Markelle Fultz happy to land with Lakers, Celtics

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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Markelle Fultz wants to be the first player chosen in the NBA draft next week, either by the Boston Celtics or whatever team ends up with their No. 1 pick.

Just in case he isn’t, he also wants the Los Angeles Lakers to know what they can get at No. 2.

Fultz went through an hour-long private workout for the Lakers on Thursday before meeting with the team’s top brass at their training complex. The Maryland-born University of Washington product is generally expected to be the top pick, but he has stayed in close contact with the Lakers since the draft combine.

“It was a family decision,” Fultz said of his willingness to work out for Los Angeles. “Giving everybody the opportunity. Never know where I might land, so I just wanted to see how it is out here.”

Fultz didn’t have to work out for anyone at all, and some consensus No. 1 picks choose to work out only for the top team. The Celtics already hosted Fultz, but the slick scorer said he isn’t afraid of a little extra scrutiny.

“I’m blessed to play the game,” Fultz said, still wearing his gray Lakers workout gear. “I’d like to go (No.) 1, but wherever I land is where I go.”

Fultz’s talent has put him in a unique position between two of the NBA’s most iconic franchises, but he welcomes the possibility of ending up on either side of the famed Celtics-Lakers rivalry.

“Really, to me, it doesn’t matter,” Fultz said. “Wherever I go, I’m going to be the same guy. I’m going to be humble. Of course, coming here with the Hollywood lights, it’s going to be great publicity. I’ll get my brand out there and just build it myself.”

With his mother, agent and personal trainer in attendance, Fultz went through numerous offensive drills while Magic Johnson and Luke Walton looked on. Fultz said the Lakers were interested in his ability off pick-and-roll sets and his shooting mechanics.

The 6-foot-4 guard believes he would fit well alongside D'Angelo Russell, the Lakers’ similarly sized third-year guard.

“Basketball players who are pretty good at what they do learn how to play with each other,” Fultz said.

After lunch, Fultz planned to visit the Lakers’ new training complex under construction just down the street from the current building.

He hasn’t decided whether to work out for even more teams in the final days before the draft, but he’ll discuss it with his family.

With the No. 2 pick for the third consecutive season, the Lakers know they’ll be able to choose either Fultz or Lonzo Ball, the UCLA playmaker widely considered the second-biggest talent in the draft. Ball is eager to stay home with the Lakers, and he went through an extensive workout in El Segundo last week.

Ball is meeting with the Lakers again Friday in a private setting as Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka hone in on their strategy for next week.

Fultz acknowledges he is developing a personal rivalry with Ball through the draft process. He wouldn’t mind if they ended up on opposite sides of the NBA’s most storied team rivalry, either.

“I’m a competitor, so anybody that’s in front of me, I’m going to try and take them out,” Fultz said. “Lonzo is a great guard, so we’re both competing for the same position. Stepping on the court, I’m going to try and beat him in everything I do, if that’s tying my shoe faster or anything.”

The two famous franchises with the top two picks have one major current difference: While the Celtics were the Eastern Conference’s top playoff seed last season, the Lakers are coming out of the worst four-year stretch in franchise history. Fultz is intrigued by the chance for immediate postseason contention, but the Lakers’ promising young core presents its own intrigue.

“I thought about both,” Fultz said. “Being a young team would pretty much feel like college again. But either/or. Coming to a young team or an old team, I’m just blessed to play the game.”

More AP NBA: http://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Wembanyama encore: 36 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks against Ignite

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Victor Wembanyama is for real.

And I don’t mean real tall, although he is that, too. Check out this image of him next to Rudy Gobert, who is a legit 7’1″.

Wembanyama is for real like a genuine generational talent — in his second game against the G-League Ignite he had 36 points, 11 rebounds, and four blocked shots.

That comes off his 37-point performance in the first meeting where he hit 7-of-11 3-pointers and had five blocks.

To be clear: That is 73 points, 15 rebounds, nine blocks, shooting 9-of-18 from 3 (and 22-of-44 overall) across two games against a good talent level. And he is 18 years old.

Everyone in and around the NBA has been trying to come up with player comps — Kristaps Porzingis, Ralph Sampson, Tim Duncan — but the reality is Wembanyama is one of one.

Scoot Henderson — the G-League guard projected as the No. 2 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft — played just five minutes in this game after bumping his knee while guarding Wembanyama. He was taken out of the game and X-rays found a bone bruise, he did not return. He is officially day-to-day the team announced.

Wembanyama and his Metropolitans 92 got the win in this rematch, 112-106.

