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Ben Simmons reports to Philadelphia 76ers, sources say

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After staying away for the first two weeks of the preseason, 76ers All-Star guard Ben Simmons reported to the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Monday night, sources told ESPN.

As the Sixers played the Brooklyn Nets, Simmons took a COVID-19 test in the arena, sources said. The initial test starts several days of testing required by the NBA to clear him for a return to the team.

Simmons’ arrival concluded several weeks of discussions between the organization and Simmons’ representative, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul, to get Simmons back into the marketplace, sources said.

Simmons had held out in hopes of accelerating a trade. However, under the terms of the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, for each preseason game he missed, he lost roughly $360,000 for failing to show up — totaling more than $1 million for the three games that he missed. In addition, the 76ers could fine Simmons for missed practices: $2,500 for the first, $5,000 for the second, $7,500 for the third and for every practice after, being left to the discretion of the team, with the ability to go up to $50,000.

Simmons, 25, has four years and $147 million left on his contract.

Simmons hadn’t spoken directly to team officials since a late August meeting in Los Angeles in which he reiterated his desire for a trade, sources said. He had recently become more open-minded about the possibility of ending his time away from the team and reporting to Philadelphia, but the next step will be him committing to not just a return to the city — but rejoining the team on the court.

The Sixers have canvassed the league throughout the offseason for trades but have been unable to find a deal that would bring them a comparable star they’d want to continue to build a championship contender around All-NBA center Joel Embiid, sources said. Those trade talks would likely continue with a Simmons return, but president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and coach Doc Rivers are hopeful to continue working to convince Simmons on remaining long-term with the franchise, sources said.

ESPN’s Tim Bontemps and Bobby Marks contributed to this report.

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Los Angeles Lakers’ Talen Horton-Tucker to have thumb surgery to repair torn ligaments

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LOS ANGELES — Lakers guard Talen Horton-Tucker will undergo surgery to repair torn ligaments in his right thumb, sources told ESPN on Monday.

Horton-Tucker, who turns 21 next month, signed a three-year, $32 million extension in the offseason, providing the team an ascending talent among a roster mostly comprised of accomplished veterans.

The third-year wing had been the Lakers’ second-leading scorer in the preseason, averaging 12.7 points on 39.3% shooting in three appearances.

It is the second significant injury to hit the Lakers before the regular season has even opened up, after Trevor Ariza required surgery on his right ankle last week. The surgery is expected to sideline him for approximately two months.

“Obviously any time you’re dealing with surgery you wish for the best,” LeBron James said last week when asked about Ariza. “But we believe in our docs and everyone is saying that he’ll come back at full strength. So six to eight weeks, you’re in a marathon. It may feel long for him but we’ll welcome him coming back at 100%. We can’t wait to get him back on the floor with us.”

Lakers guard Malik Monk, whom like Horton-Tucker was considered to be another youthful bright spot during training camp, is also currently sidelined with a right groin strain that will be re-evaluated in a week, according to Lakers coach Frank Vogel.

“It’s preseason and we have a lot of depth,” Vogel said. “And we’re going to have an opportunity to give minutes to other guys. Next man up.”

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Ex-NBA guard JR Smith makes golf debut with North Carolina A&T

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BURLINGTON, N.C. — JR Smith couldn’t help but feel anxious.

Sure, he had spent 16 years playing in the NBA, making millions and winning two world championships in packed arenas at the highest level of a global sport. But he had never been in the situation like he was Monday: lining up tee shots as a 36-year-old freshman walk-on playing his first college golf tournament for North Carolina A&T at Elon’s Phoenix Invitational.

“I was nervous, I was,” said Smith, who shot a 12-over-par 83 in Round 1 and then a 7-over 78 in Round 2. “I didn’t really know what to expect.”

That’s easy to understand considering how massive of a change it represents for Smith. Exactly one year earlier, to the day, he was a shirtless part of an on-court celebration with LeBron James after the Los Angeles Lakers had just closed out an NBA title run in the Florida pandemic bubble.

Smith had since been drawn to the Greensboro school because of his interest in attending a Historically Black College or University, which follows a push by the NBA and its players to support HBCU traditions and culture in this year’s All-Star Game in Atlanta.

On Monday, Smith’s pride came from representing a HBCU for the first time as an Aggies golfer at the two-day event at Alamance Country Club.

“We’re such a small part of the percentage of the country, let alone the budgeting system,” Smith said with a laugh. “Because I see everybody else has got vans and all this other stuff. But it’s great. It’s great to represent them. It’s great for the school to get the recognition because they deserve it, and my fellow classmates.

“That’s what I’m most excited about: to be able to come back to campus and my teammates have their head held high with a victory coming from a tournament is what we look for.”

It’s a college experience almost two decades delayed for Smith, who was originally slated to play basketball at North Carolina before jumping from the preps to the NBA to become a first-round pick in 2004.

“I was pretty pleased with him,” Aggies coach Richard Watkins said. “He made some mistakes, did some things you will do if you’re not used to competing. Just going out and playing recreational golf with your buddies is a whole lot different than competition.

“That first 18 was just to get his feet wet. Then he buckled down, and I was really pleased with what he did that second 18, because education doesn’t come cheap. And I think he learned some lessons out there today.”

Smith’s presence in a blue A&T hoodie and white pants drew a mini-gallery ranging between 15 and 30 curious onlookers following him around the course. Eli Ehrbar couldn’t pass up the chance to be part of that.

The 21-year-old is a native of Cleveland, where Smith helped the James-led Cavaliers to the 2016 world championship. The Elon senior said it felt like a bit of good fortune that Smith qualified for his first college tournament so close.

“When I saw he qualified, I was like, ‘I have to come,'” said Ehrbar, wearing a burgundy Cavaliers hoodie. “I think that was kind of the feeling with me and a couple of my friends. We were like, this is a world-class athlete, a world-champion NBA player. Especially being from Cleveland, it just hits a little home differently.”

Smith seemed relaxed enough through numerous holes. When one tee shot hit a tree and landed in the fairway, Smith was quick to quip that he called the bank shot. He gave a playful “beep, beep” as his cart, driven by Temple golfer Joey Morganti, made its way through the onlookers on the cart path.

And when an excited 2-year-old yellow labrador retriever named “Lucky” started barking from a nearby home’s front yard during one of Smith’s shots, Smith stopped and shouted from across the green: “What’s your name?”

Smith said he wanted to be just another competitor at the tournament, though he understood the extra attention that came with his debut.

“More than anything, it’s just being able to go out there and compete as one of the guys, just another name, and get my [butt] kicked,” Smith said. “It was actually a very humbling feeling. Again, I’m ready to go to that range to work on it. I had fun, but I don’t like losing.”

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San Antonio Spurs waive 2019 first-round draft pick Luka Samanic

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The San Antonio Spurs waived forward Luka Samanic on Monday, cutting ties with the No. 19 pick in the 2019 NBA draft after just two seasons.

Samanic, 21, had two years left on his rookie contract. San Antonio was facing a deadline this month to pick up his option for the 2022-23 season.

Samanic averaged 3.8 points and 2.2 rebounds in 36 games for the Spurs. He is just the third 2019 first-round draft pick to have been waived off an NBA roster, joining Mfiondu Kabengele and Sekou Doumbouya.

A 6-foot-11 shooter, Samanic turned pro at 16 years old, playing for FC Barcelona’s reserve team. He won MVP in the FIBA U18 European Championship in 2017 while leading his home country of Croatia to a gold medal.

The cut leaves the Spurs’ training camp roster at 17 players. They will need to get down to 15 before the start of the regular season.

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