Melo can’t believe Dwyane Wade left Heat for Bulls



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CHICAGO — Like many people around the NBA, New York Knicks Jerseys superstar Carmelo Anthony couldn’t believe that Dwyane Wade actually decided to leave the Miami Heat Jerseys and sign with the Chicago Bulls Jerseys.

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“I was shocked,” Anthony said before Thursday’s Team USA practice at the United Center. “I was shocked more from a standpoint it was just hard to see. It’s hard to see some players in different uniforms and he’s one of those guys who I never thought I would see in a different uniform other than Miami. But it happened, and I got a chance to talk to him and sit down with him and really dig deep about his feelings and what happened. He’s at peace now. And when he’s at peace, I’m at peace with it.”

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Wade surprised many in the league by spurning the Heat to sign a two-year deal with the Bulls earlier this month. Anthony, who was wooed by the Bulls two summers ago but ultimately decided to re-sign with the Knicks cheap jerseys, acknowledged that the free-agency process can be mentally taxing for players.

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Carmelo Anthony, right, can’t believe that Dwyane Wade left the Heat. Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports

“I don’t think the masses really understand how difficult those decisions are,” Anthony said. “And what goes into those decisions. And as athletes what’s going through our mind during those decisions. A lot of people think we can just wake up and we can just make those decisions — it’s not that easy.”

Anthony’s comments come just a few weeks after two of the most successful Bulls in recent memory, Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, landed in New York. Rose was dealt to the Knicks last month. Noah signed as a free agent.

“We love them,” Anthony said. “We love those additions. And we’re looking forward to getting the season going. And I think everybody is excited, the excitement is back. Right now there’s an adjustment on paper wholesale mlb jerseys, but of course we have some work to do putting it all together, making it work. But we’re going to ride the wave of this excitement right now.”

As for a rekindling of a rivalry between the Bulls and Knicks, Anthony said he knows that it’s possible with all the moves both teams have made.

“I know you guys want that,” Anthony said. “I know you’re living for that. But we embrace that. I think as players, as competitors, we embrace all of those challenges and rivalries, that’s what makes the sport great again, so we embrace that.”

Anthony seemed certain that when the schedule comes out, the Bulls and Knicks would be facing off against each other either on opening night or Christmas Day as one of the league’s premiere matchups.

“Oh, they’re waiting for that,” he said. “Might be opening night — one of the two. I guarantee you it’s one of the two.”

Bosh out of All-Star Game due to calf

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TORONTO (AP) — Chris Bosh’s All-Star participation for this year is over, before he ever took the floor in the city where his career began.

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The Miami Heat Jerseys forward has withdrawn from Saturday’s 3-point contest and Sunday’s All-Star Game, citing a strained right calf. Bosh – who will cheap authentic nba jerseys remain in Toronto for the weekend – was replaced on the Eastern Conference roster for Sunday’s game by Atlanta’s Al Horford, chosen by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to fill the vacated spot.

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Portland’s C.J. McCollum will fill Bosh’s spot in the 3-point event, keeping that field at eight as planned.

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”I am honored to be selected to participate in All-Star Weekend festivities and will still be here to support my cheap jerseys fellow East All-Stars,” Bosh said in a statement released through the Heat. ”But I will also use this weekend to try to heal and focus on the second half of the Heat season.”

Bosh’s injury and Horford’s addition to the roster were first reported by Yahoo Sports.

The circumstances of how and when Bosh strained his calf were not made clear. He worked out Wednesday night in Miami in preparation for the 3-point contest, flew to Toronto on Thursday and was in the audience at the NBA All-Star Technology Summit on Friday morning before joining the other East All-Star selections for interview sessions cheap authentic nba jerseys with reporters. View gallery MIAMI, FL – FEBRUARY 9: Chris Bosh #1 of the Miami Heat Jerseys warms up before the game against the San Ant …

Bosh did not mention the injury in that media day availability, nor in an subsequent brief interview with The Associated Press.

”I’m just happy to be here for myself and my family, to accomplish some things and some goals that I said I was going to do,” Bosh told AP when asked what reaction he expected wholesale nba jerseys from fans in Toronto, where he played his first seven pro seasons. ”It’s really cool to actually do them. It does have significance being here and being able to just really take in the experience and be an All-Star again in the city where I pretty much grew up.”

About four hours later, the NBA and the Heat announced Bosh wouldn’t play.

The timing of the injury, and that it’s a calf problem, have eerie similarities to the scare Bosh went through last season.

