Jimmer Fredette signs with Spurs

The Spurs have never met a shooter they didn’t like. Jimmer Fredette still carries the cachet of a big-time shooter. So the former BYU legend may be getting his last and best chance to prove that he can be a real NBA contributor with announcement that he’ll go to training camp in San Antonio.

With Marco Belinelli having gone to Sacramento in free agency, the Spurs are in need of a shooter and there is really no better system for anybody who can spot up and make than in Gregg Popovich’s offense.

Fredette spent last season with the Pelicans, appearing in 50 games, averaging 3.6 points and 1.4 assists in 10.2 minutes.

The four-year NBA veteran was originally drafted by the Bucks with the 10th overall pick in the first round of the 2011 NBA Draft.  He was dealt to the Kings in a draft night trade where he spent two-plus seasons.  He also played for the Bulls before moving to New Orleans last season.

In 229 NBA career games, Fredette has averaged 6.1 points, 1.4 assists and 1.0 rebounds in 13.7 minutes while shooting .412 (514-1,248) from the field, .381 (192-504) from beyond the arc and .878 (187-213) from the foul line.

Could LeBron production deal with Warner Bros. lead to Space Jam II?

Call Bugs, Daffy, Tweety, Sylvester and Marvin the Martian and tell them to clear possible space on their cartoon calendars.

Coming on the heels of his successful movie debut in Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck, 30-year-old LeBron James could be laying down the tracks for a future as a leading man on the big screen and a new version of a fan favorite.

Warner Bros. Entertainment said Wednesday that it’s reached a deal with SpringHill Entertainment — the production company co-founded by the Cavaliers star and his longtime business partner, Maverick Carter — “spanning all areas of content creation” and that “will see James’ creative footprint touch all areas of” Warner Bros.’ endeavors, including television, film and digital content.

“LeBron James has one of the most powerful, well-known brands in the world and we are excited to be in business with him and his partner, Maverick Carter, and SpringHill Entertainment,” said [Warner Bros. Chairman and CEO Kevin] Tsujihara. “The combination of LeBron’s global media presence and Warner Bros.’ unmatched production and distribution expertise is a big win for fans everywhere. We’re excited to welcome LeBron and Maverick to the Warner Bros. family and look forward to partnering on incredible projects that will connect with consumers across a variety of platforms.”

“Connecting with my fans and telling meaningful stories have always been my passion. In everything I’ve done, from Nike commercials to Uninterrupted and Survivor’s Remorse, it’s always about connecting with people of all ages and providing unique content they can all enjoy,” said LeBron James. “And I’ve always loved movies, which makes Warner Bros. the ultimate partner to help us continue to push the envelope. I can’t wait to see what we come up with.” […]

Having already conquered most of the terrestrial basketball world, the big question out there is whether this arrangement with Warner Bros. could lead to James starring in a 21st century reboot of “Space Jam?” LeBron has previously said he would be interested.

Here was one possible hint of a hookup with Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Marvin the Martian and the rest of the gang:

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 206) Summer Wrap

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The end of one season and the start of the next used to be well-defined.

We’d go from the NBA regular season to the playoffs, the playoffs to the Draft and from the Draft to free agency and then on to the Summer League season before the league would go dark for at least a month or two. But no more.

The blending of the seasons in the NBA is complete. And it’s all one great big glorious blur of hoops hysteria that feeds the insatiable appetites of the masses. There’s no sense in complaining about it, this non-stop barrage of games, Drafts, free agent fevers, Summer League’s and the like. It’s best to buckle up and just go along for the ride.

Besides, what would your summer have been like without Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell, Jahlil Okafor, Kristap Porzingis and the rest of the incoming rookie class? Or headline makers like DeAndre Jordan, Mark Cuban, Doc Rivers, Blake Griffin, Chandler Parsons and everyone else involved in the Clippers-Mavericks free agent drama?

And that’s just the beginning of the conversation that includes an endless supply of moves and rumored moves (DeMarcus Cousins is still a member of the Sacramento Kings, as of this moment) that have kept our cups running over this summer.

