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Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant have Lonzo Ball’s back, say give him time

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In Stephen Curry‘s first two months in the NBA, he averaged 10.2 points on 44 percent shooting (39.5 percent from three) and 5.4 assists per game. He played well, but nobody was watching him thinking “this is a future two-time MVP and leader of a championship team.” It took some time for Curry to become Curry.

Curry has seen the ups-and-downs of Lonzo Ball as a rookie, and would like him to get some time out from under the spotlight to develop as well. Here is what he said at practice Tuesday, as the Warriors geared up to face the Lakers on Wednesday night on ESPN. Quote via Chris Haynes of ESPN.

“He’s a rookie,” Curry said of Ball after practice Tuesday. “He’s going through ups and downs like every rookie has. Whether you’re highly touted or not, it’s all a learning experience and you’re trying to find your way and be comfortable. …

“I’ve always said he’s a great talent. I think he loves to play basketball, so he’ll be able to fight through all that and have a great career. I hope you didn’t judge me off my first 20 games in the league.”

Curry (swollen hand) and Kevin Durant (sprained ankle) are both questionable for the game against the Lakers.

They are also on the same page about giving Ball time to develop.

“Lonzo is just playing like a rookie, as far as learning the game, finding the ins and outs of the game,” Durant said. “It’s slowing down for him. Picking and choosing his spots. He’s still figuring it out. He’s 19? That’s what any 19-year-old would go through in the pros (Note: Ball turned 20 last month). It’s just a matter of him being in L.A., where the eyes and scrutiny are on him. He’s playing like he should play as far as learning the game and adjusting on the fly.”

Ball averages 8.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game, plus he has helped the Lakers play faster and more aggressively (at times), and his defense has been better than expected. However, he is struggling mightily with his shot — 30.9 percent overall, 24.5 percent from three, 43.8 percent at the rim, less than 23 percent on uncontested jumpers (no defender within four feet) — and that has led to a lot of questions about how good he is and can be. Ball is clearly in his own head with his shot now, he is shooting just 42.9 percent on free throws (he hit 67.3 percent at UCLA last year).

Thanks to his bombastic father, Magic Johnson calling him a leader and face of the franchise before he stepped on the court, an impressive Summer League, and a fan base desperate for its next star and a return to glory, the hype machine spun out of control on Ball. Too much was expected too early. Ball is a better shooter than this, how good is up for debate but he will improve. He just needs time. Fans may not fully grasp that, but Curry and Durant do.

Giannis Antetokounmpo to tell his story on 60 Minutes this week (preview clip)

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Giannis Antetokounmpo grew up hocking wares — clothes, sunglasses, whatever — on the streets of Athens, Greece. He easily could still be living there, the tallest salesman in a poor part of a country with high unemployment and real challenges.

Instead, he is a multimillionaire living comfortably in the United States, and is one of the 10 best basketball players in the world — and still improving. In a few years we may well be saying he is the best player on the planet.

Antetokounmpo will be telling his story on the legendary television news magazine 60 Minutes this week, and the show released a clip. Check it out.

This is the best missed free throw to game winner you will ever see

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We’ve all seen this situation before at every level of basketball: A team down three points gets fouled in the final seconds and has two free throws, so the shooter aims to make the first free throw then miss the second and create a rebound he or a teammate can grab then throw back in to tie the game. It works about as often as an NFL Hail Mary — either the shooter makes the shot anyway or the defense gets the board — but what other choice is there?

Nobody has ever pulled it off as well as Paulinho Boracini of the Brazilian league team Cearense.

Intentional or not (and I lean not), he banked the second free throw off the rim toward the corner, ran it down himself and hit the game-winning three.

Damn. That’s impressive.

(If Boracini and Cearense sound familiar, you win the award for “watching too much Knicks preseason basketball” because they played New York in a 2015 exhibition.)

Giannis Antetokounmpo doubtful with ankle injury for Bulls game

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MILWAUKEE (AP) The Milwaukee Bucks say Giannis Antetokounmpo is doubtful for Friday night’s game against the Chicago Bulls with a sprained right ankle.

The All-Star forward got hurt in the second quarter of a 127-120 loss on Wednesday to the Los Angeles Clippers when he appeared to trip over teammate Shabazz Muhammad under the Bucks’ basket.

Antetokounmpo is fourth in the league in scoring at 27.3 points a game.


Anfernee Simons declares for NBA draft straight out of high school (kind of)

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Anfernee Simons spent the last year playing high school basketball. But because he did so as a fifth-year prep after technically graduating from high school last year and turns 19 in June, he’s eligible for the NBA draft.

Following a path taken by Thon Maker and considered by Jonathan Isaac, Simons – as expected – is turning pro.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN:

Anfernee Simons will forgo his collegiate eligibility and declare for the 2018 NBA draft, he informed ESPN.

Simons informed ESPN that he will sign with agent Bobby Petriella of Rosenhaus Sports Representation

Simons looks like a mid-first-rounder, though his range is quite wide considering how large of a jump he’s making. Teams can learn relatively more about him in workouts and interviews.

A 6-foot-4 shooting guard who specializes in scoring, Simons is quick on his feet with a quick release off the dribble – with range from beyond the 3-point arc to an impressive floater game. Those floaters will be important, because Simons isn’t nearly strong enough for the NBA. He’s also a lackluster passer, though because of physicality concerns, no team will count on Simons to run an offense anytime soon, anyway. He’ll have time to develop as a distributor.

By signing with agents, Simons loses his college eligibility. Drew Rosenhaus, a big-name football agent, isn’t certified with the National Basketball Players Association. Petriella’s only NBA client has been Diamond Stone, a 2016 second-rounder who’s out of the league. They’re all in this bold venture together now.

As the NBA considers changing its draft rules for young prospects, Simons will be an interesting case study. He obviously meets the draft-eligibility requirements in the one-and-done era, but he’s also jumping from prep-school competition to the NBA. The league’s strength and nutrition programs should serve him well. His overall development could influence the wider debate.