Sixers' workout resembles Villanova practice with Josh Hart, others — pep band excluded

Sixers' workout resembles Villanova practice with Josh Hart, others — pep band excluded

CAMDEN, N.J. – No, the Sixers did not import Villanova’s pep band for the workout the team staged for potential draftees Thursday morning at its practice facility.

But they could have.

Three of the six players who took part – Josh Hart, Darryl Reynolds and Dylan Ennis – spent all or part of their collegiate careers playing for the Wildcats.

Also, Jay Wright looked on. And former 'Nova assistant Billy Lange has been part of the Sixers’ staff for a while now.

All of which was “very weird,” in the estimation of Reynolds, a willowy 6-foot-9 forward taking part in his first workout for an NBA team.

“But it was comfortable,” he said, “and I’m glad that my first one was with some guys that I knew, some familiar faces.”

Three other guys – Oregon forward Dillon Brooks, Davidson guard Jack Gibbs and French forward Tidjan Keita – also participated. 

Of the six, Brooks and Hart have the highest profiles. Brooks was the Pac-12 Player of the Year, while Hart earned the same honor in the Big East and also took home the Julius Erving Award as the nation’s top small forward.

Hart was shaking his head afterward about the way he shot the ball (see story), while the 6-foot-7 Brooks nailed one jumper after another.

“It raised my competitiveness when we played three-on-three,” Brooks said. “I just took shots I practiced, and they were falling today. There’s great players out there, who raised their intensity. That’s what I love.”

Brooks averaged 16.1 points while shooting 48.8 percent from the floor and 40.1 percent from 3-point range for the Ducks, who went 33-6 and lost by a point to North Carolina in the national semifinals. The Sixers are the 12th team to invite him in for a workout, but he said he is none the worse for the wear.

“I always find a way to pick myself up when the competitiveness starts, and try to give my best, every time I come out and play,” he said. “I love the game, so regardless if my legs are tired or I’m feeling some kinks or something … somehow, some way I get past it and play.”

Ennis, a 6-foot-2 guard who has been Brooks’ teammate at Oregon the last two years, participated in his ninth workout. He and Brooks became the third and fourth Ducks to audition for the Sixers, following Joey Bell and Tyler Dorsey.

Ennis began his collegiate career at Rice, then spent the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons at Villanova. He followed that by taking the graduate-transfer route to Oregon, in hopes of improving his stock as a point guard.

But he hit another detour when he broke a foot and missed all but two games of the 2015-16 season, as his former teammates were winning a national championship. After petitioning the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility he averaged 10.9 points in 2016-17 for the Ducks, shooting 48.4 percent from the floor and 35.8 percent from the arc.

Now 25, he is certainly well-seasoned, and he showed in the sliver of the workout open to the media that he is vocal.

And, he said, “I’m gritty. Anything you ask me to do, I’m going to go do.”

That was a common refrain on this day – not exactly a surprise, given that this was a de facto job interview for fringe prospects.

Reynolds, a Lower Merion grad who averaged 4.5 points and 5.4 rebounds for the Wildcats this past season, said he wanted to show that he was “going to compete and do everything.”

And Brooks believes he is a “high-motor guys can fit in a lot of places” – that with the Sixers he could provide scoring off the bench, “just feeding off (Joel) Embiid and (Jahlil) Okafor and those guys.”

But Thursday morning’s session was more of a Villanova feeding frenzy – pep band not included.

Report: Clippers trade star Chris Paul to Rockets in blockbuster

Report: Clippers trade star Chris Paul to Rockets in blockbuster

HOUSTON — Chris Paul is heading to Houston to join James Harden, and the Rockets will soon have two All-Stars in the backcourt to lead their chase for a championship.

The Rockets have reached an agreement to acquire Paul from the Clippers in exchange for Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker and a protected first-round pick next year, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press on Wednesday. The pick is only protected if Houston's pick lands in the first three of the 2018 draft, according to the person who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the teams haven't finalized the trade with free agency coming up on Saturday.

The 32-year-old Paul opted in for the last year of his contract so the Clippers could work on a deal.

The nine-time All-Star has averaged 18.7 points, 9.9 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 2.3 steals over his 12-year career, though he has been dogged with criticism in recent years for failing to help the Clippers get out of the second round of the playoffs. Los Angeles reached the postseason in each of Paul's six seasons with the team, but the Clippers were eliminated in the first round three times and in the Western Conference semifinals three other times.

Perhaps the most crushing playoff series loss of his tenure with the Clippers came to the Rockets in 2015. Los Angeles had a 3-1 lead in the conference semifinals before Houston won the last three games of the series to send Paul and the Clippers home early yet again.

The Clippers were eliminated in the first round the past two seasons and are likely to look much different next season. The Paul trade comes after Blake Griffin informed the team last week that he is opting out of the last year of his contract to explore free agency. J.J. Redick is also a free agent.

In Houston, Paul joins a team led by Harden that was eliminated by the San Antonio Spurs in the conference semifinals last season. With Harden's move to point guard last season, Paul's role will probably be a bit different than it has been in Los Angeles.

But he will add another scoring dimension in replacing Beverley in the starting lineup. Beverley received NBA defensive first team honors last week, but averaged just 9.3 points in his five seasons with the Rockets. He's the only Houston starter involved in the deal, with Williams and Dekker playing reserve roles last season.

