Schedule will make Sixers work down stretch

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Schedule will make Sixers work down stretch

With 16 games remaining in the season, the schedule doesnt look too friendly for the Sixers. Fighting with Boston and New York for their first Atlantic Division title since 2000-01 and just their second division crown since 1989-90, the Sixers just might have to do it on the road.
Of those final 16 games, 11 will be played away from the Wells Fargo Center. Moreover, the Sixers have four back-to-backs and one back-to-back-to-back that takes them from Orlando to Philadelphia and then off to Cleveland on consecutive nights.
But just to make it a little extra hellacious, the Sixers end the regular season with five straight games on the road.
The good part? Nine of the final 16 games are against teams that do not currently qualify for the playoffs. Given that the Sixers have taken care of those second-division teams, posting an 18-4 record against the non-qualifiers 10-4 against the teams remaining on the schedule this should bode well for Doug Collins team.
Right?
Not so fast, says Collins. With a few teams already headed to a date with a lottery pick, the pressure is on the teams jockeying for playoff position. The dangerous team, says Collins, is the one playing with nothing to lose.
What you see now is pretty interesting. Coming down the stretch you have a lot of teams Toronto beat Denver, New Jersey beat Indiana you see those teams and a lot of them are playing with the house money right now, Collins said after Thursdays practice at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Sometimes theyre the hardest teams to beat because they dont have that same kind of game pressure.
Additionally, the Sixers also play Atlanta, Miami, Boston, plus two games against Indiana and Orlando. This season the Sixers are 6-5 against those teams.
No matter how its boiled down, the Sixers have some work to do. That starts on Friday night in Washington against a team the Sixers have beaten three times this season already.
They say youre playing with the house money and its always easier that way, said Andre Iguodala. Ive been on both sides of that and when youre playing without anything to lose it allows you to take shots you normally wouldnt take you just say what the heck. Were in a position now where we cant play too timid or too safe. We have to maintain our confidence and stay focused the rest of the way.
Making it more interesting is the fact that the Wizards the Sixers play on Friday night is not the same team they beat up on earlier in the season. Javale McGee was traded away for veteran low-post menace, Nene. During an overtime loss against Denver in January, Nene lit up the Sixers for 20 points and 14 rebounds and since joining Washington he has posted three double-doubles in five games.
Its a different Washington team, Collins said. They made some trades and we know we have to get on that train and get ready to go to work.
Still, locked in a first-place tie with Boston in the Atlantic Division with the Knicks lurking just 2 games off the pace, the Sixers are fighting both for a division title as well as a berth in the playoffs. If they win the Atlantic, the Sixers can get no worse than a No. 4 seed in the playoffs. However, the Knicks currently hold the last playoff spot in the East with Milwaukee closing ground right behind them.
Though ESPN writer John Hollinger's NBA Playoff Odds list the Sixers as a 99.3 percent chance at making the playoffs with an 82.4 percent chance of winning the division Collins isnt ready to start scoreboard watching.
Besides, he cant do that anyway it drives him crazy.
I dont watch the games on TV because I need to get away from it, Collins said. If I did Id never get to sleep. I watch games analytically I dont watch games to have fun. When I watch my mind doesnt stop running.
Given the never-relenting pressure of the abbreviated season, Collins team has his mind racing enough as it is. Besides, the recipe is simple for the Sixers:
Were going to have to win games, Collins said.
E-mail John R. Finger at jfinger@comcastsportsnet.com.

NBA draft profile: Providence PG Kris Dunn

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NBA draft profile: Providence PG Kris Dunn

Kris Dunn

Position: Point guard

Height: 6-4

Weight: 205

School: Providence

Point guards are coveted on NBA rosters, and a team could land a long-term solution with Dunn. Last season, he averaged 16.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 2.5 steals in 33.0 minutes per game. The Sixers met with Dunn at the draft combine and plan to work him out as well. In order for the Sixers, who hold the first, 24th and 26th picks, to acquire Dunn, they would have to make a trade to move up in the selection order. 

Strengths
Dunn brings a physical presence to the one spot. At 6-foot-4, he has a 6-9 wingspan and can create size mismatches at the point guard position. Dunn is athletic with strong leaping abilities, which allows him to move well without the ball to the basket and attack the rim as well. While Dunn can score (16.4 points per game), he also averaged 2.5 steals per game this season.

Beyond the numbers, he has immeasurable mental strength and focus after overcoming obstacles to reach the highest level of basketball.

“You’re going to get someone who works hard every day,” Dunn said at the combine. “I like to say I’m a blue collar worker. Nothing was ever given to me and I go after it with everything I have.”

Weaknesses
As an NBA point guard, Dunn has to be disciplined running the floor. At times in college he went for the highlight play over fundamentals, resulting in turnovers (3.5 per game). He will have to improve shot selection in the pros. Dunn took 21 more field goal attempts from his junior to senior season but actually made one less year to year. He also shot 69.5 percent at the line. 

How he'd fit with the Sixers
The Sixers had a revolving door at the point guard position this season. They didn’t have a consistent starter until late December when they traded to re-acquire Ish Smith, who is a free agent this summer. Dunn could be their point guard for the future. 

NBA comparison
Dunn has been compared to Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall. At the combine, Dunn said he liked that comparison because of Wall’s defensive skillset.

Draft projection
Dunn is projected to be drafted as high as in the top five. He could be selected lower, though, given teams close to the top already have point guards.

Pelicans' Bryce Dejean-Jones killed after going to wrong apartment

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The Associated Press

Pelicans' Bryce Dejean-Jones killed after going to wrong apartment

DALLAS -- New Orleans Pelicans guard Bryce Dejean-Jones was fatally shot on his daughter's first birthday after he mistakenly went to the wrong apartment in Dallas, a death that rattled the NBA over Memorial Day weekend.

"We are devastated at the loss of this young man's life," the Pelicans said Saturday in a statement.

Dallas police said Sunday they would not have more information about the shooting until after the holiday and did not answer The Associated Press' question regarding whether the man who shot the 23-year-old Dejean-Jones would face charges. It is legal in Texas for someone to use deadly force to protect themselves from intruders.

Dejean-Jones was visiting his girlfriend for his daughter's first birthday and had gone for a walk early Saturday, according to his agent, Scott W. Nichols. His girlfriend lives on the fourth floor, and Dejean-Jones, who was visiting the complex for the first time, went to the third.

A man living at the apartment was sleeping when he heard his front door kicked open, police Senior Cpl. DeMarquis Black said Saturday in a statement. When Dejean-Jones began kicking at the bedroom door, the man retrieved a handgun and fired. Dejean-Jones collapsed in an outdoor passageway, and he died at a hospital.

Dejean-Jones's father told KCAL-TV that his son was "tenacious."

"He has had so many things that have happened to him along his path," K.C. Jones told the station. "He made up his mind that he wanted to do what he was doing -- play pro ball. And whatever it took, he was going to get there. He was going to do it."

In Dejean-Jones' only NBA season, which ended in February because of a broken right wrist, the 6-foot-6 guard started 11 of 14 games and averaged 5.6 points and 3.4 rebounds.

Nichols said Dejean-Jones had nearly completed his rehab and was set to begin shooting with his right hand again next week.

"It's shocking this happened," Nichols said. "Wrong place, wrong time, I think."

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called it a "tragic loss" and said Dejean-Jones "had a bright future in our league."

Dejean-Jones was signed by the Pelicans last summer after not being selected in the 2015 draft.

"I just lost my best friend/cousin last night enjoy life because you never know if tomorrow is guaranteed," Shabazz Muhammad of the Minnesota Timberwolves wrote on Twitter.

Dejean-Jones was part of the 2014-15 Iowa State team that went 25-9, captured a Big 12 title and made a fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. He also played at Southern California and UNLV; he was suspended late in the 2013-14 season from UNLV for conduct detrimental to the team, and announced that he was leaving USC midway through the 2010-11 season.

Former Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg, now the coach of the NBA's Chicago Bulls, added in a statement that Dejean-Jones was a "passionate and talented player that lived out his dream of playing in the NBA through hard work and perseverance."

