For Justin Holiday, still a chance with Sixers

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For Justin Holiday, still a chance with Sixers

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Yes, Jrue Holiday will be wearing a New Orleans Pelicans uniform come this fall after being traded on draft night.

However, there still may be the last name Holiday on the back of a Sixers jersey next season.

Jrue’s older brother, Justin Holiday, returned to the summer league team Monday after flying overnight from California after attending his sibling's wedding on Sunday. The flight clearly took something out of the older Holiday because he shot just 2 for 9 in 23 minutes for six points in the Sixers' 96-75 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Monday. He also had three rebounds and three assists in the defeat.

"I was exhausted, but that is not an excuse,” Holiday said. “I still think I could have helped more than I did, score more than I did, helped defensively more than I did, but the game is done and tomorrow I hope I bounce back. If I don’t bounce back that’s a problem.”

A year ago, Holiday played very well for the Sixers in Orlando and led the team in scoring. He comes back a year older with experience in the D-League and nine games played in the NBA.

Holiday signed a non-guaranteed contract late last season that allowed him to attend camp this season. The 6-foot-6 forward knows what he has to do to stick around with the Sixers.

"Make sure I stay consistent when I play, be the smart player that I am, efficient,” Holiday said. “Today, even some of the things that I did defensively weren’t the smartest. I remember I came to help on the baseline when Micah (Downs) had hit a couple threes before that. It wasn’t the smartest play.

"I mean it is a good thing that I want to help but not the smartest at that time. So continue to improve, play as smart as I can and be efficient and knock down my open shots."

Holiday's ultimate goal is to make the team -- a squad that will look very different than the one he played on last spring.

The biggest change on that roster will be the absence of Holiday's All-Star brother. He said he learned the news of the blockbuster deal from his sibling.

“I thought he was joking,” Holiday said. “I was flying and [Jrue] tells me and I said, 'You're joking' and he said, 'No, for real.' He explained that this is a decision they wanted to make and that is all there really was.

"At first my personal feeling was I am not playing with my brother anymore. I was looking forward to me having the opportunity to doing that this next year. But this is the NBA and it is a business.”

Game time
Michael Carter-Williams promised he would be better taking care of the ball in his second summer league game and the Syracuse product was just that on Monday. He went from nine turnovers on Sunday to zero turnovers in 30 minutes on Monday in the Sixers' loss to Indiana.

However, Carter-Williams failed to shoot the ball well again. He was 4 for 20 with 13 points after going 8 of 23 on Sunday. Carter-Williams did have seven assists against the Pacers.

“He said yesterday that there were some things that he knew that he saw that he would be able to correct," coach Michael Curry said. "With young guys, just like in football with quarterbacks, is the speed in which guys close down open passing angles and where the help is coming from. Once he realizes that, with his size he is going to be able to make those passes. He saw some things on the pick-and-rolls to down the ball as much as he does and make plays and not have any turnovers, that was great.”

Temple product Khalif Wyatt was much improved Monday, scoring 25 points on 11-of-18 shooting. On Sunday, he was 4 for 15 with nine points.

“He scores in so many different ways,” Curry said of Wyatt. “He can catch and shoot out to the three. He is able to make plays. He is not the best athlete, but he has been scoring a long time. What we have to do with him, we probably ask him to play the most defense he has ever played.

"He is going to have to be a guy that can be solid on the defensive end, so that he gets down the court to do some things that he is really good at on the offensive end.”

When asked if Curry’s assessment of Wyatt's defense is correct, the former Owl smiled.

“Coach Curry and Coach (Aaron) McKie in practices have been pushing me very hard to play defense every possession and take no possessions off,” Wyatt said. "I am just taking the challenge and trying to be a better defender and just get better everyday."

Ben Simmons spending his summer getting bigger and better

Ben Simmons spending his summer getting bigger and better

Ben Simmons repeatedly emphasized at summer league he wanted to work on “everything” leading up to training camp.

As a point-forward who plays multiple positions, he has more than just one role to address this offseason. But what does “everything” entail? With a wide range of responsibilities on the court, Simmons is honing in on specific areas.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

Shooting
Simmons has been criticized for his reluctance to shoot. During his one season of college ball at LSU, he averaged 19.2 points off 11.7 field goal attempts per game (56 percent made). Over six summer league games (including both Utah and Las Vegas), Simmons took 22 field-goal attempts and shot 32.2 percent. He had less than 10 attempts in four of the games, and attempted 15 in the Sixers’ finale. Simmons attempted one three in summer league action.

While in Utah and Las Vegas, the Sixers encouraged Simmons to be more aggressive. At 6-foot-10, Simmons is able to get to the rim. Once there, many times he passes it off rather than finishing himself. The Sixers don’t expect Simmons to become a 30-point-per-game scorer, but he will be a key part of their offense.

