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#pounditFriday, October 22, 2021

Basketball

LaMelo Ball offers hint about his future with Hornets

LaMelo Ball

LaMelo Ball is about to enter his second season with the Charlotte Hornets, but there may be plenty more of them to come.

The Hornets guard spoke this week with Joe Vardon of The Athletic and offered a hint about his longer-term future with the team.

“I feel like I still kind of got that mentality that they had back in the day,” said Ball. “Even with the switching teams and stuff, they never used to do that. You go to one team, you stay there.

“[You’re] supposed to just go to a team and build from there,” the reigning Rookie of the Year continued. “I feel like that’s how it should be. Especially when [you’re] like a high pick too, most likely going to a team that wasn’t as good, so you try to make them better. I feel like that’s the whole process right there.”

Of course, it’s easy for the 21-year-old Ball to be starry-eyed at this point of his basketball journey. But circumstances change very quickly in the NBA. Teammates leave, coaches and/or executives come and go, and high-flying teams can go from playoff contenders to bottom feeders faster than you can say “Antetokounmpo.”

Stil, it sounds like there is a lot of appeal for Ball in building something from the ground up in Charlotte under the leadership of owner Michael Jordan. As it currently stands, the dynamic guard is under contract through at least 2024. The Hornets will be hoping that Ball sticks around for the long haul and does not have any big city dreams, as had previously been rumored about him.

Photo: Jul 5, 2019; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Basketball player LaMelo Ball in attendance of the New Orleans Pelicans against the New York Knicks game during the NBA Summer League at Thomas & Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Trae Young sounds off on disrespect that Hawks get

Trae Young

Trae Young is calling a spade a spade when it comes to the lack of recognition that his team gets.

The Atlanta Hawks star sounded off on Thursday before the team tipped off their season against the Dallas Mavericks.

“I don’t think we get the respect that we deserve,” said Young, per Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. “I watch a lot of TV. I see people mentioning all of the acquisitions everyone is getting. No one’s mentioning us. The Milwaukee vs. Brooklyn game, they mentioned how they were in the Eastern Finals. It was just mind-blowing.”

Indeed, Atlanta had one of the most slept-on conference finals appearances last season. They downed the New York Knicks in a memorable first-round series, took care of business against the heavily-favored Philadelphia 76ers in the second round, and pushed the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks to the brink in the conference finals with a hobbled Young (though Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo was also slowed by injury). The Hawks then retained their entire core this offseason and added some solid bench pieces in Delon Wright and Gorgui Dieng. Still, very few project Atlanta to be a top-tier team in the East again this season.

Young, who averaged 25.3 points and 9.4 assists per game last season, is the engine that makes the Hawks go. While he has earned notoriety in certain corners of the league, Young clearly wants the NBA world to do a better job of listening to what the South has got to say.

Photo: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Vanessa Bryant accused of ‘money grab’ lawsuit over crash photos

Vanessa Bryant smiles

Vanessa Bryant sued the County of Los Angeles over first responders taking photos of the crash site where her late husband Kobe and daughter, Gianna, died and later sharing them in an unauthorized manner. Now, the county is striking back.

The county is asking Bryant and the family members of those who died in the Jan. 26, 2020 helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif. to undergo psychiatric evaluations. The exams are intended to determine whether Vanessa and her family suffered “emotional distress” as a result of the photos being taken and shared.

Vanessa sued the county and alleged she suffered “emotional distress” from the photos being taken and shared despite the pictures never being released publicly. The county understands the emotional damage the helicopter crash caused the family members of the deceased. However, they would like Vanessa to prove she suffered severe negative consequences specifically from the photos.

The County of Los Angeles accused Vanessa of making a “money grab” with her lawsuit.

“It’s horrific, the worst imaginable,” attorneys for the county said in a statement released on Monday. “But she sued the County for something that didn’t happen. There’s been no public disclosure of crash site photos, none. So we see this case as a money grab and are doing what’s necessary to defend our client.”

Vanessa has been involved in numerous lawsuits since her late husband’s death. She sued the county over the photos. She filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the helicopter company. She was also involved in a lawsuit with her mother, though that was recently resolved (details here).

Vanessa, 39, was married to Kobe from 2001 until his death. They had four daughters together, though Gianna died in the helicopter crash.

