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Ben Simmons passes physical, has ‘brief’ meeting with Philadelphia 76ers’ front office, sources say

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Philadelphia 76ers All-Star guard Ben Simmons passed his physical and held a meeting with the team’s front office on Tuesday, but he remains ineligible to participate in team-related activities until Friday, at the earliest, due to NBA health and safety protocols, sources told ESPN.

Simmons met with Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and general manager Elton Brand — his first conversation with them since August — in a meeting sources described only as “brief.”

The Sixers have a preseason game on Friday at the Detroit Pistons, and sources said it’s too early to tell whether Simmons will be cleared to play in that game after staying away from the team for the first two weeks of the preseason.

A player who is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and who is entering the team environment for the first time needs to return at least one negative result from a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test facilitated by the team before interacting with other players and Tier 1 staffers, according to NBA protocols obtained by ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

An unvaccinated player must return two negative tests before returning to the facility and participating in individual workouts where no other player is present. If the player returns two more negative rapid molecular tests, he could then be cleared to interact with teammates and staff.

Sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that after Simmons’ surprise return to the Sixers before Monday’s preseason game, Simmons took a COVID-19 test facilitated by the team, thus starting his onboarding process.

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Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving fined $25,000 for directing obscene language toward fan

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Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving has been fined $25,000 for directing obscene language toward a fan, the NBA announced Thursday.

The incident occurred with 4:19 remaining in the second quarter of the Nets’ 114-107 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday.

A fan courtside could be heard heckling Irving, who responded with obscene language.

Irving has appeared in five games for the Nets this season, averaging 22 points and 5.4 assists. He scored 30 points in 38 minutes during a 119-118 win over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.

Irving is unvaccinated against COVID-19, meaning he can’t play in home games due to a mandate in New York City. After Irving was away from the team for almost three months, the Nets reversed course last month to allow him to participate in road games.

Wednesday marked the two-week anniversary of his return.

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Chicago Bulls’ Lonzo Ball to have surgery on knee, out 6-8 weeks

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Chicago Bulls guard Lonzo Ball has opted to have arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and is expected to miss six to eight weeks, the team announced Thursday.

Ball is expected to travel to California in the coming days to have the arthroscopic procedure to repair a meniscus tear, a source told ESPN.

The Bulls and Ball’s agent — Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul — had discussed options with doctors, but the procedure was deemed necessary after a recent change in nonsurgical treatment didn’t allow Ball to play through what’s described as a slight meniscus tear, sources said.

Ball has missed the past three games with what the Bulls initially deemed was a bone bruise. The team had already ruled him out for its upcoming three-game road trip because his knee was not recovering well from the initial treatment.

Bulls coach Billy Donovan on Wednesday night said Ball had changed treatments on the knee, and that doctors were waiting to see how Ball responded to the new treatment.

Ball had a procedure for a meniscus tear on the same knee in July 2018 and returned for the start of training camp with the Los Angeles Lakers.

He is averaging 13 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists in 35 games in his first season in Chicago.

ESPN’s Jamal Collier contributed to this report.

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Shaedon Sharpe, 18, can apply for 2022 NBA draft after joining Kentucky Wildcats in January

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Shaedon Sharpe, who was ESPN’s No. 1 prospect in the 2022 high school class before he joined the Kentucky Wildcats in early January, can apply for the 2022 NBA draft as an early-entry candidate, a source told ESPN on Thursday.

Sharpe started the current school year at Dream City Christian in the Phoenix area, but he had sufficient credits to graduate from high school before the start of the NBA season in October. He committed to Kentucky in September and then decided to arrive in Lexington early and enroll at the beginning of January.

He is currently practicing with the Wildcats and is eligible to play, but he has not yet participated in any games, something that might change in the coming weeks depending on the inclination of the coaching staff, led by John Calipari.

Sharpe turns 19 on May 30 and thus meets the age requirement for the NBA draft, along with being one NBA season removed from high school graduation.

A little-known prospect unranked by recruiting services at the beginning of the 2020-21 high school season, Sharpe led the prestigious Nike EYBL in scoring this past July, making a dramatic rise to the No. 1 spot in the ESPN 100 before signing with Kentucky.

Sharpe is considered a potential top-five pick in the 2022 NBA draft thanks to his combination of prototypical frame with dynamic shot-making and explosive finishing ability, regularly coming up with highlight-reel-caliber dunks, blocks and putbacks.

Although slated as the No. 6 prospect in the ESPN Top 100 for the 2022 NBA draft, Sharpe has not yet made his intentions known regarding his plans for the upcoming draft, which likely will depend at least partially on whether he plays this season. He could ultimately elect to wait until the 2023 NBA draft, especially if he does not suit up for Kentucky this season.

Jonathan Givony is an NBA draft expert and the founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a private scouting and analytics service used by NBA, NCAA and international teams.

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