Now we’re debating which comes first, a lady in the Oval Office (perhaps a Clinton …) or one on the bench as a pioneer as the first female head coach (Becky Hammon, anyone …) in the NBA?

How we got from the Golden State Warriors and KIA MVP Steph Curry winning it all for the first time in 40 years to Seth Curry stealing the show in the Las Vegas Summer League in roughly a month’s time is anyone’s guess. But we do our best to sort through it all, and more, on Episode 206 of the Hang Time Podcast … Summer Wrap!

LISTEN HERE:

As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of NBA.com,  Lang Whitaker of NBA.com’s All-Ball Blog and renaissance man Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.


VIDEO: Expectations are soaring for Kristap Porzingis after the New York Knicks’ rookie impressed at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas

Blogtable: Thoughts on playoff seeding?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Thoughts on new playoff seeding? | 2015-16 All-Bench Team | First woman coach or president?



VIDEO: Is the playoff seeding tweak a good thing?

> It looks like playoff teams will be seeded 1-8 next season based on won-loss record alone, with no lift in the seedings for a division title. Is this a good thing, a bad thing, or much ado about nothing?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comIt’s a good thing, because geography already plays enough of a role in the pursuit of an NBA title in the assignment of East vs. West affiliation. No need to have arbitrary division groupings trump actual W-L records. For those teams to whom a division title still matters, they can hang the banners in their rafters or at their practice facilities and keep dreaming of bigger prizes. But the rest of us don’t have to dwell on what often is a big-fish, small-pond achievement.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comIt’s a good thing.  The regular season is all about compiling the best record for playoff seeding and home-court advantage, and simply seeding 1-8 is the most fair, sensible system.  Portland getting the No. 4 seed based on winning a weakened Northwest Division last season warped the Western Conference bracket and resulted in a 55-win defending champion San Antonio team getting bounced in the first round.  In addition, the Rockets were given home-court advantage over the Clippers in the second round based on winning the Southwest title, despite losing the first two tiebreakers.  Ranking 1-8 makes everything clean and rational.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comIt’s due. Nobody cares about division standings — seriously, who remembers who won the Atlantic two years ago? — and this way, teams will be properly seeded based on record, as they should. Long time coming.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Basically a good thing, with a dash of much ado about nothing. All divisions aren’t created equal and schedules within the conference are even enough that division affiliation shouldn’t play a part in how teams are seeded in the playoffs. At the same time, the outrage over seeding has been a bit overblown. You still have to win 12 games to get to The Finals and the best team in the conference will almost always get there, no matter how the teams are seeded.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comIt’s a good thing. Division titles? Plenty of folks who love the game are not sure what divisions these teams play in. They know come playoff time the top 8 from each side of the conference divide are making it into the field of teams vying for a championship, and ultimately that’s all that really matters. There was a time and place for the divisional format and its importance. That time has passed. And we all know the next step is taking the top 16 regardless of conference, but that’s a question for another day.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comIt’s the right thing. Divisions play into regional rivalries, but they shouldn’t be subsidized by a higher seeding. The Spurs will tell you that this is important – their championship hopes would have been elevated by this rule last season.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All-Ball Blog: I think it’s much ado about nothing. But at the same time it does make me wonder, why do we still have divisions if there’s no incentive to winning your division? So a team that wins their division can have a banner-raising ceremony? And what happens down the road if a division is particularly terrible, so much so that a team wins their division and still doesn’t qualify for the playoffs? I suppose in some ways this reflects the way the world works today, as we are a flatter planet and less local than ever.

 

Blogtable: 2015-16 All-Bench Team

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Thoughts on new playoff seeding? | 2015-16 All-Bench Team | First woman coach or president?



