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NBA Notes: League ditches East-West format for All-Star Game

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NBA Notes: League ditches East-West format for All-Star Game

NEW YORK -- The NBA is scrapping the East vs. West format for its All-Star Game and will have captains pick teams this season.

The league said Tuesday the two starters with the highest fan vote totals from each conference will choose teams from the pool of players who were voted as starters and reserves.

The change will begin with this season's game in Los Angeles on Feb. 18.

Players and league officials have been eager to inject new interest in the often defense-absent game, and they decided to act after another dull affair last February in New Orleans.

"I'm thrilled with what the players and the league have done to improve the All-Star Game, which has been a priority for all of us," National Basketball Players Association president Chris Paul of the Houston Rockets said in a statement. "We're looking forward to putting on an entertaining show in LA" (see full story).

Lakers: Ball misses practice with sprained ankle
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball has missed practice after mildly spraining his left ankle in a preseason game.

Ball sat out of Tuesday's workout along with Brandon Ingram, who bumped his head during the same preseason game Monday against Denver.

Coach Luke Walton said Ball will be re-evaluated Wednesday before the Lakers determine whether the No. 2 overall pick will play against the Nuggets in Ontario, California, that night.

Ingram is meeting with a doctor Tuesday to determine the extent of his injury.

Ball and Ingram played 21 minutes apiece Monday in a 113-107 loss to Denver.

Larry Nance Jr. also didn't practice due to a sprained index finger, but the forward did conditioning work.

Center Brook Lopez participated in full-court drills during his steady return from back spasms.

Bucks: New arena is also avenue to sell Milwaukee
MILWAUKEE -- Construction vehicles and dusty streets surround the Milwaukee Bucks' new downtown arena that is less than a year away from completion.

The state-of-the-art facility will be the Bucks' home starting in 2018. But in many respects the massive project is more than just about basketball.

Team and arena executives want to get major entertainment acts to stop in Milwaukee. They want the arena to be a driver for ambitious downtown redevelopment.

And to do that, they have to go out to market and sell Milwaukee.

"We want to create an international destination with talent. We want to compete with every major city, we want to be on every tour stop," team president Peter Feigin said. "We have this one window of time to tell our story and our narrative around the world" (see full story).

How Sixers plan to replace JJ Redick

How Sixers plan to replace JJ Redick

CAMDEN, N.J. — After Sixers’ practice Wednesday, a reporter asked coach Brett Brown, “Are you concerned about the shooting without [JJ Redick] in there?”

Brown responded, “What do you think?”

Clearly, JJ Redick’s left knee injury is a blow for the Sixers (see story). With Redick sidelined, a combination of Jerryd Bayless, Justin Anderson, Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot and possibly the recently acquired James Young will have to fill a huge shooting void. Brown said Bayless will start in Redick’s place.

Brown noted the Sixers' offense won’t change radically, but that the other guards will need to focus on off-ball movement without Redick in the lineup.

“JJ is amongst the league’s elite movers,” Brown said. “We need to move Jerryd more. [Robert Covington] is a little bit ground-bound at times. You’ve all sort of seen our structure enough to know almost what we’re hoping to do. And it’s movement. We don’t have to change anything, we just have to do what we do.

"Historically, [Bayless’] role has been stuck in a corner and spotting up, or loop him up to the top and put him in a rub. We’re trying to do more than that, and I think he can shine in that environment.”

Outside of his shooting, the threat of Redick’s jumper draws defenders away from the lane. His absence may make getting to the basket harder work for Ben Simmons.

“I think everybody just has to step up and fill that role,” Simmons said. “We need scoring. He helps us get a lot of shots by being a great shooter, so we need to work on getting our own shots.”

Redick has made more three-point shots (98) than Bayless, Anderson, and Luwawu-Cabarrot combined (95) this season in 34 fewer attempts. Bayless has shot better as a starter (40.4 percent from three-point range) than when he comes off the bench (35.3 percent).

According to Brown, Bayless’ most productive recent game, on Dec. 30 at Denver, may be a blueprint the team uses moving forward. Bayless scored 14 points on 6 of 10 shooting (2 of 3 from three-point territory) in a 107-102 Sixers’ win. Brown said he made a concerted effort to call plays for Bayless, and that the veteran guard responded by making big shots.

It also seems likely that, without Redick’s 17.3 points per game in the lineup, the Sixers will have to lean more heavily on Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons for scoring. But while those two are always front and center, Redick’s injury means Bayless will shift into the spotlight.

Markelle Fultz still 'hesitant' with his shot

Markelle Fultz still 'hesitant' with his shot

CAMDEN, N.J. — Markelle Fultz was clutch today. No, not in a game situation. But he delivered when Sixers coach Brett Brown ratcheted up the pressure on him.

“Today, six times I put him to the free throw line and say, ‘Hey, Markelle, if you make it, you keep it. If not, it’s the other team’s ball. It’s 92-91.’ And he goes 5 for 6, and he looked good doing it,” Brown said.

Brown explained after practice Wednesday he’s trying to put as much pressure on Fultz’s shot as possible in a practice setting. He said that while he likes what he’s seen from Fultz recently in practice, he doesn’t feel the rookie’s shot is ready for NBA action yet.

“He looks good,” Brown said. “You can see why he was the first player chosen. Stuff he does with the ball, his ability to get into the lane and find people. The hesitancy at times we see with his shot is true, it’s real. He can still impact an NBA game without having to shoot, he really can impact an NBA game without having to shoot.

“And so that doesn’t make him whole, though. It doesn’t make him whole. So finding what that next step is where he can go into an NBA game and feel more whole than he currently does, is the next timeline of, ‘OK, well when does he go play?'”

How “whole” Fultz needs to be to return to action appears to be subjective. One encouraging sign is Fultz’s free throw form, which appears hitch-free. Fultz shot 6 of 12 from the foul line in his four regular season games prior to being shut down, with a bizarre tilt of the head to the left and a long pause right before releasing the ball. Those issues weren’t visible when Fultz shot free throws after practice.

 

However, the Sixers don’t want Fultz back if he’s still hesitant to shoot jumpers, as Brown acknowledged. The Sixers are taking their time with the rookie — Brown confirmed they’re not going to rush his return because of JJ Redick’s left knee injury (see story). Instead, Brown will continue to have Fultz run the point for the second team at practice, and continue to try to coax Fultz into regaining full confidence in his shot.

In other injury news, Richaun Holmes will miss a second straight game Thursday night against Boston with gastroenteritis.