Noel out to prove doubters wrong with Sixers

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Noel out to prove doubters wrong with Sixers

NEW YORK -- Nerlens Noel walked into his first press conference still wearing a New Orleans Pelicans hat. The questions were coming in as reports surfaced that he had been traded to the Sixers in a deal that involved point guard Jrue Holiday (see story).

Either Noel didn’t know he was traded or was told to avoid answering questions regarding the deal because it wasn’t made official.

When Noel finally did answer a question pertaining to him being traded to the Sixers, he said he was looking forward to joining a “great organization.”

Short and sweet.

After Thursday’s draft wrapped up, officials said Noel would be returning to comment on his trade to the Sixers. At about 12:30 a.m. on Friday, the 6-foot-10 Kentucky center stood outside the press room in the Barclays Center and answered questions about a night in which he was passed over by five teams before being selected by the Pelicans, only to be dealt to the Sixers.

“It’s definitely been a little hectic, but I’m definitely staying focused and staying positive through this,” he said.

Noel said he was notified that he had been traded to the Sixers after initially being confused about the deal. After the move was clarified, he reminded everyone that he was looking forward to coming to Philadelphia.

“They have a great organization, especially being there with one of my best friends growing up in Michael Carter-Williams (drafted 11th overall by the Sixers),” Noel said. “I’m definitely looking forward to that.”

Noel averaged 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.4 blocks in 24 games in his first and only season at Kentucky before tearing his left ACL.

Standing there, a few reporters surrounding him, one could get the sense Noel was upset about how the night unfolded. When he arrived at the Barclays Center on Thursday, the consensus was Noel would be drafted first overall. When he departed, that wasn’t the case.

“In a few years down the road, when I am established in the NBA, I’ll say this is the night that gave me motivation that I needed to be the player that I wanted to be,” Noel said.

Carter-Williams agreed with Noel’s notion.

“That’s how things end up,” Carter-Williams said. “It was meant to be. I am sure he has a chip on his shoulder now, and who knows, maybe that’s what he needs for him to be great in the NBA.”

Noel understood why he dropped in the draft, though. It was that ACL tear he suffered in February. Coming into the NBA draft, teams were said to be concerned about the injury and whether a December return was realistic.

Noel was asked if he thought teams were nervous to take a chance on him.

“I’d have to say so,” he said. “I mean, [teams] are going to make their own decisions that are best for them and, you know, later down the road let’s hope they made the right decision.”

Noel said he has started advanced workouts, added some defensive slides to his rehab and is even doing a little running. He estimated a comeback “around November.”

When it all shook out, was Noel happy to be drafted? Yes. He confessed it was a little hard to look at the positives but vowed to take any frustration out on the court.

“As hard as I was working," he said, "I’m definitely going to [rehab] with a bigger chip on my shoulder and come back for this and show the reason why …”

He didn’t finish the sentence. No need. Noel will be out to show the world why he, and not Anthony Bennett, should have been drafted No. 1 overall on Thursday.

Noel looked different when he met the media this time. He stood tall, this time without a New Orleans Pelicans hat on his head.

He is a Sixer now. A Sixer with something to prove.

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).