Ben Simmons

And-Ones: Combine, Coach Challenges, World Cup

Eleven prospects who participated in this week’s G League Elite Camp in Chicago have been invited to stick around to attend the actual draft combine, which will begin today and run through this Sunday.

According to a tweet from the NBA G League, those 11 players are as follows: Oshae Brissett (Syracuse), Tyler Cook (Iowa), Terence Davis (Ole Miss), Tacko Fall (UCF), Jared Harper (Auburn), Dewan Hernandez (Miami), DaQuan Jeffries (Tulsa), Terance Mann (Florida State), Cody Martin (Nevada), Reggie Perry (Mississippi State), and Marial Shayok (Iowa State).

A total of 40 draft-eligible prospects who weren’t initially invited to the draft combine worked out in front of NBA teams at the G League Elite Camp. Teams were then polled on which prospects they’d most like to get a longer look at for this week’s combine. The group of 11 prospects who were chosen will join the 65 players who were initially announced as combine participants last week.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Multiple sources tell ESPN’s Zach Lowe that the “liveliest” topic of discussion at Tuesday’s GM meetings involved the possibility of instituting a system for coaches’ replay challenges, which exist in many other major sports. According to Lowe, not everyone agreed on what should be reviewable, with some GMs arguing that coaches should be able to challenge foul calls, while others disagreed. There was also discussion about whether a challenge should cost a team a timeout, regardless of whether a call is reversed or upheld.
  • Sixers All-Star Ben Simmons announced this week that he intends to play for Australia in the 2019 FIBA World Cup (link via ESPN.com). He’ll be joined on the Australian squad by Jazz sharpshooter Joe Ingles, tweets Tony Jones of The Athletic. However, Roy Ward of The Age Sport (Twitter link) hears that Ingles’ teammate Dante Exum is unlikely to participate in the event due to his knee injury.
  • The NBA and the National Basketball Coaches Association are creating a program intended to better identify and illuminate potential coaches among groups that are underrepresented, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. “We are not talking about a quota system,” Mavericks coach and NBCA president Rick Carlisle told ESPN. “Rival leagues have proven that mandates and demands for diverse hiring practices do not work. Our goal is an absolute equal opportunity for all our members to develop their skills on a level playing field.”

Sixers Notes: Brown, Butler, Harris, Redick

Prior to Sunday’s Game Seven, a report indicated that Brett Brown could be in danger of losing his job if he couldn’t lead his Sixers past the Raptors (and perhaps the Bucks too). Now that the 76ers have been eliminated, we’re still waiting for official word on where Brown stands, but many of his players would like to see him back on the sidelines next season, as Keith Pompey of Philly.com writes.

“I would say this in general. For any NBA team, when you think about a coach, and potentially replacing that coach, you have to consider what coaches are available,” J.J. Redick said. “You know what I mean? That’s just in general. I don’t feel it necessary to defend Brett to anyone. I think his work speaks for itself.”

Jimmy Butler and Joel Embiid also offered up praise for Brown, with Butler stating, “I think he’s going to be here for a long time.” Embiid called rumors about Brown’s hot seat “bulls—,” adding, “I don’t think he should have anything to worry about.”

The unity displayed by many of the Sixers’ key players on Brown may reflect a deeper sense of family and culture that has developed in Philadelphia this year, as Jake Fischer of SI.com tweets. According to Fischer, multiple people close to the team have credited Embiid and Ben Simmons for helping cultivate that culture by embracing one another as franchise partners.

