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.”

San Antonio Spurs retire Tony Parker’s number

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Tim Duncan went up first. Then Manu Ginobili.

Monday night it was Tony Parker’s turn — all of the Spurs’ big three have now had their jerseys retired.

This is obviously well deserved.

The No. 28 pick of the 2001 NBA Draft, Parker went on to win four NBA titles, was named Finals MVP with one of those, plus was a six-time All-Star and four-time All-NBA player. He was part of core that turned the Spurs into a dynasty.

Everyone was on hand for the ceremony, with coach Gregg Popovich, Duncan, and Ginobili all speaking before Parker, and all of them talking about their bond.

It was an emotional and touching night.

The next stop for Duncan, Parker and Ginobili? The Hall of Fame.

 

Kings’ point guard De’Aaron Fox out at least 3-4 weeks with ankle sprain

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The Sacramento Kings — everyone’s League Pass favorites — have been snake bitten this season. First it was Marvin Bagley III, who broke his right thumb in the season opener.

Now point guard De'Aaron Fox will be out at least 3-4 weeks (that’s when he’ll be re-evaluated) after suffering a grade three ankle sprain in practice Monday. From the official Sacramento press release:

An MRI conducted this afternoon on Kings guard De’Aaron Fox confirmed that he sustained a left ankle sprain at the end of practice on Monday. He will be re-evaluated in 3-4 weeks and his status will be updated as appropriate.

After a breakout season a year ago, this season Fox had come back to earth a little in new coach Luke Walton’s system — his turnovers were up and his efficiency had slipped, a 52.8 true shooting percentage that is close to the league average, for example — but he was still putting up 18.2 points and dishing out 7 assists a game. He has been the focal point of the Kings’ offense.

This is a blow to the Kings and their development. Sacramento had won 3-of-4 and seemed to be finding more of a groove.

Sacramento does have depth at the point guard spot, however. It signed Cory Joseph over the summer to a three-year, $37 million contract, plus it picked up a team option on Yogi Ferrell. They have some depth at the spot.

However, those players do not have Fox’s explosiveness. The Kings just will not be the same until he returns.

Greece coach Rick Pitino plans to enter 2020 Olympic qualifying without Giannis Antetokounmpo

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) Greece coach Rick Pitino is planning on trying to qualify for the 2020 Olympics without Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Pitino officially took over as coach of the Greek national basketball team on Monday. He said he would leave a roster place open for Antetokounmpo in qualifying games but is not sure if he will be able to rely on his best player.

Greece will try to reach the Tokyo Olympics by winning a qualifying tournament. But the dates could clash with the NBA schedule, probably ruling out Antetokounmpo.

“It is a possibility he will not be playing with us in the qualifying round if he goes far (in the playoffs). I understood that coming into this situation, and that’s why it’s such a high mountain to climb,” Pitino said. “But Giannis is something, it’s a bridge we have to cross later on. But we are going to leave a roster spot even if he has to take my place.”

Pitino said he hoped to meet Antetokounmpo and his brother, Milwaukee teammate Thanasis Antetokounmpo, in March when the Bucks travel to Miami.

The 67-year-old Pitino is a veteran of the college game and the NBA, coaching the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks as well as Kentucky and Louisville. He has returned to Greece after coaching Athens club Panathinaikos last season and remains popular.

Pitino said he also felt that attachment.

“(Coaching Greece) is the crown jewel for me as a basketball coach,” Pitino said. “This is one of the greatest honors I’ve had as a coach. I consider this so special because it’s a mountain that is so worth climbing.

“And for the next eight months. I’m not American. I’m not Italian. I’m Greek. And that’s the way I’m going to carry myself. You won’t see anybody who will bleed every possession like I will bleed to try and win a game.”

LeBron James rips AAU workload: ‘AAU coaches couldn’t give a damn about a kid’

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Last week, during the pointless debate about Kawhi Leonard missing a game for load management, the most salient point came from former Suns coach Earl Watson.

He echoed a must-read story (from Baxter Holmes at ESPN) that reverberated around the NBA this summer (but for many fans got lost in the shuffle of player movement): How NBA team medical staffs — as well as just doctors working on young athletes — were noticing the extreme wear and tear on the body of AAU basketball players. The volume of games, often without enough training and conditioning to properly strengthen their young bodies or let them recover, sets young players up for injuries later in their playing career. NBA teams and doctors, with their load management techniques, are trying to make up for damage that started long before.

LeBron James, with two sons playing AAU ball right now, is in full agreement.

LeBron ripped the volume of games played in the youth basketball culture, speaking to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

“These kids are going into the league already banged up, and I think parents and coaches need to know [that] … well, AAU coaches don’t give a f***,” James told Yahoo Sports. “AAU coaches couldn’t give a damn about a kid and what his body is going through…

“I think [AAU] has something to do with it, for sure,” James told Yahoo Sports. “It was a few tournaments where my kids — Bronny and Bryce — had five games in one day and that’s just f- – -ing out of control. That’s just too much… So, I’m very conscious for my own son because that’s all I can control, and if my son says he’s sore or he’s tired, he’s not playing.

“Because a lot of these tournaments don’t have the best interest of these kids, man. I see it. It’s like one time, they had to play a quarterfinal game, a semifinal game and a championship game starting at 9 a.m., and the championship game was at 12:30 p.m. Three games. I was like, ‘Oh, hell no.’ And my kids were dead tired. My kids were dead tired. This isn’t right. This is an issue.”

It is an issue. A big issue. The NBA can talk about reducing the number of games — they are, and they should, the season is too long, but cutting the number of games becomes a complex financial issue — but it goes beyond just the NBA level.

There needs to be fundamental changes in youth basketball in the NBA, down to the AAU level. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has talked about this.

“So, where historically it’s been an area, particularly AAU basketball, that the league has stayed out of, I think these most recent revelations (from the NCAA scandal) are just a reminder that we’re part of this larger basketball community. I think ultimately, whether we like it or not, need to be more directly involved with elite youth basketball,” Silver said a couple of years ago. Since then, the league has taken steps in that direction.

However, like shortening the NBA season, there are a lot of competing interests in a complicated situation. A lot of people are making money the way things are now and don’t want them to change.

For the health of players, it needs to.