Ben Simmons

76ers GM Elton Brand ‘optimistic’ Ben Simmons can play if games resume

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The last time we saw Ben Simmons on an NBA court it was Feb. 11, a month before the coronavirus forced a shut down of the NBA season. A nerve impingement in Simmons’ lower back sidelined him for eight games, and there were questions about whether he would return for the playoffs.

With the added time off, 76ers GM Elton Brand is “optimistic” Simmons will be ready to go when — or, if — the playoffs start.

Brand spoke to the media in a conference call Tuesday.

“I give Ben and our medical staff a ton of credit for their hard work throughout his recovery,” he said. “I give Ben so much credit for him working so hard throughout this unknown time. Fortunately, we’ve able to arrange for him to continue to get the treatment and rehab he needs during this hiatus. I’m very optimistic he’ll be able to play if and when we’re given that green light to resume…

“We’ve took our time, we’ve been methodical and thoughtful about his recovery and rehab, just to make sure, because we weren’t in a rush. It’s hard to speculate. He’s been working hard and I know he’d be close or ready…  When I FaceTime him during his workouts and his treatments and I see him, I’d be highly encouraged.”

The caution in Brand’s statements are tied to the fact that, due to team practice facilities being shut down, Simmons has not been able to play in any game situations, such as 3-on-3  or 5-on-5 scrimmages. He probably would be able to handle that, but rehabs can have setbacks.

Simmons being ready to return was reported before, but it’s good to hear it from the team itself.

Philadelphia needs Simmons healthy to be a genuine postseason threat, particularly to Milwaukee (a team the Sixers match up well against). Simmons averaged 16.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 8.2 assists per game last season, and was an All-Star. They can’t replace that production easily.

Bulls’ new GM Marc Eversley sees chance to do more than just restore franchise in Chicago

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CHICAGO — Marc Eversley gets a chance to help restore an iconic NBA franchise and set an example for the city’s youth.

He welcomes the opportunities.

A former Nike executive who spent the past four years in Philadelphia’s front office, Eversley was introduced as the Bulls’ general manager on Friday. He succeeds the fired Gar Forman and will work under new top executive Arturas Karnisovas.

Eversley also becomes the Bulls’ first black general manager, after spending the past two years as the 76ers’ senior vice president of player personnel.

“It means a lot,” he said. “I take pride in that. I think it’s a tremendous responsibility. I am a black man, I’m in a leadership position now in a city with so many black youths. I see this as a great opportunity. I think being visible is going to be important. And being invested is going to be important. I think this position position with the Bulls provides me with some resources to help drive some change.”

Karnisovas said “it’s our responsibility” and “it falls on our shoulders” to seek diversity. He will work with Eversley to transform a young team that expected to contend for a playoff spot. Instead, the Bulls were 11th in the Eastern Conference at 22-43 and finishing their third straight losing season when the NBA suspended play due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the front-office leadership in place, the attention turns to coach Jim Boylen. That could take awhile.

Karnisovas and Eversley haven’t arrived in Chicago, let alone met face to face with Boylen or witness a practice. Front office hirings, player development and scouting were the more immediate priority because of the limitations brought on by the pandemic.

“I’m going to do my comprehensive evaluation of every department and ensure I give the process the time it deserves,” Karnisovas said. “We’re limited right now with what we can do.”

Eversley said they “owe it everybody on staff” to meet face-to-face in Chicago and watch practices before making any moves “with respect to anybody on the staff.”

Boylen has a 39-84 record since replacing Fred Hoiberg early last season. Whatever decision the Bulls make, it will be a joint one between Karnisovas and Eversley. The two will share responsibilities when it comes to internal team matters as well as serving as the public voice of the franchise.

Eversley was with the 76ers when they drafted two-time All-Star Ben Simmons with the No. 1 overall pick in 2016 and had a big hand in them trading up with Boston to get Matisse Thybulle at No. 20 last June. The rookie guard established himself as one of the NBA’s best young defenders this season.

The 76ers went from winning 28 games in 2016-17 to more than 50 the next two seasons. They were 39-26 when the NBA suspended play because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Canadian, Eversley spent a decade at Nike, managing company-owned retail stores in Ontario before moving to their corporate office in Oregon. He became the point person for their basketball player relationship division, then spent seven years in Toronto’s front office and three in Washington’s going to Philadelphia.

Eversley said he owes gratitude to Bryan Colangelo — his boss with the Raptors and Sixers — as well as Toronto executive Masai Ujiri, a close friend who “really introduced me to the art of scouting.”

The time at Nike taught him the value of relationships and a brand. Now, as he put it, it’s his job to help make the Bulls “cool again,” more than two decades after Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen completed their second championship three-peat. The spotlight is on the dynasty with ESPN airing “The Last Dance” docuseries.

After watching Sunday’s episodes, Karnisovas felt compelled to offer Eversley the job that night rather than wait until the next morning as planned.