VIDEO: Best of Finals MVP Andre Iguodala

> Finals MVP Andre Iguodala will come off the bench again next season for the Warriors. So give me your 2015-16 All NBA Bench Team.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comIguodala is a starter on any All-Bench team, so to speak. The reigning Sixth Man winner, Lou Williams, still merits a spot despite switching teams (Toronto to Lakers). Boston’s Isaiah Thomas finished second and seems a perfect instant-offense option to solidify his role. It’s a little more crowded now on the Clippers’ depth chart, but Jamal Crawford knows how to make an impact in whatever minutes he gets. Then I’ll take Chicago’s Taj Gibson, who was a Sixth Man favorite for a lot of us a couple season ago before post-contract extension pressure and injuries knocked him off track.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com:

G – Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams
F – Taj Gibson, David West
CBoris Diaw

Shaun Powell, NBA.comIguodala, Lou Williams, Jamal Crawford, Isaiah Thomas, Tristan Thompson. All had major roles with their teams, and in the case of Thompson, he got better once elevated to the starting lineup once Kevin Love was done. Still stunned that the Suns gave up on Thomas, who has a very team-friendly contract and gets buckets.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com:

Point guardIsaiah Thomas (the only above-average offensive player on the Celtics)

WingsCorey Brewer (important role player for Houston) and Andre Iguodala (still one of the most complete players in the league)

Bigs – Ryan Anderson (should flourish — offensively, at least — in Alvin Gentry‘s system) and Tristan Thompson (eater of glass)

Sekou Smith, NBA.comAndre Iguodala headlines the 2015-16 All- NBA Bench Team and is joined by Tristan Thompson of Cleveland, Jamal Crawford of the Clippers, David West of San Antonio and Lou Williams of the Lakers. They could all be starters somewhere, but they’ll serve as super subs for their respective teams. And if Thompson continues the work we saw from him in the playoffs, he might be my frontrunner for Sixth Man of the Year on a loaded Cleveland squad that deploys a healthy Kevin Love as its starting power forward.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Lance Stephenson is listed by the Clippers as a guard, but he’ll be spending a lot of time at forward when they go small:

C – Steven Adams, Thunder
F – Tristan Thompson, Cavaliers
F – Lance Stephenson, Clippers
G – Andre Iguodala, Warriors
G – Isaiah Thomas, Celtics

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All-Ball BlogWell, Iguodala is on there, for starters. (OK, not for starters, but you know what I mean.) Manu Ginobili should always be in any conversation about the best bench players. I’ll also go with Ty Lawson in Houston, Tristan Thompson in Cleveland, and I’m not sure who else is coming off the bench for the Clippers, but Jamal Crawford is a perennial Sixth Man of the Year contender, to me.

Blogtable: First woman coach or president?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Thoughts on new playoff seeding? | 2015-16 All-Bench Team | First woman coach or president?



VIDEO: Impact of Becky Hammon

> What will we see first: a woman in an NBA head coach’s office, or a woman in the oval office?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comThis question risks getting political, which would violate the Michael Jordan rule of sports — that is, Democrats and Republicans both spend money on the NBA — so it serves no good purpose alienating either. From a simple timeline standpoint, if there’s no woman in the White House by January 2017, it probably wouldn’t happen until January 2021 at the earliest — by which time Becky Hammon or someone else certainly would have been hired (and, demonstrating true equality in that profession, maybe even fired by then too). My one hope is that, whichever happens first, it happens because of merit, not symbolism.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: How about we just vote Becky Hammon president and let her appoint Gregg Popovich as Secretary of Snarling?  I’m going with the Oval Office.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com:

Shaun Powell, NBA.comI like Hillary Clinton’s chances better than Becky Hammon’s. And speaking of Hammon, I want to see her on the bench one day soon, but would hate if she’s rushed along just for the sake of making history. Hammon has only been an assistant coach for one season and doesn’t even sit next to Popovich on the Spurs’ bench yet. By comparison, Mike Budenholzer spent 16 years on the Spurs’ bench before taking the Hawks’ job (and winning Coach of the Year).

