Sixers GM open to trading picks, but won’t shortcut the rebuilding process

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NEW YORK — The Sixers were slotted to receive the second and tenth overall picks in the upcoming draft before Tuesday night’s Draft Lottery took place, and once it was finished, the odds held almost true to form, with the team dropping just one spot after Cleveland’s stunning luck in landing the top pick continued for the second straight season.

Philadelphia now owns the third and tenth picks in the first round, but team GM Sam Hinkie was anything but discouraged by the results.

“I think it’s a good night for us,” he said. “I think it’s a lot to be hopeful for that we have two top-10 picks in a draft like this. It’s something a lot of teams would give a lot for, and we’re excited.”

The Sixers have seven picks in the upcoming draft — two in the first round, and five in the second. With needs all over the place that exist for a team that finished with the second worst record in the league and at one point snapped a 26-game losing streak to avoid making history, the abundance of selections will be put to good use.

Hinkie doesn’t currently envision trading his team’s top picks. But he expects to be active in seeing what might be out there, and is open to the possibility should the right offer present itself.

“I think you have to be open to sort of whatever may come along,” Hinkie said. “But you ask me today, on a night like this in New York, we’re excited about the players that we might get and being able to add them into our program.”

As for which players, Hinkie wasn’t about to reveal where the Sixers are in the talent evaluation process.

“Now we’re back to my stone face,” he said. “Because this is the time of the year where there is a lot of information to be gained and a lot to be lost by the more you say. We’re likely to be active all around the draft. That’s not unusual for us. But you have to be pretty careful that people don’t know what it is you are going to do.”

No matter who Philadelphia chooses, Hinkie believes that the foundation he’s building makes the team a desirable one to any top prospect.

“Most of the top players in this draft find Philadelphia a really attractive place,” Hinkie said. “Because they want to be in a place where they have opportunity. They want to play in a big market and they recognize what a platform it is to play in Philadelphia. And they want to get better. And they realize that Philadelphia, with our coaching staff and with our roster, you can come and play and get better.”

Player development has been valued above all else since Hinkie and head coach Brett Brown took over last season. Brown was regularly seen on the court before games working out Nerlens Noel, the sixth overall pick by the Pelicans last year whom the Sixers traded for on draft night, and Michael Carter-Williams was given 34.5 minutes per contest to learn the NBA game and eventually take home Rookie of the Year honors.

Brown maintained throughout his first year as coach that the Sixers would stay with a rebuilding process that was expected to last three-to-five years. While Hinkie would obviously like things to turn around more quickly, he’s more interested in building the franchise the right way in order to achieve a sustained level of success.

“I wish Brett would tell me what he knows sometimes that I don’t know,” Hinkie joked. “I think we’ve got a ways to go. That’s clear. I thought [Julius Erving’s] answer tonight when they talked about that was fantastic. The NBA comes in cycles sometimes, and a lot of the teams that were really good when we were last really, really, really good in the early 80s were up here on stage with him.

“It takes a while to sort of build it back up,” he continued. “And then the question is, do you want to lay a foundation that lasts, or do you want to take shortcuts? I’m not particularly interested in shortcuts, and our ownership group isn’t particularly interested in shortcuts. I think we’ll do the best we can do. How that goes, some of that hinges on tonight.”

Doc Rivers says Paul George will be out for the first 10 games

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We are expecting not to see Paul George on the court with Kawhi Leonard in a Los Angeles Clippers uniform until November. But until this week, we didn’t have a good idea about when George could return over the course of the next month.

Speaking to reporters this week, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers let it slip that George could miss up to the first 10 games of the regular season. That would put George at a tentative return date of Nov. 13 against the Houston Rockets.

Via Twitter:

The Clippers are still expected to be one of the best teams in the NBA, and the real question heading into the first several weeks of the season will be how much they allow Leonard to sit out due to load management if George is not on the floor.

The real question in Los Angeles — on both sides of the hall at Staples Center — will be about health, and the Clippers know that it’s not how you start the season but how you finish. It seems likely they will wait until George is fully ready to return to action rather than rushing him back from dual shoulder surgery.

Kyle Kuzma reportedly cancelled plans to announce Chinese sponsorships

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Tensions are still high between the NBA and China, and both sides are hoping that things return to normal soon. Whether that’s possible is another thing altogether, particularly with how raw the response to the NBA has been by domestic fans concerned with the NBA sticking to its stated principles with regard to social justice.

This has affected not just the league, but players too. James Harden and Russell Westbrook were involved in an incident where an official shut down a legitimate question by a CNN reporter. Now it’s being reported that Los Angeles Lakers big man that Kyle Kuzma decided not to announce sponsorship deals with Chinese companies during his team’s visit to the continent this month.

Via Bill Oram:

Kuzma’s plans to announce additional sponsorship deals with Chinese companies were scrapped once the Lakers arrived on Tuesday and found themselves caught in the middle of a stalemate between the NBA and the Chinese government.

The whole story of what it was like to cover the trip in China as an American is worth reading by Oram. It’s an interesting look at the collision of politics, business, and the perception of sports as separate from those spheres.