Shortly after the 2015 All-Star Game in New York, Bosh was diagnosed with a blood clot on his lung – which, he believes, formed when he was kicked in the calf during a game weeks earlier. The calf was a problem for several games, but the blood clot was the far more daunting challenge and forced him out of the second half of the season.Sports & RecreationChris BoshMiami Heat JerseysNBA

Report: Bosh resumes taking blood thinners

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MIAMI (AP) — Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat Jerseys has resumed taking blood thinners to treat a blood clot in his leg, said a person with knowledge of the situation.

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Bosh began the new medication regimen with hopes that he can resume playing this season, the person told The Associated Press on Tuesday. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because neither the team nor Bosh has revealed anything publicly.

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Typically athletes in contact sports are discouraged from playing while taking blood-thinning medication. It’s unclear when Bosh started taking the medication.

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“I hate it for him,” said NASCAR driver Brian Vickers, who like Bosh is an endorser of the blood-thinning medication Xarelto. “I would tell him the same thing again, just don’t give up. Just keep fighting. Find a solution and keep going.”

Bosh missed the final 30 games of last season because a blood clot was found on one of his lungs. Given that Bosh is considering playing again this season, or at least trying to find a way to get back on the floor, strongly suggests that this situation is not as serious as what he faced last year – when returning was not even a slim option.

Bosh is Miami’s leading scorer at 19.1 points per game this season. He said over the weekend in Toronto that he was optimistic about cheap nba jerseys for sale playing again this season.

Bosh pulled out of the All-Star Game and the 3-point contest over the weekend because of what he and the Heat described as a calf strain. He was shut down at the All-Star break last season because a blood clot had found its way to one of his lungs, and that issue is something that Bosh believes started as a calf problem.

“I couldn’t walk anywhere,” Bosh said in September, describing how the clot affected him. “I was in too much pain.”

He went to Toronto expecting to participate in All-Star weekend, then was examined there – presumably because of the calf pain – and the NBA subsequently announced on Friday afternoon that Bosh was withdrawing from the game and the 3-point event. Bosh remained in Toronto to cheer on his Eastern Conference teammates, then returned to Miami and met with team medical personnel Monday.

Bosh has taken precautions over the last year to try and prevent the recurrence of a clot, including partnering with Janssen Pharmaceuticals – Xarelto’s maker – to educate people about the risks. After the clot last season cheap nba jerseys for sale was found, Bosh started taking that blood thinner for several months as part of his recovery. Trending

Deng finds his place in new-look Heat offense

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Luol Deng is not LeBron James and never will be. But now, more than he’s ever been since replacing James at small forward for cheap nba jerseys free shipping the Miami Heat Jerseys, Luol Deng is Luol Deng. And that’s a big reason why the Miami Heat Jerseys have played their best basketball of the last two years over the last couple of months.

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When the Heat signed Deng in the summer of 2014, they didn’t know how well he’d fit in with what they do. They just knew that they needed a competent small forward to replace the four-time MVP.

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Deng wasn’t a square peg in a round hole by any means and his true shooting percentage in 2014-15 (56.1 percent) was a career high. But the Heat played slow and deliberate and weren’t getting the best of their new small forward. And both Deng and the Heat struggled after the All-Star break, when Chris Bosh was lost to a blood clot issue, and Miami fell into the Lottery.

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This season, Deng took another step backward. He shot 42 percent and was averaging less than 10 points per game through mid-January. The Heat continued to play slow and deliberate and their starting lineup, which looked great on paper, struggled offensively.

In the first game after the All-Star break, Bosh (a new blood clot issue), Dwyane Wade (knee soreness) and Hassan Whiteside (suspension) were all out. The Heat were in Atlanta, playing the best defensive team in the Eastern Conference. It looked like a sure loss, but the Heat scored 115 points, led by 31 from Deng. He shot 11-for-17, grabbed 11 rebounds and was a plus-16 in a four-point win.

Deng found himself and the Heat found a new way to play. From then on, they picked up the pace, spread the floor, and played less deliberately. They were the most improved offensive team after the All-Star break, with Deng averaging 15.2 points (on 48 percent shooting) and 8.1 rebounds, up from 10.6 (on 43 percent) and 4.7 before the break. The Heat scored an anemic 99.4 points per 100 possessions and were a minus-118 with Deng on the floor before the break, but scored 111.0 and were a plus-144 with him on the floor after it.

