76ers showcase talent for LeBron James with 108-97 win

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CLEVELAND (AP) — First, the billboards. Now, the scoreboard.

The Philadelphia 76ers are giving LeBron James an eyeful and even more to think about.

J.J. Redick scored 22 points, Joel Embiid had 17 points and 14 rebounds, and the 76ers delivered an in-person sales pitch to James by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 108-97 on Thursday night to end an 11-game losing streak against the Eastern Conference champions.

Rookie Ben Simmons scored 18 and Dario Saric 16, including a critical 3-pointer in the closing minutes, for the rising Sixers, who are 8-2 since Feb. 6.

James finished with 30 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, but the superstar couldn’t rally the Cavs in the final minutes.

Earlier this week, three billboards urging the three-time champion to sign as a free agent this summer with Philadelphia were unveiled on a busy highway outside Cleveland. The large signs, which were paid for by a Pennsylvania company, are intended to entice James to leave home and join a Sixers team brimming with young talent and potential.

Simmons is sure James knows what’s going on in Philly.

“He knows,” Simmons said. “He knows. He’s a very smart guy. His IQ on the court is amazing.”

And if the rumors weren’t enough, Embiid posted a photo on Twitter of him and James with the comment: “Trust The Process??? Always a great time playing against one of the best to ever play the game (hash)summer2018goals.”

Philadelphia nearly blew a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter as the Cavs, who never led, got within 95-94 on Kyle Korver‘s 3-pointer with 2:25 left. However, the Sixers showed poise down the stretch by scoring the next eight points to seal an impressive win.

“We’re proud of the win,” coach Brett Brown said. “Any time you can beat a team LeBron James plays on you must have done something fairly decent. Saric’s 3 really was the back-breaker.”

Tempers flared in the closing seconds when Saric dunked and Cleveland’s Jordan Clarkson threw the ball off his back. Clarkson was ejected, but that didn’t stop players from jawing at each other.

Clarkson defended his actions.

“If anybody say different, that they wouldn’t have did that, that they’d have did something different, or anything else, they lying,” he said. “Especially if it was at that (part) of the game. They know what’s up. That’s it.”

Saric insists he wasn’t trying to embarrass the Cavs.

“I was surprised,” he said of Clarkson’s reaction. “We’re NBA players. To be mad about something like that, for me, is a little bit weird, but I want to apologize to the organization, to them and to the fans.”

After the final horn, James walked to Philadelphia’s end of the floor and to hug both Simmons and Embiid, embraces that had to make Cleveland fans cringe.

James was asked what kind of a matchup problem is the 6-foot-10 Simmons, who added nine rebounds and eight assists.

“The same one I bring,” he said. “Power, speed, quickness, size, court awareness. Same one I bring.”

SHOW STOPPER

James had a jaw-dropping, behind-the-back dribble in traffic that went between Tristan Thompson‘s legs before he scored and was fouled. James looked up and watched the replay before shooting his free throw, but he didn’t know all the details of the play until halftime.

 

“One of my guys from the NBA showed me and I was like, `OK, yeah, that’s probably one of the best plays I’ve had in my career,”‘ he said.

 

Report: Steve Clifford strongly urged Hornets to draft Donovan Mitchell over Malik Monk

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The Hornets have been taken through the ringer for rejecting a monster trade package from the Celtics, who wanted Justise Winslow, for the No. 9 pick in the 2015 draft. Instead, Charlotte kept the pick to take Frank Kaminsky.

Though they weren’t alone in erring by refusing to trade with Boston, the Hornets added another catastrophic missed opportunity to their ledger last year.

Charlotte picked Malik Monk No. 11 over rising star Donovan Mitchell (whom the Jazz selected No. 13) and apparently over protests of then-Hornets coach Steve Clifford.

The Lowe Post podcast:

Jonathan Givony:

Charlotte, I had them projected to take Donovan Mitchell, because I heard that Clifford was on the table in the war room saying, “We need to draft Donovan Mitchell.” And he was overruled on that, and they took Malik Monk instead. And it’s interesting how that played out in hindsight.

Zach Lowe:

Cliff was 100 percent trying to get them to take Donovan Mitchell.