Photo: Mar 10, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Vanessa Bryant , wife of Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (not pictured), attends the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Bradley Beal has surprising take on future with Wizards

Bradley Beal

Much has been made about Bradley Beal’s uncertain future with the Washington Wizards. The star guard definitely sounds like he knows where he wants to be, though.

In a new feature by Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, Beal sounds like he’d prefer to stay with Washington despite the franchise’s recent struggles. The star guard can become a free agent after the season, but has received the superstar treatment from the Wizards. The team, particularly general manager Tommy Sheppard, has consulted with Beal on roster moves and style of play. So far, Beal is impressed.

“Shep played the hand he was dealt,” Beal said. “He had to clean up some things to shape it the way he wanted to and I’m definitely impressed with it. The way he made moves, he was able to save us without giving up crazy picks or assets to go get what we wanted.”

Not only that, but Beal has actively sought to recruit a star to play with him. He has talked about the “freshness” of the organization and has tried to talk Washington D.C. up as a big market.

In other words, Beal does not sound like a player desperate to get out of Washington. That is in line with some previous reporting, too. He seems to be waiting to sign a long-term deal to see what kind of progress the young Wizards make this season. That said, it may not be that much of a surprise if he does end up signing on.

Rich Paul’s attorneys respond to Nerlens Noel accusation

Nerlens Noel

Nerlens Noel filed a lawsuit against his former agent Rich Paul earlier this year, and Paul has formally responded.

Noel is seeking $58 million after he says he received some poor and extremely costly advice from Paul. Noel says Paul was responsible for the center turning down a four-year, $70 million contract offer from the Dallas Mavericks back in 2017. In a court filing on Monday, Paul’s attorneys denied that and other claims made by Noel.

Noel says Paul advised him to turn down the $70 million contract and told him he deserves a max deal. Noel eventually signed a two-year, $3.75 million deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder ahead of the 2018-19 season. In addition to giving him bad advice, Noel also claims Paul ignored teams that expressed interest in signing his former client. You can read the full details of the lawsuit here.

Winning the lawsuit is a long shot for Noel, but it’s possible he and the NBA Players Association could come to some sort of settlement. Noel and one former NBA star have beefed on Twitter over the allegations.

Report: 76ers believe Ben Simmons is faking injury, mental health issue

Ben Simmons during a game

Ben Simmons appears unlikely to play in the Philadelphia 76ers’ game against the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night, but it sounds like the team feels strongly that he is fit to suit up.

Simmons informed the Sixers on Thursday that he is experiencing tightness in his back. He was reportedly cleared by the team’s medical staff to participate in an individual workout, but he chose to skip it. In addition to the supposed back ailment, Simmons has told the 76ers he is not mentally ready to play.

Not surprisingly, the Sixers do not believe Simmons. Howard Eskin of Sports Radio 94 WIP reports that team officials think Simmons is faking both his back injury and mental unpreparedness. They are said to be “livid” with the point guard.

It is clear that Simmons never intends to play for the Sixers again. The team probably doesn’t want him, but they would likely prefer for things to run a lot more smoothly while they work to trade him. Simmons is unwilling to cooperate — even if it would help facilitate a trade.

Simmons was kicked out of practice by head coach Doc Rivers on Tuesday. The team then announced that he had been suspended one game, which got him out of playing in the season opener on Wednesday night. He’s obviously willing to do anything he can to continue sitting out.

Look: Charles Barkley has amazing reaction to Kenny Smith defending Kyrie

Charles Barkley reaction face

Doc Rivers may be the NBA’s king of flabbergasted reactions. But Charles Barkley appears to be coming for his throne.

As the new NBA season tipped off on Tuesday, TNT’s “Inside the NBA” crew gave their takes on the Kyrie Irving-Brooklyn Nets situation. Barkley’s co-host, Kenny “The Jet” Smith, defended Irving, saying that he understood the All-Star guard’s choice to remain unvaccinated as long Irving was willing to accept the consequences. The camera then panned to Barkley, who delivered a priceless reaction by staring blankly into the void as Smith spoke. Take a look:

Needless to say, Barkley was of the exact opposite opinion. After Smith was done, Barkley proceeded to skewer Irving, saying, “You don’t get the vaccine for yourself. You get it for other people.” He also said that Irving should not be getting paid $17 million this season to sit at home and blasted the recent comparisons of Irving to the late Muhammad Ali.