Julie Keel, a spokeswoman for Camden Property Trust, the real estate company that owns the apartment complex in Dallas, confirmed that the complex's apartment manager had sent out an email to residents saying that the person who had been shot had been trying to break into "the apartment of an estranged acquaintance" and that this person had "inadvertently" broken into the wrong apartment.

Black said he could not confirm that Dejean-Jones was trying to access an acquaintance's apartment.

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Police: Pelicans guard Bryce Dejean-Jones shot and killed in Dallas

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USA Today Images

Police: Pelicans guard Bryce Dejean-Jones shot and killed in Dallas

DALLAS -- New Orleans Pelicans guard Bryce Dejean-Jones was fatally shot after breaking down the door to a Dallas apartment, authorities said Saturday.

A man living at the apartment was sleeping when he heard his front door kicked open, Dallas Police Senior Cpl. DeMarquis Black said in a statement. When Dejean-Jones began kicking at the bedroom door, the man retrieved a handgun and fired.

Officers who responded found Dejean-Jones collapsed in an outdoor passageway, and he died at a hospital. He was 23.

"We are devastated at the loss of this young man's life," the Pelicans said in a statement.

Dejean-Jones was visiting his girlfriend for his daughter's first birthday, which was Saturday, according to his agent, Scott W. Nichols. He said the girlfriend returned to the apartment first while Dejean-Jones went for a walk after they had gone out.

She lives on the fourth floor, and Dejean-Jones, who was visiting the complex for the first time, went to the third.

"He went to the wrong apartment unfortunately and I think he thought his girlfriend locked him out, so he was knocking on the door, banging on the door, it's locked," Nichols said. "So one thing led to another."

It is legal in Texas for someone to use deadly force in order to protect themselves from intruders.

"I just lost my best friend/cousin last night enjoy life because you never know if tomorrow is guaranteed," Shabazz Muhammad of the Minnesota Timberwolves wrote on Twitter.

Julie Keel, a spokeswoman for Camden Property Trust, the real estate company that owns the apartment complex in Dallas, confirmed that the complex's apartment manager had sent out an email to residents saying that the person who had been shot had been trying to break into "the apartment of an estranged acquaintance" and that this person had "inadvertently" broken into the wrong apartment.

Black said he could not confirm that Dejean-Jones was trying to access an acquaintance's apartment.

In Dejean-Jones' only NBA season, which ended in February because of a broken right wrist, the 6-foot-6 guard started 11 of 14 games and averaged 5.6 points and 3.4 rebounds.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called it a "tragic loss."

"Bryce inspired countless people with his hard work and perseverance on his journey to the NBA, and he had a bright future in our league," Silver said in a statement issued Saturday.

Dejean-Jones was part of the 2014-15 Iowa State team that went 25-9, captured a Big 12 title and made a fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. He was fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 10.5 points in 33 games. He shot a career-best 47.6 percent in his lone season as a Cyclone. He also played at Southern California and UNLV and was signed by the Pelicans last summer after not being selected in the 2015 draft.

"Bryce's dedication and hard work on his journey to the NBA will forever serve as an inspiration to us all," said National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts, who had posted a link to the story of Dejean-Jones' death on Twitter and wrote that it was "The news I pray every day I never have to hear."

Dejean-Jones was suspended late in the 2013-14 season from UNLV for conduct detrimental to the team, and announced that he was leaving USC midway through the 2010-11 season.

"This is a very, very sad and tragic day for everyone that's a part of the Cyclone basketball family," Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said.

Former Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg, now the coach of the NBA's Chicago Bulls, added in a statement that Dejean-Jones was a "passionate and talented player that lived out his dream of playing in the NBA through hard work and perseverance."

Nichols said Dejean-Jones had nearly completed his rehab and was set to begin shooting with his right hand again next week.

"It's shocking this happened," Nichols said. "Wrong place, wrong time, I think."

Besides Muhammad, several NBA players reacted on Twitter on Saturday.

"Crazy how life is man," wrote Brooklyn Nets guard Shane Larkin. "Prayers out to Bryce Dejean Jones and his family."

Added Quincy Pondexter, one of Dejean-Jones' teammates with the Pelicans: "This Can't be real life... Rest easy lil bro."