Magic Johnson

Ben Simmons keeps getting linked with Magic — and for good reason

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Ben Simmons keeps getting linked with Magic — and for good reason

Ben Simmons and Magic Johnson. It’s not such a crazy comparison.

With 17 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists in the Sixers’ 106-102 Game 4 win Saturday, Simmons became the first rookie to record a playoff triple-double since Johnson in 1980.

It’s not the first time Simmons has been linked with Magic, nor will it be the last. At 6-10, Simmons’ elite passing ability, versatility and flair in the open court mirror the 6-9 Johnson. With 12 regular-season triple-doubles, Simmons passed Johnson for second on the all-time rookie list, behind only Oscar Robertson’s 26.

Oh, and without Joel Embiid in Game 2 of this series, the point guard Simmons jumped for the opening tip, just as Johnson famously did with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar out in Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals against the Sixers.

You can chalk up some of the early comparisons with Johnson to the natural tendency to see parallels when looking at graceful point guards in big bodies or just insane statistical coincidences, but there’s one important similarity it looks like Simmons might have with Magic — an affinity for big games.

Simmons guided the Sixers to a massive win Saturday, helping his team take a 3-1 series edge over the Heat despite a season-high 26 turnovers. Though Simmons posted seven turnovers himself, he directed the offense masterfully in the second half.

In the fourth quarter, the Sixers had just three turnovers and executed well in their half-court offense despite the extremely physical Heat defense. Simmons scored 15 of his points after halftime, including a powerful drive and dunk with 58.2 seconds left to give the Sixers a 102-99 lead after Dwyane Wade had cut the deficit to one.

As he typically does, Simmons deflected the attention away from himself after the game when asked about joining Johnson, Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry Lucas and Tom Gola on the list of rookies with playoff triple-doubles.

“I think it just means I’m doing my job,” Simmons told reporters. “The stats I’ve averaged all season have been up there, so it’s not really anything new for the team or myself. As long as we’re winning, I’m happy. All those accolades will come if we’re all doing the right thing.”

Joel Embiid, however, wasn’t shy in talking up his point guard’s accomplishment.

“He was a monster,” Embiid said. “I think that’s the first time the Sixers had a triple-double [in the playoffs] since Charles Barkley, so that’s big-time.”

Embiid knows his Sixers history. Barkley was indeed the last Sixer to record a postseason triple-double. He recorded 22 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists on April 27, 1991, in a 116-112 OT win in Milwaukee.

JJ Redick was also impressed with Simmons, though he’s getting used to these sort of historic games.

“Ben is Ben,” Redick said. “It’s almost become expected now that he’s gotta go average a triple-double. He’s very tough physically, but he’s even tougher mentally. The last four games have been as vocal and demonstrative as I’ve seen him all season. He’s been fantastic. He’s coming out of his shell in regards to leadership, and that’s huge for us.”

Simmons is averaging 19.3 points, 10.8 rebounds and 9.8 assists through the first four games of his playoff career. He’s not quite averaging a triple-double, but he’s about as close as you can get.

And for the record, Magic had five triple-doubles in that incredible 1980 postseason with the Lakers. With Simmons' immense talent and poise under pressure, that’s another Magic milestone within his reach.

NBA Notes: Lakers fined $500K for tampering involving Paul George

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NBA Notes: Lakers fined $500K for tampering involving Paul George

NEW YORK -- New Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka's contact with Paul George's agent violated the NBA's anti-tampering rule and resulted in a $500,000 fine for Los Angeles on Thursday.

The league said a law firm's independent investigation didn't find evidence of an agreement or an understanding that the Lakers would sign or acquire George, who was with the Indiana Pacers at the time. George later was traded to Oklahoma City.

"We respect and accept the NBA's decision regarding this matter," Pelinka said in a statement. "On behalf of the Los Angeles Lakers, I want to express our regret over this unfortunate incident to both our fans and the NBA."

The league had warned the Lakers about tampering following comments by president of basketball operations Magic Johnson about George on national TV on April 20.

The league said Pelinka's contact with George's agent "constituted a prohibited expression of interest in the player while he was under contract" (see full story).

Cavaliers: Irving doesn’t mention LeBron in Cleveland goodbye
CLEVELAND -- Kyrie Irving did not mention LeBron James, now his former teammate, while thanking Cleveland fans after his trade to Boston was finalized.

Irving, who is now officially a member of the Celtics after the teams completed a blockbuster deal that had stalled, posted a lengthy thank-you note and video on his Instagram account Thursday. While somewhat vague about his intentions, the All-Star guard explained some the reasons that led to him requesting the Cavaliers trade him following six seasons -- and three straight trips to the NBA Finals.

In a meeting last month with Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert, Irving said he wanted out.

"You understand the magnitude of decisions that you make in your life can affect a lot of people all at once," Irving said in the more than 4-minute video . "And when you get to that point and you understand that the best intentions for you and ultimately to be in your truth, and find out what you really want to do in your life and how you want to accomplish it -- that moment comes and you take full advantage of it.

"And there are no other ulterior reasons other than being happy and to be somewhere you feel like it's an environment that's conducive for you maximizing your potential" (see full story).

Bulls: Payne to have surgery on broken right foot
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls say guard Cameron Payne will have surgery next week for a broken right foot.

Payne fractured the fifth metatarsal during a workout July 18. The team says six weeks of rest in a boot was prescribed, but a subsequent scan and examination this week revealed the foot has not healed "satisfactorily." Surgery is scheduled for Wednesday.

Payne also broke his right foot during the 2015-16 season with Oklahoma City.