The Nets tipped off the season against the Milwaukee Bucks without Irving, losing by the lopsided final score of 127-104. The team has decided not to accommodate Irving, who is ineligible to play in home games, as a part-time player this season. That means that Brooklyn could be without Irving for the entire year unless he suddenly decides to get vaccinated.

The outspoken Barkley clearly does not agree with the way that Irving is handling his business here. This is also far from the first time that Barkley has gone in on the former No. 1 overall pick on national television.

Former Buck upset team did not re-sign him after championship run

PJ Tucker

The Milwaukee Bucks are defending their NBA title with a new fifth starter this season. But the man who occupied that spot for them last season sounds upset that things played out the way that they did.

Veteran forward PJ Tucker, who signed with the Miami Heat this offseason, indicated this week that he was not pleased about the Bucks letting him go.

“I was pretty surprised,” he said, per Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald. “You win a championship and you’re part of winning something special like that, you would expect that. A chance of it not happening? There’s a chance. It didn’t happen. Does it happen a lot? I don’t think so, not in that situation, not in those situations. You watch role guys in series in the past, usually those guys go back. So I’ll take my situation as just that, a particular situation. I move on from it and keep it going.

“All the fans blamed me right away, not knowing the situation, [about] what happened,” Tucker went on. “So that was definitely a raw emotion, right in that moment. But it is what it is. It’s business. They made a decision, I made a decision, and we move on. It is what it is. But to say that I’m not circling every time we play Milwaukee, I would be lying to you.”

Tucker signed a two-year, $15 million deal with the Heat this offseason. He had made an important contribution to the Bucks’ title run with his reliable corner three and his willingness to get down and dirty defensively, which took some of the load off Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton.

There has definitely been a bit of a rivalry brewing between the Bucks and the Heat in recent seasons. Now the addition of a vengeful Tucker to the Miami side should send the sparks flying even further.

Photo: Dec 21, 2019; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Houston Rockets forward PJ Tucker (17) against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Ben Simmons suspended by 76ers after being thrown out of practice

Ben Simmons

Ben Simmons has been practicing with the Philadelphia 76ers since last week, but he will not be on the floor when they open their season on Wednesday night. That is because the former first overall pick has been suspended.

The Sixers announced in a statement on Tuesday that Simmons has been suspended one game for conduct detrimental to the team. There was very little detail in the brief press release, but ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the suspension came after Doc Rivers threw Simmons out of practice.

Those who have followed Simmons’ antics in practice since he reported to Philadelphia are not surprised. There have been reports that he is simply going through the motions with the team and still has no interest in being there. Then on Monday, a video from practice showed Simmons hanging in the background on his own while all of his teammates and coaches huddled up.

Simmons clearly does not want to be a part of anything that is going on in Philadelphia. There are likely two reasons he decided to show up to camp. One is so he can put a stop to the fines, and the other is to help facilitate a trade. Although, it is obvious to rival teams at this point that the two sides cannot coexist.

With Simmons already suspended, it would not be a surprise if he has played his last game for the Sixers. His teammates are clearly fed up with him, and the same is almost certainly true for coaches and team executives. It’s only a matter of time before Simmons is traded.

Photo: Jan 30, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons (25) talks to fans before a game against the Atlanta Hawks at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Daryl Morey sends message about Ben Simmons trade timeline

Daryl Morey in a blazer

Philadelphia 76ers team president Daryl Morey made clear Thursday that he does not see the Ben Simmons saga ending anytime soon.

Morey appeared on 97.5 The Fanatic’s “The Mike Missanelli Show” and advised listeners to “buckle in,” as the 76ers were unwilling to trade Simmons for role players. Morey even alluded to Simmons’ contractual situation by saying it could be a four-year process.

To be clear, this isn’t likely to last four years. Morey is simply laying things out in public. It’s as much a negotiating ploy as anything else. The Sixers do not want to trade Simmons for spare parts. The hope may be that digging in publicly will show teams how serious they are about demanding stronger offers.

It certainly sounds like, in a perfect world, the 76ers would prefer to be done with Simmons themselves. Whether they get an offer they feel is worth pursuing remains to be seen.

Photo: Dec 22, 2018; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey looks on before a game between the Rockets and the San Antonio Spurs at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports