Is Jahlil Okafor going to be traded? Is Joel Embiid’s injury worse than originally reported? And if so, what about his Friday night dance moves?
Despite rumors swirling around their two young centers, the Philadelphia 76ers managed to end the Miami Heat’s 13-game winning streak on Saturday night. The 76ers (20-34) travel to Charlotte on Monday to face the Hornets (24-30).
Both big men, who were selected third overall in the NBA Draft (Embiid in 2014, Okafor in 2015), missed Saturday’s game.
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Okafor has been the subject of trade rumors involving the New Orleans Pelicans.
“As the All-Star break gets closer, possible deals have more of a chance,” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said. “Although speculation is rampant all throughout stuff, you learn as the deadline gets closer, the reality that something could happen goes to a higher level.”
Brown said Okafor may continue to miss games until his status is decided.
Embiid, who missed his ninth straight game with a knee bruise, also has a slightly torn meniscus, 76ers president Bryan Colangelo revealed prior to Saturday’s game.
Colangelo also expressed disappointment when video surfaced of Embiid dancing at a Friday night concert.
Embiid is unlikely to see action until after the All-Star break, Colangelo said.
Meanwhile, the Hornets have their own troubles.
They lost at home to the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday, their ninth defeat in 10 games.
“We’re right there. We get good leads sometimes and we can’t close it,” said Charlotte guard Nicolas Batum, who had 25 points, six rebounds and eight assists in the 107-102 loss. “We were pretty good last year, we were pretty good to start, the first 25 games, we never lost those games. We’re right there every time, but we’ve got to figure out how to make plays.”
Charlotte center Frank Kaminsky scored 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds, but Kemba Walker, the team’s leading scorer, was held to 10 points on 4-for-18 shooting, including 1 of 9 from 3-point range.
Before Saturday’s game, Hornets coach Steve Clifford was asked if Walker, who has missed just one game this season, might be held out of games occasionally after the All-Star break. (Walker was selected as an All-Star reserve for the first time.)
While Clifford acknowledged that Hall-of-Famers such as Hornets owner Michael Jordan and associate head coach Patrick Ewing don’t understand the concept of resting players, he said some of the thinking has changed since those greats’ glory days in the 1980s and ’90s.
“(Resting players) definitely works for some teams,” Clifford told the Charlotte Observer. “I’ve talked to trainers in this league who say rest is critical. I’ve heard other trainers who say you should train in the summer in a way to prepare yourself to play 82 times a year.”
Since a Jan. 4 win over Oklahoma City, the Hornets are 4-14. They trail eighth-place Detroit by a game in the Eastern Conference standings.
Charlotte plays in Toronto on Wednesday, its last game before the All-Star break, then continues a seven-game road trip that will take the team to the West Coast.
The 76ers, who on Saturday hit the 20-win mark for the first time since the 2012-13 season, will face the Celtics in Boston on Wednesday, before being off for nine days.