Summer League Notes from Day 1: Where Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner are sweet together

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Eturner_summer.jpgA lot of things happen during Summer League, lots of games in one day. Here are some notes on the things that didn’t make their own post from the first day in Orlando.

* Jrue Holiday may have been the best single player to take the floor the first day of games in Orlando, which should makes Sixers fans happy. He has become a very patient person running the pick-and-roll. What should make the fans happier was how he played with No. 2 pick Evan Turner. There seemed to be some chemistry there — two ball handling guards in the backcourt who can set up plays for each other. And did. Turner had a nice game: He looked a little rusty and got a tough welcome for a first game being matched up on Terrance Williams, a fast-improving rookie last year. But he held his own, and is only going to get better. There’s a lot to be excited about.

* Utah’s Gordon Hayward is a scrapper. Going in we all knew the Butler product could shoot — he had a nice catch-and-shoot for one early bucket that he could do a lot this season — but Adam Morrison can knock it down if you leave him open. However Gordon would mix it up — on one of his first clean looks he could have tried to elevate for the 15-footer, but he leaned in and got the contact, held his own and got the shot off. He got rebounds, made some passes, had a couple steals, got to loose balls. He started the game tentative but seemed to find himself as it went on. No big numbers put up (2-2 shooting from the floor). One Summer League game counts for squat in the real world. But he did the little things you can ask, which is a good sign.

* Alexis Ajinca is a physical specimen at center for Charlotte, but he was always that. He had some strong rebounds in traffic that were impressive. More impressive: He seemed today to make more good plays, more smart plays than bad. Which is a change for the better. He showed out well on some picks, but also made a bad choice on another chasing Rod Benson out too far and giving him a lane to drive. Still, he looks better and if he could start to take some real minutes in the season it would be a boost.

* Gerald Henderson showed off an improved jumper to go with the leaping ability and athleticism we have always known he had. Henderson’s game looked more rounded, which could get him minutes for the Bobcats next season.

* I’ll admit I may have been wrong. I thought Luke Harangody’s game would not translate to the NBA. But the guy shot the rock — 9 of 13 from the floor, 4 of 6 from three. That led to 23 points for the Celtics. He was great at sliding into the open spot on the floor and not shying away from the shot. He also was smart: put a smaller guy on him and he posted the defender up, put a bigger defender on him and he drew him out to the arc. He can face up or go back to the basket. We’ll see if he can defend and how he does long term, but he may be a good fit after all.

* Another guy who had a good game was Oliver Lafayette. Who, you ask? Former University of Houston guy who had a stop in Fort Wayne D-League and was playing for the Celtics. He had a dozen points in the first half and showed himself a real scorer, but the defense got tighter on him in second half and he did not do a good job setting up teammates.

Report: With new building set to open, Sacramento pushes to host 2020 All-Star Game

The Sacramento Kings released the NBA basketball team's new logo, Tuesday, April 26, 2016, in Sacramento, Calif. The new logo has a reshaped crown and new typeface meant to convey a modern look. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
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In just a few weeks, the new arena that kept the Kings in Sacramento is set to open. It’s a well-designed basketball-first facility that both the fans and players should love.

Now the Kings want to show that building off to everybody and host a future All-Star Game, reports James Ham of CSNCalifornia.com.

It’s not uncommon for a team with a new building to get to host the All-Star Game. The 2017 game is in New Orleans, 2018 is in Los Angeles, 2019 will go to Charlotte if the “bathroom bill” is repealed (or strongly modified). That makes 2020 the next one up.

The Kings new building is in downtown Sacramento, in a growing area close to the California state capital. The only question is whether that area has enough hotel rooms and nearby convention space to handle the massive influx of people that come to an All-Star Game. The league office has this mapped out, it knows how many hotel rooms it needs in close proximity to the arena, for example. If Sacramento can meet all those qualifications, it could well land the February showdown.