Draymond Green not expected to miss any games, Warriors to handle discipline ‘internally’

2022 NBA Summer League - Golden State Warriors v New York Knicks
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
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Draymond Green is not expected to miss any games for punching teammate Jordan Poole during an altercation during practice, Warriors GM Bob Myers said Thursday.

That’s not to say he is escaping any punishment, it will just be handled internally, Myers said.

Green showed up at Chase Center and apologized to the team and then left, he did not practice with the Warriors, reports Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area.

“Draymond apologized to the team this morning, Jordan was there in the room, I was there in room with the team, the coaches, the players and we heard that,” Myers said.

Whatever punishment the Warriors are handing down to Green, it will not include missing games, Myers said.

Coach Steve Kerr added, “I expect [Green] to return on Saturday and get back at it.” That implies a couple of days suspension, likely with a hefty fine.

Kerr was also quick to shoot down the rumors of Poole having an “attitude” around camp as he comes up on a massive contract extension. Stephen Curry echoed that, saying those reports are “absolute BS.”

The Warriors have seen their fair share of Draymond Green incidents over the years, and as a locker room and franchise they know how to move on from it. While this made headlines, the Warriors will shrug it off and move on.

Miami, Milwaukee have their eyes on Jae Crowder

NBA 2022 Playoffs - Phoenix Suns v Dallas Mavericks
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The Heat and Bucks don’t just have interest in the same player. They’re looking to replace the same player.

Two years ago, P.J. Tucker helped Milwaukee win their first championship in a half-century. Last season, he helped Miami lock up the top seed in the East and make the Conference Finals.

With Tucker in Philadelphia, both the Heat and Bucks are looking to fill the void with a different lockdown enforcer that can stretch the floor.

Jae Crowder and the Suns agreed that he won’t participate in practice as the team looks to accommodate his trade request. In a recent ESPN+ article, Zach Lowe made it clear that both Miami and Milwaukee are interested in pursuing a trade for Crowder.

“The Bucks have internal interest in Crowder as that Tucker replacement after getting into the recent Jerami Grant and Bojan Bogdanovic discussions, sources say. They will search all season for one more piece.

“The Heat have interest in Crowder too, sources say, but finding matching salary is tough until Dewayne Dedmon, Caleb Martin and Victor Oladipo become trade-eligible in the winter. Martin might start, and the Heat are optimistic Oladipo can play a huge role.”

Grant and Bogdanovic were traded to Portland and Detroit, respectively. The Heat may struggle to find a trade that works since Phoenix probably won’t want to take on Duncan Robinson’s contract. Dedmon, Martin and Oladipo will become trade eligible on January 15th.

Crowder has a history with the Heat, as he helped them make the NBA Finals in the bubble. He helped Phoenix make the NBA Finals two seasons ago and then helped them finish with the best record in the NBA last season.

LeBron says Wembanyama is an ‘alien’ and a ‘generational talent’

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There was a time when LeBron James was the “it” kid coming for the NBA — a freakish athlete like nobody in the league had seen. A player the size of Karl Malone with the quickness and skills of an elite point guard.

Now the “it” guy is Victor Wembanyama, the 7’4″ mold-breaking big out of France — and LeBron is impressed.

“Everybody’s been a unicorn over the last few years, well he’s more like an alien,” LeBron said after the Lakers’ preseason loss to the Suns in Las Vegas. “I’ve never seen, no one’s ever seen anyone as tall as he is, but it’s fluid and as graceful as on the floor…

“His ability to put the ball on the floor, shoot step-back jumpers on the post, step-back 3s, catch-and-shoot 3s, block shots. He’s for sure a generational talent. And hopefully he continues to stay healthy, that’s the most important for him personally, and as you could tell he loves the game. He was smiling a lot while playing the game last night. I think it was the two best players in the draft on the floor last night and they both did their thing.”

Wembanyama is projected to be the No.1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, just ahead of point guard Scoot Henerson, who scored 28 points with nine assists of his own leading his G-League Ignite to a win over Wembanyama’s Metropolitans 92. Wembanyama scored 37 points in the game, hit 7-of-11 shots from 3, had five blocks and a few other shots changed because of his length (7’11” wingspan) and the threat of his block.

Wembanyama and Henderson face off again tonight in a second game between the Ignite and Metropolitans 92 just outside Las Vegas in Henderson (9:30 p.m. ET on NBATV).

Wembanyama will play, with his agent telling ESPN there are no plans to shut the No.1 pick down to avoid injury and protect his draft status. “He’ll never agree to that. He wants to compete and get better,” Bouna Ndiaye said.

LeBron looked back on his time as the “it” player and said simply, “thank got there wasn’t social media” at the time. It’s a different world now, but game still recognizes game.

And LeBron recognizes it in Wembanyama.