Evan Fournier, Arron Afflalo, Ty Lawson

Arron Afflalo: Nuggets are ‘a championship team under the right mindset and coaching’

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The Nuggets – despite losing the Executive of the Year (Masai Ujiri), Coach of the Year (George Karl) and one of their top players (Andre Iguodala) – entered the 2013-14 season with high hopes. To Denver, an 11th straight playoff trip seemed attainable.

But amidst injuries and growing pains under first-time coach Brian Shaw, the Nuggets stumbled to a 36-46 record. It was truly a dissapointing season, even if expectations were probably too high in the first place.

On the other hand, 36-46 must seem amazing at this point to Arron Afflalo, whose Magic went 20-62 and 23-59 his two seasons in Orlando.

Certainly, Afflalo is thrilled to be back in Denver, where the playoffs – even in a stacked Western Conference – are more of an immediate goal than they were with the Magic.

He’s just going a bit overboard in his optimism.

Afflalo, via Cody Taylor of Basketball Insiders:

“Being traded for me is a positive experience,” Afflalo told Basketball Insiders. “I really enjoyed my time in Orlando. Rob [Hennigan], Scott [Perry], Coach [Jacque Vaughn], the assistants and all of my teammates really helped me develop as a player and as a person over the past two seasons so I’m very thankful for my opportunity there. I’m happy to be back in Denver, I got some very familiar teammates. I believe this is a championship team under the right mindset and coaching.”

I don’t care whether Shaw does everything possible to model himself after Phil Jackson and every Denver player takes the most-extreme steps possible to duplicate Michael Jordan’s attitude.The Nuggets aren’t winning a championship next season.

For one, players’ mindsets are not as easy to change as many believe. Jordan’s killer instinct was deeply conditioned. Danilo Gallinari can’t just turn that on at Afflalo’s urging.

And Shaw is still learning the ropes as a head coach, and it’s extremely unlikely he makes a huge leap – let alone the jump to championship-caliber – in a single year. That’s OK. When he was hired, it was reasonable to expect he’d need time to develop.

I get why Afflalo, after getting stuck in Orlando, is excited. There’s nothing wrong with innate confidence, either. But he should temper that enthusiasm.

As it stands, he’s just setting up Shaw and his teammates to get blamed when they fall short of unreachable goals.

Kings’ Rudy Gay suffers apparent torn left Achilles tendon, would be done for season

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This not only changes the Kings dreams of making the playoffs in the West, it also alters the trade deadline and free agency.

Rudy Gay, the Kings wing and second-leading scorer, has been diagnosed with a torn left Achilles tendon, according to the team. During the third quarter of Wednesday night’s game against the Pacers, Gay drove out of the right corner and, untouched, fell to the floor hard. He had to be helped off the court by teammates.

Team doctors made the initial torn Achilles diagnosis, which will need to be confirmed by an MRI scheduled for Thursday. He would be out not only for this season but likely the start of the next one as well.

Without Gay, a lot more will fall on Matt Barnes and, once he returns from his calf injury in a couple of weeks, Omri Casspi. Those two are a drop off from what Gay brought to the Kings,  and with that team’s playoff chances have taken a hit (they are 1.5 games out of the eight seed after Wednesday’s loss to the Pacers). Don’t be surprised if the Kings look to add a scorer at the trade deadline.

Gay was not happy in Sacramento and said he planned to opt out of the $14.3 million final year of his contract to be a free agent next summer, which made him someone potentially traded before the deadline (although the Kings being in the playoff hunt impacted that). Gay averaged 18.7 points and 6.4 rebounds a game for the Kings, and while his game was a little old school — more isolation and midrange shots than teams prefer — he put up points. Enough that he was drawing trade interest heading toward the deadline from Oklahoma City and other squads.

That is all off the table now. At age 30, if Gay does still opt out of his contract for next season this will impact what he would make on the free market.

Zaza Pachulia lays out Russell Westbrook, stands over him (video)

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Kevin Durant playing the Thunder invites extra emotions.

Russell Westbrook felt them – in the form of a flagrant foul by Warriors center Zaza Pachulia, who stood over Westbrook for emphasis.

Pachulia is really embracing his role doing the dirty work for star-studded Golden State.

Report: 76ers’ Ben Simmons sitting entire season still on table

TARRYTOWN, NEW YORK - AUGUST 07:  Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers poses for a portrait during the 2016 NBA Rookie Photoshoot at Madison Square Garden Training Center on August 7, 2016 in Tarrytown, New York. 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: Copyright 2016 NBAE  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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That rumor No. 1 pick Ben Simmons won’t play this season?

It just won’t die.

Even after Simmons tried to quash it, even after the 76ers’ CEO outright denied it, even after Simmons returned to practice, even in an otherwise optimistic report.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

76ers rookie forward Ben Simmons could make his much-anticipated NBA debut shortly after the All-Star break, league sources told ESPN.

Barring a setback in his recovery, sources say the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft has a chance to take the hardwood near March. There still remains the possibility Simmons sits the entire season, sources said, but his situation will continue to be thoroughly evaluated throughout his comeback quest.

76ers coach Brett Brown said there’s “no chance” Simmons plays in Philadelphia’s nationally televised game against the Rockets next week. Other than that, there isn’t much clarity.

It mostly sounds as if Simmons is still too far from returning to say something definitive.

Roy Hibbert passes ball into hoop, reacts with perfect facial expression (video)

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The Hornets did so much right in their 107-85 win over the Trail Blazers, even a bad pass went through the hoop.

Roy Hibbert reacted fantastically to blunder/basket (blasket?).