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49ers’ NaVorro Bowman remembers urging Kevin Durant to shoot in middle school

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Imagine Kevin Durant as a skinny, timid teen being told to shoot by his middle school point guard who saw so much potential all those years ago.

He needed a little urging back then. Much of it came from star San Francisco 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who fondly recalls his days passing to the future NBA star.

Bowman, who claims he was the superior player at Drew Freeman Middle School in Prince George’s County, Maryland, used to encourage the lanky Durant to be aggressive, to take it to the hoop with authority. Durant already measured more than 6 feet tall at the time and would rapidly add inches in the upcoming years.

“Can you believe we had to tell him to shoot?” Bowman recalled with a grin last week at Levi’s Stadium while relaxing after football practice in Santa Clara.

“Yeah, we had to tell him to shoot. We knew that he could play the game and he would eventually get better, but how tall he was, back in the day if you were that tall you would be in the post or you would be in the paint. This guy was on the wing. You could see the talent there. Eventually, as you see now, he grew into it and became a great player.”

Durant insists all he wanted to do was create opportunities for others.

“I would just always want to please my teammates, so I would pass up a shot to get somebody else a look,” Durant said. “I always had that trait and that kind of turned into not being aggressive, if that’s what it was called. But I was more so just catering to my teammates, trying to make them feel comfortable. And at a young age, NaVorro being such a leader that he is, he knew that I had some pretty good talent at that age and he just told me, `Go out there and just play.’ As a kid, you need that, you want that validation from your teammates. Especially starting off early when I started to take basketball really, really serious, just a couple words from him meant a lot.”

They’ve since reunited in the Bay Area, Bowman cheering for KD to win his first championship with the Warriors. Bowman plans to be there in person at Oracle Arena this week. Game 1 against the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers is Thursday night.

The Maryland boys’ paths crossed before middle school, as opponents in AAU ball – Durant figures around age 11.

As each chased professional dreams over the next decade, they pushed one another from afar without even knowing it, taking great pride in their shared “DMV” – D.C., Maryland, Virginia – roots and making it big in their respective athletic pursuits.

“We really grew up together. He always played Pee Wee football and you would walk to the field and you’d see NaVorro wearing a No. 99 jersey, all black on with a visor, just bigger than everybody else,” Durant said. “You didn’t really know who he was until he took his helmet off. But you could tell that he was on another level, just his focus, just how much he wanted it, his energy as a kid and then it just continued to grow. I knew we kind of inspired and pushed each other without even having to say anything.”

From age 12 through high school, Bowman would play basketball all day at a 24-hour gym, sometimes going from 8 a.m. until midnight. Durant would join him sometimes, though he lived on the opposite side of town. They knew the same people, and where to land a competitive pickup game.

By eighth grade, scouts flocked to see KD. Bowman attracted a few, too.

Bowman was recruited by DeMatha Catholic High but didn’t want to attend an all-boys school, so he went to nearby Suitland. Durant spent one semester at Suitland, then left for Montrose Christian. That’s where his career took off.

Several prominent schools recruited Bowman for basketball, but he saw a future in football and wound up at Penn State.

“I just made a business decision, knowing that I wasn’t getting taller,” the 6-foot, four-time All-Pro said.

Now, Bowman is getting a thrill as an up-close spectator – supporting a dear friend.

He sent a text message to KD after the Warriors’ sweep of San Antonio last week.

“I had to congratulate him on his success and the choice he made. I know it was hard and challenging but it’s about winning a championship,” Bowman said of KD leaving Oklahoma City. “I think that was his choice and why he made it. I texted him, `I know you’re excited to be where you are and accomplish what you’ve accomplished, let’s go get it, let’s get it taken care of.”‘

Durant, too, is pulling for Bowman as he comes back from another injury, this time a torn Achilles.

“Once I made it, I knew that he was next up, and it’s kind of come full circle from playing eighth grade ball together to us living right down the street from each other. He comes over all the time and he comes to games,” Durant said. “It’s one of those legacy things that we’ll sit down and talk about forever, people from our area just for this to come together like this is divine and it’s special. I have a friend for life in him.”

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Curry scores 35, Warriors rally to beat 76ers 124-116

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PHILADELPHIA — Stephen Curry scored 35 points, Kevin Durant had 27 and the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors overcame a 22-point halftime deficit in a 124-116 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night.

Joel Embiid scored 21 points and Ben Simmons had 23 points and 12 assists for Philadelphia, which led 47-28 after one quarter and 74-52 at the half.

But the Warriors erased that large deficit with a furious rally in the third quarter. Curry’s 3-pointer got them within one point. He then made a pair of free throws to give Golden State a 90-89 lead.

The two-time NBA MVP hit another 3 and Draymond Green blew past a defender for a dunk to make it 99-89 going into the fourth.

A raucous, sellout crowd that chanted “Trust the Process” most of the night went silent while the Warriors put on a shooting clinic in the second half.

Even veteran David West came off the bench and made big shots in the fourth quarter to give the Warriors distance. He finished with 14 points. Klay Thompson had 16.

Embiid was coming off a career-best performance – 46 points, 15 rebounds, seven blocks, seven assists – in a 115-109 win at the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.