“I’ve always said I’m better on the move,” Deng said Monday, after scoring a game-high 31 points in the Heat’s Game 1 win over the Charlotte Hornets Jerseys. “I’m better using my IQ. I don’t really try to play with the ball much. The way we play now, faster, being able to cut more and run into screens, it just allows me to use my basketball IQ.”

The first possession of the fourth quarter of Game 1 illustrates exactly what Deng is talking about. He started on the right side of the floor, circled around to the left side, came off a pin-down screen from Amar’e Stoudemire, got the ball to Stoudemire in the post, went to screen away, flared to the top of the key, got the ball back, pump-faked a recovering Frank Kaminsky, pulled up for an elbow jumper, drew the foul and hit the shot.

Deng On The Move

Luol Deng’s constant motion through this offensive play allows him to get free for the basket and-one.

Deng’s patience, as well him exercising his player option last summer and stay in Miami, has paid off. He knew he could bring more to the table earlier in his Heat career, but he had to wait his turn and find his spots.

“It was never me not being able to do certain things,” he said. “It was just everybody had to sacrifice. And I think I had a really hard time changing my game. I really wasn’t a spot-up shooter in Chicago.

“From the start, talking to [Heat coach Erik Spoelstra] and [team president Pat Riley], we wanted to find ways to get me moving. But it’s also about the personnel and who’s on the floor. When you got Hall-of-Famers, that’s our strength and that’s what we were using. And even Goran [Dragic] suffered from that. It’s really looking at what’s best for the team and that’s what we were going with.”

Spoelstra knew that both Deng and Dragic would be more comfortable in a more open offense. But Wade and Bosh were the horses that he’s been riding for a long time. So the new guys had to take a backseat.

It took us a while to get to know each other and there were some bumps in the road. Through all of that, we’ve grown a lot closer. And I do lean on him quite a bit now. I really enjoy working with Lu and I enjoy watching him compete.

– Miami Heat Jerseys coach Erik Spoelstra, on Luol Deng

“Lu is somebody who deeply analyzes the game and he’s a task-oriented guy,” Spoelstra said. “So he really wants to do things right and fill a role.

“That group had to play slow, more methodical. What it was was a defensive lineup and he embraced it. Was it exactly what everybody wanted out of that? Sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. But then, can you still make an impact to winning. And he’s always been committed to that.”

For Spoelstra, Deng’s play over the last couple of months, as well as the bigger role that he’s taken in the locker room, is a product of a player-coach relationship that took some work, but has flourished with time.

“It took us a while to get to know each other and there were some bumps in the road,” Spoelstra said. “Through all of that, we’ve grown a lot closer. And I do lean on him quite a bit now.

“I really enjoy working with Lu and I enjoy watching him compete. I had a lot of respect for him before. Now, it’s even more. Some of the bumps that we’ve gone through, our relationship has come out better for it.”

Deng will have another decision to make this summer, when he and three other Miami starters are all free agents. He has certainly raised his value with the way he’s played as a small-ball power forward over the last couple of months. More important is that he’s given the Heat a chance to advance in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

“Lu is now being able to show his versatility,” Spoelstra said. “He’s been very successful on playoff teams that were half-court, defensive-oriented, mentally tough teams. He had great success in that kind of style and I think he’s showing his versatility that he can play a different kind of style as well.

“To be able to do that, ultimately, it says that you’re a winning player, to do what’s necessary to adapt and find a way to impact winning. And I think that’s what defines Lu more than anything else.”

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. Trending

Rookie big men netting solid returns on their vast potential

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The regular season is barely a week past the All-Star break, not close to done, and yet the discussion is mid-April closed.

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The rookie big men of 2015-16 who were expected at the start of the season to be unusually good, in a way a crop of newly arrived centers and power forwards haven’t been for years, have been that good. So good, in fact, that it’s impossible to imagine anything happening in the final 30 percent of the regular season to change that opinion.

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It’s late February, and it’s over.

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The point could be made that the bigs have actually exceeded collective expectations because the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns, while projected by most front offices to eventually become the best player in the Draft, has had a far greater immediate impact than imagined. General managers picked him to finish second for Kia Rookie of the Year, behind Jahlil Okafor of the Philadelphia 76ers, and yet here is Towns threatening to turn the race into a runaway.

Only one non-point guard or wing has won the award in the last seven years, Blake Griffin in 2010-11. The top three finishers when ballots are submitted in April could be cheap nba basketball jerseys a center (Towns), a power forward (Kristaps Porzingis) and a center (Okafor). Indiana Pacers power forward Myles Turner, meanwhile, has been one of the best rookies since the calendar turned to 2016. Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic has earned a spot among the best newcomers despite little preseason buzz because he was drafted in 2014, and as the No. 41 pick at that.