Payne was acquired in the February trade that sent Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to the Thunder. He struggled for Chicago, averaging 4.9 points in 11 games.

Kings: Randolph faces misdemeanor marijuana charge
LOS ANGELES -- Sacramento Kings forward Zach Randolph has been charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession and resisting arrest following an incident this month when a large gathering became unruly at a Los Angeles housing project, prosecutors said Thursday.

The two-time NBA All-Star had initially been arrested on suspicion of possessing marijuana with intent to sell -- a felony -- but Los Angeles city prosecutors instead charged Randolph with misdemeanor drug possession.

Court documents say the 36-year-old Randolph possessed "more than 28.5 grams of marijuana or more than four grams of concentrated cannabis or both." Randolph also is accused of resisting arrest and obstructing a Los Angeles police officer in the discharge of their duties.

Randolph is scheduled to appear in a Los Angeles courtroom on Sept. 14, said Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for the Los Angeles city attorney's office, which is prosecuting the case.

Cavaliers: Gilbert vows to never move team from Cleveland
CLEVELAND -- Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert vowed Thursday to "never" move his NBA team from Cleveland.

Earlier this week, when Gilbert scrapped plans for a $140 million renovation to Quicken Loans Arena that could now be back on, his move led to speculation the owner might leave the city when his lease expires in 2027.

"CLE, Let's put any silly rumors to rest: I will never move the Cleveland Cavaliers out of Cleveland," Gilbert wrote on Twitter . "Period. And that's unconditional."

As part of the project, the team would extend its lease to 2034. The Cavs were going to split the cost of the arena's makeover with public financing, but a local coalition opposed to using tax dollars for the remodeling was able to force a city referendum vote and Gilbert pulled out.

However, on Thursday, Greater Cleveland Congregations withdrew petitions challenging the arena deal.

The Cavaliers are still hoping to host a future All-Star game if an agreement can be reached on the project.

Lonzo Ball works out for Lakers, says 'I want to stay home'

Lonzo Ball works out for Lakers, says 'I want to stay home'

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — With the ball in his hands on the Los Angeles Lakers' home court, Lonzo Ball was exactly where he always wanted to be.

Ball's new Lakers workout gear was soaked with sweat after he went through his individual pre-draft workout Wednesday for Magic Johnson and coach Luke Walton at their training complex. The tantalizing UCLA product left no doubt that he hopes his favorite team chooses him with the second overall pick.

"Of course," Ball said. "I want to stay home."

The Lakers have roughly two weeks to decide whether to hitch their franchise rebuilding effort to the 6-foot-6 point guard — and by extension to his outspoken father, LaVar, who didn't attend the workout.

After enduring the worst four-year stretch in franchise history, the Lakers hope to rebound next fall with their new draft choice alongside fellow No. 2 picks D'Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram. Lonzo Ball is generally considered the front-runner to become the Lakers' new catalyst, with some analysts even believing he surpasses Markelle Fultz and the rest of the draft pool as the prospect with the greatest potential for superstardom.

Ball doesn't shy from the responsibility that would come with his selection, either: He plans to be a leader for his NBA team from his first day on the roster.

"They have a lot of good players," Ball said. "Obviously they need a leader, a point guard, and I feel like I can bring that to the team."

But every NBA team with a top draft pick is clearly weighing Ball's talent against the potential perils of choosing a somewhat unorthodox 19-year-old with a heavily involved parent currently trying to sell $495 basketball shoes online. Lonzo didn't wear Big Baller Brand's ZO2: Prime shoes for his Lakers workout.

Any potential concerns felt by the Lakers haven't filtered through to Ball, who was still excited about his getting-to-know-you dinner in Venice on Tuesday with the Lakers' top brass, including Magic and general manager Rob Pelinka.

"I got positive vibes," Ball said. "I had a lot of fun. It was great meeting everybody here, and they were very welcoming."

He was particularly thrilled to meet Johnson, the Hall of Famer now directing the Lakers' rebuild as their president of basketball operations. The 6-foot-9 former point guard provided the template for Ball's approach to hoops through LaVar, an ardent Magic fan.

"Magic Johnson is one of the greatest players ever to play," Ball said. "And I love the way Coach (Walton) wants to coach us, and then Rob is a great dude, too. So just meeting all them, it was a great blessing."

Ball didn't say whether he will work out for other teams, claiming he'll leave it up to his agent. But his visit with the Lakers was his first individual workout, and LaVar has openly voiced his desire for his son to end up with the hometown team for many months.

After growing up 50 miles away in Chino Hills, Ball spent the last year 20 minutes north of the Lakers' El Segundo training complex in Westwood, where he led the Bruins' transformation from a regular underachiever into a 31-win team.

Ball is an aggressive, creative playmaker who also had one of the most accurate shots in NCAA history last season, albeit with an unorthodox shooting motion that will never be found in a textbook. Ball said he did "a lot of shooting" in his workout with the Lakers, who undoubtedly wanted a look at that release.

Ball's detractors question his defensive acumen and his ability to adapt his unusual shot to the pro game, but few doubt his status as an elite facilitator who could thrive in Walton's up-tempo, Golden State-inspired offense.

Yet the Lakers already have the 6-foot-5 Russell, who has shown flashes of brilliance as the point guard on two bad teams. Walton and the Lakers clearly believe Ball and Russell could share the same backcourt profitably.

Although Ball must wait a bit longer to find out whether his childhood dream will come true, he seemed quietly optimistic about the opportunity after his chance to impress Johnson and Walton in person.

"They said they want me to come in — if I get picked — come in and be a leader and play with a lot of pace," Ball said. "So the stuff they were saying was very positive, and it kind of fits my game."