Rivers says he has plan, isn’t giving up on Simmons. Is plan to change shooting hand?

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“Where can we trade Ben Simmons?” is everyone’s new favorite parlor game around the NBA. To Portland for CJ McCollum? To Chicago for Zach LaVine? Maybe Toronto for Pascal Siakam? Golden State for Andrew Wiggins… no, that doesn’t make sense for anyone.

It’s everyone’s new favorite game, except for Doc Rivers. Speaking to the media, he talked about fixing Simmons’ shooting and confidence issues — he was talking about what Philly needs if Simmons stays. Simmons is just 24 and Rivers isn’t going to give up on him. Via Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

“I know exactly what we want to do,” Rivers said. “I’m positive in Ben. I’m very bullish on Ben still, but there’s work. There is. And Ben will be willing to do it, and that’s the key. Sometimes you have to go through stuff to see it and be honest with it. Obviously what Ben just went through, I can’t imagine that, because he has so much greatness around him in all the things that he does.

“And there’s areas that he can fix quickly, in my opinion, and get better, and that will get him to another level. Sometimes you don’t know why you’re in different places. You know what I mean? But this may be one of them. I look at this as a great challenge, but definitely a doable one.”

Could switching Simmons’ shooting hands be the big change Rivers is talking about?

Simmons shoots jumpers lefthanded, but he has admitted before his father forced him to use his left when younger and he stuck with it. Ask Simmons to sign an autograph and he uses his right hand, as he does with most things — including shooting a basketball around the rim.

On his podcast earlier this season, J.J. Redick said he used to encourage Simmons to switch shooing hands. Simmons finally may heed that advice, with ESPN’s Brian Windhorst saying that is one of the things Simmons is considering this offseason.

Maybe switching hands would help, but Simons was so deep in his own head by the end of the playoffs — as evidenced by his dump-off pass to Matisse Thybulle — that any reclamation project has to start there. It’s going to start with getting his confidence back, and with that getting a consistent free throw stroke that he trusts. Simmons not fearing getting fouled is step one on his road to recovery.

Whether that recovery happens in Philadelphia is another question.

 

Knicks’ Obi Toppin out at least 2-3 weeks with knee fracture

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Obi Toppin is a fan favorite and Knicks faithful were hoping to see more of him as the season progresses.

However, they are not going to see any of him for at least the next 2-3 weeks due to a fractured knee, the team announced.

Toppin suffered the injury in New York’s win Wednesday over Atlanta, the same game that saw Dejounte Murray sprain his ankle leading him to be out for a few weeks.

Toppin — the reigning All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk contest champion — is averaging 7.7 points in 25 games off the bench. With him out, coach Tom Thibodeau suggested he could lean more on RJ Barrett, asking him to play up at the four.

Report: Zach LaVine not available for trade from Bulls

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Front offices of potential contenders from Los Angeles to Philadelphia have their eyes on the Chicago Bulls — will the struggling Bulls pivot to chase Victor Wembanyama and the top of the lottery, making them sellers at the trade deadline? Teams have interest in Chicago’s three stars: Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic.

Except just-extended LaVine isn’t currently available, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said Wednesday on his network’s pregame show discussing the Knicks.

“The Knicks will be watching Chicago. Is Zach LaVine a player who before the deadline possibly can become available? He certainly isn’t now.”

Chicago is not yet ready to pivot to tanking, so none of its stars are truly available. That said, the Bulls don’t look like a playoff team, they miss Lonzo Ball, and even if things do come together where do they stand in the East hierarchy? If the Bulls do become sellers, they aren’t going to tear this team down to the studs, it would likely be trading just one star. Possibly a second if the offer was strong enough.

LaVine — who signed a five-year, $215 million extension this past summer — is the least likely to be available, league sources have told NBC Sports. The expectation is that Vucevic would be the Bull first made available if the Bulls decide to start seriously listening to offers. And that remains an “if.”

That said, front offices around the league have their eyes trained on Chicago.

Dejounte Murray added to growing Hawks injury report, out 2-3 weeks with sprained ankle

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John Collins is out for at least another week with a sprained ankle. DeAndre Hunter has been out with a strained hip flexor.

Now you can add Dejounte Murray to the Hawks’ growing injury report, he is out at least 2-3 weeks with a sprained ankle, Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic report.

The injury happened on a closeout from RJ Barrett of the Knicks.

The Hawks have already had chemistry and fit issues this season, and missing key players for an extended period only exacerbates the problem. Atlanta looked flat getting their doors blown off by the Knicks Wednesday night, 113-89, a game that added to a string where they have lost 5-of-7. Now they will have to find a way to right the ship without their second-best playmaker.

There also is an update on the Hawks’ play-by-play announcer Bob Rathbun.

NBA, WNBA players react to news Brittney Griner coming home

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Brittney Griner is finally coming home.

The WNBA and USA Basketball star has spent 10 months in Russian prisons — including being convicted and sent to a Russian penal colony — for having vape canisters with small amounts of cannabis oil in her luggage as she went through Russian airport security back in February. She became a political pawn in the tensions between the United States and Russia, mostly surrounding Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, and was freed via a prisoner swap announced Thursday.

The basketball world — WNBA players in particular — had worked to keep her name front and not let Griner be forgotten during this ordeal, pushing President Joe Biden and the government to reach a deal. With the news Griner was freed, NBA and WNBA players took to social media to react.

“Brittney has had to endure an unimaginable situation and we’re thrilled that she is on her way home to her family and friends,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “We thank the members of the NBA and WNBA community who never wavered in their efforts to raise awareness of Brittney’s unjust circumstances.”

“We are overwhelmed with relief and gratitude that our sister Brittney Griner is finally coming home,” the NBPA said in a statement. “Her strength and courage throughout this last year have been truly remarkable, as have the efforts of her wife Cherelle, our WNBPA sisters, Terri Jackson and the WNBPA staff, who have been relentless in their call to bring Brittney home. We know this homecoming would not have been possible without their unwavering support and continued work to keep BG always top of mind, and our players are honored to have contributed to those efforts. While this is a celebratory moment for our sisters and us, we must not forget the other political prisoners who remain in dire circumstances all over the world. These individuals must be remembered and fought for every single day as BG was so that they too can have this moment. Welcome home Brittney, we are so happy to have you back! #WeAreBG”