Recapping PBT’s coverage of All-Star weekend from Orlando

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After four exciting and exhausting days in Orlando for All-Star weekend, it’s time for PBT to get out of town. The weather was good, and the city itself might be great, but we wouldn’t know due to spending the entire time shuttled between hotels, convention centers, and of course, the Amway Center downtown. Speaking of downtown, it was an absolute mob scene after the events; a little reminiscent of New Orleans with people spilling out of the bars and clubs and walking (stumbling?) down the crowded streets until well past our normal bedtime.

There were celebrities and recognizable faces at every turn, thanks no doubt in part to lavish events being hosted by the likes of Hennessy VS that the players themselves were often attached to — like this one hosted by Carmelo Anthony that we got to check out.. The basketball brought everyone to town, and once there, the events and parties kept everyone going non-stop until very, very early Monday morning.

As we travel back across the country and catch up on some rest, relive all of our All-Star coverage by following the links below.

– Kevin Durant was your All-Star game MVP, while Kobe Bryant was bloodied and LeBron James turned the ball over with the game on the line by trying to pass instead of taking the big shot. So essentially, just like the regular season.

– Breaking down all of the winners and losers from Sunday night’s All-Star game. We’ll let you guess which one Nicki Minaj was.

– Kobe Bryant surpassed Michael Jordan to become the All-Star game’s all-time leading scorer. Somewhere in Charlotte, MJ threw a remote control at his HDTV.

– Dwight Howard did a good job of not talking trade at all this weekend. He also did a good job of looking as disinterested as possible in the All-Star game.

– Speaking of Dwight, David Stern held a press conference Saturday and said he supports Howard’s right to leave Orlando if he chooses. Stern also said injuries were not increased as a result of the shortened season, and talked a bit about the arena situation in Sacramento.

– Jeremy Evans was your Slam Dunk contest champion, largely thanks to this two-ball dunk over teammate Gordon Hayward. Recapping the event, which could use less schtick and more stars.

– Kevin Love won the Three-Point contest, and Tony Parker took home the trophy from the Skills Challenge.

– Rajon Rondo wasn’t exactly thrilled to discuss his recent two-game suspension, but did eventually admit he might have learned from it.

– The league paired up Deron Williams and Dwight Howard for a charity event. Predictably, Orlando officials were not amused.

– LeBron James said he’d consider entering the dunk contest. As long as, you know, the winner received a million dollars.

– Kyrie Irving was your Rising Stars Challenge MVP. The exhibition was a little rough, but there were still some spectacular playslike this one involving Ricky Rubio, DeMarcus Cousins, and Blake Griffin.

– Jeremy Lin played in the Rising Stars Challenge, but managed only two points. He did, however, debut his own personal Nike basketball shoes.

– Blake Griffin had some dunk contest advice for Paul George … which was not followed.

– Steve Nash continued to remind us he’s not looking to be traded, unlike a certain center in Orlando that we know.

– Dwight Howard danced around those very same trade questions, while Kobe Bryant — now in his 16th season, and knowing he’d be subjected to requests for shout-outs to fans across the globe for 45 minutes — skipped media availability altogether.

After hip surgery, Isaiah Thomas not 100 percent for start of Denver training camp

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Isaiah Thomas didn’t want to have surgery at first — he was coming up on a contract summer and the point guard who was fifth in the MVP voting just two seasons ago wanted to prove he was still the same guy. That he deserved to get paid. But after missing the start of the season in Cleveland with a torn labrum in his hip, getting traded to the Lakers, never being himself and being a below average player last season, Thomas decided to get the surgery on his hip last April. He eventually signed a minimum contract with the Denver Nuggets.

He is still not 100 percent at the start of training camp, coach Mark Malone said on Altitude TV, via Chris Dempsey. Sam Amick adds that it may be a while before we see Thomas in action.

That has the Nuggets adding to their training camp roster in the short term.

The Nuggets are a team looking to make a playoff push this season (and if Paul Millsap can stay healthy and improve the team’s defense they should make it, even in the brutal West). Thomas — a healthy Thomas — boosting the Denver bench is part of that. However, Thomas is the poster child for why one doesn’t play through injuries or rush back on the court, there is potential long-term damage that is hard on the body and can be hard on the wallet.

Denver can wait, and if Thomas can be Thomas whenever he gets back, it could be a good fit in Denver.

Lonzo Ball will not be cleared for 5-on-5 at start of Lakers’ training camp

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Lonzo Ball called having surgery on his knee this summer a “last option” — he had a PRP injection first — but ultimately didn’t have a choice. He’s spent a lot of his summer on recovery from his surgery, a partial removal of his meniscus.