As we wait to learn Brown’s fate, let’s round up several more items on the Sixers:

  • Embiid would like to see both of Philadelphia’s top free agents – Butler and Tobias Harris – return next season, calling them “great guys on and off the court,” tweets Pompey. Here’s what Butler said about his upcoming free agency, per Derek Bodner of The Athletic (Twitter link): “I haven’t thought about (free agency) too much…You always want to be able to win. I think that’s key for sure. You’re looking at coaches. You’re looking at the city. There’s a lot that goes in to it.”
  • They won’t be paid like Butler and Harris, but Redick and Mike Scott both expressed interest in returning to the Sixers as free agents too (Twitter links via Pompey and Kyle Neubeck of The Philly Voice). Redick said he’d like to finish his career in Philadelphia, while Scott said he has spoken to both GM Elton Brand and head coach Brett Brown, telling them he’d like to play under Brown next season.
  • In an Insider-only piece, ESPN’s Bobby Marks previews the Sixers’ offseason, writing that failing to re-sign at least one of Butler or Harris would be a “disaster” for the franchise. In his own look at the Sixers’ summer, Sean Deveney of Sporting News suggests Harris is more likely to return than Butler, but he expects the team to do all it can to bring back both forwards.
  • The safe bet heading into the offseason is that the Sixers bring back a relatively similar roster and count on increased familiarity with one another to lead to continued improvement. However, as Tom Haberstroh of NBC Sports writes, some executives around the NBA wouldn’t be shocked to see wholesale changes in Philadelphia this summer.

Sixers Notes: Butler, Simmons, Brown, Embiid

Jimmy Butler proved he’s worth a max offer this summer with his performance against the Raptors in Game 6, contends Marcus Hayes of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Butler contributed 25 points, six rebounds and eight assists as the Sixers forced a seventh game. He also provided the type of leadership the franchise was counting on when it traded for him in November.

“In the first half, the authority and the skill package and his will — put whatever words you want,” coach Brett Brown said. “You could sense the serious side. He got it as much as anybody. He led us. His performance mirrored his attitude.”

It could cost the Sixers up to approximately $190MM over five years to keep Butler once he opts out of his current contract. It won’t be an easy decision in a summer when Tobias Harris will also want a max deal and fellow starter J.J. Redick will be a free agent, but it may be a commitment that Philadelphia has to make.

There’s more Sixers news to pass along:

  • Ben Simmons seemed like a different player in Game 6 with a 21/8/6 line after being limited to 10 or fewer points in the previous four games. Zach Lowe of ESPN examines whether the Sixers can ever win big with Simmons on their roster, concluding that he may have to settle for a role similar to Draymond Green on offense until he can develop a jump shot.
  • Brown’s fate shouldn’t depend on having to win tonight’s Game 7, writes Derek Bodner of the Athletic. A report surfaced yesterday that Brown will likely be fired if the Sixers can’t advance past the second round, and they may have to reach the NBA Finals for him to save his job. Bodner states that determining Brown’s future based on one game would be a poor decision from managing partner Josh Harris, who has long valued process over results.
  • Joel Embiid is on the brink of a suspension after picking up his third flagrant foul of the playoffs late in Thursday’s game, notes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. The league office decided not to rescind the flagrant 1, which was called when Embiid struck Marc Gasol in the face while they were battling for a rebound. “It’s annoying, it’s stupid,” Embiid said after the game. “I feel like the one in Brooklyn should be rescinded and tonight, it’s just basketball. I didn’t mean to do it. I just happened to hit him in the face I guess and didn’t mean to do it.”

Eastern Notes: Simmons, Dolan, Wizards, Hawks Workouts

Sixers guard Ben Simmons has been assessed a Flagrant One foul and fined $20K for striking Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry in the groin on Thursday, according to a tweet from the league’s PR department. The incident occurred during the second quarter of Game 3, which Philadelphia won 116-95. Simmons, who had 10 points, seven assists and seven rebounds in the game, was whistled for three common fouls.

