Joel Embiid contract extension: 76ers give NBA MVP runner-up super-max deal through 2026-27, report says

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CBS Sports 17 August, 2021 - 12:08pm 32 views

Taliban pledged safe passage of civilians to Kabul airport, White House says

ESPN 17 August, 2021 - 01:32pm

Newly empowered Taliban militants have informed the U.S. that they are prepared to provide safe passage for civilians attempting to flee Afghanistan through Kabul's international airport, the White House said Tuesday.

"We intend to hold them to that commitment," national security advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters amid a barrage of questions about the Biden administration's handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, which was plunged into chaos as the Islamist insurgents quickly ousted its Western-backed government.

Sullivan also said the "chaotic" situation in the Afghan capital makes it premature to speculate about whether the Taliban could form a government the U.S. would recognize.

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As the Taliban moved into Kabul, thousands of Afghans rushed to Hamid Karzai International Airport, swarming the tarmac and crowding around planes. Some fell to their deaths as they desperately tried to escape the country by clinging to an aircraft as it took off.

Evacuation flights resumed at the airport Tuesday. Sullivan said that the airfield has been secured, and the White House expects that military cargo planes departing from Kabul will hold about 300 people each on average once the flow of evacuees ramps up.

Sullivan also acknowledged receiving reports of people "being turned away or pushed back or even beaten" by the Taliban as they try to cross checkpoints toward the airport.

"We are taking that up in a channel with the Taliban to try to resolve those issues. And we are concerned about whether that will continue to unfold in the coming days," Sullivan said. He added that most people are getting through the gate without issue.

The astonishing speed of the Taliban's takeover, and of the former Afghan government's collapse, surprised even the Biden administration, which has come under fire from critics across the political spectrum who say the disastrous situation is the result of a rushed and bungled withdrawal.

Lawmakers from both parties, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, D-N.J., have called for an investigation into the administration's attempt to remove all troops from Afghanistan after nearly two decades of war.

Biden "clearly did not accurately assess the implications of a rapid U.S. withdrawal" when implementing the "flawed plan," Menendez said in a release Tuesday afternoon.

The Pentagon's goal is to get between 5,000 and 9,000 people out of Kabul daily, said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Henry Taylor, a logistics specialist on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a news conference Tuesday.

Taylor said about 4,000 U.S. troops are stationed in the capital to aid in the evacuation efforts and provide security.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul, which was fully evacuated as the Taliban swept the city, on Monday advised would-be evacuees to fill out a form and shelter in place while awaiting an email with further instructions.

Some of Sullivan's remarks in the contentious briefing echoed President Joe Biden's rhetoric from a major speech a day earlier, when he defended the decision to pull America out of the country as the better of two bad options.

Biden in that address took responsibility for the move, saying "the buck stops with me" — though he also spoke at length about what he described as the lack of willingness by the U.S.-trained Afghan army to fight the Taliban.

Asked to clarify if Biden also accepted responsibility for the gut-wrenching scenes of panic and mayhem at the Kabul airport, Sullivan said the president owns every good decision and "every decision that doesn't produce perfect outcomes" with respect to the withdrawal.

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Nine Perfect Strangers Is Alluring But Empty

The Sportsrush 17 August, 2021 - 11:50am

That’s what the guests at Tranquillum House, the wellness resort at the center of Nine Perfect Strangers, hope will happen to them when they arrive at this seemingly idyllic luxury cure-all compound. They want to become better versions of themselves and, while skeptical, believe there’s a chance that Tranquillum’s guru, a celestial enigma of a woman named Masha (Nicole Kidman), can help them get there. Whether or not you’ve read the Liane Moriarty novel that inspired this new Hulu limited series, you can probably already guess that Masha has some surprisingly unorthodox ideas about treatment as well as some personal secrets, that the Tranquillum guests come with both literal and emotional baggage as well as their own personal secrets, and that many of these secrets will be slowly revealed in an environment that grows tense as often as it enables healing.

With that provocative premise, the prolific David E. Kelley as showrunner, and a cast packed with acclaimed actors — Kidman is joined by, among others, Melissa McCarthy, Bobby Cannavale, Regina Hall, and Michael Shannon — Nine Perfect Strangers arrives with all its indicator lights signaling that it could be the next must-see limited series. But it’s not, not quite. It’s certainly watchable — with that ensemble and such an alluring setting (it takes place in California but was filmed in bucolic Byron Bay in New South Wales, Australia), watchability is practically guaranteed. But somehow the show manages to feel too contrived and too thinly conceived at the same time.

It doesn’t help Nine Perfect Strangers that it’s debuting three days after the finale of Mike White’s The White Lotus, a limited series that’s also about self-involved rich people at a resort but that develops its characters with more nuance, has a stronger command of tone, and benefits from a clearer, singular point of view. As scripted by a small group of writers that includes Kelley and Jonathan Levine, who directs all eight episodes, Nine Perfect Strangers comes across by comparison as a work of television that’s still in search of its identity.

