NBA Notes: Lakers not rushing Kobe's return

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NBA Notes: Lakers not rushing Kobe's return

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Lakers are heading into training camp still unsure when Kobe Bryant will be on the court this season.

General manager Mitch Kupchak says Bryant was at the Lakers' training complex almost every morning this summer, working aggressively to return from mid-April surgery on his torn left Achilles tendon.

Although the 35-year-old Bryant has made steady progress in his recovery, the fifth-leading scorer in NBA history hasn't yet returned to the Lakers' practice court for any basketball work.

The Lakers aren't pushing Bryant to return. They've got enough work to do as coach Mike D'Antoni patches together a team in the wake of Dwight Howard's departure.

Kupchak says Steve Nash and Pau Gasol are fully healthy, but will ease into training camp workouts (see full story).

Thunder: Westbrook's status unclear
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti says the timetable for All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook's return from a knee injury remains uncertain as the Thunder open training camp.

During his "state of the franchise" news conference Wednesday, Presti fielded many questions about Westbrook's status.

Westbrook tore the lateral meniscus in his right knee during Game 2 of the first-round playoff series against Houston.

Westbrook had surgery April 27 and hasn't been fully cleared medically yet. Presti says it would be "irresponsible" to say when that might occur, but didn't dispute the notion that Westbrook could miss the Thunder's season opener Oct. 30 at Utah.

Presti says Westbrook has been cleared to participate in portions of training camp, which starts Saturday, but the decision to release him for unrestricted activity "will be a medical decision" (see full story).

Wizards: Team eyes return to playoffs
WASHINGTON -- Asked whether he feels any extra pressure to reach the postseason, Washington Wizards coach Randy Wittman fiddled with his eyeglasses on the table in front of him and looked straight ahead.

"Well, that's what we want: We want to get to the playoffs," Wittman said. "Do you think this is the first time I've been on a one-year contract? No. It doesn't mean anything."

Wittman and team President Ernie Grunfeld -- both men have deals that end after the upcoming season -- held a joint news conference Wednesday and made pretty clear what the aim should be for point guard John Wall and the rest of the Wizards.

"We want to build on what we started to establish last year. Obviously, our initial goal is to be a playoff contender and ultimately, by the end of the year, make the playoffs," Grunfeld said.

Washington went 29-53 last season, missing out on the postseason for the fifth consecutive year (see full story).

NBA: Knicks, Nets to share '15 All-Star festivities
NEW YORK -- New York City has been selected to host the NBA All-Star weekend in 2015, with the game played at Madison Square Garden and the slam dunk contest and other skills events held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

NBA Commissioner David Stern, Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg made the official announcement at a news conference Wednesday.

The league has been working with the Knicks and Nets for months on the plan to split the events.

The league last split sites for its midseason showcase in 2010, when the Saturday events were in the Dallas Mavericks' arena and the game was held at the Cowboys' stadium.

The NBA All-Star game was last played at Madison Square Garden in 1998 (see full story).

Report: Raptors contact Sixers regarding Nerlens Noel

Report: Raptors contact Sixers regarding Nerlens Noel

General managers talk to other general managers about players all the time. 

Sometimes, news of these discussions leak.

Sounds like this is one of those cases.

According to ESPN's Zach Lowe, the Toronto Raptors have contacted the Sixers regarding Nerlens Noel. Lowe cites sources who state that the Raptors have offered a "rotation player — perhaps Terrence Ross, and other goodies — in exchange for Nerlens Noel" but also noted that "the talks haven't gained much traction yet."

Probably because the trade depends on the value of the so-called goodies.

A 6-foot-7, 195-pound swingman, Ross has been inconsistent over his four-year career. After starting 123 games the previous two seasons, Ross, 25, primarily came off the bench last season, starting seven of 73 games. He averaged 9.9 points and shot 38.6 percent from three, right around his career averages (9.3 and 37.8).

He's a three-point shooter and finisher (a little like Harrison Barnes). In his second year in the league, he erupted for 51 points in a loss to the Clippers and hit 10 of 17 from three.

Ross was drafted by the Raptors in 2012 out of Washington with the eighth overall pick. He signed a three-year extension late last year that will pay him $10.5 million per season.

Toronto is interested in Noel because big man Bismack Biyombo may leave during free agency, which begins Friday.