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: A Spurs assistant coach doesn’t need to be in the chair next to Gregg Popovich to get poached by another team (see Jacque Vaughn to Orlando), and Becky Hammon’s Summer League experience definitely accelerates her progress toward a head coaching job. But I’ll still go with the Oval Office, because there’s a decent chance of happening in January of 2017.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comIt pains me that this question still needs to be asked in 2015. Seriously. They are both long overdue. But I’m going with the Oval Office, mostly because of the competency of the candidate already neck-deep in the race. The fact is, any knuckledragger still underestimating the ability of someone of any gender, race, creed or color to do the job needs to be voted off the island. I’ve listened for days now about people worrying that a female coach might not be able to connect in a NBA locker room and struggling to garner respect from her potential peers and others. It’s garbage. Every coach is going to face that challenge at one time or another. And while we’re on the subject, no woman will be able to prove those foolish theories wrong until someone in the decision-making ranks musters the courage to give her the shot. Just saying.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Right now you have to say that Hillary Clinton is closer to her goal than Becky Hammon is to hers — but someday there will be women in both chairs.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All-Ball BlogEither way, I think we’re going to see one of these happen soon. Forced to choose, my guess is we get a woman president first, maybe even next year. Becky Hammon obviously proved her worth as an NBA coach, but winning a Summer League title isn’t an automatic guarantee of success as an NBA coach, or even a direct ticket to a head coaching gig. Although put to a public vote, I suspect there are a few fanbases that might vote to give Hammon a chance immediately.

Morning Shootaround — July 22


VIDEO: Paul Pierce talks about joining the Clippers

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Pierce still has work to do | Harden beats Curry | Seth Curry gets crowned | Report: Players to study healthcare for retired players

No. 1: Pierce still has work to do As he enters the 17th season of his NBA career, Paul Pierce has pretty much seen and done it all, from winning a title to playing for a rebuilding team. But with his career entering its likely twilight, Pierce signed with the Los Angeles Clippers to play in his hometown, with the coach (Doc Rivers) with whom he experienced his greatest success, to play for a team that he hopes to lead over the hump, writes NBA.com’s Ian Thompsen

Paul Pierce was watching the Clippers on TV last May as they lost Game 7 of their Western conference semifinal. Pierce’s own team, the Wizards, had been knocked out of the Eastern conference playoffs two days before.

“I already knew I was either going to go home and play for the Clippers or come back to Washington,” says Pierce, who opted out of his Wizards contract to become a free agent. “So I watched the Clippers closely.”

He watched, horrified, as they surrendered a 3-1 series lead over Houston. Worst of all was a Game 6 loss in Los Angeles in which the Rockets scored 51 of the last 71 points.

“No way — if I was in that locker room — I would have allowed that to happen,” Pierce says. “You picture yourself being that voice or being that guy on the court that can help in those situations. I think I fill a pretty big need for them.”

So his career ends where it began. Pierce starred at Inglewood High School, one mile west of the Fabulous Forum where the Lakers played. He had grown up idolizing Magic Johnson and hating Larry Bird. He could not have imagined how his loyalties would change during 15 years as a Celtic, and that his preference ultimately would be to return home to play for the Lakers’ nearest enemy.

There was a time, three decades ago, when pro basketball was saved by the rivalry of Boston and Los Angeles. Pierce has grown up to straddle the NBA’s dueling capitals.

“I’m trying to cement my legacy in both,” he says. “If I could win the first Clippers’ championship here, that would be pretty much storybook.”

***

No. 2: Harden beats Curry After months of discussion and debate, Stephen Curry ran away with the 2015 NBA Most Valuable Player Award, as voted on by NBA media. But last night on the first annual NBA Player’s Association “Players’ Awards,” the voting shook out differently. As Jonathan Feigan writes in the Houston Chronicle, the players voted for James Harden over Curry as the NBA Players’ Choice MVP

Following a season in which Curry won nearly everything there was to win, Harden was the choice of NBA players as the winner of the first NBA Players Choice Award for MVP announced on Tuesday, edging Curry, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook.