“I was so emotional watching it that I was thinking, ‘Why do I have to wait until Monday? Let me check if he’s up,‘” Karnisovas said. “He responds that he didn’t get a chance to watch it live, and now they’re replaying it again on ESPN. So he’s on his couch watching. It’s late. It’s around 1 a.m. Eastern time, so I’m doing the same. But now, I’m calling him to offer him the job while ‘The Last Dance’ is in the background.”

Andrew Bogut considering retirement but delayed Olympics complicates matter

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After 15 years in professional basketball, Andrew Bogut is close to making a decision on when to end his career. The new coronavirus and subsequent postponement of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo isn’t making it any easier.

The 35-year-old Bogut, a 2005 No. 1 draft pick by Milwaukee and who won an NBA championship with the Golden State Warriors in 2015, was planning to retire after playing for Australia at the Tokyo Games in three months. Those games have been delayed until July 2021.

But Bogut, who has played for Sydney in the National Basketball League the past two seasons, isn’t sure he can take the training and discipline needed to go another year.

“I’m not doing much, I can tell you that,” Bogut told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Offsiders program aired on Sunday. “To be able to kiss your kids goodnight and put them down every night … I’ve appreciated doing that.”

Bogut has two boys, Luka, 3, and Nikola, 2, with his wife Jessica.

“I haven’t done any basketball since the season ended and it feels good waking up, getting out of bed and not feeling like I’m walking on glass,” Bogut said. “It’s (my career) all been thrown into a washing machine essentially … but there’s a decision to be made probably by mid-May.”

Bogut, who played a key role in Australia’s fourth-place finish at last year’s World Cup in China, has been on the Australian team’s roster since the 2004 Athens Olympics.

The Melbourne-born Bogut was named The Associated Press college basketball player of the year in 2005 while playing for Utah, just before being chosen No. 1 in the NBA draft by the Bucks.

The World Cup fourth-place finish for Australia came without NBA all-star Ben Simmons, who could play for Australia at Tokyo in 2021. Bogut hopes Simmons is in the squad, but whether Bogut is there to partake in the experience is still up in the air.

“We’ve been tantalizingly close and the squad we’re going to have is arguably going to be the best squad in the history of the Boomers, on paper at least,” Bogut told the ABC program. “To be part of that, selfishly, is something I really want to do, but the body is what it comes down to.

“I can get up for a basketball game any day of the week, but it’s hard to get up for five, six days of training a week and lifting weights.”

Bogut has never been one to hold back on his opinions. After his Sydney Kings refused to fly across Australia to play the Perth Wildcats in the fourth game of the five-game NBL finals because of the coronavirus, a series the Kings trailed 2-1, the NBL awarded the title to Perth. Bogut said the players were “used like pawns” in the process.

He’s also had some dust-ups with players and officials on Twitter, including fellow Australian and WNBA star Liz Cambage. But this past week in virus-forced isolation, he was more concerned with the location of his television remote.

Could he be mellowing close to a potential retirement?

“OK, a TV remote has been lost. I have a 2 year old and 3 year old. Turned whole kitchen and lounge room upside down. Any guesses to where else these hoodlums could of “placed” the remote,” he first tweeted.

Later came the good news.

“Wow. So older brother hid from little brother so he couldn’t change channel,” Bogut tweeted. “Best hiding place: Behind drapes, on window sill in bedroom near lounge room. Black remote upside down, black window sill! ️1.5 hours!”

2020 PBT Awards: All-NBA

LeBron James and James Harden
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The NBA regular season might be finished. Heck, the entire NBA season might be finished. Even if play resumes with regular-season games, there’d likely be an abridged finish before the playoffs (which will also likely be shortened).

So, we’re making our 2019-20 award picks now. If the regular season somehow lasts long enough to reconsider our choices, we’ll do that. But here are our selections on the assumption the regular season is over.

Kurt Helin

First team

G: Luka Doncic, Mavericks

G: James Harden, Rockets

F: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

F: LeBron James, Lakers

C: Joel Embiid, 76ers

Second team

G: Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers

G: Chris Paul, Thunder

F: Anthony Davis, Lakers

F: Kawhi Leonard, Clippers

C: Nikola Jokic, Nuggets

Third team

G: Donovan Mitchell, Jazz

G: Kemba Walker, Celtics

F: Jayson Tatum, Celtics

F: Jimmy Butler, Heat

C: Rudy Gobert, Jazz

All-NBA — particularly third-team — decisions are always the toughest of the award process. In this case, I felt very comfortable with the first two teams (I don’t think Anthony Davis played enough center to slide into that position, so he gets bumped to the second team). However, with third-team guard, leaving off Bradley Beal, Trae Young, and Ben Simmons was difficult (team success and leaning on Mitchell and Walker factored into my choices). Same at the forward spot, where Khris Middleton and Brandon Ingram deserved serious consideration.