Sixers free-agent fits: Frontcourt — Horford, Anderson, Ezeli, more

Sixers free-agent fits: Frontcourt — Horford, Anderson, Ezeli, more

Over the course of this week, we will look at the Sixers' free-agent possibilites at each position. We've already analyzed point guardsshooting guards and small forwards. Today, we'll break down frontcourt players.

Sixers frontcourt players for 2016-17
Joel Embiid (guaranteed, $4,826,160)

Richaun Holmes (guaranteed, $1,025,831)

Carl Landry (guaranteed, $6,500,000)

Nerlens Noel (guaranteed, $4,384,490)

Jahlil Okafor (guaranteed, $4,788,840)

Dario Saric (yet to sign)

Ben Simmons (yet to sign rookie deal)

Current frontcourt situation
In case you haven't heard, the Sixers have a few big men. By my list, that's five under contract, one that will sign his rookie contract shortly, and another that claims he'll be under contract soon enough.

Of course, there have been rumors of Okafor and/or Noel being shipped off for backcourt pieces, but as of now, they are Sixers. If the team were to move one or both of them, they'd be moving their most proven NBA frontcourt pieces, even if the experiment of playing them together was a disaster.

Simmons has infinite potential, but has yet to play an NBA minute. Same goes for Embiid and Saric. Landry and Holmes are solid bench big men. They'll be valuable depth if Bryan Colangelo pulls off a move or two. Stay tuned.

Reach free agent

Al Horford, unrestricted
Horford, a four-time All-Star, has been a focal point for the Hawks' offense for almost a decade. More of a finesse big man than a banger down low, Horford has an excellent midrange game and possesses great touch around the basket. He's also a decent passer from the post, averaging 2.7 assists per game for his career. He's averaged 14.3 points per game on a robust 54 percent from the field. With all that said, Horford is not the guy for this team. Even if Noel and Okafor are traded, Horford is 30. Also, Simmons would be better playing with a center that offers better rim protection.

Possible fits

It's hard to look into any of these guys seriously with the Sixers' current logjam. We'll dissect them as if a shakeup in the frontcourt has occurred and the team needs to fill a gap or two.

Ryan Anderson, unrestricted
If you were to Google the term "stretch four" a picture of Anderson would appear (not even kidding, it actually does). Anderson has shot 38 percent for his career from downtown. Back in 2011-12, he led the NBA in threes made and attempted while playing for the Magic. Last season he averaged 17 points per game, the second-highest number of his career. Assuming Simmons expands his game beyond the power forward position, a guy like Anderson would make a ton of sense playing alongside him.

Marvin Williams, unrestricted
Williams is an interesting case. He's never lived up to the billing of being the No. 2 overall pick back in 2005, but he's had a solid NBA career as a role player. The element he's added to his game that should intrigue the Sixers is his three-point shooting. Williams hit a career-high 40 percent from distance on 378 attempts, also a career mark. Williams also offers defensive versatility with his ability to play on the wing at times.

Festus Ezeli, restricted
Ezeli has made himself into a solid rotational big in Golden State. With the Warriors' success, guys like Ezeli are bound to be poached from their roster. Ezeli is nothing special but would come in handy if the Sixers find a suitor for Noel. They'd need someone like Ezeli (2.5 blocks per 36 minutes last season) to help fill the void Noel would leave as a strong rim protector.

Report: Isaiah Canaan becomes free agent as Sixers don't extend qualifying offer

Report: Isaiah Canaan becomes free agent as Sixers don't extend qualifying offer

It appears the Sixers are letting guard Isaiah Canaan walk.

Canaan, who was set to be a restricted free agent this offseason, is now unrestricted as the Sixers did not extend him a qualifying offer, according to a report Wednesday night by Chris Haynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The qualifying offer would have been worth $1,215,696. Canaan made $947,276 last season.

Canaan, 25, has played parts of two seasons with the Sixers after coming over from the Rockets in 2014-15 as part of the K.J. McDaniels trade.

The 6-foot, 201-pound guard averaged 11 points per game in 77 contests (39 starts) last season, while shooting 36.3 percent from three-point range.

Canaan has not fit with the Sixers as a shoot-first point guard, averaging just 1.8 assists per game in 2015-16, a season in which he essentially turned into an undersized, volume-shooting two-guard.

The backcourt — specifically point guard — remains the biggest priority for the Sixers this offseason.

On Wednesday, the Sixers decided to retain Hollis Thompson for next season by exercising his team option.