Philadelphia 76ers

Moultrie shows promise in Sixers' loss to Celtics

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Moultrie shows promise in Sixers' loss to Celtics

By this point in the season, Sixers coach Doug Collins was hoping first-round draft pick Arnett Moultrie would not be such a mystery. Already 59 games into his rookie season, there is still a lot we don’t know about Moultrie.

The great unknown, of course, is simple …

Can he play?

In Tuesday night’s 109-101 loss to the Boston Celtics at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay), Collins gave Moultrie a chance to answer that question. The rookie was the first man off the bench, logging 20 minutes for just the third time this season.

But when the game was on the line in the fourth quarter, Moultrie went to the bench with 7:56 remaining and the Sixers trailing by 15.

Moultrie, as evidenced by the way he got up and down the floor, was gassed.

The veteran Celtics, on the other hand, were not. The Sixers had a chance to cut the deficit to six points with 6:28 left in the game, but a turnover by Dorell Wright led to a three-pointer from Paul Pierce. Following another turnover, Jason Terry nailed another three-pointer to deliver the final dagger.

From there the Celtics coasted to improve to 32-27 this season. The Sixers fell to 23-36 and with 23 games remaining in the season. They trail the Milwaukee Bucks by 7½ games for the last playoff spot in the East.

So with a once-promising season quickly slipping away, Collins gave Moultrie an extended look against the Celtics. As a result, the rookie got plenty of chances to match up against 18-year veteran, Kevin Garnett.

“It’s encouraging to see him growing. It’s a great sign,” Collins said. “I’m very pleased with Arnett and with what he’s doing.”

Moultrie shot 5 for 5 from the field to go with four rebounds. His 10 points accounted for nearly half of the bench’s production on Tuesday night. But more impressively, Moultrie has not missed a shot since the fourth quarter of the Feb. 26 game against the Magic and has hit his last 12 in a row.

With the rookie finally getting some quality playing time by logging minutes in five straight games and six of the last seven, it’s difficult not to wonder what could have been for Moultrie this year.

“I think a lot of it has been frustration, which you hope it would be,” Collins said. “He would probably have been playing like this for us all along if he had a summer. If he had not gotten hurt and he had summer league and come to camp in really good shape and been able to play. So, we’re hoping these last 24 or 25 games he’ll be able to build on this.”

Moultrie sprained his ankle last summer in a pre-draft workout for Sacramento and was behind in fitness and condition when training camp opened in October. In December, the Sixers sent the rookie to their D-League to get some playing time and help with his conditioning. It worked for a little while but when the All-Star break ended, Moultrie had taken a step back.

And to think, it all started with a summertime ankle injury.

“It became a problem because I wasn’t able to do certain things because of my ankle,” Moultrie said. “It’s not a problem any more. I think I’m in good condition now and I’m running the floor and rolling to the basket every chance I get.”

Against the Celtics, Moultrie was a presence in the paint. The longest shot he took was from three feet, which helped the Sixers out-score Boston 64-38 in the paint and 28-16 on second-chance points.

Where the Sixers struggled was containing the Celtics on the perimeter. Led by 22 points from Avery Bradley and 18 from both Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the Celtics went 11 for 19 from three-point range and went 14 for 31 on mid-range jumpers.

“We had 64 points in the paint, 28 second-chance points and 14 fastbreak points and 20 points on turnovers. You think you can win the game,” Collins said. “Their three-point shooting was the difference tonight.”

The Sixers got double-doubles from Jrue Holiday (18 points, 10 assists) and Thad Young (19 points, 10 boards), while Evan Turner had 18 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Still, the contributions from Moultrie, especially on running the pick-and-roll and hitting the glass, have been a positive development.

“That’s all it is, a learning experience. There’s been a lot of new stuff I have to adjust to, but I’m just dealing with it,” Moultrie said, noting that he’s been trying to model his game after Thad Young. “I think the hardest part was learning about my ankle and staying in tip-top shape.”

The Sixers return to action on Wednesday night when they open a three-game road trip in Atlanta. On Friday they go to Miami to face the Heat before wrapping it up in Orlando on Sunday night.

NBA Notes: Cavaliers' front office downplays Kyrie Irving trade talk

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NBA Notes: Cavaliers' front office downplays Kyrie Irving trade talk

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert spent more than 30 minutes presenting a positive portrait of his franchise.

The reality is that the Cavs are troubled.

In his first public comments since Kyrie Irving asked to be traded, Gilbert would not confirm whether he'll honor the All-Star point guard's request, but he also didn't rule out the real possibility that Cleveland may deal its second best player -- or if he thinks LeBron James will stay around beyond next season.

"These things are fluid," Gilbert said. "We think that Kyrie Irving is one of the best guards in the NBA. He was part of a championship, three years straight to the Finals and we value his talent -- significantly."

Despite several direct questions about Irving's status, Gilbert would not provide any specifics about recent conversations with him or his agent. Gilbert said he expected the 25-year-old, whose jumper in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals propelled Cleveland to its first championship since the Browns in 1964, to be at training camp with the team in September.

"Right now Kyrie Irving is under contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers for two or three years, depending on the last year," Gilbert said. "As of now he's one of our best players and sure, we expect him to be in camp" (see full story).

