Associated Press

De’Aaron Fox tells teams at NBA Combine he’s the best point guard in draft


CHICAGO (AP) — De'Aaron Fox considers himself highly competitive and doesn’t shy away from matching skills with anyone.

Still, there’s one player he knows he can’t beat: his mother.

Lorraine Harris-Fox played at Arkansas-Little Rock in the 1980s and holds the school record for highest free-throw percentage at .928.

“She knows what she’s talking about,” De’Aaron Fox said Friday at the NBA Combine. “The one thing she stays on me is free-throw shooting. If there’s anything she criticizes me about, it’s shooting free throws.”

Fox, a point guard who played one year at Kentucky, is considered a top-five pick in next month’s NBA draft. Most of the projected top picks decided not to attend the Combine – even to take physicals and meet with representatives from individual team – but Fox wouldn’t have missed it.

“I just wanted to be here,” he said. “I watched the combine so many years growing up. Not necessarily playing or doing drills – I knew I didn’t have to and it wouldn’t help me – but just being here and getting to know the teams could change some minds.”

Fox had a simple message for the eight teams he met with: He’s the best point guard in the draft – even though Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball, projected top-two picks, play the same position.

“I feel like I’m the best,” Fox said. “If they’re drafted above me, I’m cool with it. You have to play basketball at the end of the day.”

Fox isn’t just talking smack. He has a performance from this year NCAA Tournament to back up his statement.

Kentucky played UCLA and Ball in the Sweet 16 and the 6-foot-3 Fox had a breakout performance with a career-high 39 points (on 13-for-20 shooting), four assists, three rebounds and one turnover in an 86-75 win. Ball, who is 6-6, finished with 10 points on 4-for-10 shooting.

Even Ball’s outspoken father, LaVar, couldn’t find a way to sugarcoat that matchup. Besides, the elder Ball did his talking before the game.

“He’s the consensus No. 1 pick, he could be the No. 1 pick,” Fox said of Ball. “I’m just extremely competitive. That’s what I tell everybody. It didn’t matter if it was him or one of the other top picks. I’m competitive and I came out hot.

“We all know what was said and that just gave not just me but the entire team fuel.”

Although the order of teams picking in the draft won’t be determined until the lottery next week, Fox didn’t hesitate to address how he might fit in with a few teams that figure to be selecting high.

He met with the Philadelphia 76ers and told the team’s brass he’d be a perfect complement to Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, two recent high picks.

“They wanted to see how I fit in with Ben and Joel,” Fox said. “I liked it. They have a lot of pieces and a point guard, they really haven’t had a point guard in a few years, so that could be the missing piece to what they need.”

He met with the Los Angeles Lakers – a group that included Hall of Famer Magic Johnson – and was impressed they asked about having a killer instinct.

“That’s me,” Fox said. “I’ve always been humble, but on the court it’s an entirely different person and Magic was saying that’s how he is. I liked to work with someone who was a great point guard like Magic.

“Magic, he was a great leader, just the way he carried himself. When he was on the court, he made everybody better. When he’s in a room, he lights up a room. That’s someone I feel like would be great to be a mentor to myself.”

Teams picking high long favored big men, but there’s little doubt that both Fox and Ball will be selected early.

Kennedy Meeks, a 6-10 senior who helped North Carolina win the national championship, was asked if big men were now overlooked with the emphasis on small ball in the NBA.

“Maybe a little bit, but I think you just go out there and showcase your talent,” he said. “You don’t worry about the politics, you don’t worry about the critics and all that. Everything will take care of itself. You can see with guys like Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol, Zach Randolph, Jared Sullinger. Those guys are definitely successful in the NBA.”

Referees misattribute comment to Dwane Casey, incorrectly eject Raptors coach (VIDEO)

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Things sort of fell apart at the end of Sunday’s game between the Toronto Raptors and the Oklahoma City Thunder. It all started with about a minute left in the game when Serge Ibaka tackled Steven Adams.

No, really.

As Paul George finished the second of two free throws, Ibaka and Adams began to battle for the possible rebound. Adams gave Ibaka the slip off the lane line, and as a recovery move Ibaka tackled his former teammate on the baseline.

Via Twitter:

Then, with 30 seconds left and a chance to tie, DeMar DeRozan drove the lane and missed a shot near the rim while being defended by Corey Brewer.

DeRozan felt he was fouled, and quickly let the officials know about it. The Raptors star could be seen going after ref Marc Davis. Shortly thereafter, DeRozan was given a technical foul.

