76ers

Sixers rookie Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot starts strong in summer league

Sixers rookie Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot starts strong in summer league

SALT LAKE CITY — Being just another draft-and-stash European prospect was never in the cards for Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. Once the Sixers selected him as the second of three first-round picks in the 2016 NBA draft, the French swingman made it his goal to pursue his NBA dreams now instead of later.

He took his first step by signing a rookie contract on Saturday and joining the Sixers' summer league team in Utah a day later.

“I just wanted to play (right away) since I got drafted,” Luwawu-Cabarrot said. “I'm just ready to play and happy to be here.”

His enthusiasm translated into a promising summer league debut on Monday against the Celtics. During a 102-94 loss to Boston, he totaled 13 points in 21 minutes, while shooting 40 percent from the perimeter.

More importantly, the Sixers got a taste of what could be ahead with the offensive synergy Luwawu-Cabarrot showed with No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons. The two rookies combined for some of the biggest offensive highlights of the night against the Celtics.

Sixers coach Brett Brown had high praise for the French forward after watching him during his first practice on Sunday. He said Luwawu-Cabarrot brings a ton of athleticism and shows he is capable of making smart decisions in tough situations.

“He plays with a controlled pace,” Brown said after Sunday's practice. “He was not rattled today. I found that impressive. He's willing to shoot the ball. He's willing to drive the ball. He's willing to pass the ball. His athleticism, his skill and his poise stood out within these two hours here.”

Making a mark as a rookie isn't always easy to do. Luwawu-Cabarrot, however, has all of the right tools to carve out an important role this season.

Playing for Serbian club Mega Leks last season, Luwawu-Cabarrot averaged 14 points, five rebounds and three assists over 33 games. He also had a strong outing for France during the 2015 U-20 European Championship. Luwawu-Cabarrot averaged 11.6 points and 4.9 rebounds in 28 minutes per game.

His long wingspan, 6-foot-7 frame and fluid movement makes Luwawu-Cabarrot exactly the sort of player who can make an impact on both ends of the court. He's a reliable outside shooter and also a versatile defender, who is capable of switching between multiple positions.

These are the sort of skills that can give a player a long shelf life in the NBA. Luwawu-Cabarrot's goal is to make an immediate impact and create staying power for himself in the league.

"I just want to be the best possible,” Luwawu-Cabarrot said. “If I can be the best defender [in] the league, I will be. If I can be the best rookie of the year, I will be. I will do everything on the court to be the best and that's it.”

If Luwawu-Cabarrot can make good on those ambitions, Simmons may not be the only Sixers rookie drawing the spotlight before the 2016-17 season is done.

Best of NBA: Suns put distractions to the side, beat Kings for 1st win

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Best of NBA: Suns put distractions to the side, beat Kings for 1st win

PHOENIX -- Devin Booker scored 22 points, including two free throws with 9.8 seconds to play, and the Phoenix Suns beat the Sacramento Kings 117-115 on Monday night for their first win of the season in their first game under interim coach Jay Triano.

Phoenix fired coach Earl Watson on Sunday and guard Eric Bledsoe was sent home Monday morning after he sent out a tweet over the weekend that left the impression he no longer wanted to play for the Suns.

Despite the tumultuous stretch for the franchise, Phoenix shot 54.5 percent from the field and held on after Sacramento rallied in the final period. Marquese Chriss scored 19 points, and Mike James finished with 18.

The Kings have dropped three of four to begin the season. Garrett Temple scored 23 points for Sacramento, and rookie De'Aaron Fox had 19 (see full recap).

Grizzlies hold Harden, Rockets in check for victory
HOUSTON -- Marc Gasol scored 26 points to lead the Memphis Grizzles to a 98-90 win over the Houston Rockets on Monday night.

Memphis has won its first three games for the first time since the 2014-15 season when the team won its opening six contests.

With the game tied at 88 with less than three minutes remaining, tempers flared after Memphis guard Mario Chalmers fell to the ground and tripped James Harden, who then shoved Chalmers as he tried to get off the ground. After a lengthy review, both players received technical and Harden was called with an offensive foul.

On the following play, James Ennis III made a shot where he was fouled and converted the free throw to put Memphis up three. After Clint Capela's dunk, Mike Conley hit a 3 to push the lead to 94-90.

