76ers

NBA Notes: Kevin Durant reportedly takes discount to re-sign with Warriors for 2 years

NBA Notes: Kevin Durant reportedly takes discount to re-sign with Warriors for 2 years

A person with knowledge of the situation tells The Associated Press that Kevin Durant has agreed to terms on a two-year deal worth about $53 million to remain with the Golden State Warriors.

The deal calls for about $25 million in the first year with a player option for the second season. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the contract cannot be signed until Thursday.

It represents a significant giveback for the NBA Finals MVP, who could have signed a max deal that would have paid him millions more next season. The concession from Durant gave the Warriors enough room to lock up Steph Curry to a max contract and bring back Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston.

Durant joined Golden State last season after 10 years in Oklahoma City and helped lead the Warriors to their second championship in three seasons.

CAVALIERS: Billups withdraws from GM consideration
CLEVELAND — Chauncey Billups has withdrawn his name from the Cleveland Cavaliers' search for a new general manager.

Billups released a statement to ESPN on Monday saying that "the timing isn't right" to take the job in Cleveland. Billups had been in discussions with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert to replace David Griffin. Griffin and the Cavs abruptly parted ways just days before the draft.

The well-respected Billups has long expressed a desire to get involved in an NBA team's front office. Several factors came into play in his decision to turn this one down, including his job as an analyst for ESPN and his strong roots in Denver.

Cavaliers assistant GM Koby Altman has been running the show for Cleveland as the free- agent market opened.

NUGGETs: Millsap agrees for 3 years, $90 million
The Denver Nuggets have been chasing starry veterans the last two years, determined to add experience and firepower to a promising young core.

They finally landed a big one Sunday, agreeing to terms with four-time All-Star Paul Millsap on a three-year deal worth $90 million, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the contract cannot be signed until Thursday.

The former Atlanta forward was one of the strongest free agents remaining on the board two days into the new business year, not counting Warriors superstar Kevin Durant, who is expected to re-sign with Golden State. The Nuggets engaged with Millsap early in the process, outlasting several other teams, including the Phoenix Suns and Atlanta Hawks, whose new GM Travis Schlenk acknowledged could get outbid for the 32-year-old's services before free agency started.

Millsap gives the young Nuggets a proven veteran who should fit perfectly with coach Michael Malone and budding star Nikola Jokic. Millsap averaged a career-high 18.1 points last season to go with 7.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists. He is versatile offensively and is one of the NBA's most underrated defenders.

Yahoo! Sports first reported the agreement.

Newly elevated president of basketball operations Tim Connelly and GM Arturas Karnisovas have chased big-name veterans like Dwyane Wade, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love in trade talks or free agency over the past couple of seasons, determined to vault a rebuilding team back into contention in the powerful Western Conference.

With Paul George going from Indiana to Oklahoma City, Jimmy Butler from Chicago to Minnesota and Chris Paul from the Clippers to Houston among other significant moves in the last two weeks, it became more important than ever for the Nuggets to break through themselves.

Millsap will slide in at power forward next to Jokic, the 6-foot-10 Serb who averaged 16.7 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.9 assists last season. The Nuggets also have dynamic young wings Jamal Murray and Gary Harris.

The Nuggets (40-42) improved by seven games, but still missed the playoffs for a fourth straight season. They lost out to Portland for the eighth and final spot in the West. The string of futility has ramped up the urgency even more now that the Western Conference figures to be as stacked as it has ever been.

Millsap was a second-round draft pick of the Utah Jazz in 2006. He spent his first seven seasons with the Jazz, developing into a rugged, two-way player, then signed with the Hawks in 2013. He has career averages of 14.2 points and 7.5 rebounds and made $20 million last season.

After stripping coach Mike Budenholzer of his president's title, saying goodbye to GM Wes Wilcox and bringing in Schlenk, the Hawks are in the middle of a retooling process. They traded Dwight Howard to Charlotte and wouldn't get into a bidding war with the Nuggets to retain Millsap as they shift gears after seeing their win total drop from 60 in 2014-15 to 48 in 2015-16 and 43 last season.

