Dan Feldman

DURHAM, NC - DECEMBER 15:  Brandon Ingram #14 of the Duke Blue Devils brings the ball up the court against the Georgia Southern Eagles during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on December 15, 2015 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Likely No. 1 or No. 2 pick Brandon Ingram declares for NBA draft

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Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram?

The NBA’s lucky lottery winner will have a chance to decide.

After Simmons declared, Ingram is following him into the NBA draft.

Ingram at The Players Tribune:

My time is almost over here in Durham. Today as I declare for the NBA Draft, I’m both excited and sad about this moment.

On one hand, one year at Duke isn’t a very long time. I know that. But I’ve done a lot of growing, and growing up, in that time.

Ingram doesn’t mention hiring an agent, but it’s clear he’s staying in the draft. The piece is a farewell to Duke.

Common sense also says he should go pro. It’d be a major shock if he’s not picked in the top two picks in the draft.

The 6-foot-9 small forward is long and athletic, and he has a smooth shooting stroke. He reminds me of Kevin Durant at the same age.

But Durant separated himself by continuing to add elements to his game. He got stronger. He became a better rebounder. He improved his defense. He passes better. His handle is tighter.

Will Ingram follow suit? A point working in his: He’s still just 18 and will be until September.

I’d favor the versatility and upside of Simmons. Ingram just hasn’t done enough with his tools except shooting, though his developmental arc looks good. Getting Ingram with the second pick would be a fine consolation prize.

76ers got too young. Then, they got Elton Brand

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The 76ers signed Elton Brand in January to mentor a young roster and provide veteran perspective. The organization wanted someone to guide the team’s numerous millennial players, including the one who one day asked Brand:

How did you talk talk to girls before social media?

“We went outside,” Brand said with a chuckle, declining to name the teammate.

The 37-year-old Brand – nine years older than all but one of his teammates and 13 years older than most of them – has proved an intriguing fit in Philadelphia. The 76ers have an average age – weight by playing time, holding a player’s age constant on Feb. 1 – of 23.3. That’s the youngest in the NBA:

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Philadelphia was the NBA’s youngest team two years ago, got even younger last season and was headed toward record-setting youth this season. Even 76ers coach Brett Brown acknowledged the team might have gotten too young, calling a pre-Christmas stretch – including Jahlil Okafor‘s off-court problems – the team’s “dark days.”

“There was six games maybe where you really scratch your head, and you worry, because we got punched hard in the stomach and the wind was taken out of us,” Brown said.

The 76ers hired Jerry Colangelo, traded for 27-year-old Ish Smith and signed Brand. Carl Landry – who, at 32, is easily the team’s second-oldest player – got healthy. Philadelphia’s youngest player, 20-year-old Okafor, got hurt.

Gradually the 76ers’ average age climbed out of record-breaking territory. With just five games left, Philadelphia appears set to finish with the fifth-youngest team of all time – ahead of only the 2005-06 Hawks, 2000-01 Bulls, 2009-10 Thunder and 2015-16 76ers. Here’s how this year’s Philadelphia team’s average evolved through the season:

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The 76ers are so young, 21-year-old Nerlens Noel – in only his second season of playing – is expected to lead. Though he’s in his third NBA season after missing the first due to injury, Noel is still Philadelphia’s third-youngest player (ahead of only Okafor and Christian Wood).

“Honestly, I feel a veteran right now,” Noel said. “I try to help all the younger guys.”

Brown could use the help.

“The magnitude, the volume of that task is significant beyond anything you could’ve sort of guessed,” said Brown, who previously worked as a Spurs assistant coach. “I was spoiled with Ginobili and Parker and Duncan and veterans and gold medalists and NBA All-Stars and MVPs. And it’s a whole different planet that I’m on right now. And I love it. I love it.”

Just because Brown loves it doesn’t mean it’s never challenging.

The 76ers will become just the third team to stand as the NBA’s youngest three straight seasons, joining the 1965-67 Pistons and 1984-86 Pacers. That means three straight seasons of teaching basics. And re-teaching… and re-teaching…

“It happens – and I mean this – it’ll happen 20 times a day,” Brown said.

That’s why Brown is so happy to have Brand around.

Brown can handle practices and games, but he worries about times coaches aren’t around – in the locker room, on the bus, on the road. In those moments, Brand’s voice is key.

The 76ers were 1-24 when word leaked they were interested in Brand, and they bottomed out at 1-30. Brand did his best to shut down any petty griping.

“When I first got here, I kind of felt a little bit of that, ‘Oh, they’re picking on us,” Brand said. “One of my quotes, I told them, I said, ‘Man, we’re last place in the world.’ I was like, ‘We’re last place in the whole world.'”

Though Brand went two months without playing in a game after signing, Brown praised his contributions.

“The power that he wields now, the power that he shares information with the team, is an A-plus,” Brown said before Brand made his season debut. “And if you said that’s all you’re going to get for the rest of the year, I’d give him a big hug and say thank you.”

Brand initially focused on playing hard in practice. As part of Team USA for the 1999 Tournament of the Americas, Brand watched NBA veteran teammates Tim Duncan, Gary Payton, Tom Gugliotta and Jason Kidd. When Brand finished practice, he’d leave to get a sandwich. They stayed for extra workouts.

That made an impression on Brand, who was just drafted No. 1 by the Bulls.

A year later, Chicago would be the second-youngest team of all time. Brand laughs about how he’s come full circle, though he’s quick to note how much veteran leadership he received as a rookie before the Bulls committed more fully to rebuilding.

Brand wants to pass on the lessons he learned, including training hard between games – even when his 37-year-old body isn’t the most cooperative.

