76ers

All-Star says Fultz will 'be a problem' when healthy

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All-Star says Fultz will 'be a problem' when healthy

Sixers fans are yearning to see what Victor Oladipo has witnessed for years: Markelle Fultz play basketball.

The Pacers' All-Star guard began watching Fultz when the Sixers' rookie was a freshman at Oladipo’s alma mater, DeMatha High School in Hyattsville, Maryland. 

Oladipo, six years Fultz’s senior, related to Fultz in how he “kind of came out of nowhere.” He observed Fultz progress from fighting to make the varsity team to becoming the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA draft.

“He has all the talent in the world,” Oladipo said Tuesday before the Pacers’ 101-98 win over the Sixers. "Once he gets to a 100 percent and healthy, he's going to be a problem." 

That display of talent has been put on hold as Fultz deals with a right shoulder injury, one that has hindered him from looking like that rising star Oladipo had seen. Fultz has missed all but four games his rookie year, averaging 6.0 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists. There still is no definitive decision on whether or not he will play again this season. 

Oladipo offered a glimpse into what the basketball world can expect when Fultz is back to his old self. 

“[I know] how versatile he is,” Oladipo said. “He can score the ball. He can get people involved. He does a great job in transition of getting in the open floor and being creative. The sky's the limit when he gets healthy.”

Fultz has veteran go-tos on the Sixers, and one in Oladipo as well. Back in 2016, Fultz was quoted as saying, “I always looked up to Victor Oladipo.” Oladipo said he will be there for the 19-year-old Fultz any time he wants advice or help. 

"Our high school is a cult,” Oladipo said. “It's more than just a high school. It's a brotherhood. So I look at him as my little brother."

Ben Simmons scores 28 points as Team World loses Rising Stars Challenge to Team USA

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USA Today Images

Ben Simmons scores 28 points as Team World loses Rising Stars Challenge to Team USA

CHARLOTTE, N.C. —  When the likes of the Los Angeles Lakers' Kyle Kuzma, Philadelphia's Ben Simmons and Boston's Jayson Tatum get to the NBA All-Star Game and partake in what's become the preferred run-and-fun style where defense is discouraged at virtually all costs, this much is clear.

They'll be ready.

Dunks, layups, 3-pointers and little else. That was the playsheet for the Rising Stars game Friday night, one where Kuzma led all scorers with 35 points on the way to MVP honors and the U.S. team defeated the World squad 161-144 on the floor that the All-Stars will be using on Sunday night.

Tatum added 30 points for the U.S. The teams combined for 37 3-pointers, 55 dunks and shot a combined 12 free throws.

"Last year, the World team kicked our butts," Kuzma said. "They came in here and beat us by 30. A lot of us kind of remembered that."

It was 31, actually — 155-124, not that it matters.

Tatum added 30 points in the game for first- and second-year players that was known for years as the Rookie Game. Atlanta's Trae Young finished with 25 points and 10 assists, Sacramento's De'Aaron Fox had 15 assists and Utah's Donovan Mitchell added 20 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.

Everyone looked happy afterward.

The U.S. squad had a bit more reason to look that way.

"There's a $25,000 bonus for winning the game," Kuzma said. "So that's good."

Philadelphia's Ben Simmons led the World team with 28 points on 14 for 17 shooting. Chicago's Lauri Markkanen had 21 points for the World squad, and Dallas' Luka Doncic had 13 points and nine assists.

Both teams shot 55 percent. The difference was on 3s — the U.S. was 21 for 51, while the World was 16 for 52.

The mood from the outset was predictably light, even including the pregame speeches from U.S. coach Kyrie Irving of the Boston Celtics and World coach Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks.

"I want us to share the ball and not one guy dribble it 20 times and hoist something up — like Luka does with the Mavs," Nowitzki said, laughing a bit at his own joke.

Irving's message was succinct.

"Just have some fun," Irving said. "It's OK to compete."

Doncic talked Phoenix's DeAndre Ayton out of taking the opening tap for the World team, with the young Mavs star jumping against Fox instead of having either center handle the honors. Young was throwing an alley-oop lob to Atlanta teammate John Collins for a 360-degree dunk in one possession, then crossing over Josh Okogie in almost comical fashion on the next.

"We gotta play some defense," Mitchell implored teammates at one point.

It was unclear if anyone ever actually listened to his plea.

There was one foul called in the entire first half, Markkanen getting whistled for it with 4:13 remaining until halftime. The first half saw 25 dunks and 20 3-pointers in 20 minutes — the sides played 10-minute quarters. Late in the half, Collins flashed a crossover dribble, then underhand-tossed a pass off the backboard to himself for a dunk that had players on both sides reacting in mock disbelief.

Format 
This was the fifth year of the U.S. vs. World format; the World now leads the all-time series, 3-2.

All 10 players on the World team hailed from a different nation, and four different continents were represented. And eight of the players in this year's game were also in last year's event — Mitchell, Collins, Tatum, Kuzma and Fox for the U.S.; Markkanen, Simmons and 2018 game MVP Bogdan Bogdanovic were repeaters for the World side.

