Morning Shootaround

Shootaround (June 19) -- Markelle Fultz excited to potentially land with Philadelphia 76ers

Plus, a look at why the Minnesota Timberwolves passed on Stephen Curry in 2009 and more from around the NBA Staff

This morning’s headlines:

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Fultz looks forward to teaming with Simmons, Embiid — With the Philadelphia 76ers apparently in agreement with the Boston Celtics to acquire the first pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft, likely No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz swung through Philly this weekend for a workout. And according to Fultz, he can’t wait to team up with the 76ers’ your core of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, as Keith Pompey writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Fultz thinks his skill set would be a great fit for the Sixers, who like to get out in transition and stress defense.

“I think the tools that I have to be a defensive player will help them get out in transition,” he said. “I’m a pretty good shot- blocker for a point guard. So I think, helping them with that, everything will pretty much help with that.”

The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Fultz made 41.3 percent of his shots from the college 3-point line. Finding a shooter with his 3-point ability was a priority for the Sixers. As he pointed out, Fultz can slide off the ball and be a solid addition next to Simmons.

Fultz already has a bond with the team’s best player, Joel Embiid. The center posted a selfie Saturday of himself and Dario Saric standing in from of a locker with a Markelle Fultz nameplate at the Sixers’ practice facility.

“First of all, Embiid, he and I have been talking before when I was in college,” Fultz said. “He’s a cool guy.”

Embiid has been giving Fultz tips in addition to making him laugh.

“So when I saw that it was pretty cool and pretty funny,” he said of the selfie. “I’m pretty happy that the players here want to come here.”

The Sixers, who selected Simmons first last summer, will become the second team in five years to have consecutive No. 1 picks. The Cleveland Cavaliers drafted Anthony Bennett in 2013 and Andrew Wiggins a year later.

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Why the Timberwolves passed on Steph Curry — With the NBA Draft just hours away, former Minnesota Timberwolves GM David Kahn writes for Sports Illustrated about the 2009 NBA Draft, when the Timberwolves passed on Stephen Curry. As Kahn recalls, part of Minnesota passing on Curry was because of a caution from Steph’s father, Dell:

And, in a much lesser known incident, it happened to me. In 2009, just days after my May 22 hiring as President of Basketball Operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves, the agent for Steph Curry told me that Steph’s father, Dell, did not want his son to be drafted by Minnesota—“No offense,” as I recall Jeff Austin, his agent saying to me at the Chicago draft combine.

Jeff Austin, who I’d known casually, had represented Dell Curry when he was a player. He had been handed Steph due to his connection to Dell and told me this was a family request. “I really need your help on this,” Jeff said, explaining why there would be no visit and perhaps even hell-to-pay. (As it turned out, this was the only time when I was with the Wolves that I ever ran into this type of draft problem.)

The back-channel message would have weighed heavily in my decision-making process under any circumstances, but especially in Minnesota. Immediately after my hire, I was spending nearly every weekday morning in the team’s conference room, listening to team business partners and season-ticket holders lament over coffee and pastries. “You’ll never attract free agents here,” they said, practically in unison. “Players don’t want to play in cold-weather places.” Doomsday all around.

I figured it was probably the wrong time to tell them about the Currys.

The intensity of the fans’ conviction that players would never come to Minneapolis caught me by surprise. I had worked in another small market—Indianapolis—for almost a decade and always understood there were inherent advantages to being in New York or Los Angeles. But we never felt we were incapable of competing for players.

Complicating matters was Ricky Rubio, an 18-year-old Spaniard who had a rare flair for passing and setting up scorers, and had captivated me. Two weeks before the draft, I made a trade with Washington, sending Randy Foye and Mike Miller for the No. 5 pick in the draft. This allowed us the flexibility to draft Rubio, who had a major buyout in his contract likely preventing him from coming to the NBA right away—and who many believed would never play in Minnesota and force a trade.