Conley struggled for most of the game, shooting 3-for-10 from the field and scoring nine of his 17 points at the free throw line, where he was perfect. But he came on huge for Memphis down the stretch, making key shots and getting pivotal assists (see full recap).

Shorthanded Spurs hand Raptors 1st loss
SAN ANTONIO -- LaMarcus Aldridge had 20 points and Dejounte Murray had 16 points and 15 rebounds and the San Antonio Spurs held on to beat the Toronto Raptors 101-97 on Monday night.

San Antonio was without Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker and Toronto was without Jonas Valanciunas and their absences were noticeable in the flow of each team's offense.

The Spurs had a season-high 20 turnovers. They were averaging 11 turnovers in their first two games, but had four in the opening four minutes.

Toronto took advantage, keeping the game close despite being outrebounded 56-33.

DeMar DeRozan had 28 points and Serge Ibaka had 13 as the Raptors lost their first game of the season (see full recap).

Ben Simmons joins elite company with triple-double in Sixers' 1st win

Ben Simmons joins elite company with triple-double in Sixers' 1st win

BOX SCORE

DETROIT — Sixers coach Brett Brown was well aware of the risk when he asked Ben Simmons, who played forward in high school and college, to run his team’s offense.

It was a gutsy call, at the time, that many critics scoffed and questioned.

Not anymore.

In just his fourth career NBA game, Simmons pieced together a memorable triple-double Monday night to become just the third player in history to accomplish the feat in such a time span, and more importantly, help lead the Sixers (1-3) to their first regular-season win.

“It’s awesome to have a triple-double, but at the same time, it’s even better to have that win,” Simmons said. “Especially with these guys and a young team like this.” cbdz

It wasn’t a do-or-die game for the Sixers by any stretch, but Monday night’s 97-86 win in Detroit certainly rejuvenated a fan base that may have started casting doubt as to whether the Sixers are a legit playoff-caliber team (see observations)

Moreover, it served as much-needed validation for Brown and his young, talent-packed squad, following three straight losses, including Saturday’s 34-point blowout loss in Toronto.

“I’m happy for our guys,” Brown said. “They really came into the building knowing that we needed to get a win. To get rewarded with the win, it just validates some of the work that everybody has put in.”

Particularly Simmons, who entered this season with the eyes of Philadelphia watching his every move during his first tour around the NBA after missing all of last season nursing a fractured foot. 

“We won, and, honestly, that means so much than stats for me,” said Simmons, who finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. 

Simmons doesn’t fit the mold of a prototypical point guard, but — then again — the NBA has evolved into a position-less league. Players of all shapes and sizes do everything nowadays. And Simmons — just four games into his NBA career — is among those leading the charge.

“I mean, we all see how gifted he is physically,” Brown said. “Him, with the ball, able to do the things he does, produces a lot of these mismatches and numbers. 

“We’re able to post him. He’s able to seal the pick-and-rolls. You see how gifted he is in open court. He’s got that breakaway speed that is jaw-dropping. And he’s 6-foot-10.”

Simmons, to his credit, was extremely humble when asked about his triple-double accomplishment after the game. But it’s possible the 21-year-old phenom was unaware of the elite company he joined and how rare a feat it was to put up a triple-double just four games into his career. 

When Simmons notched his 10th assist on Joel Embiid’s layup with slightly more than minute to play, he became the first player with a triple-double in his first four career games since Hambone Williams in 1967. The only other player in NBA history to do so? Oscar Robertson, in 1960. 

“I feel like this stat line, we’ve kind of seen a snapshot of it the first three games,” Brown said. “It just seems a bit more special when it’s associated with a win.”

Win or not, Simmons has made it abundantly clear Monday night that — even with Markelle Fultz in the mix — he’s the Sixers’ point guard. No ands or buts about it.

When it was made clear in April that Brown wanted the versatile rookie to play point guard, the controversial decision was met with raised eyebrows. But Brown, to his credit, hasn’t wavered. And today, by all accounts, that gamble is paying off. 

“You know, the decision to make him our point guard is challenged in some some way,” he said. “But as an organization, we stayed strong that that’s where we want to play him.”

It was a gutsy call by Brown at the time, and while the Sixers may only be four games into the season, it’s proving to be the right call.