When training camp opens, Ball will not be cleared to go 5-on-5, Lakers’ coach Luke Walton said on the Lakers’ cable station in Los Angeles, reports Mike Bresnahan.

Ball has been working on conditioning and getting stronger this summer, plus has undoubtedly tweaked his shot. However, it takes time to recover from a knee operation, and the Lakers have no reason to rush him back.

 

Things have changed this season for Ball and all of the Lakers’ young core. With LeBron James in-house, Los Angeles is a win-now team and all the young Lakers need to prove they can contribute to that today, there is now more patience for slow development. Ball needs to prove he can play well off the ball (he did that at UCLA) and that he has become more of a scoring threat, both with his jumper and finishing around the rim. His ability to move the rock and play at pace can fit with LeBron and the Lakers’ game, but the Lakers are not going to wait around while that slowly develops. It’s sink or swim time, especially for Ball with Rajon Rondo on the roster and Josh Hart looking all-world at Summer League.

PBT Podcast: Can anyone beat the Golden State Warriors?

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Can any team beat the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors this season?

It could happen, although the Warriors will need to participate in their own downfall, one way or another — an injury to Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant, the lack of regular season focus finally catching up with them, or maybe they become too focused on free agency the next summer. But just how likely is any of that to happen?

Mark Medina of the San Jose Mercury News, and host of the Planet Dubs podcast, joins us to break down how Steve Kerr will work to keep that downfall from happening, how he will keep this team focused, what DeMarcus Cousins means to the roster, and what it will take for the Warriors to three-peat — and what can trip them up.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

Brett Brown on Ben Simmons: ‘His jump shot’s not going to define him’

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz are expected this season to join Philadelphia’s Big Three.

No, not as franchise cornerstones – the No. 1 draft picks were already part of that trio with All-Star center Joel Embiid.

But as long-distance shooters, Simmons and Fultz went 0 for the season on 3s; Simmons, the NBA rookie of the year, missed all 11 attempts and Fultz went 0 for 1 from 3-point range.

Sixers coach Brett Brown said both players have put in the work needed on their jumpers, though neither player will ever become defined by his work beyond the arc. Brown said Fultz took about 150,000 shots this summer under the tutelage of trainer Drew Hanlen. Simmons has worked with his brother, Liam, a former college basketball assistant coach, at 3s and shooting from the elbow.

Simmons attempted just one 3 in the postseason and he’ll have to establish some sort of long-range jumper to become a serious all-around threat in the NBA.

“His jump shot’s not going to define him,” Brown said Tuesday. “At some point, it will sure help. But I have aspirations, ambitions for him where I want him to feature on an all-defensive team. I personally want to post him more. I look forward to using him as a screener and giving Markelle the ball and let him roll out of it, that Blake Griffin-sort of half-roll and go to dunk.”

Simmons also needed work on his free throws: He made 191 of 341 for just 56 percent.

“Imagine if he can score one more point, it translates to like three to five more wins,” Brown said. “When I look at how you’re going to do that, that’s one way that interests me, let’s just get him more free throws. Can you finish, can you be a better free-throw shooter than you were in the regular season? He has to be.”

Fultz, the No. 1 pick of the 2017 draft, is bordering on bust territory after just one season. His rookie year was derailed by a mysterious shoulder injury, a broken shot and confidence issues. He played the first four games, missed 68 games because of injury, and then was benched in the playoffs against the Celtics. The most baffling moment came when he refused to answer questions about his shoulder, simply staring blankly ahead and rubbing his head.

Fultz struggled with his mechanics when he did play, and his shooting form was widely mocked around the NBA. No one in the organization could pinpoint when Fultz’s form went awry, though he started experiencing soreness shortly after he was drafted.

Brown said he was part of a “Team Markelle” formed this summer to help get the 20-year-old back on track.

“When I see him now come back into our gym, you look at his swagger, his cocky side, his mojo, he’s seeking shots,” Brown said. “He really is not bashful. When I look at the actual form, there are times, from a posture standpoint, he’s a little bit backward. When you look at him rising up, or getting the ball in his shot pocket, sometimes his head will go back and he’ll play more in a fade-type fundamental that we want to try and correct.”

But if Simmons can’t shoot and Fultz can’t shoot, then how are they going to play together on a Sixers team that won 52 games last season?

“At (some) point of the game, is it the start, is it ending, those two guys will play together,” Brown said. “There’s zero doubt we’ll go through some growing pains as everyone expects and should expect.”

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