76ers

Stephen Curry saw potential in Markelle Fultz as one of his campers

Stephen Curry saw potential in Markelle Fultz as one of his campers

How quickly two years fly by. It was only then that Markelle Fultz attended Steph Curry’s basketball camp in the Bay Area. 

Fultz stood out to Curry, who recognized the teenager’s promising talent. In the time since that camp, Fultz became the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA draft. 

“You knew right away what kind of potential he had in the league,” Curry said to NBC Sports Philadelphia Saturday at Golden State's shootaround. 

There will be no matchup between teacher and student this season, though. Fultz is out because of a right shoulder injury and will miss the Sixers’ two games against the Warriors, both of which are scheduled in November. 

When the Sixers played in Oakland last weekend, Curry wanted to make sure he still talked to the rookie. Get healthy. Don’t lose confidence. Ignore the outside noise, the two-time championship winner and MVP encouraged. 

“The hardest thing is dealing with people’s expectations and the hype around you,” Curry said. “I don’t even know what it’s like being a No. 1 pick and having to deal with that. That’s part of the learning curve too. Hopefully, he’ll be able to keep his confidence through all this.”

Fultz’s rookie year hasn’t started out smoothly. He suffered soreness and scapular muscle imbalance in his right shoulder early in the season. Fultz missed the majority of the preseason and played his first four games off the bench before he was ruled out indefinitely Oct. 29. At the time, the Sixers approximated a reevaluation three weeks from then, which is Sunday. Fultz was averaging 6.0 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 19.0 minutes prior to being sidelined. 

Curry, though, saw in Fultz what the Sixers saw when they traded up to acquire the No. 1 pick from the Celtics. The team’s vision was for Fultz to complement Ben Simmons off the ball. As a freshman at Washington, he averaged 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists while leading the Pac-12 and all freshmen in scoring. 

“He’s just a great basketball player,” Curry said. “Obviously he’s quick. He’s athletic, he can shoot, he can play above the rim, he’s got the full package. I’m sure that’ll show as soon as he gets fully healthy and learns the ropes of the NBA.”

Curry can relate to Fultz. He is no stranger to battling injuries himself. Before Curry was dominating the NBA, he underwent ankle procedures and played only 26 games in his third season. He proved there can be a new chapter after being sidelined, one that’s better than the first. 

“Just be patient because this doesn’t define you,” Curry said. “It’s not the ideal way to start, but he’s going to be in good shape if he takes the necessary precautions to get fully 100 percent and understand he has a long career. He’s still young so this will be a distant memory very soon, the injury battle that really a lot of people have to go through, so he’s not alone.”

Curry has high expectations for Fultz in the NBA. He may have to wait another season to compete against him, but Curry will be looking forward to seeing how the 19-year-old develops and improves until then. 

"It’s kind of cool seeing guys that I got to see before they even got to college show out and do what they do and now get to play against them in the league," Curry said. 

Joel Embiid renews rivalry, takes notes in 1st All-Star Game

Joel Embiid renews rivalry, takes notes in 1st All-Star Game

LOS ANGELES — Joel Embiid didn’t take home MVP honors as planned, but he leaves All-Star Weekend having made his mark on the NBA. 

While Embiid had a strong performance, he and Team Stephen fell to Team LeBron, 148-145, Sunday night.

Here are three things to know about Embiid’s first experience as an All-Star:

Hungry to make an impact
Embiid kicked off the game with a driving dunk. He drew a foul on Anthony Davis to complete the three-point play. Less than a minute later, he knocked down a jumper to score Team Stephen’s first five points.

Embiid finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in 20 minutes. He shot 8-for-13 from the field and 2-for-4 from three.

While he was eager to score, he also recognized the talent of his squad. So when had the ball with just seconds left on the clock and the game on the line, he passed it off instead of trying to be the hero (even if the shot didn’t go in).

"I wanted to shoot it but I felt like I had Steph (Curry) and Klay (Thompson) on my team and (Paul George) was really pressuring me,” Embiid said. “But I felt like I had Steph and Klay on my team, so I felt like it was a better idea to pass them the ball because they’ve been doing that for years and I have a lot of respect for them, and that’s what I did.”

Embiid vs. Westbrook: Round 3
Just when it seemed like the next matchup between Embiid and Russell Westbrook would have to wait until next season, the two were crossed paths in the All-Star Game. Embiid hit a three over Westbrook and then swatted his shot (see video).

Embiid insisted it was all in good nature: “I kind of thought about staring at him and I kind of did. But you know it's all fun. I don't have anything against him. I have a lot of respect for him. He's a great competitor and I love to compete too. So I have a lot of fun playing against him.”

Westbrook, on the other hand, said he didn’t pay much mind to Embiid.