In the last two years, Millsap, Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, DeMarre Carroll and Al Horford have all left from that 60-win team, an exodus that has thrust the franchise into an uncertain position.

Millsap's arrival in Denver makes the Northwest Division in the Western Conference particularly grueling. Millsap and Jokic will have to contend with George and Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City, Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic in Portland and Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Butler in Minnesota. And that doesn't even take into consideration a possible Jazz trio of Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gobert and Ricky Rubio -- if Hayward chooses to stay in Utah.

JAZZ: Summer League begins with high expectations for Exum
SALT LAKE CITY — NBA Summer League rosters are typically composed of rookies getting their first taste of the league or players trying to catch the eye of an organization.

Utah's Dante Exum doesn't quite fit either category.

The Jazz guard was the No. 5 overall pick in the 2014 draft and will be running a summer league team -- again. No other lottery pick from 2014 or 2015 currently is on an Orlando or Utah summer league roster. But Exum finds himself in the unusual position of trying to attain a more secure place in the 2017-18 Utah rotation.

"He's not the young guy anymore," Jazz summer league coach Alex Jensen said. "It's time. You've got to stand out.

"I don't think it's any one thing. When you watch the game, he can't blend in. You're too talented and too good to blend in, because a lot of guys are in their first and second year."

San Antonio, Boston, Philadelphia and Utah begin play in Salt Lake City on Monday; Play started Saturday in the eight-team Orlando summer league.

Exum said he wasn't planning to play summer league after the season ended, but the team would like to see more from him going into his fourth year. Time could be running out for the 21-year-old as the Jazz continue to try to upgrade their roster and build on last season's return to the playoffs. One area of particular focus is point guard. Utah traded into the lottery to draft guard Donovan Mitchell and took Nigel Williams-Goss in the second round. The Jazz also traded for Ricky Rubio over the weekend.

Exum was moved to off guard down the stretch of the season and averaged 6.2 points, 1.7 assists and 2.0 rebounds and shot 42.7 percent from the field. His career progression stalled when he missed all of 2015-16 with a torn ACL. He said he's focused on working on his jumper, his mid-range game, 3-point shot, driving to the basket and facilitating the offense.

The Jazz are hoping to re-sign Gordon Hayward, add depth to the roster and become even more of a threat in the Western Conference after earning the No. 5 playoff seed in 2017. That means the clock is ticking for Exum, who needs to show he's more than just athletically gifted in a 6-foot-6 frame.

"One of the biggest things for me is I just want to play," Exum said. "It was an emphasis this summer just to get out and play."

Sixers lose Joel Embiid to injury, can’t pull off unlikely win over Damian Lillard and Blazers

Sixers lose Joel Embiid to injury, can’t pull off unlikely win over Damian Lillard and Blazers

Updated: 9:58 p.m. 

The Sixers’ number of available All-Stars has dropped from two to zero this week.

Joel Embiid left Sunday’s game vs. the Portland Trail Blazers in the first quarter with a left ankle injury and the Sixers fell, 124-121. They’re now 42-28 and next play the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. 

Damian Lillard was brilliant on his way to 51 points, while Josh Richardson scored 34, his most as a Sixer, on 13 for 20 shooting. Richardson missed a game-tying three-point try on the Sixers’ last possession, and the team couldn’t manage another attempt following a chaotic battle for the offensive rebound. 

Below are observations on the game: 

Embiid’s injury 

Embiid grimaced after his left foot landed awkwardly on the basket stanchion during a first-quarter play. His momentum carried him into the stanchion after he ran back on a fast break to contest a shot by Blazers rookie Wenyen Gabriel. Following the play, he appeared to be moving less freely than usual for a few possessions before Brett Brown called a timeout. 

With three seeding games remaining before the playoffs, Embiid’s health should be the clear priority. His availability matters much more than whether the Sixers catch Indiana or Miami in the standings. A core tenet of the Sixers’ plan in Simmons’ absence was to lean on Embiid, and he’d been playing like someone who might just be skilled enough to carry a team. In his first four games at Disney World, he’d averaged 30.0 points, 13.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists. 