The first episode, one of three that drop on Wednesday to be followed by a weekly episode-by-episode rollout, introduces all of the (mostly) wealthy visitors as they arrive at Tranquillum House. There’s Frances (McCarthy), a blunt best-selling author struggling with the end of a recent personal relationship and the news that her publisher has dropped her upcoming book; Tony (Cannavale), an addict who immediately becomes Frances’s nemesis; Carmel (Hall), a single mom whose gentleness masks some serious anger issues; social influencer Jessica (Samara Weaving) and conspicuous consumer Ben (Melvin Gregg), who are aiming to work on their fractured marriage; Napoleon Marconi (Shannon), his wife, Heather (Australian actress Asher Keddie), and their daughter, Zoe (Grace Van Patten), who are grieving the loss of the fourth Marconi, Zoe’s twin brother, Zach, and staying at Tranquillum at a discounted rate; and the most openly cynical of the bunch, Lars (Luke Evans), who may have ulterior motives for seeking treatment.

As their stays unfold, each of the guests participates in an array of activities designed to open their minds and help them face their issues, from lying in open graves to engaging in potato-sack races. They’re regularly treated to smoothies custom-designed for each of them based on their medical profiles … or so they are told. They also receive coveted one-on-one time with Masha, who carries herself with the serenity of a person with great wisdom, or at least a person who fervently believes she knows everything.

Kidman is uniquely suited to radiating the guru’s unearthly kind of serenity, emphasized — or perhaps overemphasized — by Masha’s flowing blonde hair, which is presumably rinsed with shampoo that contains aloe, flecks of pulverized healing crystals, and natural prestige-TV extracts. Masha is a magnetic, slippery figure whose motivations and ethics are still vague to viewers even after watching the six episodes provided to critics. That, not to mention a liberal interpretation of Masha’s accent — during a recent session of the virtual Television Critics Association press tour, Kidman said Masha speaks seven languages, including Russian — allows the actress to remain unbound in her choices.

The problem is that the show is so determined to maintain some amount of mystery around Masha that she lacks specificity. As written, she seems less like a human and more like a construct created to push the buttons of her guests and the plot points dictated by the narrative. This is the third time Kidman has collaborated with Kelley — they worked together on Big Little Lies and The Undoing — and this is her least convincing performance of those three. But it’s also the least convincing series Kelley has executive-produced alongside Kidman.

On the list of things viewers seem to relish in their premium-cable and streaming series, this show ticks a lot of boxes. Cultlike intrigue: check. Sexual entanglements: check. (Masha has an unusual relationship with each of her two closest assistants, Yao (Manny Jacinto) and Delilah (Tiffany Boone), who happen to be romantically involved.) The possibility that someone could be murdered: check, thanks to a story line in which an anonymous stalker keeps threatening Masha’s life.

Like a semi-satisfying beach read, Nine Perfect Strangers keeps you curious enough to want to know what happens next. Its actors are clearly doing their damnedest to plumb some depths in a mostly shallow pool. Both Cannavale, who wrings relatability out of a guy who initially seems like a class-A jerk, and Shannon, who adorns Napoleon with an aggressive optimism that is both heartbreaking and deeply cringey, are standouts. But you expect a series with this much talent to actually have something to say. And Nine Perfect Strangers never does.

At times, it seems as if it might be a send-up of wellness fads, but it’s too heartfelt for that. It’s not consistent enough as a satire of the wealthy and neurotic to be defined as such. The stakes are never high enough to make the show an effective thriller or a meaningful drama. Nine Perfect Strangers is to its audience kind of like Tranquillum House is to the group of troubled men and women who decide to stay there: a place that sounds like a great investment on paper but feels confusing and not quite what you expected once you arrive.

Joel Embiid Signs a Massive Contract Extension to Stay in Philly

bleachernation.com 17 August, 2021 - 09:03am

According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, the Philidelphia 76ers have agreed to a four-year, fully-guaranteed $196 million supermax extension with superstar Joel Embiid.

The big man became supermax eligible thanks to a second-place MVP finish and All-NBA Second Team nod. He will now be inked throughout his prime, finishing this current deal at the age of 32 in the 2026-27 season.

Extension takes Embiid through 2026-2027 season and guarantees him a total of $261 million. https://t.co/0nqeUtxwfn

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 17, 2021

The massive extension shows plenty of interest on Embiid’s part to continue his ascent up the league ranks in Philly, as this new supermax deal will not come into effect until the 2023-24 season.

The contract also continues a long offseason of massive extensions for some of the game’s biggest stars, including Stephen Curry’s four-year $215 million deal, Luka Donicic’s five-year $207 million deal, Trae Young’s five-year $207 million, Kevin Durant’s four-year $198 million deal, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s five-year $172 million deal. That’s a lot of cheddar.

With Joel Embiid's extension, and the ones recently signed by Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, we have reached the point where elite NBA players are being signed to deals that eventually will hover around $700,000 per game. Per game. Played or not played. Load managed or not.

— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) August 17, 2021

Elias Schuster is a writer for Bleacher Nation and a human being. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.

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