76ers announce preseason schedule

The Philadelphia 76ers announced their 2022 preseason schedule on Friday, featuring four exhibition games.

The slate begins when the 76ers travel to Brooklyn on Monday, Oct.3, to take on Ben Simmons and the Nets at Barclays Center. 

The team then returns home to face Cleveland on Wednesday, Oct. 5, which will be followed by a second meeting with the Cavaliers at 7 p.m. ET on Monday, Oct. 10, on the road at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. 

Philadelphia’s preseason slate wraps up at home against the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday, Oct. 12.

The 76ers, led by Joel Embiid, re-signed James Harden, added Danuel House, P.J. Tucker, and D’Anthony Melton in the offseason. Philly hopes to make it to the Eastern Conference finals and NBA Finals for the first time since 2001.

James Harden’s new contract is a win for 76ers

James Harden is returning to the Philadelphia 76ers, which is not a surprise. However, the deal he signed to return to the 76ers is a surprise.

According to the The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Harden is taking a $15 million pay cut for next season that allowed Philadelphia to elevate its roster — with the sole focus on a championship run in 2023. Harden opted out of his $47 million player option and now plans to sign a new two-year deal with a player option in the second year of the contract.

With the pay cut, Harden will make around $32 million next season, and if he plays well, he can simply opt-out after the season and negotiate a new contract with the 76ers or somewhere else.

This move shows two things; Harden is serious about trying to win a championship in Philly as they added P.J. Tucker and Danuel House thus far in free agency and acquired De’Anthony Melton in a draft-day trade with the Grizzlies.

Secondly, Harden is betting himself. The 13-year veteran wants to show that he can still play at an elite level. With the 76ers, he averaged 21.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 10.3 assists per contest in 21 games, but at times, he seemed to have a difficult time getting his own shot at a high level. However, this offseason, it appears Harden is putting in the work to be in better shape.

In the end, it’s all good news for the 76ers.

Harden, a three-time NBA scoring champion (2018-20) is one of four players in league history to have multiple seasons averaging at least 20 points, five rebounds and 10 assists. He’s in the midst of the third such season of his career. The only other players to do so more than once are Russell Westbrook (five times) and Hall of Famers Magic Johnson (three times) and Oscar Robertson (five times).

Joel Embiid gets his tough guy

At the end of last season, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid wanted the 76ers to find a tough guy, and he mentioned P.J. Tucker.

Here’s what Embiid had to say after losing to Heat in the second round of the playoffs:

“When you have size and toughness, you look at someone like P.J. Tucker,” Embiid said. “A great player, but it’s not about him knocking down shots. It’s about what he does, whether it’s on the defensive end or rebounding the ball.”

Well, wish long and hard, and your dreams might come true.

According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the 37-year-old Tucker is finalizing a three-year, $33.2 million fully guaranteed deal with the Philadelphia 76ers.

The 11-year veteran, who won a title in Milwaukee in 2021 before joining the Heat last season, averaged 7.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 41% from deep in the 2021-22 season. 

“This team is good enough to compete head-to-head with anybody in the league, and I’m going to come in here and do whatever I can to help get us to that next level,” Tucker said via a release from the team announcing the move.. “Philly fans demand greatness and it will be up to us to get to where we need to be in order to accomplish our goals. I’m excited to get to work.”

Tucker can guard multiple positions and is the tough guy Philly needs to compete in the ever-tough Eastern Conference. 

In addition to Tucker, Philly added free agent guard/forward Danuel House, who, according to The Athletic’s Sham Charania, agreed to a deal with the team. Last season, the 29-year-old House spent time with the Rockets, Knicks, and Jazz. In 42 games, House averaged 5.9 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per contest.

Also, the 76ers added guard Trevelin Queen, the reigning G League MVP, who finished fifth in scoring at 25.3 points per game while leading the G League in steals with an average of 3.2. Queen helped Rio Grande Valley capture the 2022 NBA G League title.

In 19 games (all starts) with the Vipers, the 25-year-old Queen also averaged 6.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists in 35.0 minutes per contest.

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Cavs’ Love: ‘We’re living in the moment, but our big-picture goals are toward the end of the year’

The Cleveland Cavaliers continued their winning ways Monday night as they defeated the Miami Heat 105-94 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

Cleveland led the whole second half,  but in the fourth, Miami cut the Cavs lead to five with over eight minutes left. However, Cleveland would go on an 8-0 run to push the lead to 13. From there, the Cavs would have their largest lead of 16 and would coast the rest of the way. 

The Cavs had five players in double figures Monday night.

Cleveland(17-12) has now won four straight for the third time this season, while the Heat’s(16-12) two-game winning streak was snapped.

The Great for the Cavaliers:

Second Half Kevin Love: The 13-year veteran got hot in the second half. Love scored a season-high 23 points, all in the second half. Love was 6/8 from the field in the second half, including five threes(5/7). He also added nine rebounds.

Love is shooting the ball well right now and has made three-plus threes in five consecutive games.

-Isaac Okoro has been solid in the last three games. He scored 18 points, including four threes(ties career-high) Monday night, and he also helped limit Duncan Robinson to six points on 1/7 from downtown.

