Sixers GM says rare availability of high lottery pick is what motivated him to trade Michael Carter-Williams

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The Sixers made a couple of trades right as Thursday’s deadline came to a close, and as usual, the moves were about the future more than they were about improving in the present.

Philadelphia traded reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams to the Bucks, as part of a three-team deal that netted the Sixers the Lakers’ (top-five protected) 2015 first round draft pick that was owed to the Suns.

Carter-Williams still needs to develop, but has already shown he’s capable of being an NBA-caliber starting point guard. It was curious, then, to see the Sixers hit the reset button once more, but GM Sam Hinkie said that the rare availability of a high lottery pick was simply too tempting to pass up.

From John Finger of CSN Philly:

What got Hinkie to release his grip on Carter-Williams was the chance to get the Lakers’ top-5 protected first-round pick. At 13-40, the Lakers are headed for the lottery this June. Looking at it linearly, the Sixers gave up the No. 11 pick of the 2013 draft for possibly the No. 6 pick in the 2015 draft. Then it’s top-3 protected the next two years, then unprotected after that.

Was it worth it?

“It is impossibly hard to get your hands on a pick that at least has the chance to be a high lottery pick,” Hinkie said. “It’s very rare that they move and because of that, we considered it and decided it was the best way to move our program forward.” …

“It’s not about Michael at all. I think Michael has a very bright future in this league, and I think will do quite well and we wish him the best,” Hinkie explained. “It’s still necessary for someone to look at the tough decisions we have to make to try to move our program forward.”

Carter-Williams has struggled with his shot in his first season-plus, which may be the underlying reason Hinkie pulled the trigger this quickly.

From Tom Moore of Calkins Media:

Hinkie: ‘For us to be among the best teams, you have to be able to shoot from 3.’

Carter-Williams simply can’t do that yet; his field goal percentage has dropped since last year, and he’s currently at just 38 percent for the season, which includes a mark of only 25.6 percent from three-point distance.

Meanwhile, the K.J. McDaniels trade to the Rockets may be even more frustrating for Sixers fans to deal with. McDaniels is a superb athlete and a legitimate defensive presence, and the type of player on a reasonable contract that a team would seem to want to rebuild around. And yet, he was dealt for nothing more than a point guard in Isaiah Canaan and a future second round pick.

“We traded K.J., who we are proud of, who we got in the 30s and we got back a mid-30s in the past and a mid-30s in the future,” Hinkie said. “In the end it came down to a trade we felt we had to do and it came down to the last four minutes.”

That’s just plain weird; Hinkie made a point of saying during his press conference that he’s “never in my life called a player an asset,” but when looking at them solely in terms of their draft position, it’s hard to believe that’s actually the case.

At some point, Philadelphia will need to begin developing the talent they have, instead of constantly searching for an upgrade by trading talented players for future draft picks; the team’s fans (and ownership) are likely to only be patient with this process for so long.

Kobe Bryant’s helicopter was in holding pattern, advised of flying too low

Kobe Bryant helicopter crash site
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Kobe Bryant’s shocking death has left millions trying to cope.

For many, questions turn to the technical: How? How did Bryant, whose helicopter rides had become famous, go down this time?

RadarOnline.com:

“Hold outside Burbank, I have an aircraft,” the recording revealed the tower employee advising Bryant’s helicopter during the communication.

“He’s been holding for about 15 minutes,” a flight tower employee said about Bryant’s helicopter around 9:30 a.m.

Emma Parry and Chris Spargo of The U.S. Sun:

The pilot, Ara Zobayan, was told he was flying too close to the ground.

Per audio from before the crash, Zobayan said: “OK, we’ll continue holding.”

RadarOnline.com:

As the flight towers try to assist in the helicopter landing, they are cautioned about the “overcast” weather and their low flight level, meaning they were dangerously close to the ground.

“You’re still too low level for flight following at this time,” the flight toward warned the pilot on the audio.

Bryant’s helicopter was reportedly traveling north along the 118 freeway, turned west and followed the 101 freeway. After hitting heavy fog around 9:40 a.m., the helicopter turned south and made a steep climb from 1200 feet to 2000 feet.

Moments later they reportedly flew into the mountain at 1700 feet and the vehicle was traveling at 161 knots.

There’s still more to learn, including whether the helicopter had mechanical issues. Perhaps, we’ll never get that answer. If we do, it won’t change anything.

Still, it feels natural to search for greater understanding of this inexplicable tragedy.

In Europe, Kobe Bryant recalled for his “Italian qualities”

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ROME (AP) — In Europe, where Kobe Bryant grew up, the retired NBA star was being remembered for his “Italian qualities.”