“I don’t know,” he said when asked his opinion of Embiid’s first All-Star performance. “I wasn’t really paying attention, honestly. I was paying attention to our team.”  

Let’s get the 2018-19 NBA schedule now to circle the calendars for their next meeting.

From trash talker to student
Embiid said from the time he was named a starter that he wanted to use this weekend as an opportunity to learn from his experienced teammates. And that he did. 

Check out this rundown of players on Team Stephen whose basketball know-how Embiid sought after.

“Steph, on the bench or during the game, I kind of asked him a couple questions,” Embiid said. “All the guys. (Karl-Anthony Towns) we talk a lot. Draymond (Green), of course, we talked a lot about him not being able to guard me. Of course he mentioned when we blew the lead against them, of course he had to mention that … Kyle (Lowry) was amazing. DeMar (DeRozan), always amazing. James (Harden), amazing. Al (Horford) was great; I love spending time with him. All those guys, they were great.”

Lowry was among many fellow All-Stars to appreciate Embiid’s talent so early in his career.

“(My advice is) continue to be him, and I think that’s his best trait,” Lowry said. “He’s a very hungry, humble guy, super talented, He’s just trying to figure it out and learn the game.”

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Embiid will return to Philadelphia from Los Angeles where he has one big to-do list after participating in the Rising Stars game, Skills Challenge and All-Star Game. Embiid plans to sleep.

Mitchell-Nance Jr. showdown highlights All-Star Saturday

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AP Images

Mitchell-Nance Jr. showdown highlights All-Star Saturday

LOS ANGELES — Rookie Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz put on a show in the slam dunk contest to cap off NBA All-Star Saturday.

Mitchell edged Larry Nance Jr. by two points, sealing his victory with a close approximation of the 360-degree spin dunk that Vince Carter used to win the 2000 contest.

"I wanted this so badly," Mitchell said. "This is one of my favorite events of All-Star weekend. To not only be in it, but to win it, it's crazy."

Before making his winning dunk, Mitchell peeled off his Jazz jersey and wore a vintage Carter jersey from the Toronto Raptors.

Mitchell -- three inches shorter than the 6-foot-6 Carter -- needed a score of 47 to beat Nance, and he got a 48 from the five judges: DJ Khaled, Mark Wahlberg, Chris Rock and Hall of Famers Julius Erving and Lisa Leslie.

Nance, who was trying to win the contest 34 years after his father won it, had earned a perfect 50 with a dunk off a double alley-oop off the glass.

Mitchell advanced to the finals with a creative dunk in the first round that used his sister, Jordan, as well as Kevin Hart and the comedian's son as props. For that dunk, Mitchell wore a Darrell Griffith Jazz jersey. Griffith participated in the first slam dunk contest in 1984.

"I appreciate Kevin Hart coming out there and helping me out," Mitchell said. "He's my favorite comedian."

Booker wins 3-point contest with record final round
Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns won the 3-point contest with a record 28 points in the final round. He beat 2016 champion Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors and Tobias Harris of the Los Angeles Clippers.

"It feels really good," Booker said. "I wanted to go out there and make a name for myself."

Did he ever. He was sensational in the final round on Saturday, when he missed only five of 25 shots.

Each player shot five five-ball racks with a one-minute time limit. The final ball of each one was a "money ball" worth two points, and one of the racks, usually the last one, was all money balls. Booker made the money ball shot on his first four racks, and then made four of the five balls on the money ball rack.

Harris, Booker and Thompson advanced from the eight-man field to the finals. Harris scored 17 points before Booker scorched the nets for 28 points. Thompson followed and scored 25 points.

The previous record was 27 points, set by Stephen Curry in 2015 and matched by Thompson the following year.

Booker, the 21-year-old sharpshooter in his third season with Phoenix, is averaging 24.2 points per game this season as the NBA's 12th-leading scorer. Eleven months after the shooting guard dropped 70 points against Boston to become the youngest player in NBA history to score even 60 in a game, Booker added another accolade to his promising career with the 3-Point title.

Thompson beat the buzzer with his final shot of the first round to reach the finals with 19 points. Booker also scored 19 and Harris had 18.

Dinwiddie tops Markkanen in Skills Challenge final 
Spencer Dinwiddie of the Brooklyn Nets won the skills challenge to kick off NBA All-Star Saturday.

Dinwiddie, who played at Taft High in the Woodland Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, beat Lauri Markkanen of the Chicago Bulls in the final round.

The skills competition consisted of two players going head to head. They dribbled around pylons, passed the ball into a net, dribbled to the other end of the floor for a layup and then dribbled back to the other end to take a pull-up 3-pointer.

Eight players started the competition, with Dinwiddie and Markkanen advancing to the final.

Markkanen struggled passing the ball into the net, giving Dinwiddie a big lead. Dinwiddie dribbled down the floor and missed his first 3, but drained the next one to win.