Shootaround (Feb. 18): Should 76ers hold out rookie Ben Simmons until next season?
Kemba regrets All-Star Weekend not in Charlotte | Should Ben Simmons try again next season? | Pistons looking to trade Jackson? | Pacers want help for George
No. 1: Kemba regrets All-Star Weekend not in Charlotte — The Hornets have only their second All-Star since being reborn in Charlotte and his only regret is that he isn’t hosting the Weekend. Kemba Walker would be in the same role as Anthony Davis is right now, except the NBA pulled the All-Star Game from Charlotte because of the “bathroom bill” which the league deemed discriminatory. Walker and the Hornets wholeheartedly support the punishment; he just wishes it hadn’t come to this point. Walker spoke about the “lost weekend” with Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer:
When a reporter asked Walker Friday in New Orleans what his feeling was about the All-Star Game being moved out of his home arena, Walker said: “I hated it. I hated it. It sucks. I would have loved to have been at home in Charlotte. … But unfortunately we can’t. Now we’re here in New Orleans, and I’m really excited just to achieve this accomplishment. But, yeah, it definitely sucks to not be in Charlotte.”
The weekend will provide a welcome bit of joy for Walker, who hasn’t shown much of that on the court lately. The Hornets (24-32) limp into the All-Star break having gone 1-10 over their past 11 games and would be out of the playoffs if they started today. Walker also has not been playing as well as he did early in the season, when he cemented his All-Star berth.
But the weekend will nevertheless be a nice change of pace for him.
Walker tabbed defending champion Klay Thompson as the front-runner for Saturday night’s 3-point contest and predicted that there will be little rim-protecting in the All-Star Game Sunday night.
“Unless the game is close and it gets to the fourth quarter, I’m not sure there will be too much defense,” Walker said.
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No. 2: Should Ben Simmons try again next season? — There is growing support in Philadelphia for the Sixers to keep injured but mending rookie Ben Simmons on the bench and wait to unleash him next season. The rationale is simple: Why throw Simmons on the floor for two months, when his minutes would be rationed anyway, and potentially risk a re-injury when the team is possibly headed for another non-playoff season anyway? What is the gain? Why not grab another lottery pick and continue stockpiling the roster with assets? The latest person on the ‘Keep Simmons Benched’ movement is Mike Sielski of the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Sit him down. Keep him on the bench. Tie him to the bench and place his feet atop a pair of Royal Hotel goose-down pillows. Assign an assistant coach to do nothing but monitor Ben Simmons and make sure he stays tied to the bench with his feet atop those pillows. Stuff him in an 8-foot-tall cardboard box, line it with bubble wrap, and pour Styrofoam peanuts into it to make sure his surroundings are cushioning his right foot – and the rest of his body, for that matter – and keeping him safe.
Now that we know that Simmons’ right fifth metatarsal bone – the bone that he broke on Sept. 30, the injury that has kept him from playing in a single regular-season game for the 76ers – is still not fully healed, the Sixers’ next course of action is clear: stop the obfuscation and subterfuge. Call a news conference. And without equivocation, without putting coach Brett Brown in that familiar position – forcing him to say something that eventually could come back to compromise his integrity – announce that Simmons will not play this season.
It would be the best thing, for both the Sixers and Simmons. Let’s start with the franchise and its power people: principal owner Josh Harris, president Bryan Colangelo, chief executive officer Scott O’Neil. For whatever reason – a desire to keep hopes and ticket sales as high as possible, a misunderstanding of a sports market that is forever bubbling and seething over its teams’ fortunes and demands openness and honesty from its athletes and coaches and executives, pure self-interest – the Sixers have created for themselves a crisis of trust. No one believes them anymore. Joel Embiid is fine. Joel Embiid has a bone bruise. Joel Embiid won’t play tomorrow night. Oh, yes, about that torn meniscus. We did know about that, but it wasn’t a big deal. And of course, we expect Ben to play this season. Why wouldn’t we?
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No. 3: Pistons looking to trade Jackson? — This is the time of year when teams performing below expectations try to shake up the roster. Do the Pistons qualify? They’re still on the playoff bubble in the East and Stan Van Gundy, who doubles as the coach and team president, might be getting restless. Now along comes a report that Van Gundy is shopping guard Reggie Jackson and perhaps to Orlando. Van Gundy was a big fan of Jackson’s and was thrilled to get the point guard from Oklahoma City a few years ago but Jackson’s production has slipped this season and Van Gundy could be exploring options. Here’s Marc Stein of ESPN.com with the story:
If the talks with Orlando progress to a serious stage, Detroit would have to include at least one more player to make the salary-cap math work.
In the second year of a five-year, $80 million deal, Jackson is averaging 15.2 points and 5.6 assists. But the Pistons — who expected coming into the season to make a bid for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs — are 16-20 since the 26-year-old returned to the lineup. Detroit got off to an 11-10 start when Jackson was out to start the season, recuperating from persistent knee tendinitis.
In an interview with Lowe published earlier this week, Van Gundy acknowledged: “Reggie came back, and we’ve struggled ever since.”
Referring to backup point guard Ish Smith, Pistons center Andre Drummond told Lowe: “We found a groove with Ish. And when Reggie came back, it has been a big adjustment.”
Drummond, though, also made it clear to Lowe that he supports Jackson, saying: “Reggie is my best friend. I’ll always have his back. We are going to figure this out.”
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No. 4: Pacers want help for George — Will a first-round pick that’s expected to fall in the middle of the round be enough to fetch help for Paul George? That’s the report floating lately, that the Pacers are anxious enough to add help to a stagnant roster that they’re willing to part with their first-rounder. Whether that’s enough to entice a team to surrender an acceptable player is uncertain, but it’s clear the Pacers are open to upgrading their team before Thursday’s trade deadline rather than wait until this summer. Here’s Chris Haynes of ESPN with the story:
In what is considered to be a deep draft, the Pacers are hoping that such an asset would translate to the addition of either an established wing or established frontline player, according to sources.
There is hesitancy within the organization to relinquish the precious pick, but the Pacers (29-28) have lost six in a row (only the nine-win Nets currently have a longer losing streak, at 14 games) and are only two games from dropping into the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
George can opt out of his contract at the end of the 2017-18 season. The Pacers have a small window to provide him with a championship-type supporting cast.
And whether he signs an extension this summer probably will be predicated on the moves the franchise can execute up to that point.
George is fixated on bringing a title to Indiana. On numerous occasions, including on Friday, he has voiced his desire to be a revered Pacers figure.
“I wanted to be the first and want to be the first to be able to bring a championship to Indiana,” George told ESPN Radio on Friday morning. “So that’s still on my mind … and something I definitely want to achieve in Indiana.”
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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Is Rob Hennigan in trouble in Orlando? With the Magic continuing to struggle on the court or put themselves in playoff contention, the general manager’s job has come into question. Team boss Alex Martins said everything will be reviewed in the off-season … Pistons assistant coach and former Heat great Tim Hardaway is on the front line for gay rights and is making amends for his poor choice of words a few years ago … Draymond Green isn’t pushing for pending free agents Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston to take pay cuts in order to keep the team together … DeAndre Jordan takes more dunks than almost anyone in the NBA yet is feeling nervous about Saturday’s dunk contest, his first.