Though other details about the voting were not released, Harden was said on the tape-delayed BET broadcast to have won by one vote.

“I want to thank God, thank my mom, my family and friends for all the support, the continuous support,” Harden said. “I want to thank BET for this beautiful event. To the NBA Players Association, (executive director) Michele Roberts for giving players a voice to speak their minds, and then just the players, the peers, I appreciate this vote. It means a lot and I’m really thankful for it.”

Curry was the NBA’s official regular-season Most Valuable Player award, taking 100 of the 130 first-place media votes, with Harden second with 25 first-place votes. Curry defeated Harden’s Rockets in the Western Conference Finals and helped lead the Golden State Warriors to the NBA championship. But Harden’s selection was surprising because of the results when many of the other award winners were announced.

Curry had been named the league’s ‘Top Clutch Performer,’ taking the award over Harden, James and Westbrook. He had also made the winner of the ‘Hardest to Guard Award,’ winning over Harden, James and Westbrook.

***

No. 3: Seth Curry gets crowned Stephen Curry was a lottery pick who worked his way into becoming the NBA MVP. His younger brother, Seth Curry, has had a more circuitous route, spending most of his pro career bouncing around the D-League. Yet in the recently finished Samsung NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, Seth looked like Steph, averaging 24.3 ppg for the New Orleans Pelicans summer squad. His big performance was rewarded yesterday, when Seth Curry inked a two-year deal with the Sacramento Kings

The Kings will look for perimeter shooting from the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Curry.

After leaving Duke in 2013, Curry wasn’t drafted. He has spent most of his pro career in the NBA Development League, where he has been an All-Star twice. He has appeared in four NBA games: one with Memphis and one with Cleveland in 2013-14 and two with Phoenix last season. He had 10-day contracts with those teams.

Curry is the second player to strike a deal with the Kings since the end of summer league. On Monday, the Kings and forward Quincy Acy agreed to a two-year contract with a second-year player option.

Acy played with the Kings during the 2013-14 season after coming from Toronto in the Rudy Gay trade. The Kings dealt him to New York last August, and he averaged 5.9 points and 4.4 rebounds in 68 games with the Knicks.

The Kings will have 13 players on guaranteed contracts once the additions of Curry, Acy and Caron Butler become official. Eric Moreland’s deal becomes guaranteed Aug. 1. Second-year guard David Stockton’s contract does not become guaranteed unless he is on the Kings’ roster after Jan. 10.

***

No. 4: Report: Players to study healthcare for retired players At a recent meeting of the NBA Player’s Association, the executive committee has decided to set aside some money as they study a plan to provide healthcare to retired players. As Ken Berger writes for CBS Sports, there are no concrete plans, but the players are interested in studying the idea

At its summer meeting in Las Vegas on Monday, union leaders agreed that they liked the concept of funding retired players’ medical costs, but no vote was taken on whether to go forward with the plan. The executive committee, led by president Chris Paul of the Clippers, voted to set aside an undisclosed sum of the shortfall check the union is due to receive from the NBA to fund the initiative if it is acted upon.

The issue will be discussed further at the union’s All-Star meeting in Toronto.

Since the players’ negotiated salaries for the 2014-15 season came in below their 50-51 percent negotiated guarantee, the union will receive the entire escrow fund of approximately $200 million plus the amount of the shortfall — estimated to be $57 million, according to a league source. The committee did not vote on how to divide the shortfall money — evenly among all the players or prorated based on their salaries, sources said.

It is expected that the players also will receive shortfall checks after the next two seasons as league revenues continue to rise higher than expected. With the infusion of the NBA’s $24 billion TV deal beginning in 2016, commissioner Adam Silver said last week that the amount of the shortfall due the players in 2017 could approach $500 million.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: New Wizards signee Jared Dudley will miss 3-4 months following back surgery … The Pelicans have added veteran leadership by signing Kendrick Perkins to a one-year deal … The Hornets have reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with former UNC star Tyler Hansbrough … The Rockets have re-signed K.J. McDaniels … The Celtics signed second-round pick Jordan Mickey to a four-year dealBaron Davis is trying to launch an NBA comeback

Report: Hansbrough, Hornets agree to terms



VIDEO: Latest news around the NBA

Maybe familiar surroundings will provide the boost that Tyler Hansbrough‘s NBA career seems to need.