Dan Feldman

First team

G: LeBron James, Lakers

G: James Harden, Rockets

F: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

F: Kawhi Leonard, Clippers

C: Anthony Davis, Lakers

Second team

G: Luka Doncic, Mavericks

G: Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers

F: Khris Middleton, Bucks

F: Jayson Tatum, Celtics

C: Nikola Jokic, Nuggets

Third team

G: Chris Paul, Thunder

G: Trae Young, Hawks

F: Pascal Siakam, Raptors

F: Jimmy Butler, Heat

C: Rudy Gobert, Jazz

My biggest questions weren’t rating performance. They were determining position. Can I legitimately place Anthony Davis at center? What about LeBron James at guard? Ultimately, I decided yes on both – allowing me to place my entire MVP ballot on the first team, though causing significant disruption on the second and third teams.

Davis made a big deal about not playing center, and the Lakers built their team accordingly. But Davis still played 38% of his minutes at power forward. In the fourth quarter and overtime, it was 55%. That qualified him as bi-positional to me.

LeBron has always dominated the ball while being considered a forward. But the Lakers considered him their point guard, gave him particularly large passing responsibilities and started four other players who couldn’t credibly run point. Though Avery Bradley or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope often defended the opposing point guards, point guard is primarily defined offensively. Plus, LeBron – a versatile defender – often covered guards.

Centers Nikola Jokic (first team to second team), Rudy Gobert (second team to third team) and Joel Embiid (third team to unlisted) all got bumped with Davis at the position. Embiid was better than Gobert when healthy and motivated. But that didn’t happen nearly often to outpace Gobert, and excellent defender and underrated offensive player.

Guards also got pressed, including Luka Doncic (first team to second team) and Chris Paul (second team to third team). That final spot was an especially difficult squeeze with Trae Young narrowly outpacing Devin Booker, Kyle Lowry, Ben Simmons and Bradley Beal. Young just did so much offensively as a scorer and passer.

On the other hand, removing LeBron and Davis from forward meant other-wise marginal forwards – Jayson Tatum, Pascal Siakam and Jimmy Butler – safely made it. Bam Adebayo wasn’t far behind.

Keith Smith

First team

G: James Harden, Rockets

G: Luka Doncic, Mavericks

F: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

F: LeBron James, Lakers

C: Joel Embiid, 76ers

Second team

G: Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers

G: Ben Simmons, 76ers

F: Kawhi Leonard, Clippers

F: Anthony Davis, Lakers

C: Nikola Jokic, Nuggets

Third team

G: Russell Westbrook, Rockets

G: Donovan Mitchell, Jazz

F: Pascal Siakam, Raptors

F: Jayson Tatum, Celtics

C: Bam Adebayo, Heat

The forward slots on the first and second teams were easy. Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis were 1-4 on my MVP ballot. They all just overlap in position, which pushed Leonard and Davis to the second team. There were still several very good candidates for the third team, but Pascal Siakam and Jayson Tatum were just enough better than the rest that they get those two slots. Jimmy Butler was closest to making that third- team.

The guard line was pretty easy for the first team. James Harden was fifth on my MVP ballot and Luka Doncic would have been sixth. After them it gets tricky. Damian Lillard was a monster this year and really kept an otherwise pretty bad Portland team in the playoff race. Ben Simmons was very good on both ends of the floor, so he gets the other guard spot on the second team. That left a bunch of great candidates for third. Once he stopped taking so many jumpers, Russell Westbrook really took off this season. He gets one slot. Donovan Mitchell gets the other spot because he was also good and so were the Jazz. Chris Paul was easily the toughest omission here.

The center group was a little harder. I think Joel Embiid had the best overall season. He was first on my All-Defense team and in the mix for Defensive Player of the Year. He also turned in another good offensive season. Nikola Jokic rebounded from a slow start to have another dominant offensive year. For the third-team, Bam Adebayo edged out Rudy Gobert. It was Adebayo’s all-around brilliance that got him the nod. Take a look at his numbers. He’s really stuffing the stat-sheet every night for a good Heat team.

Australia says it won’t send basketball team to Olympics if held in 2020

Australia basketball team
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It was one thing when Canada said it wouldn’t send athletes if the 2020 Tokyo Olympics occurred as scheduled. The Canadian men’s basketball team hadn’t even yet qualified for the Games.

But Australia already clinched a spot despite a volatile finish in the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

Reuters, via CNBC:

the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) said it had told its athletes to prepare for a Tokyo Games taking place in 2021.

“The AOC (Executive Board) unanimously agreed that an Australian team could not be assembled in the changing circumstances at home and abroad,” read the statement.

“The AOC believes our athletes now need to prioritize their own health and of those around them, and to be able to return to the families, in discussion with their national federations.”

The International Olympic Committee is considering postponing the Tokyo Olympics due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Australia was a real threat to medal. If Ben Simmons competed, he could have added star power to a team that already had Joe Ingles, Aron Baynes, Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova.