Associated Press

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

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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.”

Three questions the Detroit Pistons must answer this season

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The NBC/ProBasketballTalk season previews will ask the questions each of the 30 NBA teams must answer to make their season a success. We are looking at one team a day until the start of the season, and it begins with a look back at the team’s offseason moves.

Last Season: 37-45, missed the playoffs following Detroit’s first postseason berth in six years

I know what you did last summer: The Pistons paid the price of Marcus Morris to upgrade from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to Avery Bradley, who’s still on a relatively cheap old-TV-money deal for one more season. Detroit also seemingly spent well above market rate (three years, $21 million) for Langston Galloway, who plays the same position as No. 12 pick Luke Kennard. Anthony Tolliver returned after a season with the Kings.

THREE QUESTIONS THE PISTONS MUST ANSWER:

1) Will Reggie Jackson revert to form? Two years ago, Jackson was a solid starting point guard propelling the Pistons on an upward track. He started last season injured then never found his footing.

Jackson wasn’t exactly the Pistons’ problem last year. But he was central to all the Pistons’ problems last year.

He just didn’t attack the rim the same way, which hindered Andre Drummond‘s abilities in the pick-and-roll and Detroit’s other players getting as much space on 3-pointers. Meanwhile, Jackson stuck with the heavy-dribble, high-usage style he had grown accustomed to. Considering he was far less effective while still dominating the ball, that might have contributed to some infighting.

But if the worst thing about Jackson is that he doesn’t know how to adjust when not fully healthy, that doesn’t matter if he’s fully healthy.

2) Will Avery Bradley make the Pistons eager to invest in him long-term? Instead of paying Kentavious Caldwell-Pope this summer, Detroit set itself up to pay Bradley next summer.

This could go a few ways. Bradley could play poorly and not be welcomed back, which would be troubling very soon. But as long as he plays at least moderately well, the Pistons will probably pony up. They’re on track to be capped out even if he leaves in unrestricted free agency, and they’ll also likely want to save face on this summer’s moves as long as it’s feasible.

If Bradley merely meets the lowest expectations Detroit has for him and then re-signs on a lucrative contract, that wouldn’t be so bad. He’d probably be overpaid, but that’d likely be a manageable deal for the Pistons.

If Bradley truly thrives, though, that’d be a boon for Detroit in the short and long terms. In this cap environment, his salary probably wouldn’t climb much higher, and the Pistons would have a really good player.

The 26-year-old Bradley will get his chances. A lockdown perimeter defender, he’s likely in line for an expanded offensive role. This is a great situation for him entering free agency.

3) Will Andre Drummond take the next step? Drummond’s flaws are glaring. He’s an all-time bad free-throw shooter. He posts up far too much with ugly post moves. His effort and focus can wane.

But he’s still darned effective. With elite physical tools and a nose for the ball, Drummond is an elite rebounder. He finishes well in the pick-and-roll, and he can be disruptive defensively.

Despite the complaints of his detractors, Drummond is worth having on the floor. The good outweighs the bad.

That isn’t enough, though. The Pistons have treated him like a franchise player – max contract and a roster built around him. For their season to truly be a success, they need him become a star.

That starts defensively, where Drummond has shown flashes but taken just baby steps overall. If he locks in mentally and plays more energetically on that end more consistently, Detroit would be in far better shape.

Kevin Durant YouTube comment presaged Twitter/Instagram fiasco

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Kevin Durant admitted he went too far on social media, though he didn’t quite admit to the clear revelation: He has additional Twitter and Instagram accounts he used to anonymously fire back at his critics.

Who does that? More specifically, what kind of millionaire NBA-champion superstar does that?

Durant provided a glimpse into his mindset last week, when he replied to this YouTube comment about the insoles of his Finals shoes:

Who cares what people think . Just do you. Someone of stature, shouldn’t worry about stuff like that.

Durant:

of my stature, I play basketball, I got acne, I grew up with nothing, in still figuring myself out in my late 20, I slide in DMs, I make fun of my friends, I drink beers and play Xbox. I’m closer to you than u think

That Durant was interacting in YouTube comments – YouTube comments! – says plenty on its own. That’s the cesspool of internet commenting.

But the content of the reply is also illuminating. Durant is insecure. I think that’s pretty clear at this point.

There will always be people who accept nothing less than the ruthlessness of Michael Jordan from NBA stars. But maybe, once this scandal passes, some will find Durant’s vulnerability endearing.

Steve Kerr: Warriors haven’t been invited to White House, to meet on plan

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Steve Kerr reportedly stated a plan for the NBA-champion Warriors to decline an invitation to visit President Donald Trump’s White House. Then, Kerr espoused the virtues of going.

Kerr, via Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

“We will meet as a team to discuss it and make a decision,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr told ESPN.

“The league isn’t going to tell us what to do. They know it’s our decision and that, for me, really, it’s the players’ decision.

As yet, Kerr confirmed that no such invitation has been extended by the Trump administration.

If the Warriors commit to attending, they’d probably get invited. It seems the White House just doesn’t want egg on its face by extending an invitation that could get declined.

Regardless, Golden State almost certainly isn’t going.

Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala have publicly stated their opposition. Even if there’s a player in that locker room who wants to go – and I’m not sure there is – who has the clout to stand up to those three? The tone has already been set.

Knicks say they expect Carmelo Anthony to open training camp with them

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Carmelo Anthony trade rumors have picked up steam the last couple days, the talk centered on the Knicks trading him before training camp opens Monday.

They clearly want to move on. He wants to move on – at least if he can join the Rockets. But a Houston deal appears to have dead-ended.

So…

Ian Begley of ESPN:

This is, by far, the most likely outcome.

There’s always a chance Anthony, who holds a no-trade clause, approves a trade to a team outside Houston. The Knicks might be attempting to gain leverage for that scenario. But I’m unconvinced he’s eager to leave the New York market for just anywhere, and that’d still require two teams agreeing to terms. It’s a lot to overcome.

Anthony has remained professional amid the chaos, and I expect he’ll remain so. Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said Anthony would still hold a major role on the court, even if the focus is long-term (the reason Mills gave for omitting Anthony from his offseason write-up).

It’s not ideal to have a highly paid 33-year-old who can still contribute at a high level on a rebuilding team, but that’s where Anthony and New York are – and probably will be next week.