Via Twitter:

But it didn’t stop there.

A few seconds later, as the game wound down, DeRozan went after the referees again. He was given a second technical, and ejected along with teammate Serge Ibaka.

Then came Raptors coach Dwane Casey.

With fans in the Air Canada Centre chanting at referees, and with tensions high, the officiating crew mistakenly attributed a comment made by a fan or someone else on the Toronto bench to Casey. They decided to eject Casey with just eight seconds left, despite the coach not being the person who actually spoke to the referees.

Kyle Lowry couldn’t believe it, and even Brewer had a good laugh about that one.

The NBA is going to have some explaining to do on that one. Officiating is still under fire in the NBA, with New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry being the most recent coach to go off about the grey shirts.

I’m going to set a few alarms for when they release the L2M report Monday morning.

Meanwhile, the Thunder beat the Raptors, 132-125.

Oh, and the referees had to leave the floor in Toronto with a security detail.

Alvin Gentry on refs after controversial James Harden foul: “You can’t guess on plays”

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Alvin Gentry was heated after the New Orleans Pelicans lost to the Houston Rockets on Saturday night, all thanks to a late foul on James Harden. Oh boy.

Gentry was given a technical foul after speaking with officials with 5:39 to go in the fourth quarter in a tight matchup between the two Western Conference playoff teams. The Pelicans coach was heated about a foul called on Jrue Holiday after Harden swung through the defender’s area to get free throws on a 3-point attempt.

That didn’t sit right with Gentry, who went after referee David Guthrie. After complaining for some time, Gentry got a handle on himself and went back to his seat on the bench. That’s when he was called for a technical foul.

Here’s the play in question, and Gentry’s response after the game:

Gentry does have a general point, and sounds like just about any non-Houston fan you overhear at games or in bars regarding Harden’s wacky inflatable flailing arm tube man style. Nevermind his driving — which consistently gets players to legitimately hack away at his arms — the question on the play in New Orleans is whether the defender has a right to that space, and whether Holiday made a move.

Pelicans broadcaster David Wesley pointed out that if a defender is in his own defensive space and not moving, it shouldn’t be a foul if the offensive player jams his way into the defender’s arms. That’s part of why the idea of verticality works for modern NBA big men defending the rim.

Offensive players are getting more astute at drawing contact, then finding a way to immediately get fouled after the contact. It’s something that will need to be addressed by the NBA in coming seasons, as there are quite a few instances of contact specifically being drawn by an offender by moving into the defender’s space and drawing contact with their arms.

However, on the play in question, if you rewind it enough times you can barely see Holiday’s arm and elbow flex reactively before Harden moves the ball up. Thus, in the purview of instant replay, it was probably a foul.

Here it is in super slo-mo:

Gentry is likely to get a nice big fine as others have this season for criticizing officials. It seems that even after the All-Star Break meeting to sort out some issues between the NBPA and NBRA not everyone is happy.

Expect a bigger overhaul and more announcements regarding NBA refereeing in the offseason.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue sits out second half Saturday with illness

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CHICAGO (AP) Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue remained in the locker room to start the second half of their game against the Chicago Bulls because of an illness.

Lue was on the sideline as the Cavaliers used a strong second quarter to build a 17-point halftime lead. He did not come out for the start of the third Saturday night, and he did not return to the game.

Lue has missed one other game this season due to illness. He is expected back on Monday when the Cavs host the struggling Bucks.

The Cavaliers went on to get the win over the Bulls Saturday, 114-109.

Grizzlies snap 19-game skid with 101-94 win vs Nuggets

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Dillon Brooks scored 24 points, Tyreke Evans added 20 and the Memphis Grizzlies snapped a 19-game losing streak with a 101-94 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night.

Wayne Selden scored 16 points for Memphis by hitting 6 of 7 shots, including 4 of 5 from outside the arc. Marc Gasol added 14 points as Memphis won for the first time since Jan. 29.

Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets with 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Jamal Murray finished with 16 points on 5-of-18 shooting. Denver shot just 37 percent overall and 27 percent from 3-point range.

Denver entered the night in ninth place in the Western Conference, a game out of the playoff race. Denver played without leading scorer Gary Harris, who is expected to miss the next few games with a right knee sprain suffered against Detroit on Thursday.

The Nuggets struggled through a miserable first half of shooting, connecting on 22 percent in the first quarter. Memphis stretched its lead to 21 early in the second quarter before Denver cut it to 53-48 at halftime.

Brooks hit four 3-pointers to start the second half and keep Memphis ahead.

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