I rated Monk ahead of Mitchell, but unlike me, the Hornets had an opportunity to work out the players. Mitchell performed so well in his Charlotte workout, he believed the Hornets would pick him. They have to own that mistake.

It’s unclear who overruled Clifford – then-general manager Rich Cho or owner Michael Jordan. But Clifford and Cho paid the price, both getting fired this year.

It’s easy to believe that, if Charlotte took Mitchell, both Clifford and Cho would still have their jobs there.

To be fair, it’s also easy to believe we’ll never hear about the draft calls Clifford would have gotten wrong.

Five undrafted players to keep your eye on

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At any given point, about 15 to 20 percent of the players in the NBA were not drafted. Some guys just fly under the radar, take longer to develop, and just mature later and find how they can fit into a team.

This year is no exception, some guys who didn’t get their name called are going to stick in the NBA.

Here are five guys to watch in Summer League and beyond:

• Malik Newman, 6’4” guard (Kansas). In a league where teams are always looking for scoring he is a player who can just get buckets — he’s got great range as a shooter and can slash to the rim as well. He’s not a true playmaking point guard and he’s undersized for the two in the NBA. That size issue leads to concerns on the defensive end. Still, seems worth a second round gamble.

Kenrich Williams, 6’7” power forward (TCU). The 2017 NIT MVP likes to play physically, and is solid at shooting, rebounding, and defending — he can do everything well but does not have one elite, standout skill. That limits his ceiling, but as a high IQ player he has the potential to develop into a solid role player. He will play in the NBA Summer League with Denver.

Rawle Alkins, 6’5” shooting guard (Arizona). Tough, high-motor player who defends well and has the potential to be a good scorer (he’s already a good finisher in transition and can knock down threes). He needs to develop his skills to go with his power and athleticism, he has to work on his passing, and he has to play in control and not turn the ball over. Good potential for a rotation wing player. The Toronto Raptors are giving him a shot at Summer League and maybe into training camp.

• Brandon McCoy, 6’11” center (UNLV). He was heavily recruited out of high school and he did average 16.9 points and 10.3 rebounds a game for Las Vegas last season. He’s not a great shot blocker for his height, and there are concerns about his feel for the game, but he still produced last season. Usually big men with that kind of frame and potential at least get a look from NBA teams.

• Trevon Bluiett, 6’6″ guard (Xavier). The guy can shoot the rock, and that should get him more of a look than he did so far. He averaged 19.5 points per game and shot 41.7 percent from three last season. He’s a senior, there’s a question about his defense and who he guards at the next level. He’s not an elite athlete. But he can shoot and that should get him some attention.

• LiAngelo Ball. 6’5” guard (Vytautas Prienai-Birstonas in Lithuania). Just kidding. He’s not an NBA player, no teams thought so. The Lakers aren’t even going to bring him on their Summer League team (and not wanting to deal with LaVar is part of that).

Report: Danny Green opting in with Spurs for $10 million

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Danny Green loooves the Spurs.

He re-signed with San Antonio for a discount in 2015. Lately, he has been trying to defuse tension at every turn of the Kawhi Leonard saga.

That’s not working.

But Green can handle his own business with the Spurs.

Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News:

League sources tell the Express-News Green will likely forgo free agency and exercise the final year of his contract with the Spurs

By exercising his player option, Green will earn $10 million next season. It was hard to see him leaving San Antonio regardless, but that’s probably more than he’d earn on the open market.

Green brings a lot of value as a 3-and-D shooting guard. But the league is stuffed with bad contracts against a barely rising salary cap, leaving little money for 2018 free agents.

At least Green already secured a healthy salary in a place he likes.

PBT Podcast: NBA Draft breakdown with winners, losers, sleepers

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The Phoenix Suns didn’t screw up the No. 1 pick landing DeAndre Ayton, but they also made an interesting — maybe safe — move getting Mikal Bridges in a trade to give them a promising young core.

The Atlanta Hawks got their man in Trae Young, but the Dallas Mavericks did better getting theirs in Luka Doncic with the trade between those two teams.

The Sacramento Kings got their man in Marvin Bagley. Michael Porter Jr. and Robert Williams fell down the draft.

Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports break down all of it in this latest podcast: Who were the winners and losers, who were the sleepers, and what it means heading into free agency this summer.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.