76ers roll past Timberwolves 109-99 for 3rd win in 6 games

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — From anguish to flourish, the 76ers are suddenly a better team with Ish Smith.

Chalk up another win to Smith’s double-double.

Credit Philadelphia’s hot streak – by the franchise’s feeble standards, not the rest of the NBA’s – to Jerry Colangelo’s first shrewd deal.

Smith had 21 points and 11 assists and Richaun Holmes scored 17 points to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to 109-99 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night.

Still the worst team in the NBA at 4-33, the Sixers have won three of six games and have a new confidence since they named Colangelo chairman of basketball operations last month.

Colangelo’s first big move was acquiring Smith from New Orleans in a Dec. 24 trade that cost them nothing but second-round draft picks. Smith averaged 13.4 points and 7.6 assists since the deal and has made his teammates feeling bullish of late.

He may have been at his best against the Timberwolves, with eight points in the decisive fourth quarter.

“We’re young, we play fast,” Smith said. “We’re constantly trying to get better. Good win, let’s celebrate the night, let’s move on to the next game.”

Smith, 9 of 16 from the field with three steals, keyed a fourth-quarter run that helped the Sixers push the lead to double-digits and broke open a game that had 21 lead changes and 12 ties.

The 76ers won with leading scorer Jahlil Okafor on the bench. With the team rolling, coach Brett Brown had Okafor watching the white towel in support of his teammates.

Trying to keep a recent hot streak alive, Smith’s 14-footer late in the fourth gave the Sixers a seven-point cushion. Jerami Grant blocked Shabazz Muhammad‘s layup and Nerlens Noel, who scored 10 points, capitalized on the other end with a dunk. Carl Landry added another dunk off an assist from Smith for a 103-92 lead.

Smith, who was not re-signed by the Sixers in the summer, hit back-to-back 19-footers and the Sixers suddenly pulled away to another win.

“I think we have such a young team that his personality pairs up with their youthful spirit a lot,” Brown said.

The Sixers won two games on a five-game road trip that not only gave them a needed dose of confidence, but inched them closer toward the 10-win mark needed to keep them from going down with the worst record in NBA history.

Muhammad led the Timberwolves with 20 points and Gorgui Dieng had 14 points for Minnesota.

TIP-INS

Timberwolves: Andrew Wiggins was held to 16 points on 4 of 9 shooting after scoring 32 in the season’s first meeting. … Minnesota has lost four straight road games. … The Timberwolves have lost six of the last eight against the 76ers in Philadelphia.

76ers: Looking to add some veteran leadership in the locker room, the Sixers signed forward Elton Brand. “I know I can affect change and be a part of something,” the 36-year-old Brand said. Brand played for the Sixers from 2008-2012. … The Sixers also waived forward Christian Wood. … Okafor and guard Kendall Marshall distanced themselves from recent comments made by their fathers. Marshall’s dad tweeted white players are getting more chances under Brown even when they aren’t playing well. Okafor’s father was accused by fans of heckling Brown during a recent road trip. Marshall said he did not share his father’s opinion. “That’s not coming out of my mouth. That’s not my social media,” he said.

 

Rockets to add Spurs buyout DeMarre Carroll, free agent Jeff Green

Spurs forward DeMarre Caroll
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ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has reported that DeMarre Carroll and the San Antonio Spurs have agreed to a buyout. Carroll will then sign with the Houston Rockets:

ESPN’s Tim McMahon added in a subsequent report that the Rockets will bring in free agent forward Jeff Green:

Green will first sign a 10-day contract with the Rockets, so he can get used to their system and see if there is a fit, Woj reported.

Carroll signed a three-year, $20.65 million contract as part of a sign and trade from the Brooklyn Nets to the Spurs this past summer. That agreement was part of a three-team trade that saw San Antonio send forward Davis Bertans to the Washington Wizards. The 10-year veteran is owed $7 million for this season, $6.65 million for 2020-21 and $1.35 million guaranteed for 2021-22. San Antonio will incur a cap hit for each of the three seasons as part of the buyout process with Carroll. How much of a cap hit will depend on how much money Carroll gave up as part of the buyout agreement.

Carroll was added via sign and trade after Marcus Morris spurned the Spurs in free agency. Morris had originally agreed to sign with San Antonio, but backed out after the New York Knicks offered him $15 million as a free agent. The Spurs moved on to Carroll as a backup plan, but he was never able to crack the rotation. He’s played only 135 minutes over 15 games with San Antonio.

Green was with the Utah Jazz earlier this season, before being waived to create a roster spot for Rayjon Tucker. The 11-year veteran Green averaged 7.7 points per game in 30 appearances with Utah. The Rockets will be the ninth different franchise Green has played for.

In Houston, Carroll and Green will join Mike D’Antoni’s small-ball crew as big man depth. Carroll and Green will likely back up P.J. Tucker and Robert Covington up front. Their experience at both forward spots will give the Rockets additional depth for their playoff run. Carroll and Green are also likely be to asked to play some center, as Houston has downsized dramatically at that position, including trading Clint Capela at the trade deadline.

NBA players’ union votes to support formation of G-League union

Kyrie Irving
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Better pay. Better working conditions. Not to be treated as disposable parts by their employers.

The players in the G-League want the same thing out of a union that auto workers, teachers, and (most obviously) NBA players do. As had been expected (talks had been going on for a while), on Monday the National Basketball Players Association (the NBA players’ union) voted to support the formation of a G-League union, a story broken by Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The G-League players are expected to support this. Sources have told NBC Sports that team and league officials will not oppose the players unionizing, they believe there will be benefits, too.

The primary issue will be pay. Most players in the G-League earn a $35,000 salary, unless they’re an elite high school prospect, or on a two-way contract (which means they are tied to an NBA team and can be called up for 45 days a season). Some players make more through an Exhibit 10 contract with a team — meaning they go to training camp with a team, then get a bonus ($50,000 or so) if they sign with that team’s G-League team.

Other issues would include freedom of player movement, work benefits, and giving the players a voice in other matters like discipline issues.

The NBA continues to push toward each of its teams having a minor-league affiliate. Right now, only the Trail Blazers and Nuggets do not. As the G-League grows, it’s understandable the players want a larger voice in how things are run.

In other news out of the players’ union meeting, Kyrie Irving was voted in as vice president, replacing Paul Gasol. Via Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Chris Paul remains the union president.

Check out Dr. Dre’s Kobe Bryant tribute

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CHICAGO — In a weekend filled with spectacular tributes to Kobe Bryant, this one stood out.

Legendary rapper, songwriter, record producer, and businessman Dr. Dre — a guy who grew up in Los Angeles — released a tribute that stood out (and was highlighted on TNT). Dre did this with Gibson Hazard and Jackson Bannon.

Kobe’s public memorial service takes place Feb. 24 at Staples Center.

Giannis Antetokounmpo on team’s All-Star plan: Attack James Harden

Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden
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CHICAGO – James Harden has griped about Giannis Antetokounmpo winning Most Valuable Player last year.

After his team lost to Harden’s in the All-Star game Sunday, Antetokounmpo got in a dig at Harden.

“Offensively, we were just trying to find whoever James Harden was guarding,” Antetokounmpo said of his team’s strategy late. “That’s who we thought we’d have the opportunity to score on.”

Harden is not a good defender. But this is playing right into his hands. He’s at his best in isolation, especially in the post. He faces far more difficulty when run through actions off the ball or trying to keep up in transition.

Down the stretch, Harden defended more effectively than usual. Not great, but above his usual standard. Good enough for LeBron James‘ team to win.

At least, as Giannis previously noted, the MVP trophy is at his house.