Wizards: Team announced Wall’s $170 million extension
WASHINGTON -- The Washington Wizards have signed John Wall to a $170 million, four-year contract extension that begins in 2019-20.

Team President Ernie Grunfeld announced the completion of the deal Wednesday. Wall said in a video posted on Twitter on Friday that he had agreed to the extension.

Wall's deal includes a player option for the final season in 2023-24.

Owner Ted Leonsis said extending Wall gives the Wizards stability for years to come. The team also matched a $106.5 million, four-year offer sheet that forward Otto Porter Jr. signed with the Brooklyn Nets and has guard Bradley Beal signed through 2020-21.

Wall, a four-time Eastern Conference All-Star, is the third player this summer to get a designated player "supermax" extension, joining Houston's James Harden and Golden State's Stephen Curry (see full story).

Suns: Williams signs 3-year, $17 million deal
PHOENIX -- The Phoenix Suns have signed big man Alan Williams to a three-year, $17 million contract.

The restricted free agent agreed to the deal earlier this month and the Suns announced he re-signed on Wednesday.

The 24-year-old Williams averaged 7.4 points on 51 percent shooting and 6.2 rebounds in 47 games last season, his second in the NBA.

Williams signed a 10-day contract with the Suns in 2016 and averaged 2.9 points and 3.8 rebounds. He played the 2015-16 season in China after being an undrafted free agent from UC Santa Barbara.

Lakers: Guard Tyler Ennis re-signs
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Lakers have re-signed guard Tyler Ennis, a late-season addition who played his way into a job.

The Lakers announced the deal Wednesday.

Los Angeles acquired Ennis from the Houston Rockets on Feb. 23 in a trade for Marcelo Huertas. Ennis appeared in 22 games for the Lakers, averaging 7.7 points and 2.4 assists.

The Lakers are the fourth NBA team in three seasons for Ennis, a Syracuse product chosen 18th overall in the 2014 draft by Phoenix.

Ennis is likely to vie for a backup role behind point guard Lonzo Ball, the No. 2 overall pick.

The Lakers met with Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo and George Hill in their quest for a veteran backup point guard to work with Ball, but all three signed elsewhere.

NBA Notes: Trail Blazers trade Allen Crabbe to Nets for Andrew Nicholson

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NBA Notes: Trail Blazers trade Allen Crabbe to Nets for Andrew Nicholson

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Portland Trail Blazers have traded Allen Crabbe to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for forward Andrew Nicholson.

The deal, first reported by ESPN, comes a year after the Nets offered Crabbe a four-year, $75 million deal as a restricted free agent. The Trail Blazers matched that offer.

A 6-foot-6 wing, Crabbe averaged 10.7 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.2 assists last season in Portland. He hit 44.4 percent of his 3-pointers.

"Allen has been a model teammate on the court and ambassador for the organization off the court," Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey said in a statement. "He will be missed by all of us who shared the last four seasons with him" (see full story).

Warriors: Curry’s 5-year, $201 million deal finalized
OAKLAND, California -- Stephen Curry has delivered his share of success already to a franchise that desperately needed it. Now, he's being paid for all he has done -- and certainly will do.

Curry finalized his new contract on Tuesday, signing a $201 million, five-year deal with the champion Golden State Warriors that initially was the richest ever, until James Harden topped it with a $228 million extension from the Houston Rockets.

Considered overlooked and undersized when he arrived on the NBA scene after being drafted seventh overall out of Davidson College in 2009, Curry has silenced the doubters with every spot-on heave from half-court.

The two-time NBA MVP, who earned $12 million this season as one of the league's biggest bargains, averaged 28.1 points in the playoffs while also contributing 6.7 assists and 6.2 rebounds. Now, he will earn $40 million per season.

"Just happy to be a leader on this team that can understand the goals that we set out for ourselves and try to get it done the best way we could," Curry said immediately after the Game 5 title clincher in the NBA Finals last month (see full story).

Pelicans: Davis tired of losing, ready for results
NEW ORLEANS -- Anthony Davis says a New Orleans Pelicans are "tired of losing" and have the roster to do something about it.

That is, if they can find a new offensive scheme that suits their mixture of incumbent starters and recent acquisitions.

"We can't wait for the season to come and try to make some noise here in the loaded West," Davis said Tuesday afternoon while promoting a youth camp he'll host in early August.

"We're doing everything, whether it's signing players, trading players ... whatever it is to just try to make sure that we try to be a winning organization," he added. "We have the tools right now to be successful. ... Right now, I think we look good on paper. So we've just got to figure it out" (see full story).

Magic: Afflalo returning to team on 1-year deal
A person with knowledge of the situation tells The Associated Press that the Orlando Magic have agreed to terms on a one-year deal with veteran guard Arron Afflalo.

The Magic and Afflalo came to agreement on Tuesday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not announced the deal.

Afflalo averaged 8.4 points and shot 41 percent on 3-pointers last season for Sacramento. The 12-year veteran was a standout performer for the Magic for two seasons earlier in his career, from 2012-13 through 2013-14.

For his career, Afflalo has averaged 11.3 points and 3.0 rebounds for six different teams.

ESPN first reported the agreement.