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Villanova's Kris Jenkins is ready for whatever road leads to NBA

Villanova's Kris Jenkins is ready for whatever road leads to NBA

CAMDEN, N.J — Kris Jenkins looked like he was just happy to be there. Even after a disappointing end to his iconic career in which the three-point assassin failed to make a triple in an early NCAA Tournament exit, the smile and the swagger he carried with him during four years at Villanova didn't fade.

It's part of why they call him "Big Smoove." 

He's the one who made "the shot" and one-third of the best class in Villanova basketball history. They lost one game on campus. They beat every Big 5 team they faced. They won four Big East regular-season titles, two Big East Tournament titles and one national championship.

Yet all of that means very little now. Jenkins, who worked out for the Sixers at their training complex Tuesday, will have an uphill battle in his upcoming NBA quest. He comes from a Villanova program that, despite its national prominence, does not regularly churn out NBA players. His game is largely dominated by his ability to hit from deep and his weight has always been a concern. He will need to perform at a higher level than he did on the Main Line to make it in the Association.

"If that means forgetting about one shot and bringing it up 12 years from now," Jenkins said, "I can do that."

Jenkins' ability to shoot has never been in question. He made 37 percent of the 708 threes he hoisted up during his career, and it will be the skill that keeps him around on any team in the future. He'll likely need to bump that percentage up a bit to play at the highest level for long.

But he said he's not just a shooter.

If that's true, he'll need to add reliability on the other end. At Villanova, he had Big East co-defensive players of the year in Josh Hart and Mikal Bridges alongside him. In the NBA, he will have less room for mistakes. Jahlil Okafor can give you an example of how people feel about defensive liabilities.

"The question is, for him, is whether he's going to be able to shoot it at an elite level and defend the position," Brandon Williams, the Sixers' vice president of basketball administration and general manager of the Delaware 87ers, said.

That doesn't mean Jenkins, who grew up in Maryland and has known presumed Sixers' first-round pick Markelle Fultz for years, can't find a place. He looked lighter Tuesday than he had recently, and, in his words, "was in the right positions" defensively and "contested every shot." Williams recognized that any lapses in the three-on-three games he participated in don't matter for much. Five-on-five is where they draw judgement. 

Unless a team unexpectedly loves him, Jenkins will go undrafted Thursday night. That's when what Williams called the "third round" will begin. The Sixers will get a chance to sign undrafted free agents, who will then try to prove their worth in the summer league.

On the other end will be three options: the spot on an NBA bench, an opportunity to develop in the G-League or the door. 

The third option leads to more immediate money overseas, but the second extends a chance for the ultimate goal. Should it come to deciding between the two, it sounded like Jenkins' choice is already made.

"I would go wherever the best opportunity is for me to play at the highest level, which is to play in the NBA," Jenkins said. "That's always the dream, that's always been the dream, and it will continue to be the dream no matter what road I have to take."

Last year, Villanova's Ryan Arcidiacono failed to make the cut for the Spurs' roster but stayed with the organization's affiliate in Austin. His classmate, Daniel Ochefu, made the Wizards. Class of 2015 product Darrun Hilliard has been up and down with the Pistons. Reggie Redding, a member of Villanova's 2009 Final Four team, has done well in Europe.

The Wildcats' presence is on all levels.

"I've talked to a bunch of those guys and they're all in great situations and they're happy," Jenkins said. "At the end of the day, you want to be somewhere where you're happy."

And for now, with a chance to bring that "smoove" shot and smile to a new team, Jenkins seems to be just that.

Bazemore game-winner nets Hawks rare consecutive victories

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Bazemore game-winner nets Hawks rare consecutive victories

ATLANTA -- Kent Bazemore hit a jumper with 2.1 seconds remaining and the Hawks rallied from 19 points down to beat the New Orleans Pelicans 94-93 Wednesday before a sparse crowd on an icy night in Atlanta.

With the score tied at 92, DeMarcus Cousins drew a blocking foul on John Collins with 13.7 seconds remaining, earning a trip to the foul line. Cousins made only one, giving the Hawks a chance to pull out the victory.

Bazemore knocked down the winning shot with Anthony Davis in his face. New Orleans had one last chance, inbounding the ball to Cousins near the hoop. He came up short on a quick shot, pleading with the officials for a foul call while the Hawks celebrated.

Bazemore led the Hawks with 20 points, while rookie John Collins added 18. Jrue Holiday paced the Pelicans with 22 points, while Cousins had 19 points and 14 rebounds. But Davis was held to just eight points on 2-of-8 shooting.

Coming off a victory over San Antonio, the Hawks won back-to-back games for only the second time this season and snapped the Pelicans' three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Warriors fend off Bulls for 14th straight road win
CHICAGO -- Klay Thompson scored 38 points, Stephen Curry added 30 and the Golden State Warriors beat the Chicago Bulls 119-112 on Wednesday night for their franchise record-tying 14th straight road win.

Kevin Durant had 19 points as Golden State moved into a tie for the third-longest road winning streak in a season in NBA history. The Los Angeles Lakers hold the record with 16 straight road wins during the 1971-72 season.

Next up for the NBA-leading Warriors is a trip to Houston for a showdown with the Rockets on Saturday night.

Nikola Mirotic scored 24 points for Chicago, which dropped to 14-8 since its 3-20 start. Robin Lopez scored 12 of his 16 points in the first half, and Kris Dunn also had 16.

The Warriors played without Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala due to injuries, and Jordan Bell sprained his left ankle when he challenged Lopez's dunk on the Bulls' first possession. Bell stayed down for a while and then was helped to his feet. He tried to put pressure on his leg and grimaced before he opted for a wheelchair ride off the court.

The 23-year-old Bell was selected by the Bulls in the second round of the June draft and then dealt to the Warriors for financial considerations. X-rays were negative, but he will have an MRI on Thursday (see full recap).

Hornets ride record-setting 1st half to victory
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 21 points, Dwight Howard had another double-double and the Charlotte Hornets used a record-setting first half to beat the Washington Wizards 133-109 on Wednesday night in coach Steve Clifford's return.

The Hornets made 12 of their first 13 shots and scored a franchise-record 77 points in the first half to build a 16-point lead. They extended that to 28 in the second half in a game that was never close.

Kemba Walker had 19 points, Howard had 18 points and 15 rebounds and Jeremy Lamb had 16 points for the Hornets, who won for the fifth time in their last seven games.

Clifford returned after missing 21 games because of headaches caused by sleep deprivation. The Hornets were 9-21 in Clifford's absence and had fallen eight games under .500.

Bradley Beal had 26 points for the Wizards, whose five-game road trip got off to a rocky start (see full recap).

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.