Four months into the season, everything — and nothing — has changed. The rookies have stepped far into their new world by the latest position-by-position breakdown, although with difficulty in some cases, and the bigs have collectively performed at a high level. As expected.

Point guards

NBA Rooks: D’Angelo Russell

As All-Star Weekend approaches, BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge participant D’Angelo Russell of the Lakers talks about the learning curve of a rookie point guard.

1. D’Angelo Russell, Los Angeles Lakers

2. Cameron Payne, Oklahoma City Thunder

3. Emmanuel Mudiay, Denver Nuggets

4. T.J. McConnell, Philadelphia 76ers

5. Jerian Grant, New York Knicks

Preseason ranking: Mudiay, Russell, Grant, Payne, Delon Wright.

Jan. 1 ranking: Russell, McConnell, Mudiay, Raul Neto, Grant.

Summary: Although still one of the weaker positions of the first-year class, with only Russell in the top 10 of the latest Rookie Ladder, point guard has improved greatly in the last month with Payne and Mudiay playing much better. With Russell in the midst of his best month, shooting well and taking care of the ball better than any time in the first half of the season, and with McConnell continuing to offer solid play under the radar in Philly, there is suddenly decent depth. Not enough that it’s a tough cut to leave someone off the first five, but definitely forward progress.

Shooting guards

Devin Booker Finds His Shot

Check out rookie Devin Booker getting acclimated to the NBA 3-point line this season!

1. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns

2. Jonathon Simmons, San Antonio Spurs

3. Mario Hezonja, Orlando Magic Jerseys

4. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Brooklyn Nets

5. Lamar Patterson, Atlanta Hawks Jerseys

Preseason ranking: Hezonja, Booker, Rashad Vaughn, Norman Powell, Pat Connaughton.

Jan. 1 ranking: Hollis-Jefferson Booker, Hezonja, Patterson, R.J. Hunter.

Summary: Hollis-Jefferson was the easy leader in the first in-season progress report, and then he got hurt. Booker is the clear call in the update just after the All-Star break, and now he is slumping. Shooting guard is every bit the soft spot it was at the start of the season. It may not turn out that way when the Draft class as a whole is re-evaluated in three or five years — Hezonja could still develop into a star, Hollis-Jefferson could still become a steal as the No. 23 pick, Booker could have a long career tormenting defenses from the 3-point line — but 2015-16 has been an undeniably a slow start for this position. It helps, a lot, that Simmons has turned into a tremendous success story by going from an NBA D-League open tryout to getting about 14 minutes a game for the second-best team in the league. Hollis-Jefferson’s healthy return from an ankle injury would be another plus.

Small forwards

NBA Rooks: Justise Winslow

10th overall pick Justise Winslow takes stock of his season so far, including how he’s benefitted from his relationships with Dwyane Wade and Head Coach Erik Spoelstra.

1. Justise Winslow, Miami Heat Jerseys

2. Stanley Johnson, Detroit Pistons

3. Kelly Oubre, Washington Wizards Jerseys

4. Justin Anderson, Dallas Mavericks

5. Anthony Brown, Los Angeles Lakers

Preseason ranking: Johnson, Winslow, Anderson, Oubre, Hollis-Jefferson.

Jan. 1 ranking: Winslow, Johnson, Oubre, Simmons, Anderson.

Summary: This could turn out to be the start of years of the Winslow-Johnson comparison — small forwards who will get real minutes at other positions, one-and-done college players, potential physical forces on defense, each needing to prove they can make shots, and off the board about the same time in June 2015. (Johnson went No. 8 and Winslow went No. 10.) They have been 1-2 from the beginning, in some order, and will finish the season that way barring a surprise. Oubre, with some of the similar background as the No. 15 selection, has had some encouraging moments and could join the conversation in later years. For now, though, only playing about 11 minutes a game means a significant gap from the lead pack.

Power forwards

Inside Stuff: Towns and Porzingis at All-Star

Inside Stuff goes behind the scenes with Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis as the rookies experience their first All-Star Weekend.

1. Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks

2. Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers

3. Bobby Portis, Chicago Bulls

4. Larry Nance Jr., Los Angeles Lakers

5. Frank Kaminsky, Charlotte Hornets Jerseys

Preseason ranking: Porzingis, Turner, Willie Cauley-Stein, Kaminsky, Portis.

Jan. 1 ranking: Porzingis, Kaminsky, Nemanja Bjelica, Nance, Richaun Holmes.

