76ers

NBA Notes: Timberwolves sign Taj Gibson, Jeff Teague to finalize overhaul

NBA Notes: Timberwolves sign Taj Gibson, Jeff Teague to finalize overhaul

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Timberwolves have suddenly become one of the "it" destinations for NBA free agents.

Potential and reputation are beating out palm trees and postseason history.

After finalizing contracts Monday with power forward Taj Gibson and point guard Jeff Teague, two complementary additions to a roster that has undergone a significant enrichment and pruning over the last three weeks, the Wolves introduced the pair of 2009 first-round draft picks during an introductory news conference.

Gibson (two years, $28 million ) and Teague (three years, $57 million ) agreed to terms earlier this month before they were allowed to sign their deals.

"They look at the teams and the players that they have, and then they see how they fit into that, and I think it's very attractive to players in the league," said president and coach Tom Thibodeau.

When Gibson and Teague jumped at the chance to join them, they were driven by more than just the tantalizing trio of newcomer Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. They willingly sought the demanding and intense coaching they'll get from Thibodeau and his staff, too.

"He really helped turn my career. He believed in me when a lot of people really didn't," Gibson said (see full story).

Knicks: Hardaway ready for 2nd chance in New York
NEW YORK -- Tim Hardaway Jr. thought that with Phil Jackson gone, maybe there was a chance someday he could come back to New York.

Even he was surprised it was this soon.

With Jackson and his triangle offense gone, the Knicks reached back to their past to sign Hardaway, a former first-round pick who didn't fit under Jackson but they hope can flourish without him.

"I definitely left with a bad taste in my mouth and just to have that opportunity to come back here is very rare, so you've got to make the most of that," Hardaway said Monday.

Jackson and the Knicks parted ways last month after three dismal seasons and were quiet at the start of free agency until signing Hardaway to an offer sheet for a four-year, $71 contract. When the Atlanta Hawks decided not to match the offer for the restricted free agent, Hardaway was officially a Knick again on Saturday.

"You play here for two years and then you're gone and then two years after you get a phone call and it's like, `Wow, I wouldn't expect it coming from them,'" Hardaway said (see full story).

Kings: Team officially signs 40-year-old Carter
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The Sacramento Kings have signed guard Vince Carter, the team announced Monday.

Carter, who entered the league with the Toronto Raptors in 1998, is joining his seventh team. He played the last three seasons in Memphis, where he averaged 8 points and 1.8 assists per game last season.

The 40-year-old Carter ranks 27th all-time in points scored (24,555), fifth in 3-pointers (2,049) and 13th in games played (1,347).

Carter set records for a player 40 and over last season, passing Michael Jordan as the oldest to score 20 points off the bench at 39 years and 287 days against Denver on Nov. 8, only to surpass the mark six days later with 20 points at Utah.

Bulls: Justin Holiday signs contract
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls say they have signed guard Justin Holiday.

The team did not announce the terms of the deal on Monday, though the Associated Press reported last week he agreed to a $9 million, two-year contract.

Holiday averaged 6.5 points in 27 games for the Bulls two years ago. He played in all 82 games for the New York Knicks last season, averaging 7.7 points, Holiday has averaged 5.7 points over four seasons with Philadelphia, Golden State, Atlanta, Chicago and New York.

The Bulls made the playoffs on a tiebreaker and lost to Boston in the first round.

Mitchell-Nance Jr. showdown highlights All-Star Saturday

ap-donovan-mitchell-jazz-dunk.jpg
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.

Skills Challenge sparks Embiid's inner point guard

Skills Challenge sparks Embiid's inner point guard

LOS ANGELES — Joel Embiid loves the spotlight. But that doesn’t mean the Sixers' big man is unfazed by the magnitude of the stage on which he is competing.

“I was actually extremely nervous,” Embiid said after the Taco Bell Skills Challenge. "I don’t know why. My heart was beating so fast. I have no idea why. But I thought it was fun.”

Embiid was one of eight players to test their versatility in dribbling, passing and shooting drills. Embiid defeated Al Horford in the first round and lost in the second to Lauri Markkanen. Spencer Dinwiddie took home the trophy.

Embiid pulled off a comeback victory Horford. He trailed after the dribbling and passing drills but beat out the Celtics' veteran at the three-point line to advance.

“That was wild,” Embiid said. “I lost the ball, I didn’t make the first pass and then I just threw the other two balls. That’s a good way to do it instead of wasting time. Then I was way behind and I came back and I ended up making that three and won.”

Horford was stifled when he thought his first three-point shot attempt was going in … and it didn’t. That miss opened the opportunity for Embiid to claim the round.

“The shot, which I was making before, I felt good, and then I think the pressure got to me a little bit,” Horford said. “I just wasn’t expecting that (to miss). I thought I was good. So then by that time, Joel caught up to me.”

Markkanen, the Bulls' rookie, got the best of Embiid in the next round. Embiid tried to rush through the passing drill to catch up to Markkanen, who ended up crossing in front of him at halfcourt for the clinching trey.

“After he made the layup he was a little bit in front of me,” Markkanen said. “But we couldn’t switch sides, so I had to get to the other side someway. So I tried to sprint and get in front of him and distract him a little bit. I think that worked.”

Embiid said with a big smile, "I kind of thought Lauri kind of cheated a little bit. He went in front of me, but it’s all good. It's all fun."

Even if Embiid didn’t win this contest, it wasn’t a total loss. The 7-foot-2 center has long claimed he wants to be a guard one day, and he showed off those backcourt skills. 

“I think I can still be a point guard in my future,” Embiid said.

All-Star Weekend does not end for Embiid with the Skills Challenge. After competing in the Rising Stars game Friday and this contest on Saturday, Embiid has been making sure to preserve his energy for the All-Star Game Sunday. He will start for Team Stephen.