We have more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Shareholders of Madison Square Garden Company have filed a suit against Knicks owner James Dolan, its executive chairman and CEO, for being grossly overpaid, Pitchfork.com reports. Over the last three fiscal years, MSG has paid Dolan $75.6MM, according to company filings. MSG’s peer companies have paid their CEOs an average of $17MM over the same period, according to the lawsuit. The filing also claims that Dolan “works at MSG only part time,” with much of his focus going toward touring and recording for his band JD & the Straight Shot. MSG has labelled the lawsuit “nothing more than corporate harassment.”
  • Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly and Wizards interim GM Tommy Sheppard are potential candidates, along with Danny Ferry, for Washington’s top executive post, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said in a Wizards Talk Podcast relayed by NBC Sports Washington’s Caroline Brandt. Ferry, who most recently was interim GM with the Pelicans, interviewed for the job this week. Windhorst also indicated there’s at least one mystery candidate the Wizards will pursue. “There may be another name or two that I’m not willing to say just yet who may be on the Wizards’ list,” Windhorst said.
  • The Hawks brought in six players for pre-draft workouts on Friday, according to a team press release. Forward/center Nathan Knight of William & Mary, forwards Anthony Lamb (Vermont), Kouat Noi (TCU) and Killian Tillie (Gonzaga) and guards Andrew Nembhard (Florida) and D’Marcus Simonds (Georgia State) participated in the workout. Tillie is the highest-ranked prospect in the group, currently rated No. 82 overall by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.

Atlantic Notes: Zion, Raptors, Loyd, Moreland, Sixers

The Knicks apparently won’t have to worry about Zion Williamson demanding a trade if they win the lottery. Williamson said on Friday that he would “love to play” for the Knicks if they drafted him, Adam Zagoria of the New York Times tweets. The Duke freshman made the remark during a Final Four press conference while accepting the Oscar Robertson (Player of the Year) Award. He went on to say he’d be happy to go wherever he was drafted.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Raptors made a number of cost-cutting moves during the course of the season that saved an approximate $18MM, as Blake Murphy of The Athletic details. Waiving Lorenzo Brown, dumping the salaries of Malachi Richardson and Greg Monroe, trading three players for Marc Gasol, getting Gasol to waive his trade kicker, and signing players to 10-day contracts to meet roster requirements all contributed to a healthier bottom line.
  • The Raptors still have an open roster spot heading toward the playoffs and will likely sign a player, Murphy writes in the same story. Guard Jordan Loyd’s two-way contract could be converted to a standard contract and center Eric Moreland, who recently played on a 10-day contract, is another candidate. Veteran center Marcin Gortat could also be in play.
  • The 76ers believe their powerhouse starting lineup will be the difference in the playoffs, even though they haven’t played much together, Michael Lee of The Athletic reports. They’ve gone 8-2 in games that Tobias Harris, J.J. Redick, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Jimmy Butler have all been available to play. “Although that starting group hasn’t played that much basketball together, especially relative to the other teams, the excitement is to take the talent we have and quickly try to maximize that,” coach Brett Brown said.

Injury Notes: Embiid, Richardson, McCaw

Joel Embiid will miss the next three games for the Sixers, starting with tonight’s tilt against the Timberwolves, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. The move to leave Embiid home during the three-game road trip is part of pre-determined maintenance.

Embiid missed time following the All-Star break with knee soreness and other players, such as Jimmy Butler and Ben Simmons, have also missed time because of injury and rest concerns. As a result, the team’s starting five has only played in 10 games together this season, as I detailed last week.

Here’s more injury notes from around the league:

  • Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said there is no timetable for Josh Richardson (left heel) to return to action, as Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald relays on Twitter. Spoelstra added that he doesn’t believe Richardson is done for the season.
  • Patrick McCaw will be in a splint for approximately three weeks, according to a Raptors press release. He will be re-evaluated at that time.
  • Kyrie Irving and Al Horford will both miss tonight’s contest against the Nets, Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com passes along. Irving’s nursing a sore back while Horford has a sore left knee. Neither player is expected to miss an extended period of time for the Celtics.

And-Ones: NBA Execs Poll, Mourning, Reid, Gray

Various NBA executives and coaches were polled this month by Tim Bontemps of ESPN, questioned on which sophomore player they’d rather have: Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum or De’Aaron Fox.