He seemed on his way to another monster game in the first quarter. Embiid embraced the frenzied fans and slapped hands with a guy sitting courtside after a dunk.

But the Warriors showed why they’re the best by stifling Philadelphia in the second half to improve to 12-4.

The Sixers, who lost 135-114 at Golden State one week ago, fell to 8-7.

Playing his first game since receiving a lucrative contract extension, Robert Covington had 20 points for Philly.

Back home for the first time following a five-game road trip to the West Coast, the Sixers showed no jet lag in the first half.

They jumped ahead 15-4 following a 3-pointer by Embiid. Covington stripped Durant and hit a 3 to make it 37-18, electrifying the crowd.

Durant’s dunk off Green’s alley-oop pass got the Warriors within 70-51 late in the second. But Embiid finished off the half with a dunk that sent the Sixers into the locker room up 74-52.

TIP-INS

Warriors: The 47 points allowed in the first quarter was their most given up in any quarter since Portland had 48 in the fourth quarter of a game on Nov. 14, 1992.

76ers: J.J. Redick scored 20 points, and Dario Saric had 13 points and 10 rebounds.

UP NEXT

Warriors: Continue their four-game road trip Sunday afternoon at Brooklyn.

76ers: Host Utah on Monday night.

 

Top-10 college recruit Anfernee Simmons may go straight to NBA

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A couple of years back, Thon Maker decided to play a post-graduate fifth year of prep school ball, not go to a major college, then jump to the NBA. He could because he had graduated a year before and was 19, the Bucks took him in the lottery, and so far it has worked out for everyone.

Now another recruit, Anfernee Simmons, may follow that path. Simmons is spending this year at the IMG Academy, and the combo guard is considered a top-10 recruit in this class.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN broke the story after speaking to Simmons.

“Some people have brought it to my attention,” Simons told ESPN during an interview in Connecticut, where his team was participating in the National Prep Showcase. “As long as the opportunity is there, I will do it.

“I can see myself going to the NBA combine, if I have enough teams to actually invite me or recommend me for the combine and enough teams want to bring me for workouts. I really need to hit the weight room hard and get a little stronger.”

This is a sensible approach — find out where you roughly fall in the draft, then make a decision. Listen to the teams, not friends/family/agents. If you have a first-round guarantee, then go pro.

Givony and others describe the 6’3″ Simmons as talented but still a project for the NBA level, starting with the fact he needs to get stronger (something true of most rookies). Not that it really scares off teams any longer, many are willing to develop and wait on a player with potential (he could spend a chunk of his first season in the G-League). Simmons is fast when he drives, and has a smooth release on his jumper. If he gets stronger and his game matures, a team may take a risk on him.

Shorthanded Cavaliers now without Iman Shumpert for 5-7 days

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Isaiah Thomas is still rehabbing his hip, he should return next month.

With him out, Tyronn Lue and the Cavaliers have had to lean more on Derrick Rose at the point, except he has a sprained ankle that is going to have him out a couple more weeks.

That has forced Iman Shumpert into the starting point guard role in Cleveland, although he mostly is there for defense/shooting as the playmaking duties fall to LeBron James.

Now the Cavaliers will have to get by without Shumpert for a while with water on the knee, Cleveland announced on Saturday. He left Friday night’s Cavs win against the Clippers with a sore knee and did not return

“Additional examination and imaging today at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health confirmed left knee effusion. He will be out 5-7 days while he undergoes treatment and rehabilitation,” the Cavaliers said in a statement.

This is going to force Lue to play Jose Calderon, who he has kept glued to the bench this season despite the injuries. J.R. Smith and Dwyane Wade will need to take on more run as well.

The Celtics have won four in a row — thanks to a more focused offense — and face the Pistons, Nets, and Hornets this week.

Joakim Noah on if he can play at former level: “Probably not. Probably not.”

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For three games, Joakim Noah has been clear of the 20-game PED suspension he started at the end of last season.

For three games, he has not even dressed for the Knicks.

This is the former Defensive Player of the Year who was already on the decline when Phil Jackson gave him a $72 million contract that is now the worst in the NBA. Noah is out of the rotation, where Enes Kanter starts at center (with Kristaps Porzingis at the four) and Kyle O’Quinn coming off the bench.

Noah told Marc Berman of the New York Post he is frustrated but gets the situation.

“I’ll be all right. I’ll be all right,’’ Noah said in his first comments since being reinstated. “I understand the situation. I’m going to make the best of it.”

When asked if he still feels he can be close to the player he was in his 2013-14 campaign, Noah said: “Probably not. Probably not. You know. I can help. I feel like I could help this team and that’s just my reality. But I just want to just be the best that I can be.

“It’s not about trying to be what I was three, four years ago, because it’s not the reality.”

Noah is a smart and mature player, he understands his reality, and he has the exact attitude you want a veteran off the bench. He can help in practices, he can help because he understands how to play defense and can teach it, and eventually, he will get a chance on the court. He is not part of the future of the Knicks, but he can guide these young players.

The Knicks new management will look for a way to unload Noah’s contract, but considering the sweeteners the Knicks would need to throw in to get a team to deal for Noah, it’s unlikely we see any action on that front for a long time.