Sixers players have dinner with Will Smith

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 24:  Actor Will Smith attends the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' "Focus" at TCL Chinese Theatre on February 24, 2015 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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Ali. Men in Black. I am Legend. Fresh Prince. Suicide Squad. Independence Day. Plus more than a few movies he’d like us to forget (hello Hancock).

Will Smith is all that — and part owner of the Philadephia 76ers.

As training camp opened, Smith took his team out to dinner, according to the Sixers official site.

Jahlil Okafor and his teammates weren’t told that the Oscar-nominated and Grammy-winning entertainer from West Philadelphia would be dining with them.

“It was great, it was a lot of fun,” said Okafor, who participated in Tuesday’s practice, despite sustaining a minor ankle sprain a few weeks ago. “Will Smith is my favorite celebrity, my favorite actor. It was great to hear him speak.”

Smith shared stories and passed along advice to a crowd consisting mostly of early to mid 20-year olds who grew up on his movies and albums.

“I think the main thing he said is the company you have around you,” Joel Embiid said. “He was trying to explain the people you have around you affect the type of person you are. He was just trying to tell us to have good people around. That’s the main thing I got from that.”

It’s a good lesson for the Sixers in what could be a season of lessons coming for the Philadephia. This team is going to be better than it was a year ago, but don’t confuse that with good. They may get there someday, but there are a lot of hard lessons to learn between now and then.

But it’s a lot more fun to get some of those lessons from Will Smith.

Report: Other teams offered Denver first round picks for Will Barton, answer was no

PHOENIX, AZ - DECEMBER 23:  Will Barton #5 of the Denver Nuggets reacts after scoring against the Phoenix Suns during the second half of the NBA game at Talking Stick Resort Arena on December 23, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Nuggets defeated the Suns 104-96. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Picking up Will Barton as part of the Arron Afflalo trade a couple of seasons back was one of the smartest moves of the Nuggets front office. Before last season they signed him to a three-year, $10 million deal and he blossomed as his jumper became a real weapon — this season he’s a guy to watch in the Sixth Man of the Year race.

A good player on a good contract? You can be sure other teams will try to poach him.

Which is exactly what happened, reports Christopher Dempsy at the Denver Post.

Now he’s being praised after a breakout season that landed him in the thick of the conversation for postseason awards, that had other teams offering first-round picks to nab him, and that had opponents highlighting him on scouting reports as a player to stop.

At age 25 Barton is part of a young core in Denver that includes Emanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris, Nikola Jokic and others. Why would Denver let Barton go?

At some point maybe Denver will move him to get a player at a position they need more. But that time is not today, Barton is still part of the plan in Denver. And it’s going to take him a lot to pry him away (that first round pick is going to have to be high up the board).

LeBron James on surpassing Michael Jordan: “It’s a personal goal”

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 26: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during media day at Cleveland Clinic Courts on September 26, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Since he was a teenager, LeBron James has been compared to Michael Jordan. That comparison has usually been used as a way to cut him down or explain why he’s not in the same class, but that’s changed since he won his third championship, and first in Cleveland, in June. Now, LeBron has started to be a lot more open about his desire to eventually surpass Jordan. He said so in an interview with the AP’s Tom Withers after practice on Tuesday:

Now that LeBron James has won a championship for the ages, he’s set a loftier goal:

Catching Michael Jordan.

Long flattered to be mentioned in the same company with Jordan and other NBA legends, James has been hesitant to publicly acknowledge that he wants to be remembered as the greatest in league history.

It’s time now.

“It’s a personal goal,” James told The Associated Press on Monday. “I just never brought it up. It’s my own personal goal to be able to be greater than great. I think that should be everybody’s personal goal.”

Now that James has indisputably cemented his legacy as one of the handful of greatest players ever to play the game, he has a lot less to lose by openly talking about these things. Five years ago, he would have gotten killed for bringing it up. Now? It just seems plausible more than anything else.