Summary: A clear top two, then a bit of a drop to No. 3, then a big drop. But there has been enough production in that third group for the close call of four players with a case for the final two spots — Nance Jr., Kaminsky, Holmes and Lyles. Each has contributed and each has shown the ability to handle prominent roles, Lyles and Kaminsky for potential playoff teams. That’s good depth for a position that has offered pleasant surprises all along, especially with Holmes, Nance and Bjeclia coming from far back of the pack to rank among the best power forwards.

Centers

Kia Awards: Karl-Anthony Towns

Timberwolves rookie Karl-Anthony Towns is averaging 22.2 points and 12.4 rebounds per game in February.

1. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves

2. Jahlil Okafor, Philadelphia 76ers

3. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

4. Willie Cauley-Stein, Sacramento Kings

5. Boban Marjanovich, San Antonio Spurs

Preseason ranking: Okafor, Towns, Jokic, Walter Tavares, Joshua Smith.

Jan. 1 ranking: Towns, Okafor, Jokic, Cauley-Stein, Marjanovich.

Summary: There is no better sign of the strength of the position than Cauley-Stein, a starter having a good season as the first installment to what should be a long career, as the fourth-best center. While Towns took control of the top spot early, for the entire Rookie of the Year race as well as the position breakdowns, the next three have been far more than afterthoughts. All four were in the top 10 of the Rookie Ladder as recently as Feb. 10, just before the All-Star break, and all four could be there at the end amid the possibility of a Cauley-Stein return. Offense will generate most of the attention, especially with Towns and Okafor plus the massive potential there for Porzingis, but there is a lot of defense on this list.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. Trending

Friday’s showcase lacking in newbies this time around

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Rosters for the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge were announced last week for the game that will be played Friday night in Toronto as part of All-Star weekend, a game designed to spotlight the best young players of the game.

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In other news, it won’t.

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Any opportunity to include the assistant coaches’ votes as part of getting a read on the top rookies in 2015-16 disappeared with the return of the 2015 format of the United States against the World. To fill out ballots, teams had to include four guards, four frontcourt players and two at either spot with a minimum of three rookies and three second-year players. All of that combined to make selections internationally weird.

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Only three rookies made the U.S. squad: Jahlil Okafor, D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns mostly because of the number of deserving candidates in their sophomore season rounded out the roster. The World squad, on the other hand, included six newcomers — Mario Hezonja, Nikola Jokic, Emmanuel Mudiay, Raul Neto, Kristaps Porzingis and Trey Lyles as an injury replacement for Nikola Mirotic — even though some would have trouble getting into the conversation for the 15 best rookies. (Nothing personal, Neto.)

The vote became a numbers game and a balancing act, not another layer to be factored in. Maybe guard Russell making the U.S. roster and forward Justise Winslow was something to be put in The Ladder equation, maybe it was a position thing.

The final Ladder heading into the All-Star break, meanwhile:

1. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves

Last week’s ranking: No. 1

Towns Dominates Bulls

Karl-Anthony Towns scores 26 points with 17 rebounds as the Timberwolves surge past the Bulls on Saturday Night.

Towns has started at power forward and back at center, his original position, with Nikola Pekovic sidelined the last four games by a foot injury, but it doesn’t make a difference. The rebounding tear has reached eight consecutive games in double digits, with particularly impressive numbers recently on the offensive boards. Towns is at 12.5 in that stretch and 10.1 overall, No. 10 in the league. Only one Rookie of the Year in the last 10 seasons has averaged double figures, Blake Griffin with 12.1 in 2010-11.

2. Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks Jerseys

Last week’s ranking: No. 2

Dunk of the Night: Kristaps Porzingis

Kristaps Porzingis puts his defender in the spin cycle before soaring to the basket for the slam.

While interim coach Kurt Rambis, himself a former power forward, obviously understands Porzingis’ importance this season and especially to the future of the franchise, a coaching change always means uncertainty for a lot of players on their role and minutes. Porzingis was at 28.2 minutes per game at the time of Derek Fisher’s firing and 31.1. the last four. The No. 4 pick still had yet to recapture the rebounding numbers from November, but remained a presence as a shot blocker, all the way to No. 1 in the class and No. 7 in the league.

3. Jahlil Okafor5, Philadelphia 76ers Jerseys

Last week’s ranking: No. 3

Okafor Shines vs. Nets

Jahlil Okafor scores 22 points and grabs 17 rebounds as the Sixers defeat the Nets 103-98.

