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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Basketball

Ben Simmons ‘doubtful’ to play for Australia this summer

Ben Simmons

The Philadelphia 76ers will have a fresh Ben Simmons when the new season starts.

Simmons’ agent Rich Paul told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that Simmons is “doubtful” to play for Australia at the FIBA World Cup, meaning he will have a full summer to rest and prepare for the 2019-20 season.

This will be music to Philadelphia’s ears. The team has already made clear that Simmons is one of the players that they’ll be relying on to make big plays in big moments after Jimmy Butler’s departure, and to have Simmons free of international duty will make them quite happy.

Big Baller Brand selling T-shirts, hats for $5 on clearance

LaVar Ball Lakers

It doesn’t seem like all that long ago that LaVar Ball and his Big Baller Brand were being relentlessly mocked for selling $500 sneakers. The ridicule still exists, but for a much different reason now.

At one of their pop-up shops over the weekend, Big Baller Brand was selling several items on clearance. Prices ranged from $5 for T-shirts and hats to $100 for a package that includes a T-shirt, hoodie, pair of shoes and pair of socks.

When the Big Baller Brand first launched, Lonzo Ball’s signatures shoes were selling for $495. Hats and T-shirts were around $50. Many people thought the prices were absurd, but LaVar Ball insisted all of the items were selling at a furious pace and his family was making money in bundles.

Not so much, anymore. Lonzo recently distanced himself from BBB, and he had a pretty good reason for doing so. That has almost certainly had a negative impact on the brand, and you have to wonder how much longer they can stay in business with clearance prices like that.

Stephen Curry has no plans for load management next season

Stephen Curry could be looking at his biggest workload in years next season, and he’s ready to dive in headfirst.

In an interview with The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson II that ran Sunday, the Golden State Warriors star was asked if he had plans for load management.

“Hell nah,” Curry replied. “We’ve got a great opportunity to build something special with some hungry guys looking to prove themselves. There are so many narratives people can throw at us. But at the end of the day, I’ve never been the type to show up with any other mindset than to do what you do — hoop. We’ve got championship DNA. We know that.

“We’ve got our core, when Klay [Thompson] gets back,” the former MVP added. “It’s going to be an interesting year, for sure, all the way around. It’s going to be challenging to really find that momentum early. But with the new arena, losing the Finals, this summer is a different vibe. Keeps you locked in.”

After sharing the lead singer role with Kevin Durant for the last three seasons, Curry may now have a chance to return to a volume akin to his 2015-16 MVP campaign, especially with Thompson likely to miss the year with a torn ACL.

Though Curry is about to enter his 11th NBA season at age 31, the increased opportunity as well as the added motivation should help him power through.

76ers have insane amount of money committed to their core players

Joel Embiid

If the Philadelphia 76ers fail to win a championship in the next five years or so, their fans certainly cannot blame the front office for a lack of financial commitment to the roster.

As expected, Ben Simmons agreed to a five-year, $170 million rookie max extension with the Sixers on Monday. The contract came in an offseason where Philly also shelled out $180 million over five years to keep Tobias Harris and signed Al Horford to a four-year, $109 million deal. And let’s not forget the five-year, $148 million extension Joel Embiid got prior to the 2017-18 season.

Apparently trusting “The Process” costs a lot of dough. As ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes, the 76ers will have well over a half-billion dollars invested in their four core players when Simmons’ extension kicks in starting in 2020-21.

With all the money they have spent, it’s hard to believe the 76ers did not offer one star player the max contract he was seeking. They clearly have a vision, however, and they feel their current roster is the one that is going to bring them a title. Their payroll says it all.

Magic Johnson predicts LeBron James wins NBA MVP next season

LeBron James

Magic Johnson thinks LeBron James is primed for a major season.

Magic sent some Los Angeles Lakers-related tweets on Saturday, the day Anthony Davis was introduced at a press conference. He talked up Davis:

He praised LeBron for attending the presser:

And then he offered his LeBron for MVP prediction.

James has been voted league MVP four times in his career. His last MVP award came in 2012-2013 as a member of the Miami Heat. He’s finished second twice, third twice and fourth once since then. Last season he was 11th largely because he only played in 55 games.

The prediction from Magic seems like wishful thinking. Due to James’ age, the likelihood of him playing enough games and minutes to win the award does not seem strong, especially when there are younger players like Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden who can lap him in that regard. Steph Curry also should be due for a huge statistical season since he will be needed to do more for Golden State in the wake of Klay Thompson’s injury and Kevin Durant’s departure. However, if James is able to avoid an injury unlike last season, he should still figure in the top five for the award.

Kendrick Perkins warns Zion Williamson to avoid New Orleans food

Zion Williamson

One of the concerns surrounding Zion Williamson now that his NBA career has begun is his weight, and Kendrick Perkins thinks the former Duke star will have to work extra hard to avoid culinary temptations in New Orleans.

Perkins, who spent a season with the Pelicans, said there are going to be people in New Orleans offering Williamson good eats everywhere he goes. The retired big man said the Pelicans better lock Zion away if they want to keep him in shape.

Williamson is listed at 285 pounds, which is heavy for a player who is about 6-foot-6. Most of that has to do with his incredible strength, but he suffered a knee injury in his first Summer League game and also got hurt during the NCAA Tournament back in March, though that injury was more of a fluke. The Summer League injury was the result of knee-to-knee contact, so it’s hard to argue that either had to do with Williamson’s size.

Like any other star player, Williamson will have to keep an eye on his weight and conditioning. While his strength is an asset, he can’t let one too many bowls of gumbo turn his impressive stature into a liability.

Report: Bradley Beal may not commit long-term to Wizards

Bradley Beal

Bradley Beal has been the subject of trade rumors this summer, and while nothing is in the offing, it appears there may be some reason to question the guard’s future with the Washington Wizards.

Beal becomes eligible to sign a three-year, $111 million extension on July 26, three years since signing his max deal. The Wizards plan to offer it, but according to Candace Buckner of the Washington Post, the extension is not viewed as a sure thing around the league. In fact, there is a growing sense from some within the NBA that Beal may not remain a Wizard for life.

“He’s out of there,” one NBA source told Buckner.

The story adds that Beal may have questions about the team’s roster, as well as the front office situation. General manager Ernie Grunfeld was fired by the Wizards at the start of April, and the team has not formally filled the role of president since his dismissal.

There likely won’t be much further movement on this until Beal makes a decision on the contract offer, and he can’t do that until it’s on the table. It’s also worth noting that Beal could wait a year and put himself in line for a supermax deal if he can make an All-NBA team in 2019-20. That will also give him a chance to study the organization’s direction and determine whether he wants to stick around or perhaps seek opportunity elsewhere.