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Pelicans’ Buddy Hield slowly starting to figure out NBA-style game

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LAS VEGAS — There have been moments the last couple of days when Buddy Hield looks like he’s figuring the NBA style of game out. Just like he did the college game at Oklahoma, it took some time but he got there. Sunday night against Utah, Hield hit four consecutive 3-pointers late to make it a one-point game. Monday night he got hot in the third quarter, using screens better, hitting from the midrange, and showing off his stepback, pushing the Pelicans into a lead they would never give up. He’s scored 44 points in his last two games.

But New Orleans’ No. 6 pick is still a combined 17-of-43 (39.5 percent) shooting in the two games, and he was 3-of-12 from three Monday. He struggled to create space to get off those shots at time. Simply put, 44 points on 43 shots is not efficient enough.

Why is it working sometimes and not others? What was the difference in that third quarter Monday when he was hitting after a rough first half?

“Coach told me if I don’t make a shot he’s gonna shoot me, so I was just more locked in and focused,” Hield said with a laugh.

“I said a little something to him, but he got the message,” Pelicans’ Summer League coach Robert Pack added.

Jokes aside, Hield is going through the adjustments every top rookie faces — the game is moving a lot faster for him, the players more athletic, and defenses are keying on him in ways he’s not used to seeing. In the first half Monday, Sacramento’s Malachi Richardson did a good job of taking away Hield’s space and denying him the ball. Hield seemed rushed. That’s when he struggles with his shot.

“When he starts to get sped up. Or when he’s trying to do a little too much with the ball,” Pack said of when Hield isn’t shooting like expected. “Sometimes as a shooter, he hasn’t really gotten in that rhythm, and he tries to find it, he hits a couple, then he gets where he needs to move it off him and get it back at a different time. He has to know how to differentiate between the times he needs to go, and when he needs to move it and get it back. I think he’s getting it, he’s gotten better every game.”

“(It’s slowing down) somewhat,” Hield said of the game after three outings in Summer League. “You still gotta play and they guarded me different, they top-sided me all day, it frustrated me a little bit. I’m used to Oklahoma when I would just go get the ball, but now the NBA’s all about spacing and you gotta make more smarter plays. I mishandled the ball a few times, but I’ll get better at that through.”

You could see him learning and adjusting over the course of the game. Coming off screens to get the ball was not something he had to do in Oklahoma, he’s just learning how to do that now. And how to deal with teams sending much longer, more physical defenders at him.

“Teams are coming and trying to put their hands on him, be aggressive, rough him up a little bit, and it’s going to be even more when we get in the regular season,” Pack said. “This is a good test for him to feel what the physicality is like at this level and to play through it and have some success.”

Welcome to the NBA. This is what it’s going to be like every night come October. And Hield is in a different role than he was in Oklahoma.

“I think this summer will give him a feel of how he needs to play in the league, and a test of playing hard, and being patient with his set ups,” Pack said. “In the season there will be more guys on the floor who can do things, so he’ll have help, but this will give him a good test of things he needs to work on before he gets to camp.”

WNBA suspends Riquna Williams 10 games for domestic violence

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NEW YORK (AP) The WNBA has suspended Los Angeles Sparks guard Riquna Williams 10 games for a domestic violence incident.

The WNBA handed down the suspension Tuesday. Williams was arrested on April 29 and charged with two felony counts, one involving the assault of an individual with whom she was in a relationship and the other involving a threat to another person with a firearm. Her criminal case is ongoing.

The league conducted its own investigation and consulted with a panel of experts in the field of domestic violence. Among other factors, the WNBA said it took into account the nature and seriousness of the allegations, including the involvement of a gun.

The WNBA also will require Williams to participate in counseling.

Williams’ suspension will begin with Thursday’s game against the Dallas Wings.

Report: Bulls signing Luke Kornet for guaranteed $4.5M over two years

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Just three 7-footers have averaged 3.5 3-pointers per game and made 35% of them each of the last two seasons:

The Bulls will now have most of them.

Markkanen is Chicago’s top young player. Kornet will join him with the Bulls next season.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

I’m a little surprised Kornet got more than his minimum ($3,383,360 over two years). But it’s worth taking a flier on him.

In addition to his outside shooting, Kornet has shown good timing as a shot-blocker in two seasons with the Knicks. The 24-year-old must get stronger and improve as a rebounder to play major minutes.

But the Bulls won’t have to press him into action. They also have Thaddeus Young, Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Daniel Gafford and Cristiano Felicio as bigs.

Pistons claim Christian Wood off waivers

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The Bucks waived Christian Wood late last season to ensure avoiding the luxury tax. The Pelicans claimed him. Wood had played well in limited minutes with the 76ers, Hornets and Bucks and in the NBA’s minor league since going undrafted in 2015.

New Orleans gave him his biggest opportunity yet. In 24 minutes per game over eight games, he averaged 17 points and eight rebounds.

But the Pelicans filled their roster for next season and waived Wood.

Detroit will take advantage.

Pistons release:

The Detroit Pistons announced today that the team has claimed forward/center Christian Wood off waivers.

Wood’s $1,645,357 minimum salary is unguaranteed until the regular season. So, Detroit could still waive him before the season. But it seems he’ll at least go to training camp and get a shot at a regular-season roster spot.

The Pelicans also could’ve kept him through the preseason then waived him before the regular season. They seemingly did him a favor of allowing him to get somewhere he has a realistic chance of sticking.

Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond will start in the frontcourt for the Pistons. Markieff Morris and Thon Maker appear to be first in line is backups.

But don’t be surprised if Wood earns playing time. At minimum, the 23-year-old should provide nice depth at both power forward and center.

The Pistons have also now acquired four members of last year’s Bucks – Tony Snell, Thon Maker, Tim Frazier and now Wood.

Knicks: Reggie Bullock has spine injury

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Reggie Bullock had his agreed-upon salary cut by more than half with the Knicks. He’ll reportedly miss at least a month of the regular season.

All because of a mysterious health issue.

The Knicks have finally disclosed what’s happening.

Knicks release:

Reggie Bullock underwent successful surgery today at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York for a cervical disc herniation. The team will plan to provide an update on his rehab and progress around the start of training camp.

Bullock is a good shooter from the wing. New York could use him. Many teams could use him.

But Bullock must get healthy first.

At this point, we probably shouldn’t expect much from him any time soon. The best indication: how eagerly his agent praised the Knicks for their handling of this situation. Again, Bullock settled for less than half his initially agreed-upon salary.