Kurt Helin

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Sixers work to see Ben Simmons injury as short-term setback

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This was the season where Philadelphia was going to start to turn the corner on “the process.” GM Bryan Colangelo brought in some veterans, plus the young core was ready to go — Joel Embiid is finally healthy, Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor were a year older and more experienced, and now there was Ben Simmons to play point-forward and whip the ball around the court.

Except now Simmons is out with a broken foot, one that will require surgery. He reportedly will miss three months, bringing him back around the first of the year, but it could be more than that. You know the Sixers are going to go slow with pushing his return.

GM Bryan Colangelo and coach Brett Brown characterized the injury as a speed bump — it will slow down the process for a little while, but it will not change the direction. Via Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com:

They are right, the plan is not changing, just the timing in Philly. They should not rush Simmons’ return. Sixers fans hate the word “patience” at this point, but what else is there.

Brown did talk about spending the time Simmons is sidelined reworking the rookie’s jumper. Maybe that can be a positive.

Revamped Oklahoma City uses Spain trip to try to get players to bond


MADRID (AP) The Oklahoma City Thunder couldn’t have picked a better occasion for a trip to Europe.

Needing to bring together a new group of players, the revamped Thunder play two preseason games in Spain this week, hoping the overseas trip will help create some chemistry in a squad filled with new faces and without Kevin Durant.

In Spain, practice and game results won’t matter as much as team meals, sightseeing tours or watching a soccer match played by Cristiano Ronaldo.

“This week is about how we utilize the trip to spend more time with each other, to connect, and to bond with one another,” coach Billy Donovan said Sunday. “When you are in training camp and you are home in Oklahoma City, guys are going home to their wives and family. But now as we’ve all left to come over here to Spain, it’s an opportunity for all of us to be together, so hopefully we can maximize this time together.”

The Thunder will play against nine-time Euroleague champion and 33-time Spanish League champion Real Madrid on Monday, and against 18-time Spanish League champion and two-time Euroleague champion FC Barcelona Lassa on Wednesday.

“It’s important,” guard Russell Westbrook said. “It gives us an opportunity to obviously be together, but not just that, an opportunity to learn about each other in different ways.”

Russell and most of his teammates watched Ronaldo and European champion Real Madrid draw Eibar 1-1 in a Spanish league game at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on Sunday, in one of the group outings planned for the players this week.

“Chemistry is a big factor in sports, so with a trip like this it really does bring the team together,” said forward Kyle Singler, who played professionally in Spain early in his career. “We are doing things. Those shared experiences go a long way. We are in another country together, that alone is pretty cool.”

Singler said the new group has “gelled well together” but it will take time for the team to fully develop.

“I think it’s going to take time to build that chemistry, but once we’ve figured it out, we will be fine,” Singler said. “We are not the team that we are going to be at the end of the year, so we have to keep that in mind, and make sure that we take the entire season to learn what we need to get better at. We are going to be a playoff-contending team. That’s our goal.”

Singler is one of five Thunder members who played in Spain at some point, along with Ersan Ilyasova, Alex Abrines, Domantas Sabonis and Joffrey Lauvergne.

“It’s good to be outside Oklahoma,” Lauvergne said. “You are going to play against a different kind of basketball than what we are used to playing in the NBA. It’s something good.”

Last season, the Thunder made their fourth Western Conference finals appearance in six years.

Oklahoma City played a pair of European preseason games in 2013, against the Philadelphia 76ers in England and against Fenerbahce Ulker in Turkey.

Also part of the NBA Global Games 2016, the Houston Rockets and New Orleans Pelicans will play preseason games in Shanghai and Beijing on Oct. 9 and Oct. 12, respectively.

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/tales-azzoni

Watch Jimmer Fredette drop 33 on Rockets as member of Shanghai Sharks

Associated Press

Jimmer Fredette — unable to get another chance in the NBA, because it hadn’t worked out with the many he had — is now playing for the Shanghai Sharks. Where he should thrive — China is a raw scorer’s league.

And Fredette can be a raw scorer, something he reminded everyone of on Sunday when Yao Ming-owned Shanghai took on the Houston Rockets in a preseason game — he scored 33 points on 11-of-26 shooting, 3-of-8 from three. He added eight assists on the night.

For the handful of people still in the Cult of Jimmer, he could latch on with an NBA team once the Chinese season ends in March (exactly when depends on how the team does in the playoffs).

The Rockets, in their first-ever game for Mike D’Antoni thrived in a defense-free game putting up 72 points in the first half on their way to a 131-94 win. Nene and Ryan Anderson had 12 points each in their Houston debuts.


LeBron James endorses Hillary Clinton for president

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“Only one person running truly understands the struggles of an Akron child born into poverty.”

With that line, LeBron James endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton for president. He wrote an op-ed that has appeared on Business Insider and will run in the Akron Beacon Journal on Monday.

Few NBA players — or professional athletes for that matter — will endorse anyone in this race. Colin Kaepernick certainly has not. Without a doubt there are a few Trump supporters among NBA players (and more than a few owners — Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert recently hosted a Trump fundraiser in Ohio). But LeBron is a popular figure in a swing state, amplifying his voice on the issue.

Here is part of what he wrote:

I support Hillary because she will build on the legacy of my good friend, President Barack Obama. I believe in what President Obama has done for our country and support her commitment to continuing that legacy.

Like my foundation, Hillary has always been a champion for children and their futures. For over 40 years, she’s been working to improve public schools, expand access to health care, support children’s hospitals, and so much more….

Finally, we must address the violence, of every kind, the African-American community is experiencing in our streets and seeing on our TVs. I believe rebuilding our communities by focusing on at-risk children is a significant part of the solution. However, I am not a politician, I don’t know everything it will take finally to end the violence. But I do know we need a president who brings us together and keeps us unified. Policies and ideas that divide us more are not the solution.

Republican nominee Donald Trump leads in Ohio polls, and there are reports the Clinton campaign is pulling back from the state to focus on other swing states (her path to winning does not need to include Ohio).

In what is a contentious election, it would not be a surprise to see some NBA players endorse one candidate or the other. None of which likely carries much weight with voters. Certainly, LeBron in Ohio carries more than most.

Darren Collison gets off easy with eight-game suspension for domestic violence

Associated Press

The Kings have caught a break. When the Hornets’ Jeff Taylor accepted a guilty plea for domestic violence several years ago, he got a 24 game suspension.

This summer Kings’ point guard Darren Collison accepted a plea deal in a domestic violence case (one misdemeanor charge) involving his wife that also included 20 days in jail (although he will not serve his time in a traditional jail) and three years probation.

However, Collison will only be suspended eight games to start the season (less than 1/10th of the season), something first reported by Marc Stein of ESPN and now confirmed by the league.

This is a suspension without pay that will cost Collison $380,000.

The Kings released this statement.

“Domestic violence is a serious issue and directly contradicts the values of the Sacramento Kings. Darren has taken responsibility for his actions and will work to raise awareness of this critical issue in the community. We support the NBA’s decision on this matter.”

The NBA does independent investigations of these cases and does consult with a panel of experts in the domestic violence field when coming up with these recommendations. Here is a portion of their press release on how they got to this number.

Based on this investigation, consultation, and a careful weighing of all the facts and circumstances, the NBA determined that an eight-game suspension was appropriate.  Among other factors, the NBA took into account the conduct and its result, the player’s acceptance of responsibility, his cooperation with both law enforcement and the NBA, and his voluntary participation in counseling in addition to the court-mandated program.  

I don’t doubt they put thought into this incident, and that it is different from the Taylor case. Collison is not the player you’d expect to be in this situation if you talk to him, and I think the Kings handled this well. Regardless of the circumstances around it, domestic violence is a serious issue nationally and in professional sports. It is unacceptable behavior, and this punishment from the league feels light.


The Kings have Ty Lawson, Isaiah Cousins, and Jordan Farmar at the point until Collison returns.