Three winners, three losers from NBA Draft. You bet Anthony Bennett is a winner.

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I will admit this up front: declaring a winner in the NBA draft the night of the draft is premature. We can accurately say tonight that Indiana was a winner in the 2010 draft (Paul George at No. 10, Lance Stephenson at No. 40), but we don’t know how this draft will ultimately play out.

But on draft night there were guys that for tonight came off as winners and losers. Here is our list.

WINNERS

1) Anthony Bennett. All day long the buzz was that Bennett was falling like a rock down draft boards, maybe out of the top 10 entirely. The UNLV forward had questions about his conditioning, his defense. Then the Cleveland Cavaliers shocked the world and took him No. 1 overall.

Bennett is athletic and a beast in the paint, he is one of a group of guys in this draft who could turn out to be special some day. The fit is interesting — Cleveland has Anderson Varejao on the books and Tristan Thompson as four of the future. Where does Bennett fit in? Or do they think he can be a three?

Either way, he will forever be a No. 1 pick (and he will get to cash those No. 1 overall paychecks).

2) Philadelphia 76ers/New Orleans Pelicans. I love their trade for both sides.

Philadelphia might be the biggest winner of the night: They got probably the best player in the draft in Nerlens Noel. They got a young point guard (who may or may not be the point guard of the future) in Michael Carter-Williams. And most importantly they chose a direction — the status quo would have meant being stuck in a rut in the middle of the league. If they bring back Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner and just add pieces what are they, the seven seed? They are going to take a step backwards next year but they are doing it right before a deep draft loaded with talent. Also, Noel means they are moving on from the Andrew Bynum mistake. Good.

New Orleans? They have Jrue Holiday at the one, Eric Gordon at the two, Anthony Davis inside, plus some nice pieces like Ryan Anderson. Holiday and Davis could be the core of a very good team in a few years (Gordon could be, too, if he decides to really buy in).

3) Utah Jazz. They needed a point guard and there was only one in this draft who could step in and give you quality minutes from the start, so the Jazz made a move to get Trey Burke. He’s a good fit for them. The Jazz have some serious issues to deal with this summer (Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson are free agents), but in a down draft they made smart moves.

LOSERS

1) Charlotte Bobcats. Cody Zeller at No. 4? With Nerlens Noel and Ben McLemore still on the board? Zeller’s will have a nice career but there were guys with a lot more potential available. I thought this smelled of a Michael Jordan decision, but have been told by sources (and as is mentioned in the comments on this post) it was a Rich Cho pick. I like Cho, so good luck with this. I don’t get it.

2) Golden State. They bought their way No. 26 with Minnesota’s pick, traded with Oklahoma City to go down to 29, traded down again with Phoenix to 30. Then they picked Nemanja Nedovic, who they will stash in Europe for a couple of years.

3) Indiana Pacers. Strange because this is a really well run organization, but they pick Solomon Hill, and he would have been available later in the second round. Why not trade down to get him and get another asset? Not sold on him helping at all.

Pelicans Elfrid Payton returns, starts, injured again

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) —The New Orleans Pelicans say point guard Elfrid Payton has a fractured finger on his left hand.

Payton injured his finger in the first quarter of his first game back on Friday night after he’d missed New Orleans’ nine previous games with a right ankle sprain.

Soon after, Payton was ruled out for the remainder of the game against the New York Knicks.

Acquired as a free agent this past offseason, Payton has played in six games for New Orleans. He entered Friday night’s games with averages 11.6 points and 6.4 assists through his first five games, but did not have a point or assist in eight minutes against New York before his latest injury.

 

Kyrie Irving scores 43, Celtics beat Raptors 123-116 in OT

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BOSTON (AP) — Kyrie Irving had 11 straight Boston points down the stretch and scored 17 in all in the last 8:06 of the fourth quarter.

Then in overtime, he really turned it on.

The Celtics guard made or assisted on every basket in the extra period, finishing with 11 assists and a season-high 43 points on Friday night to lead Boston to a 123-116 victory over the Toronto Raptors.

“Man, he made some shots tonight where you’re just like, `Wow,”‘ forward Gordon Hayward said. “You catch yourself being a fan. When he gets into that mode, the whole arena knew where we were going, and so did the Raptors. They just couldn’t stop him.”

