Kurt Helin

Associated Press

Ben Simmons makes the expected official: He’s entering the NBA draft


There are plenty of questions in NBA circles about Ben Simmons:

What is his ceiling? Will he be better than peak Lamar Odom? Is his jumper fixable? Does he want it bad enough to fix the jump shot, improve on defense, and reach his potential? Is he a better choice at No. 1 than Brandon Ingram?

However, there was never any question he was going to come out, and on Sunday night he made that official speaking to Jeff Goodman of ESPN.

“I’m making it official,” Simmons said late Sunday night.

Simmons put up impressive box score stats at LSU — 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game — but his LSU team was just 19-14, and Simmons had some lackluster performances in the team’s biggest games. He’s an unquestionably gifted athlete at 6’10” with the skills and mindset of a point guard. He can dazzle.

Every scout or college basketball expert I’ve spoken to — including NBC’s college basketball guru Rob Dauster and NBA Draft Blog (and Rotoworld writer) Ed Isaacson on the NBC/PBT podcast — said he has the potential to be an NBA franchise player, but he has a lot farther to go to get there than recent players such as Anthony Davis or Karl-Anthony Towns. Simmon’s jumper isn’t just a little off, it’s a mess. And the bigger concern in some corners is the question of his passion for the game — will he put in the work needed to get his game near that potential?

Still, whatever team ends up with the No. 1 pick likely takes Simmons. He’s still on top of most draft boards, because teams are drafting on the potential of what a guy can be in three or five years, not who he is today.

Five Takeaways from NBA Sunday: Anthony Davis out for season, Pelicans beat Clippers anyway

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By Sunday you’ve calmed down and realize that everybody in your office’s bracket is screwed, and you still have a chance at getting your money back. But while you focused on the college game — where the referees buy flops at an alarming rate — the NBA kept rolling. Here’s what you need to know from a Sunday around the Association.

1) Pelicans shut down Anthony Davis for the season, then go out and beat Clippers anyway. I can give you 24 million reasons Anthony Davis didn’t want the Pelicans to shut him down for the season — if his injuries cost him a spot on the All-NBA team, that’s how much money he loses when his rookie contract extension kicks in next summer and he doesn’t qualify for the “Derrick Rose rule.” Plus these surgeries — one to his knee to clean things up, one to his shoulder for a torn labrum — put in doubt his ability to play for Team USA this summer in the Rio Olympics. The Pelicans have shut him down for the season. Which is best for him long term.

Just after doing that, the Pelicans turned around and beat the Los Angeles Clippers 109-105 Sunday. Jrue Holliday had 22 points, and Omer Asik had his best game of the season with 15 points and 14 rebounds, plus he played great defense on DeAndre Jordan all game. For the Clippers, a team Doc Rivers would like to fancy as contenders, they have now lost their last two games to a Memphis team with Zach Randolph and basically nobody else, and now the Pelicans without Davis. That’s not a good sign.

2) Dirk Nowitzki defies father time, drops 40 on Blazers.
Dirk Nowitzki put himself in some rarefied company on Sunday: Only four players had scored 40 points in a game at age 37 or older — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, and now Nowitzki. The big German scored 40 points Sunday in Portland, doing so on 26 shots. Nowitzki was killing it from the midrange, where he was 10-of-16 for the night. He also had three threes, as well as some buckets at the rim. This game was a huge win for a Dallas team trying to make the playoffs: Dallas and Houston are tied in the seven and eight spots, with Portland just half a game ahead and Utah just one game behind in the nine seed.

3) DeMarcus Cousins with 20-20 game as Kings beat Knicks. Robin Lopez is one of the handful of guys with size to battle DeMarcus Cousins in the paint. Didn’t matter. Cousins put up numbers in Madison Square Garden with 24 points and 20 rebounds in the Kings’ 88-80 win. Despite everything else going on with the Kings, Cousins continues to put up points and just be a beast in the paint. Robin Lopez did his own damage with 23 points and 20 rebounds.

4) Kings’ Darren Collison a with a ridiculous buzzer beater. If you’re looking for the shot of the night, Sacramento’s Darren Collison has you covered with his leaping three-pointer to beat the clock.

5) Watch Bucks’ Jabari Parker get up and throw it down past Rudy Gobert. And your dunk of the day Sunday goes to Jabari Parker, who just explodes and throws it down as he slashes down the lane. Technically you could argue he dunked over Rudy Gobert, but the Utah center doesn’t have time to react and is just a spectator on the play. He dunked past Gobert, not on him. Still, an impressive throwdown.

Dirk Nowitzki drops 40 on Blazers, joining Kareem, Jordan to score that much at 37


Only three players had scored 40 points in a game at age 37 or older — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, and Karl Malone.Make that four — Dirk Nowitzki joined the group Sunday going against Portland

Make that four — Dirk Nowitzki joined the group Sunday going against Portland.