“You always want him to be as good of a shooter as he can be,” Las Vegas summer league head coach Lloyd Pierce said this earlier month. “It’s not going to be his strength. His strength is going to be passing, facilitating, playmaking. That’s going to be an added bonus, whatever the percentage or the number is.”

Dribbling
Simmons averaged 5.5 assists per game during summer league (second on the team by 0.3 dimes to T.J McConnell). Conversely, he committed 3.8 turnovers.

The Sixers signed two point guards this summer, Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez, and McConnell is returning from last season. Head coach Brett Brown said after the draft he does not plan to utilize Simmons as the primary one-guard right away as the 20-year-old learns the league. But early on, Simmons will have the rock in his hands plenty of times given his natural ball-handling abilities, especially when grabbing the rebound and running the fast break.

"I think it's the hardest position to play in the NBA,” Brown previously said. “I think to just give him the ball in that capacity is borderline cruel. He needs to feel NBA basketball. And maybe he evolves there."

Weight room
After college, Simmons put on 20 pounds from his training and entered the draft at 242 pounds. He stood out among the competition in summer league play with his NBA-ready stature. Simmons said he would like to get up to 246 or 247 pounds this offseason.

“Not too heavy,” he said.

With the size of a forward and the skills of a guard, the Sixers will be able to utilize Simmons to create mismatches both in the backcourt and at the hoop.

Adjusting to new home, Ben Simmons plays role model at Sixers Camp

Adjusting to new home, Ben Simmons plays role model at Sixers Camp

WAYNE, Pa. — Three steps. 

That’s all it takes before Ben Simmons is recognized walking through the streets of Philadelphia. 

This year’s No. 1 pick has been in the spotlight long before the Sixers drafted him in June, and now he's experiencing what it's like to be known as an NBA player in his new city. 

“I’ve been enjoying walking around South Street, getting some Ishkabibble's,” Simmons said Tuesday after a special appearance at the Sixers' Camp at Valley Forge Military Academy. 

At 6-foot-10, Simmons towers above most on the court, let alone on the sidewalk. Fans have been eager to welcome him to Philadelphia for a new chapter of the organization after three years of struggle. 

“Positive things,” Simmons said of the comments he receives. “I think a lot of people are excited, so I’ve been looking forward to it.”

Simmons understands the impact a professional athlete can have on young fans, and was excited to be at camp Tuesday.

Growing up in Australia, he never had the opportunity to hear from NBA players when he attended basketball camps. Now that he's in that position, the 20-year-old was glad to provide that memory to the 240 campers. 

“That would mean a lot if I was able to experience that,” Simmons said. 

Simmons demonstrated skill drills, such as passing fundamentals, interacted in a Q&A session and signed autographs for each camper. He also took individual photos for those who traveled internationally, including from Nigeria, Italy and Greece. 

“I’m just like them, but older,” Simmons said. “I’m just trying to be a good role model to them.”

Simmons plans to spend most of the offseason in Philadelphia as he gets settled into the city. He still has to move into his new home, but at least he knows where to get a cheesesteak in the meantime. 

NBA Notes: Dion Waiters signs 1-year deal with Heat

NBA Notes: Dion Waiters signs 1-year deal with Heat

Two people with knowledge of the situation tell The Associated Press that the Miami Heat have agreed to terms on a one-year deal with free agent guard Dion Waiters.

The two sides came to agreement on Monday. Waiters will make $2.9 million. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not announced the deal.

Waiters averaged 9.8 points for the Oklahoma City Thunder last year, but had several big games in the playoffs. He played particularly well against Dallas and San Antonio in the playoffs before his role was reduced in the seven-game loss to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals.

Waiters will give the Heat another scorer off the bench (see full story).

Blazers: C.J. McCullom inked to four-year extension
PORTLAND, Ore. -- A person familiar with the deal confirms that guard CJ McCollum has agreed to a four-year, $106 million contract extension with the Portland Trail Blazers.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on Monday because the deal hadn't been formally announced by the team. It was first reported by Yahoo Sports.

McCollum, who was named the NBA's Most Improved Player, averaged 20.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists for the Blazers during the regular season. He raised his scoring average by more than 14 points over the previous season.

As the 10th overall pick for the Blazers in the 2013 draft, McCollum bided his time on the bench for his first two seasons. He became a starter in the backcourt with Damian Lillard last season after four of the team's starters departed in the offseason (see full story).

Michael Jordan donates $2 million to ease racial tensions
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Michael Jordan is trying to help ease tension between African-Americans and law enforcement.

The NBA great and Charlotte Hornets owner said Monday he's giving $1 million to the Institute for Community-Police Relations and $1 million to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The aim is to help build trust following several shootings around the country.

Jordan says in a statement to The Associated Press on Monday that "as a proud American, a father who lost his own dad in a senseless act of violence, and a black man, I have been deeply troubled by the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement and angered by the cowardly and hateful targeting and killing of police officers," (see full story).