CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. 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 Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Quick-healing Khris Middleton hopes to gives Bucks a boost

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ST. FRANCIS, Wis. (AP) Khris Middleton has proven to be a quick healer.

One of Milwaukee’s top all-around players plans to make his season debut on Wednesday against the streaking Miami Heat, so long as his surgically-repaired left hamstring feels fine following shoot-around and pregame warmups.

The Bucks’ leading scorer last season, Middleton is about a month ahead of the six-month timeline that the Bucks initially thought would be needed for the torn hamstring to heal. He returns just as new acquisitions Roy Hibbert and Spencer Hawes join a team that is just 4-12 since Jan. 4.

Milwaukee said last week that Middleton was cleared to play. He will be limited initially to about 15-20 minutes a game, coach Jason Kidd said Tuesday.

At 22-28, the Bucks were 10th in the Eastern Conference entering Tuesday’s action, one game back of Detroit for the eighth and final playoff spot.

“We’re going to look at him to save the season,” forward Jabari Parker said after practice with a smile. “Put pressure on him.”

Middleton took the ribbing in stride.

“I wouldn’t say that at all,” he said with a laugh.

Middleton is a scoring threat in a 6-foot-8 frame and he can help defend on the perimeter. The Bucks are giving up 10.7 3-pointers on 29.7 attempts to opponents, among the highest averages in the league. Milwaukee hasn’t held an opponent to less than 100 points since a 98-94 win over Oklahoma City on Jan. 2.

“With the weeks practicing, playing 1-on-1s and lifting, I haven’t thought about my hamstring for one bit, which is good,” Middleton said. “The way I went down, it was a freak incident … just one of those things.”

Middleton scored a team-high 18.2 points per game last season. He hurt the hamstring while working out in late September, about a week before the start of training camp.

Middleton will rejoin a team in which Giannis Antetokounmpo has blossomed into an All-Star. Parker is averaging a career-best 20.2 points per game. At his best last year, Middleton was the Bucks’ best offensive option in the closing minutes of tight games with his ability to hit from the perimeter or drive the lane.

It’s unclear how much playing time Hibbert and Hawes might each get after being acquired from Charlotte last week for backup center Miles Plumlee. The 7-foot-2 Hibbert, who has been bothered by knee issues this year, is known as a rim protector, while the 7-1 Hawes can stretch the floor with his outside shot.

The Bucks already rotate two experienced players in the middle in defensive-minded John Henson and Greg Monroe, whose strength is offense. Seven-foot-1 rookie Thon Maker is also starting to see more consistent minutes.

The Bucks did gain financial flexibility in unloading Plumlee, who was in the first year of a four-year contract worth about $52 million after returning to the Bucks in the offseason as a restricted free agent. Hibbert is a free agent after this season, while Hawes has a player option next season worth about $6 million.

Wizards rookie changes name from Sheldon McClellan to Sheldon Mac

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 30: Sheldon McClellan #9 of the Washington Wizards dribbles in front of Sean Kilpatrick #6 of the Brooklyn Nets during the first half at Verizon Center on December 30, 2016 in Washington, DC. 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 Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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The Wizards trading for Bojan Bogdanovic pushes Sheldon McClellan even deeper on the bench.

Actually, “McClellan” is now off the team entirely.

Chase Hughes of CSN Mid-Atlantic:

Yes, the player formally known as Sheldon McClellan is now officialy Sheldon Mac. The 24-year-old returned to Houston, Texas over the past week and, with the blessing of his mother, changed his name.

Mac expects to have his jersey changed at some point and he will now be referred to in print as ‘Sheldon Mac.’ He said the reason was because ‘McClellan’ was a name he got from his father, whom he has no relationship with.

“I just added a little swag to it.”

If this makes him happier, I’m all for it.

76ers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons out for season

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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76ers CEO Scott O’Neil guaranteed No. 1 pick Ben Simmons would play this season. Just about a week ago, Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said he expected Simmons to play this season.

But with rumor after rumor — the latest report saying his injured right foot hadn’t fully healed, even though he had participated in drills — indicating Simmons could miss the entire year, the 76ers accepted this undesirable fate.

Corey Seidman of CSN Philly:

Ben Simmons is officially out for the season, Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said Friday.

Simmons had a CT scan on his injured right foot Thursday in New York which showed that the foot is not yet fully healed.

He’ll have another scan in about a month, Colangelo said.

“I have always known that there was a desire to get him back on the court when healthy,” Colangelo said. “We’ve always anticipated there would be an opportunity for him to play, hopefully this season.

“But there was always the outside chance that it didn’t happen because there wasn’t complete and full healing. And we weren’t going to put Ben Simmons in a place where he was (susceptible) to a re-fracture.

“There are genetic things that change the healing patterns of people. So if everybody had done their research and saw that most Jones fractures took 3 to 4 months, great. But it’s not 3 to 4 months in every case, it’s 3 to 4 months in most cases.”

“He’s heartbroken. He wants to play. He wants to be out there. It’s eating him alive, I’m sure.”

Simmons follows Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid as high first-round picks to miss their entire first professional season with the 76ers. If it weren’t for Embiid’s emergence this season, this would be an even more bitter pill to swallow for Philadelphia fans fixated on immediate on-court gains.

But Embiid has provided more than enough reason for optimism, though he’s also hurt now (just not nearly as severely).

Long-term, the 76ers must figure out how Embiid and Simmons mesh and try to develop them together. We know Embiid works well with a stretch four, but what about a dynamic passing power forward like Simmons — or a tall point guard, if that’s what Simmons become? This injury delays answering those questions.

It also raises questions about Simmons — his ability to avoid and recover from injuries. Colangelo’s comments about Simmons’ genetics are particularly eyebrow-raising.

Likewise, there should be questions about the 76ers’ handling of their players’ health. How could Simmons return to on-court work before fully healed?

Philadelphia, at various points, has tried to accelerate its rise. But properly rebuilding takes time and care. At times like this, the 76ers must remember to trust The Process.

Paul Pierce shoots back at Warriors: ‘3-1 lead oops’

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Draymond Green was harsh in trash-talking Paul Pierce last night.

Pierce and the Clippers couldn’t shut up Green on the court, as the Warriors won. But on Twitter?

Pierce responded there:

Pierce has repeatedly taken shots at the Warriors, particularly Kevin Durant. I’m not going to complain about trash-talking, but I can also see why Green would tire of this — and even try crushing Pierce last night.

But there’s apparently no way to silence Pierce.

Ty Lawson cleverly runs down clock in Kings’ win over Nuggets (video)

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The Kings traded DeMarcus Cousins for two key reasons:

  • They wanted to change their culture, and they thought jettisoning the combustible Cousins would do that.
  • They wanted to avoid conveying a top-10-protected first-round pick to the Bulls this year, which required getting a little worse in the short term.

But what if they did the former so well, it disrupts the latter?

Sacramento played with enthusiasm and savvy in a 116-100 win over the Nuggets last night. The most clever play came from Ty Lawson.

With the Kings trying to preserve a 109-94 lead with 2:38 left, Lawson took an inbound pass following a Denver basket and let the ball roll/lie on the court for 22 seconds before picking it up.

The game clock didn’t stop because the game wasn’t in the final two minutes. Neither the shot clock nor the eight-second count started because no team possessed the ball.

Denver had an extremely slim chance at erasing a 15-point with 2:38 left, but Lawson reduced those odds considerably. Eventually, Jameer Nelson — who failed for far too long to press Lawson out of this tactic — committed a frustration foul after his own basket.