Nowitzki scored 40 points Sunday in Portland, doing so on 26 shots. It wasn’t like Portland just left him open — 20 of those shots were contested according to the NBA’s SportsVU player tracking, but the big German hit 13 of them anyway. Nowitzki did most of his damage from the midrange, where he was 10-of-16 for the night. He also had three threes, as well as some buckets at the rim.

The win over Portland keeps Dallas in the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, but things are tight. Dallas and Houston are tied in the seven and eight spots, with Portland just half a game ahead and Utah just one game behind in the nine seed. The Mavericks could use a few more games like this from Dirk down the stretch.

Jrue Holiday’s 22 points leads Pelicans past Clippers, 109-105

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Jrue Holiday scored 22 points and the injury-riddled New Orleans Pelicans beat the Los Angeles Clippers 109-105 on Sunday night.

Omer Asik scored a season-high 15 points and tied his season best with 14 rebounds for New Orleans, while Dante Cunningham scored a season-high 19 points. Reserve guard Tim Frazier added a season-high 17 points.

Chris Paul and J.J. Redick each scored 24 points, and Paul also had 13 assists for the Clippers, who lost in Memphis on Saturday night and were playing their second game in less than 24 hours. Los Angeles missed 19 3-point attempts and 13 free throws.

Still, despite trailing by 11 with 1:23 left, the Clippers could have tied it when DeAndre Jordan dunked as he was fouled. But Jordan missed his free throw with 27 seconds left. Former Pelican Austin Rivers also missed a 3-point shot that would have tied it in the final seconds.

The Pelicans tipped off shortly after announcing All-Star forward Anthony Davis, who hurt his left knee on Friday night, would miss the rest of the season to treat that injury as well as a torn labrum in his left shoulder that played with for much of the season.

Davis’ knee injury was not believed to be serious, but with the Pelicans virtually eliminated from playoff contention, coach Alvin Gentry said it seemed prudent to shut down the club’s franchise player during the final few weeks of the regular season.

Yet New Orleans found plenty of ways to score, thanks to several players either surpassing or approaching season highs in scoring. Luke Babbitt scored 14 points, including two free throws with 14 seconds left that gave the Pelicans a 108-105 lead. After Rivers’ missed 3, Toney Douglas capped his 15-point night with a free throw that sealed it with 1.5 seconds left.

Jamal Crawford had 14 points, and the Clippers wanted him to shoot the potential tying 3, but Holiday’s defense led Crawford to give the ball up and Rivers wound up having to put it up as time wound down.

Jordan finished with 12 points, but missed five of 11 free-throw attempts.

New Orleans’ lead got as large as 14 when Holiday’s driving layup made it 102-88 with 2:18 left.


Clippers: The Clippers rested starting forward Jeff Green, who was elbowed in the head during Saturday night’s loss at Memphis. Paul Pierce started in Green’s place. … When fans heckled Clippers coach Doc Rivers for complaining about a foul called against his team, he turned to the crowd and shouted, “You really think that was a foul?” When several spectators answered in the affirmative, Rivers responded, “You better be honest. It’s a Sunday.”

Pelicans: The Pelicans’ announcement that Davis would miss the rest of the season meant New Orleans would be without four starters for its final 14 games, including small forward Quincy Pondexter (who never played this season), and guards Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon. … Two of the Pelicans five starters against the Clippers still have fewer than 10 starts apiece this season. Douglas made his sixth start and Babbitt his seventh.


Dwight Howard caught using stickum, says “It’s not a big deal. I ain’t tripping.”


It was vintage Dwight Howard: Do something a little bit silly on the court, make it worse with his comments after the game.

With 3:36 left in the first quarter, Howard checked back into the game between Paul Millsap free throws. What you can’t see in the video above but can in others is Howard goes to his spot on the low block, asks the referee if he can get a feel for the ball (a common request by players), the referee lets Howard rub his hands on the ball, takes it back and bounces it to Millsap.

Millsap quickly feels the ball is sticky, gets a perplexed look on his face, and throws it back to the official. The referees talk, decide there is a foreign substance on the ball, and then proceed to warn both benches that nobody can go Lester Hayes here — stickum is illegal in the NBA. I’ll let Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution tell the story from there.

“I’ve never felt the ball like that ever,” Millsap said after the game. “It was sticky. It was like super glue or something was on there. I couldn’t get it off my hands. It was the weirdest thing ever.”

Official Monty McCutchen grabbed the ball and went to each bench to issue a warning, saying ‘Stickum is illegal in the NBA.’ After first going to the Hawks bench he made his way toward the Rockets bench. Rockets coach J.B. Bickerstaff slid in front of the can, still at the scorer’s table. McCutchen noted he knew what Bickerstaff was hiding.

Howard was caught, although no penalty was called on the play because of it. The spray can — which had been wrapped in tape, hiding its contents — disappeared from the scorer’s table and was not seen again.

After the game, Howard decided to dig the hole deeper.

The NBA will investigate this, although most likely what comes of it is a memo to teams not to use the stuff. If Howard is using the spray substance (and we know he is), it’s unlikely he’s the only NBA player doing it. Referees will be watching for it now.

Sticky ball or not, the Hawks went on to win the game 109-97.