Hansbrough, a four-year star at the University of North Carolina, agreed to terms to play for the Charlotte Hornets in 2015-16, according to the Charlotte Observer‘s Rick Bonnell.

Hansbrough, known for his “motor,” his intensity and his physical play, hasn’t approached the status he enjoyed as a Tar Heels player in six NBA seasons. He has averaged 7.2 points and 4.5 rebounds in 17.9 minutes with Indiana and Toronto — his best season coming in 2010-11 (11.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 21.9 mpg). The Pacers selected Hansbrough with the No. 13 pick in the 2009 draft after he averaged 20.2 points and 8.6 rebounds across four UNC seasons.

Report: Seth Curry to join Kings


VIDEO: Seth Curry joins The Starters

Given Seth Curry‘s performance in the just-concluded Las Vegas Summer League – he was, after all, the leading scorer among draft picks, developing players and hopefuls – it’s no surprise that he might land himself a job offer, maybe even a contract.

What was a mild surprise was the fact that it came from an unexpected team, according to Yahoo Sports:

Curry — the brother of NBA Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry – averaged 24.3 points in Vegas, made the All-NBA Summer League First Team, and seemed to be playing for precisely the right squad: New Orleans. The Pelicans will be coached this season by Alvin Gentry, who served as an offensive coordinator of sorts on Steve Kerr‘s staff with Golden State. That’s the system in which his big bro thrived, leading our own Shaun Powell not only to write about their fit but to speculate on the prospect of Seth joining the Pelicans for training camp in October.

By heading to Sacramento, the younger of the two Currys will get the chance to build on his meager NBA experience – just four games and 21 minutes the past two seasons, split between Memphis (1 appearance), Cleveland (1) and Phoenix (2). He also will be in the same division and in close proximity to Stephen, about 85 miles away in Oakland (in 2013-14, Seth played the first of his two D League seasons in Santa Cruz, about 70 miles south of the Warriors’ facility).

More important, Seth Curry will get a chance to compete for playing time in a Kings backcourt that includes Darren Collison, Rajon Rondo, Ben McLeMore and Marco Belinelli – without, apparently, the make-good pressure to survive a camp cutdown.

Morning Shootaround — July 21


VIDEO: Becky Hammon, Spurs win Summer League championship

NEWS OF THE MORNING

The Spurs keep winning | Cavs, Smith meeting this week | Lawson gives Rockets another dimension | Paul Pierce is coming home

No. 1: The Spurs keep winning The San Antonio Spurs have set up a modern-day NBA dynasty, and manage to continually contend the last few decades. This summer has been no different, as the Spurs signed LaMarcus Aldridge and David West in free agency, and then yesterday their Summer League team, coached by Spurs assistant Becky Hammon, knocked off the Phoenix Suns to win the Las Vegas Summer League. As our John Schuhmann writes, the basketball may not always be great at Summer League, but you always get good stories

First, there was Becky Hammon, the first ever female Summer League head coach, leading her team to a 6-1 record and the title her in Las Vegas. A year ago, she was playing for the San Antonio Stars. And already, she’s got some head coaching experience.

“I’m just trying to progress as a coach,” Hammon said about her 10 days in Las Vegas. “It was eye-opening in a lot of different areas for me, just how much my mind was reeling during timeouts.”

But Hammon clearly wasn’t reserved in her new role. She took charge in the huddles and gave the refs the business when a call didn’t go her way.

“It was just a great learning process for me,” she said. “And the guys had to take my mistakes – and I made plenty – and we just kept hanging together as a group.”