So we now had the Nos. 5 and 6 picks in the draft. Taking not one, but two players who might not want to play in Minnesota? That would have taken real cojones. We took Rubio and Jonny Flynn, a ready-to-play point guard who started 81 games for us as a rookie and then fell victim to a terrible hip injury. At the time, drafting Flynn made a lot of sense: we didn’t have a single point guard on the roster and our staff had ranked him No. 1 among all point-guard prospects for not only his on-court play, but also his strong leadership qualities, a significant team need.

Flynn made his final move to the top of our charts based on his impressive visit and workout with Tyreke Evans and Brandon Jennings, among others. Curry’s absence was duly noted. Rubio wasn’t there, either, but I thought his passing ability and defense were extraordinary for an 18-year-old and was willing to take the risk I could ultimately recruit him to come. That was the player I wanted.

There are only two reasons to share this story now. First, Dell Curry revealed the family’s demand to Minnesota last year but didn’t provide any detail. Part of the story’s out. And for obvious reasons, I never discussed this publicly during my time in Minnesota because it would have only perpetuated the fear among the locals about players not wanting to come there. (A fear that has been extinguished, I believe.)

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How Jeannie Buss became the most powerful woman in the NBA — The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the NBA’s premiere franchises, based in Hollywood with a vast collection of championship trophies. And the person in charge of everything is Jeannie Buss, daughter of previous owner Dr. Jerry Buss. As Tania Ganguli writes in the Los Angeles Times, in many ways Jeannie Buss is in a position she has prepared for her entire life:

“For me, the burning desire has always been about building what my family had,” said Buss, now 55. “Making it better and keeping it healthy and strong. That’s a motivating factor for me in my life. I’m in the right place for me. I haven’t always made the right decisions, but everything has been consistent about the choices that I’ve made. That part is easy.”

Her involvement in the family basketball team began in 1979, when her dad left her in charge of greeting Johnson upon his arrival at their home.

The Lakers had just chosen him with the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. It was the first time Jeanie saw Johnson’s brilliant smile in person. But the pleasantries dissipated when Johnson informed her he planned to spend three years with the Lakers, then go play for the Detroit Pistons. She rushed upstairs to tell her father the bad news, and he told her that would never happen.

It didn’t.

That day marked the start of a friendship and business relationship between Jeanie and Johnson that has spanned four decades. In some sense, they grew up together. Johnson came over to play pool and watch the premiere of Michael Jackson’s music video “Thriller” in 1983.

“For my dad to be able to do what he loved to — and that was to go out to nice clubs and nice dinner and bring nice girls with him — he and Earvin shared that,” said Johnny Buss, Jerry’s oldest son. “My sister Jeanie was around my father a lot. [Brother] Jimmy was around my father a lot, but Jimmy and Earvin really never hung out that I remember. … That was really the great trio: Jerry Buss, Jeanie Buss and Earvin Johnson.”

While she worked toward her degree at USC, Jeanie served as president of the L.A. Strings, a World Team Tennis franchise owned by her father. It was her first test on her path toward becoming a sports executive.

“Her father believed in throwing his kids into the pool, and if they could swim, they’d survive,” said Claire Rothman, former president and general manager of the Buss-owned Forum, where the Strings played.

Next, Buss threw his daughter into the roller hockey pool. From 1993 to 1998, she ran the L.A. Blades, whose games drew around 3,000 fans on good days. The coaches sometimes balked at what they saw as Jeanie’s meddling. To this day, some of the Blades coaches grow uncomfortable when asked about her. The players loved her generosity.

Her father “gave her the absolute toughest job he could, and she took it on with full force,” said Steve Bogoyevac, who played for the Blades.

Perhaps the most significant step in Jeanie’s rise was taking over the Forum, where she had worked for more than a decade. It happened in 1995, when Rothman left. Despite Jerry’s misgivings, Rothman insisted Jeanie was the right choice to replace her.

“She was the person that always felt this was the family business,” Rothman said. “She had a feeling of responsibility that she had to contribute and keep it safe.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Are the Lakers looking to add another first round pick?Richaun Holmes on his breakout season … How do you celebrate an NBA title? The Curry family got ink together … Longtime San Antonio assistant Ettore Messina says he is about to sign a new two-year deal with the Spurs