“I kind of have to. That’s my role,” Brand said. “Extra treadmill, extra – when we play full court, I’m trying to kick ass. Some days, I am. Some days, eh. But I’m going hard – took a charge in pickup, dove for a loose ball in pick up.”

Brand differs from most veterans, because he’s not worried about a younger player taking his job. He already announced his semi-retirement once. He doesn’t sound like someone who’d mind his career ending here and returning to picking and dropping off his children at school.

This is not the same Brand who became an All-Star with the Clippers.

“Whoever was behind me wanted my spot,” Brand said. “He wanted my spot. If he didn’t play, he was sulking kind of. That guy would be like, ‘I should be playing.’

“I don’t want to take an opportunity from the young guys to grow. Me playing 12, 15 minutes, Richaun Holmes could’ve had that 12 or 15 – you know what I mean? – and really got NBA action.

With the 76ers facing frontcourt injuries, Brand has moved in the rotation. But his mission remains similar: Helping the team’s young players grow. He beams when talking about the progress of Okafor and Holmes.

Brand might be a positive influence, but he alone has not changed Philadelphia’s identity. This team is too young for one player to do that.

The 76ers know who they are, and they embrace it.

“It’s a great experience, being able to have so many guys around the same age, very common goals and common understandings. We all listen to the same music and all that,” Noel said. “So, it’s great. We get a long great.”

Shaquille O’Neal, Allen Iverson elected to Basketball Hall of Fame

DENVER - FEBRUARY 18:  (L-R)All-Stars Shaquille O'Neal #34 of the Miami Heat and Allen Iverson #3 of the Philadelphia 76ers sit courtside during the got milk? Rookie Challenge, part of 2005 NBA All-Star Weekend at Pepsi Center on February 18, 2005 in Denver, Colorado.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Yao Ming was directly elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame this year.

Now, after another round of voting, he has NBA company.

Shaquille O’Neal and Allen Iverson were elected. So was Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, former referee Darell Garretson and former player Zelmo Beaty. The only NBA finalist not elected was Kevin Johnson, who has bigger problems.

Shaq and Iverson are no-brainers.

Shaq dominated, maybe more so than anyone but Wilt Chamberlain. No center in his era could handle his massive size and nimbleness in the post. He became a star with the Magic and megastar with the Lakers, whom he led to three championships. Shaq moved around more later in his career, winning another title with the Heat.

Iverson inspires more debate, but all but his biggest detractors acknowledge he belongs in the Hall. The fearless and small guard was a scoring dynamo, though often too inefficient. He got plenty of steals, though gambled for many of them. His fans don’t care about the shortcomings. He changed the game with his style and swagger – helping to make cornrows and armbands popular. He was the NBA trendsetter of his day, and his influence is still being felt in a league full of players who grew up cheering for him.

Reinsdorf won six titles with Michael Jordan. Garretson refereed for a while. I have a hard enough time assessing how the Basketball (read: not NBA) Hall of Fame judges NBA players. There’s even less clear criteria for owners and refs, so I won’t begin to guess.

Beaty got in through the Veterans Committee, which also considered “1964 State Dept Basketball Ambassadors” and Tennessee A&I. So, understanding that committee’s criteria is even more of a challenge. Beaty made the 1966 and 1968 All-Star games with the St. Louis Hawks then played in the ABA. Though he was a nice player in his time, I don’t see anything Hall of Fame-worthy in his playing career (besides his name).

But I’ve long given up on trying to understand the Basketball Hall of Fame. At least voters got it right with Shaq and Iverson.

Also elected: Tom Izzo, Sheryl Swoopes, Cumberland Posey and John McClendon.

Kristaps Porzingis says he thinks he’ll play again this season

Kristaps Porzingis
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
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Could Kristaps Porzingis miss the rest of the season due to a shoulder injury?

Porzingis, via Marc Berman of the New York Post:

“I’m young, and I always want to be on the floor,’’ Porzingis said. “At the same time, I want to be smart about this. Nothing really to gain the last few games but I think I’ll be back for the last two, three games hopefully. But it’s not my decision at the end of the day.’’

“I really want to come back and play the last few games. It’s nothing we need to rush. I’ll make sure I’m 100 percent, then I’ll be back.’’

It’s obviously no huge deal whether or not Porzingis returns this season to the Knicks, who have four games remaining. They’ve long been eliminated from the playoff race.

But a couple smaller things are at play:

1. Porzingis slumped in the second half of the season. Playing a few more games could help him acclimate to the grind of an 82-game season, which could pay off when these late games matter in future years.

2. Porzingis should be a neck-and-neck race with Nikola Jokic to finish second behind Karl-Anthony Towns for Rookie of the Year. I suspect Porzingis will finish second regardless – New York boosts his popularity, and he implanted an impression as the second-best rookie when voters’ minds were more open – but missing the rest of the season could make this a close race.

Plus, the Knicks already traded their first-round pick. It’ll go to the Nuggets or Raptors. So, Porzingis helping New York win more games carries no downside.

If he’s healthy enough to play without being at greater risk of further injury, he should come back.

It doesn’t hurt that he’s so fun to watch, either.

K.J. McDaniels drives past Steven Adams and rim, flips in reverse layup off high glass (video)

Houston Rockets' K.J. McDaniels (32) drives around Oklahoma City Thunder's Steven Adams (12) for a reverse layup during a basketball game Sunday, April 3, 2016, in Houston. Houston won 118-110. (AP Photo/Bob Levey)
AP Photo/Bob Levey
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K.J. McDaniels wanted to dunk this, but Steven Adams made a strong rotation that would foil most drivers.

So, McDaniels showed the difference between him and most drivers.

The Rockets forward used his athleticism to soar past Adams and the basket and flip in a reverse layup off the high glass.