All four players are considered to be among the league’s best young talent, but ranking the players is tougher than what it seems. The polling from the ESPN article largely echoed the results of the 2018 Rookie of the Year Award race, with Simmons ranking first, Mitchell second, Tatum third, and Fox fourth. Simmons received as many first-place votes (nine) as the other three players did combined.

“Simmons is in his own class,” an Eastern Conference executive told Bontemps, “because of his size and passing ability, plus his defense. Having the ability to control the game at both ends is really valuable.”

Of the four players, Simmons is the only talent without a reliable jumpshot. The thought of him one day having a consistent jumper — in addition to his already mesmerizing passing, rebounding and driving abilities — could strike fear in teams around the league.

However, not all of those polled agreed with Simmons being one of the top choices of the four players.

“Simmons doesn’t shoot,” one West executive said. “If you’re a championship-caliber team, non-shooters can’t be on the floor.”

“He’s really f—ing good,” another said. “But where do you play him?”

Here are some more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • NBA legend Alonzo Mourning is among 11 world class basketball personalities that make up FIBA Hall of Fame’s 2019 class of inductees, FIBA announced this week. Mourning joins Janeth Arcain (Brazil), Bogdan Tanjevic (Montenegro) and others to be inducted, having helped Team USA win the FIBA Basketball World Cup in 1994. He also went on to help win a gold medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
  • LSU expects to lose 19-year-old forward Naz Reid for the NBA Draft this spring, Adam Zagoria of Zagsblog.com writes. “Yeah, we’re expecting to lose him,” LSU assistant Greg Heiar admitted last week. “If you’re a top-20 pick in the draft, you need to go. You need to go. It’s what his dream is so we want him to chase his dream. You never want to hold a young man back.” Along with Reid, another LSU player who could garner professional interest in the coming months is Tremont Waters, an improved 5’11” point guard with impressive handles and court vision.
  • Free agent Rob Gray has agreed to a deal in France with JL Bourg, according to Sportando. Gray started the 2018/19 season with Fort Wayne in the NBA G League, with their campaign officially coming to an end this past week. Gray played summer league and later joined the Rockets for training camp last fall, getting waived before the season began.

No Tampering Penalty For Lakers’ Comments On Simmons

The NBA has announced that it completed its investigation into possible contact between Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and Sixers star Ben Simmons and found no wrongdoing.

“We have concluded that Magic Johnson’s statements regarding Ben Simmons do not constitute a tampering violation,” the league said in its statement. “The Philadelphia 76ers initiated the contact with the Los Angeles Lakers by requesting a meeting between Johnson and Simmons. Both organizations ultimately concluded that such a meeting did not make sense at this time but in that context, Johnson’s response to a media inquiry regarding Simmons does not run afoul of league rules.”

Johnson kicked off an unusual news cycle over the weekend by revealing that Simmons had interest in meeting with him during the offseason to pick his brain about playing in the NBA as a point guard with size. While Johnson said he was open to the idea, subsequent reports indicated that both teams had decided it wouldn’t happen. Nonetheless, the league looked into the matter to see if there was communication between Lakers and the Simmons that violated anti-tampering rules.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com and Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times painted a clearer picture of the chain of events, reporting that Simmons initially mentioned his idea to a member of the Sixers. According to Ganguli, that person was Allen Lumpkin, Philadelphia’s director of basketball administration, who reached out to Lakers GM Rob Pelinka. Pelinka, in turn, called 76ers GM Elton Brand, and both GMs decided they were uncomfortable with the idea.

Brand told ESPN that he considers the situation a non-issue, and apologized to the Lakers for insinuating during a Monday radio appearance they they reached out to the Sixers unprompted to ask about a Simmons/Johnson meeting, per Shelburne.

The Lakers were fined $500K in 2017 for tampering with Paul George, and were hit with another $50K fine last year after Johnson made comments about Giannis Antetokounmpo. On Monday, Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry was penalized $25K for publicly discussing Anthony Davis.

