76ers

De'Aaron Fox believes his guard versatility fits Ben Simmons, Sixers

De'Aaron Fox believes his guard versatility fits Ben Simmons, Sixers

CHICAGO — The Sixers plan to start Ben Simmons at point guard next season, but that doesn't rule out drafting a player at the same position in June. 

De'Aaron Fox thinks there's room for two point guards on the Sixers and that he, as he sees it, is the top candidate in the draft.

"I feel like I'm the best," Fox said Friday of the point guards in his class.

Fox is a projected top-five prospect and a legitimate possibility for the Sixers with their first-round pick or picks, depending on how the ping-pong balls fall Tuesday. 

Fox met with the Sixers, along with seven other teams, at the NBA Draft Combine this week. The Sixers also interviewed projected top pick, Markelle Fultz. Lonzo Ball, the projected second overall pick, did not attend the event. 

Fox sees a place for himself on a young team like the Sixers that has been in search of a consistent point guard. 

"Talking to them, they wanted to see how I fit with Ben (Simmons) and Joel (Embiid)," Fox said. "I liked it. They have a lot of young pieces … they haven't really had a point guard in a few years. That could be the missing piece to what they need."

He added: "I feel like they have a bright future."

So how would a backcourt duo with Simmons work? Fox has an idea. He is friends with Simmons and already familiar with his game after the pair played in the same basketball circuit for two years in high school.

"They asked me about it, Ben being able to bring the ball up the court and being a facilitator," Fox said. "I feel like I'm shooting it a lot better. Once I'm getting back to how I shot it in high school, I feel like I could really fit with Ben. He's fast. I feel like the position he plays, not many people can grab a rebound and push it with the speed and vision that he has."

Being paired with Simmons would mean playing without the ball in his hands. Fox wants to prove he is more able to do that than his 24.6 percent three-point shooting demonstrated last season as a freshman at Kentucky.

"I am comfortable moving off the ball, but I have to show people that I can do it," he said. "No one really thinks I can do it because I struggled shooting it in college. I started shooting it well at the end of the year and I feel like if I'm knocking down shots, I'm very comfortable off the ball."

When it comes to Embiid, 31 games was enough for Fox to envision how he could complement him. 

"Playing with any good big, it's a positive," Fox said. "It kind of takes the pressure off of you. You throw it in there and they're going to double team and do whatever they can to stop him. It's going to get me open looks, and I just have to show that I can knock them down."

Fox is confident in his talents and ability to enhance the areas where he needs work. He wants to improve his strength (he weighed in at 169.6 pounds and the fourth-lowest body fat, 4.5 percent, of all players measured at the combine), shot and get adjusted to the pace of the NBA. He considers his speed and ability to finish at the basket to be his most NBA-ready skills, which have earned him comparisons to John Wall. 

"I've been able to finish over bigger guys my whole life," he said. "Now you're going to have guys like D.J. (DeAndre Jordan) … he's putting his shoulders at the top of the glass, so it's going to be tough but I know it's something I'll be able to work through."

Fox made the unconventional decision to attend the combine as a top prospect. He always has wanted to experience the pre-draft process. Fox also believes the face-to-face interaction could make a difference in a team's decision-making. 

"Getting these 30 minutes with teams could change some minds," he said. "I wanted them to learn more about my personality than they already knew."

Fox was not swayed by Kevin Durant's recent comments in which the former No. 2 pick spoke out against his experiences in 2007

"That's his opinion. Everybody has their own opinion," Fox said. "K.D. said it's a waste of time, but then you have other players say that the combine really helped them. It's all about your perspective. Everybody's going to have a different perspective."

Fox hopes talking with NBA teams in Chicago will give them a better perspective of him on draft night.

No magic needed for Sixers to keep streak alive

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No magic needed for Sixers to keep streak alive

BOX SCORE

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz kicked off the game by ringing the ceremonial bell and the Sixers wrapped it up by defeating the Magic, 116-105. 

The Sixers (32-25) stretched their winning streak to seven games and remain undefeated at the Wells Fargo Center in 2018. 

This game actually was important because of the Magic’s *poor* record (18-41). The Sixers at times have struggled against sub.-500 teams, most recently narrowly escaping the Bulls on Thursday. The Magic is the type of opponent that easily could be overlooked, and the Sixers cannot afford to do that as they vie for playoff seeding.

The Sixers led by as many as 23 points during the game. But with the Sixers’ starters out and four of the five Magic starters in, the Magic cut the deficit to nine points with under a minute to play. It is crucial for the Sixers' bench to be able to close out games like this for establishing depth and giving the starters rest that will benefit the team down the stretch. 

