged mitigating factors, including the player’s acknowledgement of foul play, clean disciplinary record, conduct at the hearing and expression of remorse, the committee granted the player full mitigation of 50 per cent," the committee said in a statement.

    "The committee further determined that given the above off-field mitigating factors and that a three-week sanction would be wholly disproportionate given the level and nature of the offence, the sanction was further reduced by an extra week."

    Swain, who celebrated his birthday earlier this week, can still appeal against the decision, which will otherwise keep him out of matches against Eddie Jones' side in Brisbane on July 9 and Sydney on July 16.

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