“All of the NBA players are important, because they’re legends, but he’s particularly important to us because he knew Italy so well, having lived in several cities here,” Italian basketball federation president Giovanni Petrucci told The Associated Press. “He had a lot of Italian qualities.”

“He spoke Italian very well. He even knew the local slang,” Petrucci added.

Bryant, the 18-time NBA All-Star who won five championships and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, died Sunday in a helicopter crash near Calabasas, California. He was 41.

Bryant lived in Italy between the ages of 6 and 13 while his father, Joe Bryant, played for several teams in the country before returning to Pennsylvania for high school. Kobe Bryant spoke fluent Italian and often said it would be a “dream” to play in the country.

The dream almost came true when Bryant nearly joined Virtus Bologna in 2011 during an NBA lockout, only for the deal to fall apart.

“He was a supernatural,” Italian coach Ettore Messina, who worked with Bryant as an assistant for the Lakers, told the AP via text message while traveling with his current club, Olimpia Milano.

“To hear him speak and joke in our language and to remember when his father played here and he was a kid drew a lot of people to the NBA,” Messina said. “He was also always very attentive to help Italian kids arriving in the NBA and to help them enter such a tough and competitive world. He also did that with me when I arrived at the Lakers and I’m still very grateful to him for that. It’s very sad that his family has been devastated like this.”

Dating from his time in Italy, Bryant was a lifelong soccer fan.

AC Milan, one of the clubs that Bryant supported, tweeted: “We have no words to express how shocked we are to hear of the tragic passing of one of the greatest sportsmen of all time and Rossonero fan, Kobe Bryant. All our thoughts are with the families of those affected by this tragic accident. You will forever be missed, Kobe.”

The International Olympic Committee noted in a tweet that Bryant was a two-time gold medalist, adding: “Rest In Peace #KobeBryant You will always stay in our hearts.”

 

Miami’s Dion Waiters accepts responsibility for issues that led to suspensions

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MIAMI (AP) — Dion Waiters spoke about his issues for the first time in months Sunday, accepting responsibility for the matters that led him to being suspended by the Miami Heat on three separate occasions already this season.

Waiters didn’t specifically address any incidents, including his decision to take cannabis-infused gummies on the team plane and needing emergency medical attention when that flight landed in Los Angeles. That led to a 10-game suspension in November; his other banishments were for the season opener after complaining about playing time, then a two-week one in December for continued violations of team policy.

“I’m a grown man. I don’t point fingers. I’m could easily say this and that, but at the end of the day, it’s me,” Waiters said. “I made immature decisions. So, you know, I take full responsibility.”

Waiters finally made his season debut for Miami on Friday, scoring 14 points in a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. Miami plays again Monday against Orlando and Tuesday against Boston, and with several players — including perimeter players Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic and Kendrick Nunn all dealing with injuries — there still could be a spot for Waiters in Miami’s rotation.

“There’s so many moving parts right now,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You just want everybody to put in the time behind the scenes and get into a healthy head space where you can contribute when your number is called and he did that. He still has a ways to go with his conditioning, particularly game conditioning. That’s to be expected. But he’s a gamer.”

Waiters’ suspensions have cost him about $1.4 million in salary this season. That doesn’t include a $1.1 million bonus that he could have earned by appearing in 70 games, a level that has been mathematically out of reach for months already.

“I’m happy for him. I’m very happy for him,” Heat teammate Jimmy Butler said. “He’s working. He was ready to go out there and hoop and that’s all we were saying, just say ready. Now it’s all about trying to stack up however many good days you can.”

Waiters said he relied on family to get him through the suspensions and not playing, saying he would not let going through it all break him.

“I’m not going to lie to you, man. My kids. My kids, my family, my support system is so strong,” Waiters said. “I’ve got a lot of good people in my life. You find that out when you go through them times. This is the first time I’ve been through something like this in my life. … I don’t feel like I lost anything, besides my money.”

Waiters had a simple answer on whether he expects to keep playing.

“Hopefully,” he said.

 

Thunder’s Nerlens Noel to miss time after surgery to face

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Friday night against the Hawks, Thunder big man Nerlens Noel took an incidental shot to the face and left the game. He went back to the locker room, had it checked out by the team medical staff, and returned to the game.

Turns out, he needed surgery to repair his face after the incident, the team announced.

The zygomatic arch is the bone that connects the area around the eye to the rest of the skull, a smaller bone basically between the eye and the ear.

The good news is Noel is not expected to miss much time due to this surgery. Stephen Adams returned from his ankle issue to start on Saturday, and Mike Muscala will get more run with Noel out.

Noel is playing nearly 19 minutes a night for OKC averaging 8.2 points and 5.2 rebounds a game, plus shooting 67.8 percent (with 61.5 percent of his shots at the rim).