Markelle Fultz happy to land with Lakers, Celtics

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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Markelle Fultz wants to be the first player chosen in the NBA draft next week, either by the Boston Celtics or whatever team ends up with their No. 1 pick.

Just in case he isn’t, he also wants the Los Angeles Lakers to know what they can get at No. 2.

Fultz went through an hour-long private workout for the Lakers on Thursday before meeting with the team’s top brass at their training complex. The Maryland-born University of Washington product is generally expected to be the top pick, but he has stayed in close contact with the Lakers since the draft combine.

“It was a family decision,” Fultz said of his willingness to work out for Los Angeles. “Giving everybody the opportunity. Never know where I might land, so I just wanted to see how it is out here.”

Fultz didn’t have to work out for anyone at all, and some consensus No. 1 picks choose to work out only for the top team. The Celtics already hosted Fultz, but the slick scorer said he isn’t afraid of a little extra scrutiny.

“I’m blessed to play the game,” Fultz said, still wearing his gray Lakers workout gear. “I’d like to go (No.) 1, but wherever I land is where I go.”

Fultz’s talent has put him in a unique position between two of the NBA’s most iconic franchises, but he welcomes the possibility of ending up on either side of the famed Celtics-Lakers rivalry.

“Really, to me, it doesn’t matter,” Fultz said. “Wherever I go, I’m going to be the same guy. I’m going to be humble. Of course, coming here with the Hollywood lights, it’s going to be great publicity. I’ll get my brand out there and just build it myself.”

With his mother, agent and personal trainer in attendance, Fultz went through numerous offensive drills while Magic Johnson and Luke Walton looked on. Fultz said the Lakers were interested in his ability off pick-and-roll sets and his shooting mechanics.

The 6-foot-4 guard believes he would fit well alongside D'Angelo Russell, the Lakers’ similarly sized third-year guard.

“Basketball players who are pretty good at what they do learn how to play with each other,” Fultz said.

After lunch, Fultz planned to visit the Lakers’ new training complex under construction just down the street from the current building.

He hasn’t decided whether to work out for even more teams in the final days before the draft, but he’ll discuss it with his family.

With the No. 2 pick for the third consecutive season, the Lakers know they’ll be able to choose either Fultz or Lonzo Ball, the UCLA playmaker widely considered the second-biggest talent in the draft. Ball is eager to stay home with the Lakers, and he went through an extensive workout in El Segundo last week.

Ball is meeting with the Lakers again Friday in a private setting as Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka hone in on their strategy for next week.

Fultz acknowledges he is developing a personal rivalry with Ball through the draft process. He wouldn’t mind if they ended up on opposite sides of the NBA’s most storied team rivalry, either.

“I’m a competitor, so anybody that’s in front of me, I’m going to try and take them out,” Fultz said. “Lonzo is a great guard, so we’re both competing for the same position. Stepping on the court, I’m going to try and beat him in everything I do, if that’s tying my shoe faster or anything.”

The two famous franchises with the top two picks have one major current difference: While the Celtics were the Eastern Conference’s top playoff seed last season, the Lakers are coming out of the worst four-year stretch in franchise history. Fultz is intrigued by the chance for immediate postseason contention, but the Lakers’ promising young core presents its own intrigue.

“I thought about both,” Fultz said. “Being a young team would pretty much feel like college again. But either/or. Coming to a young team or an old team, I’m just blessed to play the game.”

More AP NBA: http://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

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.