A big part of that group and another great story was Jonathon Simmons, who was voted the championship game MVP after scoring 23 points on 7-for-14 shooting.

Simmons played at two different junior colleges before finishing his college career at the University of Houston. He played a season in the ABL and then made the Spurs’ D-League team through an open tryout two years ago.

After playing three games for the Brooklyn Nets’ Summer League team, the Spurs gave Simmons an NBA contract. He came to Las Vegas and averaged 17.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.7 steals for the Summer Spurs.

“It’s just a blessing,” Simmons told The Starters after the game on Monday. “I didn’t see it coming. I’m still kind of shocked right now. But I’m just ready to get to work.”

***

No. 2: Cavs, Smith meeting this week After going to the Finals with the Cleveland Cavaliers, J.R. Smith opted out of his contract to test the free agency market. And though plenty of money was flying around during the free agency period, Smith’s name was rarely heard. Now, with most of the free agents off the market, Smith remains available and, as he said to Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon, Smith understands that opting out may mean he’ll make less next season

“That’s always part of the gamble of opting out,” Smith told the Northeast Ohio Media Group on Monday at the Four Seasons hotel in Las Vegas, where the NBA players’ union held its summer meeting.

Smith has kept a low profile during the NBA’s free agency period, which is a bad thing for a player who opted out of his contract to seek a raise.

He was the Cavs’ starting shooting guard during the regular season after he was acquired via trade in January, but Smith struggled in the Finals – his last and best chance to increase his earning potential.

Asked if he regretted his decision to decline his contract option, Smith said “Uh, I mean, yes and no.

“No because I’ve gotten offers that I wanted, I mean numbers that I wanted, it’s just different situations,” Smith said. “Right now it’s just a matter of seeing what the Cavs come back to me with. Right now they give me the best opportunity to win.”

Smith’s agent, Leon Rose, did not immediately return a call seeking comment. It is believed Smith was seeking somewhere in the $7 million to $9 million range annually, and he declined to disclose which teams his offers may have come from.

There are only three teams in the NBA that still have the cap space to give him a raise from last year: the Portland Trail Blazers ($16.4 million in cap space); Philadelphia 76ers ($16.3 million); and Indiana Pacers ($11.5 million).

But the Pacers only have the space in theory– a cap snafu with free agent Monta Ellis temporarily voided his free-agent contract. He will sign there and Indiana will be out of cap room.

Smith said he had some “discussions” with the Blazers but they didn’t go anywhere. So if the offers came from organizations outside of Philadelphia, they’re gone.

Smith has always said he wanted to come back to the Cavs, and he reiterated that point on Monday.

“I definitely want to come back to Cleveland,” he said. “The coaches, the team, everything about the situation, it’s perfect for me.”

Asked for the reasons why he does regret his contract decision, he said “just because I would be secure and I would already know I’m where I want to be.

“I wouldn’t have to go through this whole thought process anymore,” he said.

***

No. 3: Lawson gives Rockets another dimension So much of the Houston Rockets’ offense last season ran through James Harden, and understandably so — Harden is one of the NBA’s best creators. But with their trade for Denver’s Ty Lawson, as Jonathan Feigan writes for the Houston Chronicle, the Rockets feel like Lawson provides a new dimension to their offense that will give Harden the help he needs

They knew they needed more, with everyone from star guard James Harden to general manager Daryl Morey pointing to a need to add another playmaker. So when the Rockets on Monday completed their trade for point guard Ty Lawson, Morey did not immediately point to what Lawson has done or could do for the Rockets; he cited the quest that began when the season ended.

“A lot of what we had hoped to accomplish before next season he’s able to do,” Morey said. “He’s another guy that can attack the basket, can shoot, can make plays for others.”

Days after the season ended, Morey precisely described that need. Even then, he knew the Rockets would chase LaMarcus Aldridge, but would be unlikely to land him. He believed the Rockets would keep the bulk of their own free agents. But he knew even with better health and improvement, the Rockets would likely need help in the backcourt.