Williams, the 2014-15 NBA Sixth Man of the Year, was traded to the Rockets from the Los Angeles Lakers in February. He averaged 14.9 points and three rebounds in 23 games for Houston after the trade.

Dekker, the 18th pick in the 2015 draft, missed all but three games as a rookie because of back surgery. The small forward was healthy this season and appeared in 77 games and averaged 6.3 points and 3.6 rebounds.

The deal was first reported by The Vertical.

Knicks, team president Phil Jackson agree to part ways

Knicks, team president Phil Jackson agree to part ways

NEW YORK — Phil Jackson wanted to trade Carmelo Anthony and wouldn't rule out dealing Kristaps Porzingis.

Turns out, Jackson is the one leaving.

Jackson is out as New York Knicks president after he oversaw one of the worst eras in team history, with the team saying in a statement Wednesday that they had "mutually agreed to part company."

Days after Jackson reiterated his desire to move Anthony and said he would listen to deals for Porzingis, Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan reversed course and cut ties with Jackson with two years remaining on his contract.

"After careful thought and consideration, we mutually agreed that the Knicks will be going in a different direction," Dolan said. "Phil Jackson is one of the most celebrated and successful individuals in the history of the NBA. His legacy in the game of basketball is unmatched."

But his work as a first-time executive was awful. The winner of an NBA-record 11 championships as coach, Jackson couldn't engineer one playoff berth while running the Knicks. The team was 80-166 in his three full seasons, including a franchise-worst 17-65 in 2014-15.

His departure was quickly welcomed by Knicks fans such as film director Spike Lee, who posted a picture of himself on Instagram in a celebratory pose after it was first reported by The Vertical.

The move comes less than a week after Jackson led the Knicks through the NBA draft and on the eve of free agency that opens Saturday. Dolan said he would not be involved in the operation of the team, adding that general manager Steve Mills would run the day-to-day business in the short term and that former Toronto executive Tim Leiweke would advise him and help develop a plan going forward.

Jackson was a Hall of Fame coach with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, delivering titles with some of the game's biggest stars like Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. He also played for the Knicks when they won NBA titles in 1970 and 1973.

He was welcomed back to the organization with a $60 million contract to huge fanfare in March 2014, but it soon became clear the transition would be a poor one. His first coaching hire, Derek Fisher, lasted just 1 seasons, and Jackson's trades and free agency moves also failed to improve the club.

"I had hoped, of course, to bring another NBA championship to the Garden. As someone who treasures winning, I am deeply disappointed that we weren't able to do that," Jackson said. "New York fans deserve nothing less. I wish them and the Knicks organization all the best -- today and always."

The turbulence he created off the court may have led to his departure more than the Knicks' record on it.

Jackson publicly talked about moving without Anthony -- angering the National Basketball Players Association -- though the All-Star forward has two years left on the five-year, $124 million deal that Jackson gave him shortly after taking the job. Anthony has a no-trade clause and has said he wants to stay in New York, and the stalemate that hung over the team for much of last season threatened to linger throughout the summer.

Then Jackson said before the draft that he was listening to offers for Porzingis, the 21-year-old forward from Latvia whom he drafted with the No. 4 pick in 2015 in one of his few successful moves.

Coach Jeff Hornacek, in Orlando with the Knicks' team preparing for summer league, thanked Jackson for bringing him to New York last summer.

"It's a tough day for us but our group, really our focus is to get this team better, continue to build our young players and figure out a way to win," Hornacek said. "We have a lot of time before the regular season and we will figure that out."

Jackson believed the Knicks would compete for a playoff berth last season after he traded for Derrick Rose, signed Joakim Noah and Courtney Lee and hired Hornacek. But after a solid start, they quickly spiraled toward their familiar position at the bottom of the Eastern Conference and finished 31-51.

Despite all that, Dolan said during an ESPN Radio interview in February that he would allow Jackson to finish his contract, and the sides picked up the mutual two-year option on Jackson's contract.

But the instability involving Anthony and Porzingis threatened to damage the team's ability to lure free agents and may have spurred Dolan's decision. Though he had been intent on keeping Jackson, the dysfunction within the franchise showed no sign of ending even as Jackson, 71, largely stayed out of sight.

He never spoke to the media last season after vowing openness upon taking the job and refused to provide Anthony with the communication he sought.

"It's like a total train wreck ," tennis great and Knicks fan John McEnroe told The Associated Press last week.

"I mean, he's known as the Zen Master, like a master talker, and then he's not talking to anybody," McEnroe said of Jackson. "So this whole thing seems to have gone completely off the rails."

There was also incessant debate about Jackson's insistence that the team employ the triangle offense, which potential incoming players were schooled on during the run-up to last week's draft. The Knicks wound up taking 18-year-old French point guard Frank Ntilikina, who spoke highly of the triangle and Jackson's belief in the scheme.

"I think I can definitely fit with this system," Ntilikina said on draft night.

Not even a week later, the triangle is probably gone, and the Knicks will start anew.

Rose, the 2011 NBA MVP, will be a free agent. Noah -- whom Jackson gave a puzzling four-year, $72 million contract last summer -- will start the season by finishing out a 20-game suspension for violating the league's anti-drug policy. He averaged 5.0 points and 8.8 rebounds in his first season in New York, shooting just 44 percent from the foul line.