Sixers GM open to trading picks, but won’t shortcut the rebuilding process

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NEW YORK — The Sixers were slotted to receive the second and tenth overall picks in the upcoming draft before Tuesday night’s Draft Lottery took place, and once it was finished, the odds held almost true to form, with the team dropping just one spot after Cleveland’s stunning luck in landing the top pick continued for the second straight season.

Philadelphia now owns the third and tenth picks in the first round, but team GM Sam Hinkie was anything but discouraged by the results.

“I think it’s a good night for us,” he said. “I think it’s a lot to be hopeful for that we have two top-10 picks in a draft like this. It’s something a lot of teams would give a lot for, and we’re excited.”

The Sixers have seven picks in the upcoming draft — two in the first round, and five in the second. With needs all over the place that exist for a team that finished with the second worst record in the league and at one point snapped a 26-game losing streak to avoid making history, the abundance of selections will be put to good use.

Hinkie doesn’t currently envision trading his team’s top picks. But he expects to be active in seeing what might be out there, and is open to the possibility should the right offer present itself.

“I think you have to be open to sort of whatever may come along,” Hinkie said. “But you ask me today, on a night like this in New York, we’re excited about the players that we might get and being able to add them into our program.”

As for which players, Hinkie wasn’t about to reveal where the Sixers are in the talent evaluation process.

“Now we’re back to my stone face,” he said. “Because this is the time of the year where there is a lot of information to be gained and a lot to be lost by the more you say. We’re likely to be active all around the draft. That’s not unusual for us. But you have to be pretty careful that people don’t know what it is you are going to do.”

No matter who Philadelphia chooses, Hinkie believes that the foundation he’s building makes the team a desirable one to any top prospect.

“Most of the top players in this draft find Philadelphia a really attractive place,” Hinkie said. “Because they want to be in a place where they have opportunity. They want to play in a big market and they recognize what a platform it is to play in Philadelphia. And they want to get better. And they realize that Philadelphia, with our coaching staff and with our roster, you can come and play and get better.”

Player development has been valued above all else since Hinkie and head coach Brett Brown took over last season. Brown was regularly seen on the court before games working out Nerlens Noel, the sixth overall pick by the Pelicans last year whom the Sixers traded for on draft night, and Michael Carter-Williams was given 34.5 minutes per contest to learn the NBA game and eventually take home Rookie of the Year honors.

Brown maintained throughout his first year as coach that the Sixers would stay with a rebuilding process that was expected to last three-to-five years. While Hinkie would obviously like things to turn around more quickly, he’s more interested in building the franchise the right way in order to achieve a sustained level of success.

“I wish Brett would tell me what he knows sometimes that I don’t know,” Hinkie joked. “I think we’ve got a ways to go. That’s clear. I thought [Julius Erving’s] answer tonight when they talked about that was fantastic. The NBA comes in cycles sometimes, and a lot of the teams that were really good when we were last really, really, really good in the early 80s were up here on stage with him.

“It takes a while to sort of build it back up,” he continued. “And then the question is, do you want to lay a foundation that lasts, or do you want to take shortcuts? I’m not particularly interested in shortcuts, and our ownership group isn’t particularly interested in shortcuts. I think we’ll do the best we can do. How that goes, some of that hinges on tonight.”

Pistons consider shutting down Reggie Jackson for rest of season

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The Pistons have started Reggie Jackson. They’ve brought him off the bench. They’ve sat him entirely.

No role seems right for the point guard as Detroit has lost four straight and seven of eight.

Now, it seems the Pistons might just shut down Jackson, who missed the start of the season with a knee injury. He’s at least doubtful for tonight’s key game against the Heat.

Pistons president/coach Stan Van Gundy, via Fox Sports Detroit:

We’ve been thinking about this, actually for a long time, OK? And he’s been playing at — it’s just hard to put a percentage — but probably at about 80 percent. And as we get into this stretch of games in March where we’re playing a lot, the fatigue is just making it worse.

It wasn’t really fair to him. We were running him out there, putting pressure on him. He’s seeing things he should be able to do, and he just can’t do. He’s not feeling pain, but he just can’t make the plays he wants to make. And we’re trying to put him out there.

We were really struggling, and we just need to have guys who are at full energy and the whole thing. And as much as he wants to, he can’t right now. It’s honestly amazing what he’s done.

To his credit, he fought me on it. He wanted to keep going.

He needs some rest. We don’t know how long it will be. But he needs some rest and to be able to try to get his energy back and see if we can get him at full strength.

He’s been a warrior. He’s tried to fight through it. He’s been frustrated, because he sees openings and things on the court that he just hasn’t been able to get to. I think part of it is a confidence thing.

And I think the thing that we really look forward to, and he looks forward to, is getting a fresh start in the offseason and being able to go through the preparation for a season like he did last year. And not only get right physically, but really get his confidence back to be able to attack and make the plays he’s had.

Jackson hasn’t looked right this season, showing only fleeting moments of quality production. It’s unclear whether that’s his knee, confidence, regression to the mean after a breakout season last year, bad luck or some combination.

But it has the Pistons in dire straights. They’re 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position with tonight’s game against eight-place Miami crucial.

Detroit’s offense and defense have hummed better with Ish Smith, but despite the better chemistry he affords, the talent drop from Jackson is also glaring. It’s not as if the Pistons have soared with Smith. And relying on Beno Udrih for backup minutes is its own risk.

Van Gundy is talking a lot about next season when it comes to Jackson, which seems telling. The coach’s compliments seem designed to soften the blow.

The odds are against Detroit making the playoffs, but they might be higher without Jackson. The fact that that’s even considerable is also telling about Jackson’s season.

Joakim Noah says he’s cleared to play, which will allow suspension to begin

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The NBA suspended Joakim Noah 20 games — effective once he’s “physically able to play.”

Noah underwent knee surgery about a month ago, and though it seemed he’d miss the rest of the season, the Knicks said at the time he’d be reevaluated in 3-4 weeks. That gave the team cover to claim his suspension should begin this season.

So, Noah rushed to practice today, and no matter how unlikely he would’ve been to follow this timeline sans suspension, that will seemingly be enough.

Fred Kerber of the New York Post:

New York has eight games remaining, which would leave 12 for Noah to serve at the beginning of next season.

Obviously, the more of his suspension Noah serves during this lost season, the better. The Knicks might be a wreck next season too, but at least there’s a chance they’re ready to win (and a chance Noah can contribute). This year is confirmed hopeless.

 

After fun back-to-back wins, Kings deemphasizing veterans

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Break up the Kings.

No, really.

After consecutive thrilling wins — a historic comeback against the Clippers on Sunday and another one-point win over the Grizzlies, Sacramento coach Dave Joerger’s former team, yesterday — the Kings announced a changing of the guard.

Joerger, via CSN California:

This was maybe our last stand for the year, as far as you’re probably not going to see all those veterans play together the rest of the season.

Darren Collison, Garrett Temple, Kosta Koufos, Anthony Tolliver and Ty Lawson played major roles against Memphis. Expect their minutes to be cut down the stretch.

The Kings have “fallen” to the NBA’s eight-worst record. It’s unlikely, but a late-game surge could “drop” them to the league’s 10th-worst record.

That’s unviable for a team that put itself on the tanking track and loses its first-round pick (to the Bulls) if it falls outside the top 10. Sacramento must protect itself from bad lottery luck.

It might not require going full Suns, but the Kings should and will emphasize developing their young players — who, not at all incidentally, are less equipped to help the team win.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.