76ers

NBA Notes: League ditches East-West format for All-Star Game

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NBA Notes: League ditches East-West format for All-Star Game

NEW YORK -- The NBA is scrapping the East vs. West format for its All-Star Game and will have captains pick teams this season.

The league said Tuesday the two starters with the highest fan vote totals from each conference will choose teams from the pool of players who were voted as starters and reserves.

The change will begin with this season's game in Los Angeles on Feb. 18.

Players and league officials have been eager to inject new interest in the often defense-absent game, and they decided to act after another dull affair last February in New Orleans.

"I'm thrilled with what the players and the league have done to improve the All-Star Game, which has been a priority for all of us," National Basketball Players Association president Chris Paul of the Houston Rockets said in a statement. "We're looking forward to putting on an entertaining show in LA" (see full story).

Lakers: Ball misses practice with sprained ankle
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball has missed practice after mildly spraining his left ankle in a preseason game.

Ball sat out of Tuesday's workout along with Brandon Ingram, who bumped his head during the same preseason game Monday against Denver.

Coach Luke Walton said Ball will be re-evaluated Wednesday before the Lakers determine whether the No. 2 overall pick will play against the Nuggets in Ontario, California, that night.

Ingram is meeting with a doctor Tuesday to determine the extent of his injury.

Ball and Ingram played 21 minutes apiece Monday in a 113-107 loss to Denver.

Larry Nance Jr. also didn't practice due to a sprained index finger, but the forward did conditioning work.

Center Brook Lopez participated in full-court drills during his steady return from back spasms.

Bucks: New arena is also avenue to sell Milwaukee
MILWAUKEE -- Construction vehicles and dusty streets surround the Milwaukee Bucks' new downtown arena that is less than a year away from completion.

The state-of-the-art facility will be the Bucks' home starting in 2018. But in many respects the massive project is more than just about basketball.

Team and arena executives want to get major entertainment acts to stop in Milwaukee. They want the arena to be a driver for ambitious downtown redevelopment.

And to do that, they have to go out to market and sell Milwaukee.

"We want to create an international destination with talent. We want to compete with every major city, we want to be on every tour stop," team president Peter Feigin said. "We have this one window of time to tell our story and our narrative around the world" (see full story).

Nemanja Bjelica spurns Sixers, reportedly talking deal with Kings

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Nemanja Bjelica spurns Sixers, reportedly talking deal with Kings

What exactly is going on with the Sixers?

After missing out on LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and any and all superstar free agents this summer, even their bench, fill-out-the-roster type of guys are dodging the Sixers like a plague.

The latest being forward Nemanja Bjelica, who was in Philly (but not really) for just a bit longer than Eagle-for-a-second Frank Gore.

Bjelica, 30, reportedly agreed to a deal with the Sixers on July 5, providing a boost off the bench and an upgrade over Ersan Ilyasova. 

That was all grand until Tuesday, when news broke that Bjelica had spurned the Sixers and was going back to Europe, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark.

But in the greatest (or lamest) twist in a strange and sad offseason for the Sixers, Bjelica is now looking to stay in the NBA and is working toward a deal with the Sacramento Kings, according to a report by Yahoo! Sports' Shams Charania. That can't be right. No one would willingly sign with the Kings.

Bjelica posted career bests in points (6.1) and three-point percentage (41.5) last season. While he would have been a nice bench addition, it's not the end of the world. But it sure isn't a great look that the Sixers were toyed with and lost out to a lowly team like the Kings. 

After the Bryan Colangelo debacle and the star-hunting strikeout, we're officially at the "Player X would rather sign with the Kings" stage of the offseason.

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What now for Sixers after Kawhi Leonard trade to Raptors?

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What now for Sixers after Kawhi Leonard trade to Raptors?

LeBron James is a Laker. Kawhi Leonard is a Raptor.

The Sixers went star hunting and came up empty. So now what for a team that won 52 games but is likely one more superstar away from winning a title?

You may not like this answer, but the correct course of action is … nothing — at least not this offseason.

The only star that could possibly be available is the Timberwolves’ Jimmy Butler — if you choose to believe the rumors. Butler, who is an outstanding two-way player, will be 29 entering next season and has an expiring deal. He already forced his way out of Chicago and reportedly wants to force his way out of Minnesota. How much are you giving up for that?

On a smaller scale, the Sixers lost Nemanja Bjelica, who reportedly agreed to sign with the team for the mid-level exception. The Serbian forward decided instead to take his talents back to the EuroLeague. Bjelica certainly wasn’t a star but he appeared to be a solid bench piece that might’ve actually been an upgrade from Ersan Ilyasova. So what should the Sixers do with their MLE?

Nothing — again, at least this year.

Who do you want that’s left? Joe Johnson? Michael Beasley? Jamal Crawford? That’s three hard no’s for me.

The Sixers should go into camp with what they have and let the competition play out. Maybe they’ll figure out what to do with Jerryd Bayless’ deal or waive Richaun Holmes or sign Jonah Bolden or make a small trade, but this roster is mostly set. And that’s fine.

This team, that again won 52 games, should be better. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons should only improve. Markelle Fultz can only go up. Dario Saric took a huge leap in Year 2 and we know the kind of worker he is. Wilson Chandler is an upgrade over any player the Sixers had on the bench last year, especially when you factor in defense.

They’re not the favorites to win the East, nor should they be. But that’s fine. With the Warriors continuing to load up and James now out West, what chance does any team in the East have? (Zero is the answer, by the way). 

Fast forward to next offseason. Leonard, Butler, Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker and Kyrie Irving are among a loaded free-agent class. Any one of those players would be a fit and a huge upgrade for the Sixers and they’d be joining the team at the right time. Embiid and Simmons will both be a year more mature and developed and the Warriors will be a year older with their cap situation tighter.

As for the MLE, if the Sixers go star hunting again next offseason and wind up with someone like Leonard, they could use it on a ring-chasing, veteran mercenary. That’s much more valuable than one year of Johnson, Beasley or Crawford on a team that doesn’t have a realistic shot at a title next year.

Brett Brown may have set a tough bar for the offseason. When he did his now infamous star-hunting presser, it raised expectations from the fan base. Since the Sixers came up empty in their quest, most look at the offseason as a bad one.

There’s no nice way to put it: Missing out on James and Leonard sucks for the Sixers. But all is far from lost. Name another team in the NBA that has two superstars the caliber of Embiid and Simmons both under the age of 24. You can’t because such a team does not exist.

Would the Sixers have been better off if they landed a star this offseason? Of course. But now knowing that they swung and missed, their best course of action is inaction — for now.

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