Meanwhile, players and their management teams will need to think more carefully about the social perception of business deals both at home and abroad.

Facilitator Kawhi Leonard in Clippers opener could be glimpse into season

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This story is part of our NBCSports.com’s 2019-20 NBA season preview coverage. Every day between now and when the season opens Oct. 22 we will have at least one story focused on the upcoming season and the biggest questions heading into it. In addition, there will be podcasts, video and more. Come back every day and get ready for a wide-open NBA season.

LOS ANGELES — You could see the impact almost immediately.

In his first minutes in a Los Angeles Clippers uniform last Thursday against Denver, Kawhi Lenoard drained a 14-foot midrange shot, stole a Gary Harris pass and turned that into a step-back three-pointer. Five points and a steal, all in 21 seconds.

More importantly for the Clippers, you could hear the impact almost immediately, too.

Leonard was talking a lot on defense, directing players and making his presence heard. That has been the case in team practices as well, according to people with the Clippers.

“He’s more verbal than you would ever know,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “He’s more demanding in a very positive way. You have to do it right. I love that for our team.”

Questions abound about how Leonard — and Paul George, when he returns at some point likely in November — will fit in with an established Clippers roster and culture this season. The Clippers on paper may be title favorites, but how all those pieces come together remains one of the potential turning points of this NBA season.

The cultural fit seems smooth.

Patrick Beverley and Montrezl Harrell brought an intense, hard-working, tough-to-play-against ethos to Los Angeles — but Leonard and George are lunchpail guys at heart. The Clippers’ new editions may be top five (certainly top eight) NBA talents, but they came into the league seen as “3&D” guys with some potential. They worked their way to the top, and that works for the Clippers.

On the court — at least in the slightly more than 10 minutes he played against Denver — the roster fit also seemed smooth.

Leonard had seven points on 3-of-6 shooting, but what stood out were the six assists. Leonard played a facilitator role. The first bucket of the game was a Leonard drive-and-kick to JaMychal Green in the corner, who hit the three. Leonard’s other assists were mostly to bigs Ivica Zubac and Harrell cutting to the basket.

Doc Rivers’ plan is to let Leonard feel how other teams are going to guard him, them adapt.

“Some teams will try to guard him one-on-one and he’ll probably try to score,” Rivers said. “Some teams, like Denver today, was up doubling him a lot, and he’ll be a facilitator…

“That’s what Kawhi does, it’s not like we’re recreating anything here. He’s a smart player. We’re going to try and keep as much shooting out with him, so teams can’t help. We will try to keep one roller on the floor with him, so that guy’s going down the middle of the paint and he’s creating help. We don’t have to make it that difficult.”

“He found me every time I was open,” Zubac said. “I really like playing with him.”

This was not by direct design so much as Leonard taking what the defense gave him.

“It just happened naturally,” Leonard said. “For the most part I cause a lot of attention, and I’m going to pass it to the open man. They was knocking down the shots tonight.”

We will see more of “facilitator Leonard” this season, and facilitator George as well. That Rivers wants to keep shooters on the court around his stars speaks to what a vital role Green and second-year guard Landry Shamet will play in Los Angeles — they are going to get opportunities and have to make the defense pay. (Shamet had 11 points against Denver and was 2-of-5 from three.)

Then off the bench, Los Angeles rolls out the best pick-and-roll combo in the league right now, Lou Williams and Harrell. Those two drove the Clippers offense last season, which is why both finished in the top three in Sixth Man of the Year voting, but this season there will be less pressure on them. They may not even close games, even though Williams is one of the better end-game bucket getters in the league.

The Clippers are that deep with talent.

Leonard showed already how he just makes the game easier for that talent. Zubac setting picks for Leonard and rolling, with shooters on the floor, is not going to be easy to stop — and that’s without George in the mix yet.

It’s more than the Xs and Os, however, Leonard and his rings just bring a gravitas to the Clippers they needed.

“He has a presence about him when he is on the floor, just feels a little different, how he carries himself, how he plays,” Shamet said.

That presence could carry the Clippers franchise to places it has never been before. It’s the impact the Clippers are ultimately hoping to see.

Cavaliers visit owner Dan Gilbert, recovering from stroke

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CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cleveland Cavaliers visited team owner Dan Gilbert, who is recovering at home after suffering a stroke in May.

After playing an exhibition game in Detroit on Friday night, the Cavs delayed their trip to Boston so they could spend time Saturday with the 57-year-old Gilbert.

He recently returned to his home in Franklin, Michigan, after staying at a rehabilitation facility in Illinois. Gilbert suffered a stroke on May 26 after being taken to a hospital by a family friend following stroke-like experiencing symptoms.

All of Cleveland’s players, along with first-year coach John Beilein and his staff, held a film session and short walk-through on a replica basketball court Gilbert has at his home before having lunch. Gilbert and his wife, Jennifer, spoke with many of the players.

The Cavs play their third preseason game Sunday against the Celtics.

Gilbert has owned Cleveland’s franchise since 2005.=