“Coach (Kevin McHale) feels and I agree, we could use another playmaker on the perimeter,” Morey said then as if he had skipped to the end of the book. “If it is something we can address, we will. Play off the catch playmaking. There are times people are loading up on James. To have a guy that can play off the catch, attack the basket, finish, make a play, that kind of thing. It’s not easy to find.”

The Rockets found that with Lawson, needing to give up only spare parts and a protected first-round pick because Lawson’s trade value shrank so greatly with his second DUI arrest of the past six months. Lawson was in rehab when the deal was completed and when he spoke to McHale on Monday.

Morey said the Rockets believed Lawson’s rehabilitation gave them confidence he will overcome issues and move past incidents he acknowledged are the type that “have a history of potentially recurring.” But he described the risk of obtaining Lawson as part of all deal-making. There was no doubt about the void that needed to be filled.

“As we saw, especially when we played tougher teams last year, we struggled against teams that would really load up on James Harden. We feel that will be a lot more difficult for teams to do now.”

“People always used to … say our point guard position was terrible, the worst, whatever. I always pointed out that Pat Beverley was a really good player. He’s just maybe suffering compared to all these perennial All Stars we go against in the West. Obviously, we’re still going to be going against those very difficult All Stars, but Ty Lawson is somebody who gives you a top 10 point guard in the league, somebody who can really help us.”

While Beverley can be the 3-and-D point guard that meshes well with Harden, Lawson is a second ball handler and playmaker needed when teams try to wrap their defense around Harden. With the second unit, he not only can be a needed playmaker, Lawson’s strengths – running an up-tempo offense and playmaking in pick-and-roll – fit well with Corey Brewer on the break and Clint Capela on pick-and-rolls.

“Coach McHale and Ty spoke for quite a while again today,” Morey said. “Coach McHale left that conversation feeling very good. Ty does not come in expecting anything. He just wanted to join a team with James Harden, Dwight Howard and a bunch of other guys he knows on the team like Trevor Ariza. I do think it does work either with him as a starter or off the bench.

“When James is off the floor, I do think Ty is going to add a lot and when James is on the floor it’s going to be much more difficult to double team James off pick-and-rolls when you have a secondary playmaker like Ty on the floor.”

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No. 4: Paul Pierce is heading home It took him nearly two decades, but after 17 seasons in the NBA, Paul Pierce has returned home. After years with the Celtics, Nets and Wizards, the Inglewood, California native signed with the Los Angeles Clippers and, as Gary Washburn writes in the Boston Globe, Pierce is already playing a big part with the Clippers…

“It’s been pretty wild,” Pierce said of convincing Jordan to pass up a max contract offer with the Dallas Mavericks and return to Los Angeles. “I think that whole saga took a form and shade of its own. It got a lot bigger than it was supposed to be.

“I made my decision to be a Clipper. DeAndre [Jordan] changed his mind to be a Clipper.”

After verbally committing to the Mavericks, Jordan had second thoughts and began contacting Clippers players. A contingent of players, led by Pierce, Chris Paul, and Blake Griffin, headed to Houston to speak to Jordan.

“I wasn’t there last year with that team, so I kind of sat in and voiced what I thought but I was on the outside looking in,” Pierce said. “I think guys cleared the air if there was any tension, but I think a lot of the media made it more than it was.”

After spending 15 seasons in Boston, Pierce played one season in Brooklyn after a trade, and then signed last summer with Washington. Despite an impressive playoff performance and raves from teammates, Pierce opted out of his Wizards deal this spring and signed a three-year deal with the Clippers.

“It’s a dream come true to be able to come home, finally,” Pierce said. “I grew up a Laker fan but playing on all the Boston Celtic teams . . . there’s no way I could go there — so this was the next best choice. And it’s always been a dream to play in front of my family and friends.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Stan Van Gundy says Reggie Jackson‘s new contract will be a bargain a few years down the road … Quincy Acy says he’s returning to the Sacramento KingsDamian Lillard released his second song of the summer …