NBA feel
Nowitzki and the World coaching staff from the Denver Nuggets largely stayed seated the whole game, while Irving worked the sideline like an actual NBA coach would — even running time-outs, working alongside the Milwaukee Bucks' staff. Brooklyn's D'Angelo Russell, Phoenix's Devin Booker and San Antonio's Danny Green were at the game, and Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns was courtside in a World jersey to represent for his Okogie, his Timberwolves teammate.

Somber moment 
A pregame moment of silence was held immediately before the Canadian and U.S. national anthems in honor of the victims of the shooting in the Chicago suburb of Aurora, Illinois, earlier Friday.

NBA Eastern Conference power rankings: How much does Sixers' loss to Celtics hurt?

NBA Eastern Conference power rankings: How much does Sixers' loss to Celtics hurt?

We’re at the All-Star break and we have some fresh Eastern Conference power rankings. Let’s get right into it: 

1. Bucks (43-14) Last week: 1 
Their blowout loss to the Magic without Giannis Antetokounmpo probably enhanced the Greek Freak’s MVP case. They’re still waiting for newcomer Nikola Mirotic to make his debut while he nurses a strained calf. This is the best team in the East and Mirotic only makes them better.

2. Raptors (43-16) Last week: 3 
While Kawhi Leonard sat against the Wizards, Pascal Siakam did his best impression by putting up a career-high 44 points. Siakam, a late first-round pick in 2016, is a quintessential example of Toronto’s depth. While the trade for Leonard was bold and exciting, finding a player like Siakam is an even more impressive front office feat.

3. Celtics (37-21) Last week: 4 
Boston’s win in Philadelphia without All-Star Kyrie Irving was an impressive one. That was coming off back-to-back losses to both L.A. teams. They’re a confounding team that happens to match up very well against the Sixers. 

4. Sixers (37-21) Last week: 2
The Sixers have won exactly one game against the teams above and that win was over a Kawhi-less Toronto team. That makes it difficult to put them ahead of any of them. With that said, the East is wide open. Any of these top four teams is capable of winning the conference. The Sixers are in a great position with their starting five, especially when rotations are shortened come crunch time. The talent is there, they just need to continue to build on their chemistry.

5. Pacers (38-20) Last week: 6
Indiana ripped off six straight before losing to the Bucks. You have to be impressed with the way the Pacers have rallied since Victor Oladipo’s devastating injury. While defense and the overall team play has been a big part of their success, veteran Bojan Bogdanovic and youngster Myles Turner have been huge in Oladipo’s absence.

6. Nets (30-29) Last week: 5
Brooklyn has gone 4-6 since Spencer Dinwiddie went down with a thumb injury that required surgery. They did get Caris LeVert back, but it’s clear he’s still shaking off the cobwebs after coming back from what looked like a devastating injury. Once the Nets are healthy, they won’t be a fun team to play against.

7. Hornets (27-30) Last week: 7
Poor Kemba Walker. It’s unfathomable that Charlotte did nothing to help him out at the deadline. There were rumors that a deal for Marc Gasol was close, but the veteran big ultimately wound up in Toronto. It’s a shame because Gasol would’ve been a much bigger upgrade for the Hornets.

8. Heat (26-30) Last week: 8 
Like the Sixers, Miami just completed a brutal, but not quite as long, stretch of games against the Thunder, Pacers, Blazers, Kings, Warriors and Nuggets. Unlike the Sixers, the Heat didn’t fare well, losing five of the six. They’ll need Dwyane Wade to keep drinking from the fountain of youth to hold onto the eighth seed.

9. Pistons (26-30) Last week: 10
It was a weird deadline for Detroit, who sold away Reggie Bullock and then signed Wayne Ellington after his buyout from the Suns. They’re going to go as far as Blake Griffin can lead them, but he needs more help.

10. Magic (27-32) Last week: 11 
Orlando is still fighting for that eight seed as they held onto Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross through the deadline. The only intrigue is to see when Markelle Fultz makes his debut. 

11. Wizards (24-34) Last week: 9
Jabari Parker put up a goose egg on the score sheet sandwiched by two 20-point performances. While the trade of Otto Porter Jr. will help some of their cap issues, Bradley Beal will still bear a heavy burden without John Wall for the foreseeable future.

12. Hawks (19-39) Last week: 12 
Atlanta helped the Knicks snap their 18-game losing streak in a game that set basketball back 10 years. The Hawks have put themselves in a tough spot where they’re not nearly good enough to compete for a playoff spot but are falling down the lottery.

13. Bulls (14-44) Last week: 13 
You know, a starting five of Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Porter Jr., Zach LaVine and maybe Ja Morant — if they can land the No. 2 pick — isn’t terrible to build around. Porter Jr. put up a career-high 37 points against Memphis and has looked really good in his four games with Chicago.

14. Cavs (12-46) Last week: 14
How is Channing Frye still in Cleveland? I know he re-signed there, but you’d think there would be a contender that he could help.

15. Knicks (11-47) Last week: 15 
They messed up by beating the Hawks, but their road to Zion Williamson is paved in gold.

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