“I’m going to learn more physically," Brett Brown said after the game. "I don’t know enough to comment on it. ... Joel was fully engaged as a teammate. As it relates to what his injury is or what it actually means, I can’t comment. I don’t know. But it was great just to see him being a part of the group.”

An admirable effort 

While it seemed little was going right for a deflated Sixers team immediately after Embiid left, the effort was good given the circumstances and the team erased a Blazers lead once as large as 17 points. 

Richardson led the charge with an offensive showing that was by far his best in Disney World. His jumper from the right wing with 4.1 seconds remaining in the third quarter gave the Sixers an unlikely 92-91 lead. We’ve seen in a few games this season that he’s capable of scoring in bunches — his 17-point fourth quarters against the Pacers on Jan. 13 and Clippers on Feb. 11 come to mind. Placed in a central offensive role Sunday, he stepped up. 

Alec Burks had another efficient, confident performance, scoring 15 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter and again closing over Shake Milton. 

Defensive challenges 

Richardson got the initial, challenging assignment on Lillard. He didn’t fare very well early, offering Lillard unobstructed paths to the rim and struggling to get on top of ball screens. Lillard had 12 of the Blazers’ first 16 points. The five-time All-Star also blew past Milton and Matisse Thybulle on several occasions and got hot from long distance in the fourth quarter. 

Brown’s pregame analysis of the defensive challenges the Sixers face without Simmons proved spot-on, and those issues were exacerbated when Embiid exited.

“Ben’s versatility was off the charts,” Brown said. “Even him being found on centers didn’t really worry me. I don’t think people really understand how bull strong he is. And so it’s complicated and bothersome. I think, no matter what you do, I would use words like it’s gotta be done by committee, you can’t rely on Joel, it’s gotta be a group thing, and so on and so forth. But I would be lying if I didn’t say that you do feel immediately a level of pain with his absence.”

More defensive switching and zone defense were two specific schematic adjustments Brown mentioned as possibilities, and perhaps we’ll see some unconventional looks moving forward. It would’ve been difficult to successfully play zone in this matchup against the Blazers’ dynamic, sweet-shooting backcourt of Lillard and CJ McCollum. 

Unusual lineups

Embiid’s exit prompted Brown to insert Norvel Pelle for the first time in the seeding games. The big man was surrounded by Burks, Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz and Glenn Robinson III. That all-bench lineup was, as one might imagine, rather disjointed and frenetic. There was sparse offensive direction outside of Burks looking to find space off the dribble and Pelle setting ball screens. The Sixers trailed 33-19 after the first quarter and shot just 6 for 24 in the period. Tobias Harris then replaced Korkmaz and, with Richardson, became a focal point of the offense. 

Brown said before the game that he still intended to maintain a nine-man rotation without Simmons, but that plan obviously had to be abandoned. Twelve Sixers played, including Kyle O’Quinn, who checked into the game when Al Horford picked up his third foul. Mike Scott was used as a small-ball five in the fourth quarter ahead of both traditional backup centers and did a decent job in that role, posting nine points and four rebounds.

Along with Pelle and O’Quinn, Robinson made his seeding game debut. The 26-year-old wing, who’d been sidelined by a left hip flexor injury, had four points and three rebounds in 17 minutes. 

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Joel Embiid leaves game vs. Trail Blazers with injury

Joel Embiid leaves game vs. Trail Blazers with injury

The Sixers already have a tall task in front of them trying to play without All-Star Ben Simmons. Now, their other All-Star is banged up.

Joel Embiid left the Sixers’ game against the Trail Blazers Sunday in the first quarter with a left ankle injury and won't return, per NBC Sports Philadelphia's Serena Winters. 

Embiid was contesting a shot from Portland’s Wenyen Gabriel at the rim when his foot landed awkwardly on the stanchion below the basket. Embiid stayed in the game but then went to the bench at the next timeout. After appearing to try to work the injury out on the sideline, he then headed back to the locker room.

Simmons will undergo surgery to remove a loose body in his left knee, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Noah Levick

We’ll have more details on Embiid's injury as they become available.

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