It was the first time Irving has scored at least 40 points with 10 or more assists in a game. He was the first player do it in the NBA this year, and the first Celtics player since Antoine Walker in 2001.

“Kyrie did a great job in the fourth quarter knocking down shots,” said Kawhi Leonard, who scored 31 points and had a season-high 15 rebounds for Toronto. “We fought hard tonight, they played a better game and we’ve just got to keep playing better.”

Jayson Tatum had 21 points and seven rebounds for the Celtics, who evened the season series at one game apiece against the only team to finish above them in the Eastern Conference last season. The home team has won nine straight matchups.

Serge Ibaka scored 21 and Pascal Siakam had 16 points and nine rebounds for the Raptors, who have lost three straight since opening the season with 12 victories in their first 13 games. Toronto never led in overtime.

“It was just a veteran game out there, just great competition for a Friday night in the NBA,” Irving said. “You’ve got to appreciate that, two great teams going at it. And I’m pretty sure we’ll see them down the road.”

 

Jimmy Butler, Joel Embiid lead Sixers past Jazz 113-107

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jimmy Butler had the sellout crowd chanting his name and singing his favorite theme song.

Butler scored 28 points in his home debut, Joel Embiid had 23 and the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Utah Jazz 113-107 on Friday night.

Butler, the four-time All-Star acquired Monday from Minnesota in a five-player trade, got a loud ovation during introductions and quickly made an impression as the Sixers built a 16-point lead in the first quarter.

Fans serenaded him throughout the game and he got to hear the team’s “1-2-3 Sixers” theme song after the win.

“I already knew this crowd would be excited,” Butler said. “Now that I have them on my side it’s better for me. Y’all, we, have some great fans. Y’all have the catchiest song. I used to sing it in my head when I came in here.”

The Jazz rallied after a rough first quarter and the teams went back-and-forth in the fourth quarter. Jae Crowder‘s put-back after Ricky Rubio‘s stole the ball and missed a lay-up gave Utah a 107-105 lead with 1:37 left. JJ Redick tied it on a pair of free throws. Ben Simmons‘ driving lay-up gave the 76ers a 109-107 lead.

Butler then hit a jumper to extend the lead and drew an offensive foul, sending the crowd into a frenzy as Hall of Famer Allen Iverson jumped up to celebrate from his courtside seat.

“The atmosphere was amazing,” Embiid said.

The 76ers are 29-1 in last 30 regular-season home games.

Redick had 16 points and Simmons had 10 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Embiid scored 12 of his points in the fourth quarter after he played less than a minute in the third because he had four fouls.

Donovan Mitchell led the Jazz with 31 points.

“We competed but we have to be smarter,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “We had some mistakes where we have to think more. They add up against a team like this.”

After the Jazz made the first basket, Butler scored on a reverse layup to begin a 12-0 run. He also nailed a 3-pointer during that stretch as Philadelphia dominated early.

But Utah closed to 54-52 at halftime following Derrick Favors‘ alley-oop dunk.

Redick and Mike Muscala hit consecutive 3s early in the third quarter. However, the Jazz came back and went up 81-80 on Mitchell’s jumper late in the quarter.

“Up until the end, we made a few mistakes, but we played passionate,” Mitchell said. “Honestly, they’re a great team, but we had the game in the bag except for a few mistakes. I think the game just got away.”

 

Report: Rockets lure assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik out of retirement with ‘significant raise’

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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After a slow start, the Rockets got assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik to come out of retirement.

How?

The usual way employers attract someone to a job.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

Fertitta was alarmed enough to personally recruit defensive guru Jeff Bzdelik, who retired just before training camp, to return, offering what sources say was a significant raise that pushed his salary to a range that ranks among the NBA’s highest-paid assistant coaches.

Good for Bzdelik using his leverage. He looked like a defensive whiz last season, and Houston slipped without him. Of course, personnel matters, too. There’s no guarantee these Rockets – minus Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute – reach last year’s defensive level.

Bzdelik has been back around the team, but isn’t working full-time yet. It’ll take a while to assess his impact on Houston.

And good for Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta paying up. Fertitta is still trying to determine the right amount for him to spend, but the team is better off if he’s willing to pay what’s necessary to attract the most desirable coaches.