Lakers Notes: Simmons, Hart, Ball, Zubac

The Lakers released a statement stating that the Sixers had sought their permission for floor leader Ben Simmons to speak with team president Magic Johnson, Dave McMenamin of ESPN tweets. Philadelphia emailed the Lakers in November, according to the statement, asking if Simmons could speak with Johnson about his Hall of Fame career. Lakers GM Rob Pelinka subsequently told Sixers GM Elton Brand that Johnson could only do that with Philadelphia’s written pre-approval. That was the end of the matter, the release adds. The league has launched an investigation to determine if any communication between the parties violated league rules.

We have more on the Lakers:

  • Guard Josh Hart received a PRP injection to treat tendinitis in his right knee, according to a team press release. Hart will be re-evaluated after the All-Star break, the release adds. Hart didn’t play in blowout losses against Indiana and Philadelphia and only lasted eight scoreless minutes against Boston.
  • Lonzo Ball isn’t considered a defensive specialist but the Lakers have missed him at that end of the court, Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times notes. The Lakers’ defensive rating is the third-worst in the league in the nine games since Ball was sidelined by a severe ankle sprain. “He allows us to switch a lot,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “If they want to run any pick and roll minus the center, the 1-5 pick and roll, we can just switch it. And we feel confident Lonzo can guard most of the other players there. We have Lonzo picking up full-court the other team’s points guard. He’s great at instincts, getting deflections.”
  • Trading young center Ivica Zubac to the Clippers to ‘rent’ power forward Mike Muscala doesn’t make much sense, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report argues. Zubac could have been an inexpensive, long-term contributor for the Lakers, Pincus continues. He would have been a restricted free agent with a modest cap hold of $1.9 million. Muscala’s cap hold is $9.5MM and he might not be any more productive than Zubac would have been the rest of this season.
  • LeBron James claims the reason he drafted Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis for his All-Star team had nothing to do with recruiting, according to another Ganguli story. “That’s all part of the speculation that continues to drive our sport,” he said. “It’s all good and well and dandy, but for me I picked according to my draft board and I picked according to who was the best available.”

Atlantic Notes: B. Simmons, Lakers, Gasol, Knicks

Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson told reporters over the weekend that Ben Simmons had reached out to the team asking if he could get together with Johnson during the offseason to talk to him about playing in the NBA as a point guard with size. While Johnson suggested he’d be on board if the Sixers, the Lakers, and the NBA all signed off, it sounds like it won’t happen.

Appearing on 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia (Twitter link), Sixers GM Elton Brand said today that Lakers GM Rob Pelinka contacted him to ask for authorization and Brand said no “over a month ago.” Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter link) hears a different account, citing a source who says that the 76ers initiated the discussion about Simmons wanting to meet with Johnson, with Pelinka calling Brand back to say the Lakers weren’t comfortable with it.

While it’s not clear which team shot down the idea first, neither side appears to be on board, so presumably Simmons and Johnson won’t meet this summer. The fact that the young 76er is represented by Rich Paul is sure to generate some speculation, but Ganguli tweets that Simmons’ desire to talk to Johnson was simply due to their on-court similarities, and he intends to be a Sixer for a long time.

Ganguli’s report won’t necessarily satisfy the NBA though. According to league spokesperson Mike Bass, the NBA is looking into whether there was any communication between Simmons and the Lakers that violated league rules (Twitter link via Ganguli).

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Marc Gasol waived the 15% trade kicker on his contract to help finalize the trade sending him to Toronto last week, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks on The Lowe Post podcast. While the trade bonus would only have been worth about $1.29MM, Gasol’s decision could save the Raptors about $3.2MM in projected tax penalties, as Blake Murphy of The Athletic notes (via Twitter).
  • Speaking of Gasol, the Raptors are still experimenting with a fluid frontcourt rotation as they figure out how to best use Gasol, Serge Ibaka, and Pascal Siakam, head coach Nick Nurse said today (Twitter link via Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca).
  • Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic takes a wide-ranging look at what the summer could bring for the Knicks and their two maximum-salary contract slots, from the “utopia” outcome to the “doomsday” scenario.