This was Okoro’s third straight game of at least 16 points or more, and during this stretch, he’s  averaging 18 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game. Furthermore, in the last three, Okoro is 7-14(50%) from three-point range.

-Jarrett Allen had 12 of his 18 points(6/6 FG) in the first half, and while his three-game double-double streak was snapped, he did grab eight rebounds and added a block.

Second Quarter: Cleveland outscored the Heat 32-19 in the quarter, and after trailing 25-23 in the first, the Cavaliers took a 55-44 lead at the break. Cleveland turned things up defensively as they held the Heat to 38% shooting from the floor, including 2/12 from three-point range(16.7%).

-Lamar Stevens did not give the Cavaliers much offensively(three points), but he gave Cleveland a big lift with his energy. He, along with Okoro, helped limit Miami’s three-point shooting as Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson were a combined 1/10 from three-point range.

The Not So Great for the Cavaliers:

Third Quarter: Miami started the third on a 10-0 to cut the Cavs’ 11-point halftime lead to one. The Heat outscored Cleveland 29-23 in the quarter. Miami shot the ball well in third as they ended the quarter, shooting 58% from the floor and making five threes(5/9). The Heat cut the Cavs’ lead to 78-73, heading into the fourth. 

Bottom Line:

Cleveland is now 8-2 in their last 10 games and won those eight games by at least 11 points or more. In addition, five(Heat twice) of those eight wins are against teams above .500. 

Every night it seems like someone different steps up for this team. Tonight, it was Love and Okoro.

The chemistry Cleveland has is special, and after 29 games, they are the fourth seed in the East. Unreal!!

“We’re living in the moment, but our big-picture goals are toward the end of the year,” Love said.

What’s Next:

Cleveland’s three-game homestand concludes Wednesday night against the Rockets.

Best of the Rest:

Ricky Rubio had seven points and seven assists. Rubio hit a significant milestone Monday night as he recorded his 5,000 assist to the man he started his career in Minnesota with, Kevin Love.

Darius Garland had 16 points, five assists, and three steals.

P.J. Tucker led Miami with 23 points and nine rebounds, including five threes, and Kyle Lowry added 22 points(four threes) and five assists. Miami had five players in double figures.

Watch below as Love, Okoro, Allen react to Cavs’ win:

Bucks’ Tucker: ‘It’s the Eastern Conference finals; there’s no excuses’

Coming into Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals, the Atlanta Hawks knew they would be without their star guard Trae Young(bruised right foot) against the Bucks. However, Milwaukee lost its star player and could be without him the rest of the way.

Giannis Antetokounmpo left Game 4 with just over seven minutes to go in the third quarter and did not return after he hyperextended his left knee trying to block Clint Capela’s shot. The two-time MVP did come back to the bench but had a noticeable limp and returned to the locker room.

After Antetokounmpo’s injury, the Hawks, who led the Bucks by 10 when Antetokounmpo went out of the game, outscored the Bucks 25-10 the rest of the third quarter. Atlanta would take a 25-point lead into the fourth quarter and ultimately defeat the Bucks 110-88 at State Farm Arena to tie the series at 2.

Game 5 is Thursday night in Milwaukee.

Without Young, Lou Williams, the three-time 6th-man of the year award winner, got his first career postseason start on Tuesday night, and Williams had a game-high 21 points and eight assists.

“When superstar caliber guys go out, you put some other guys in the game, and their eyes are this wide, and they’re like this is a great opportunity for me to show and prove my abilities,” Williams said. “You don’t want to be the guys that let them off the hook because Giannis was off the floor. I think we all felt that energy, and we just ratcheted up our energy and continued to go.”

Jrue Holiday led the Bucks with 19 points, to go along with nine assists and five rebounds. According to Holiday, without Antetokounmpo, everybody else has to step up.

“I think just based off of how he was grabbing his leg, it seemed like it was pretty bad,” Holiday said. “So from there, you are concerned, and you don’t want to see anybody, especially a teammate, get hurt, but you kind of have to shift to somebody has to step up. Multiple people have to step up.”

P.J. Tucker, who had eight points on Tuesday night, added on Antetokounmpo: “It’s not good. Any time you see your best player go down, it’s not great. But it’s an opportunity for somebody else and everybody else to step up. It’s the Eastern Conference finals; there’s no excuses. It doesn’t matter whoever is playing, not playing. They’ve got guys out; everybody’s hurt, everybody’s banged up, everybody has injuries. You have to fight through it and win.”

Credit to Atlanta for the way they played in Game 4. They came out with more passion and energy than the Bucks, which is why they were able to tie this series at 2.

According to reports, Antetokounmpo is expected to get an MRI on Wednesday, so what happens with that MRI could determine how the rest of this series plays out. Depending on how things go with Young’s injury, both teams could be without their best player in Game 5.

Notes:

Bogdan Bogdanovic, who has been battling right knee soreness throughout the playoffs, had a breakout game for the Hawks. He scored 20 points(6-14 from downtown) on Tuesday night.

Before Game 4,  Bogdanovic scored 20 points in the first three games of this series combined.