•Joel Embiid recorded his 30th double-double of the season: 28 points and 14 rebounds in 27 minutes. He dropped 19 in the first half alone. Embiid reached 20 points for the 34th time this season. Check out his only block of the game: 

•Ben Simmons scored in double-digits for the 50th time with 17 points, seven dimes and four rebounds. 

•Brett Brown turned to Richaun Holmes off the bench behind Embiid instead of Amir Johnson. Holmes, who only has appeared in three of the Sixers’ last 10 games, grabbed eight rebounds with four points.

•The Sixers are working on incorporating Marco Belinelli into the second unit. Brown envisions him having a JJ Redick-type role off the bench. The veteran guard scored 15 points in 27 minutes, shooting 6-for-12 from the field and 1-for-3 from long range. 

•Aaron Gordon led the Magic with 20 points. He added seven points and seven assists. 

•Wentz now has an open invitation to Sixers games whenever he wants: 

•Up next: The Sixers will begin a three-game road trip Sunday in Washington, D.C., against the Wizards (34-25), who currently hold the coveted fourth seed in the East that comes with homecourt advantage. 

Rockets extend streak as Butler exits with injury

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Rockets extend streak as Butler exits with injury

HOUSTON -- James Harden scored 31 points and the Houston Rockets won their 11th straight game with a 120-102 victory Friday night over the Minnesota Timberwolves, who lost All-Star Jimmy Butler to an apparent right knee injury.

Butler left the game late in the third quarter. After grabbing a rebound late in the third quarter, he pivoted and planted hard on his right foot before collapsing and grabbing his right knee. He was on the floor for at least three minutes before he was carried off the court by two teammates. He appeared to avoid putting weight on his right leg when heading to the locker room.

A Timberwolves official said during the fourth quarter that Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau would provide an update on Butler's injury following the game.

Clint Capela had 25 points and 11 rebounds for Houston, getting his 10th double-double over the past 13 games. Chris Paul added 14 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

The Rockets trailed for much of the first half before going ahead to maintain the NBA's best record.

Andrew Wiggins led Minnesota with 21 points, and Jeff Teague and Karl-Anthony Towns both had 18 points. Towns added 13 rebounds (see full recap).

Davis sensational in Pelicans’ OT victory over Heat
NEW ORLEANS -- Anthony Davis had 45 points, 17 rebounds, five blocked shots and five steals, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Miami Heat 124-123 in overtime Friday night for their fourth consecutive victory.

Goran Dragic scored 30 points and Dwyane Wade hit two runners to give the Heat the lead twice in the last 36 seconds of overtime, but Davis responded to the first with a layup as he was fouled, and Jrue Holiday answered the second with a runner in the lane with 7 seconds left.

Wade had one last shot for the win with Holiday defending him closely. It bounced off the rim to Josh Richardson, whose rushed put-back missed the basket as time expired in Miami's third straight loss.

Davis, who has scored no fewer than 38 points in a game during New Orleans' winning streak -- and 42 or more three times -- raised both arms in triumph as he looked up at the jubilant crowd, and then exchanged high fives with fans along the court.

Holiday finished with 29 points and nine assists, connecting with Davis on a couple of alley-oop dunks. Ian Clark scored a season-high 21 points and Nikola Mirotic capped his 10-point, nine-rebound performance with a crucial 3 in overtime.

Hassan Whiteside had 19 points and 16 rebounds before fouling out in overtime when he hacked Davis on a put-back attempt. Davis hit both free throws to tie it at 117, and then gave New Orleans a brief lead with his fifth alley-oop dunk of the game on a fast-break lob from Holiday with 1:10 to go. Wade had 16 points, while Richardson and Tyler Johnson each scored 15 points (see full recap).

Balanced Celtics rout Pistons
DETROIT -- Kyrie Irving scored 18 points and rookie Daniel Theis added a career-high 19 to lift the Boston Celtics to a 110-98 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night.

Jayson Tatum scored 11 of his 15 points in the first half for the Celtics, who went into the All-Star break on a three-game losing streak but returned with a solid win on the road. Boston took control by outscoring the Pistons 38-21 in the second quarter.

Blake Griffin scored 17 points for Detroit but shot just 5 of 19 from the field.

Theis eclipsed his previous career high of 12 points. He played an important role after Aron Baynes, the starting center for the Celtics, went to the locker room in the first half with left elbow soreness. Baynes ended up playing only 2:39, but Theis shot 8 of 10 from the field and had seven rebounds.

Ish Smith made his first eight shots and finished with 20 points for the Pistons. Detroit led 39-37 in the second quarter before a 21-5 run by Boston. The Celtics were ahead 61-49 at halftime.

The lead was only four late in the third before Boston scored seven straight points -- five by Irving. The Celtics broke the game open at the start of the fourth (see full recap).