NBA Notes: Heat back in familiar territory

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NBA Notes: Heat back in familiar territory

While there are plenty of coaching hires being made and roster moves being discussed, the Sixers have been relatively quiet since the regular season ended (see story).

Now let's look at some news and notes from around the NBA:

Heat: Familiar territory for Miami
MIAMI -- LeBron James has been wearing a good amount of camouflage attire at times during the NBA playoffs, with some of his vests, pants and even ties done in the design.

It doesn't seem fitting, since there's really no where for him to hide.

He has more at stake than any other Miami player in these NBA Finals, especially now that the San Antonio Spurs are one game away from grabbing the title. If the Heat lose, it'll be perceived as James' failure. If the Heat win, his status as the game's best player not only becomes even more cemented, but he might even win over a few more doubters.

James says he looks forward to the challenge that starts when Miami hosts Game 6 of the series on Tuesday night (see full story).

-The Associated Press

Spurs: Duncan closes in
SAN ANTONIO -- It's all right in front of Tim Duncan now, and the big fella can feel it.

You can tell when he broke out that little spin move in the paint in Game 5 on Sunday night, a nimble little display of footwork that has mostly been in moth balls for the past four or five seasons.

You can tell by the elevation he got on a first-quarter dunk, one of the most emphatic he's had in years.

And you can tell by the glimmer that can't be hidden by the far-away look in his eyes when he talks about being one victory away from title No. 5.

"I think every one of us wants this very badly from the top on down," Duncan said after scoring 17 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in a 114-104 victory over the Miami Heat that gave his San Antonio Spurs a 3-2 lead in the NBA Finals (see full story).

-The Associated Press

Nuggets: Connelly hired for front office
The Denver Nuggets have hired Tim Connelly as executive vice president of basketball operations.

Team President Josh Kroenke confirmed in an email to The Associated Press on Monday that Connelly will take over for Masai Ujiri, who left to become general manager of the Toronto Raptors.

Connelly has been the assistant GM with the New Orleans Pelicans since 2010. His first order of business with the Nuggets will be finding a replacement for George Karl after the longtime coach was fired nearly two weeks ago (see full story).

-The Associated Press

Bucks: Drew adds assistants
ST. FRANCIS, Wis. -- Bob Bender and Nick Van Exel are following Larry Drew to Milwaukee.

The Bucks announced Monday that Bender and Van Exel will be assistants on Drew's staff. Bender also was an assistant during Drew's three years as head coach in Atlanta, while Van Exel was the Hawks' player development instructor from 2010-12.

Drew says the two were "important pieces" of his staff in Atlanta and will be dedicated to teaching Milwaukee's young players.

Bender spent the past nine years in Atlanta after two years as an assistant in Philadelphia. As a college coach, he led Washington to four consecutive NCAA tournament appearances (1996-99) and was Pac-10 coach of the year in 1996.

Van Exel, a Kenosha native, played 13 years in the NBA. He was an All-Star in 1998.

-The Associated Press

Sixers Injury Update: Simmons rolls ankle, taken for precautionary imaging

Sixers Injury Update: Simmons rolls ankle, taken for precautionary imaging

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- Ben Simmons rolled his right ankle during scrimmage on the final day of training camp. He was taken for precautionary imaging. The results have not yet been completed.

Jerryd Bayless did not scrimmage because of a sore left wrist, which the team continues to monitor. He sat out of Thursday's scrimmage for the same reason.

Jahlil Okafor participated in Friday's scrimmage in accordance to his load management. The Sixers are being cautious with players as they return from injury. Okafor underwent right knee surgery last season. 

Sergio Rodriguez ready for 'opportunity' of 2nd NBA stint

Sergio Rodriguez ready for 'opportunity' of 2nd NBA stint

GALLOWAY, N.J. — It’s Round 2 for Sergio Rodriguez.

Ten years after beginning his first stint in the NBA, he is back as a veteran point guard on the Sixers. The green 20-year-old is now 30, with European and Olympic experience behind him. Rodriguez is looking to build upon his previous four NBA seasons, which culminated in 2010, in a leadership role in Philadelphia.

“It feels great,” Rodriguez said Thursday after the training camp morning session at Stockton University. “It’s a second opportunity for me.”

Rodriguez played three seasons for the Trail Blazers from 2009-10 and split his fourth year with the Kings and Knicks. He averaged a quiet 4.3 points, 2.9 assists and 1.3 rebounds in 13.2 minutes per game. Rodriguez returned to his native Spain and found a higher level of success, including winning the EuroLeague title with Real Madrid, being named EuroLeague MVP, and competing in the Olympics. Last season Rodriguez averaged 10.9 points (40.9 percent from three), 6.2 assists and 2.2 rebounds in 24 minutes for Real Madrid. 

Head coach Brett Brown considers Rodriguez one of the top point guards that had played in Europe. 

“He just has a real gift for understanding, especially offensive tempo,” Brown said. “I think that his ability to run a pick-and-roll and figure out how teams are playing it and where they’re rotating from about a pass sooner, one dribble sooner so he can pick off rotations. He’s very gifted in that environment. I think he’s got a bounce to his game and a pace to his game that he will be absorbed in how I want to play well.”

Both Brown and Rodriguez anticipate challenges on the defensive end as Rodriguez re-acclimates himself in the NBA. He will be tasked with guarding some of the league’s toughest point guards, and will also be involved in numerous pick-and-rolls each game. 

After years of playing in Spain, Rodriguez has to get to know a new group of players. He considers the responsibility of a point guard to be getting his entire team involved, particularly with all the youth on the SIxers.

“I will try to feel comfortable for my teammates. For a point guard, you need to have the confidence that everybody is happy playing with you,” Rodriguez said, also noting, “Always the point guard has to run the show. Especially for this team, we have so many young players that need to develop and need to know how to win.” 

So far that is working.

“Sergio’s great,” Nerlens Noel said. “He’s a real vocal leader, even with that little accent he’s got. He makes it work. I think as the season goes along, we’ll continue to get on the same page and really start to mesh a little better.” 

Rodriguez left the NBA as a young guard and is now ready to make a comeback with years of experience. 

"I’m very excited to have this upcoming season and to be successful for my team, my teammates, the organization," he said.