The minutes are dropping slightly, though with a steady decline in a very bad trend, and the scoring opportunities are dropping a lot. Okafor has gone from 16.3 shots a game in November to 15.2 in December to 13.0 in January before an encouraging, if slight, change of direction to 13.8 the first four games of February. At 13.8 points this month, and with Towns surging on offense, Okafor is in danger of not holding the top spot for the rookie scoring lead since the early days of the season. He is at 17.0, Towns at 16.7.

4. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

Last week’s ranking: No. 4

Jokic has consistently been contributing three or four assists a game, small input in a lot of cases but noteworthy for centers and especially meaningful during a recent shooting slump. He is tied for seventh in the class as the highest-ranking non-point guard. If the 1.9 per outing holds, he will become just the sixth rookie center in the last 16 years to average at least 1.7 assists, joining the good company of Pau Gasol, DeMarcus Cousins, Andrew Bogut, Marc Gasol and Yao Ming.

5. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns

Last week’s ranking: No. 6

Booker Shows His Court Vision

On the break, Devin Booker throws the behind the back pass to P.J. Tucker for the reverse layup.

It took until just before the All-Star break, but Booker has finally reached the qualifying minimum to be ranked among the league leaders in 3-point shooting. He is 17th, in addition to second among rookies and along with fast-charging Cameron Payne of the Thunder the only first-year player better than 40 percent. That is part of his six straight games with at least 15 points before the streak ended Monday, pushing Booker to 10.6 overall (sixth in the class). Booker didn’t get picked for the Rising Stars game, but will be in Toronto for the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest on Saturday night.

6. Justise Winslow, Miami Heat Jerseys

Last week’s ranking: No. 5

Winslow’s Big Block

Justise Winslow with a wonderful block during the second quarter.

The drop was more the result of Booker’s continued surge than anything Winslow did wrong. If anything, he has been solidifying his standing lately as one of the top rookies with the improved offense that has reached 56.8 percent from the field the last eight appearances, along with the big contribution of 7.9 rebounds in the same time. Winslow does not have a big scoring role with the Heat, but the shooting trend is encouraging as a complement to the defense that has been very good all season.

7. D’Angelo Russell, Los Angeles Lakers

Last week’s ranking: No. 7

Russell Finds Black

D’Angelo Russell finds Tarik Black with the bounce pass for the big-time slam.

Talk about a nice couple weeks. The seal of approval with the Rising Stars vote has been coupled with shooting 44.4 percent the last five games, a small sample size but a positive development for someone at 41.5 percent overall. There have also been better moments as a distributor after a lot of struggles the first half of the season. Russell’s new Ladder problem is that his two closest challengers for the spot are playing well enough to pass the Lakers point guard if the encouraging signs do not continue.

8. Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers Jerseys

Last week’s ranking: No. 8

George, Turner Overpower Lakers

Paul George records 21 points and nine rebounds, Myles Turner adds a double-double as the Pacers defeat the Lakers.

Turner has not yet reached the qualifying minimum — appearing in 70 percent of his team’s games — to be ranked among the league leaders in blocks, but his 1.43 an outing would be 18th. And with appearances in just 30 of Indiana’s 52 contests because of the fractured thumb that cost him most December, that status won’t come for at least a few weeks. Turner will have to be satisfied with rising to third among rookies and being one of the best in the league in the category regardless of experience the last three weeks or so.

9. Stanley Johnson, Detroit Pistons Jerseys

Last week’s ranking: No. 9

Johnson Scores Plus the Foul

Off the miss by Jose Calderon, Brandon Jennings outlets to Stanley Johnson who finishes with the shot off the glass plus the foul.

The player who has spent most of his time at small forward and has the physical tools and tenacity at 19 years old to handle real minutes at power forward in small-ball situations is now the starting shooting guard in place of the injured Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The key development remains Johnson and his continued improvements as a shooter. He is at 45.3 percent and 12.4 points the last 11 games, the first extended contribution on offense after previously making his mark on the other side of the ball. The season-long number, though, is still 39.3 percent.

10. Willie Cauley-Stein, Sacramento Kings

Last week’s ranking: No. 10

Willie Cauley-Stein Oop

Rajon Rondo finds Willie Cauley-Stein for the alley-oop.

The Kings’ latest re-emphasis on defense, this time while telling George Karl to take a few steps backward off the plank, creates more of an opportunity than before for Cauley-Stein. And he had a big role before — 20.5 minutes a game overall but 25.6 the last five. He is fourth among rookies in blocks, sixth in wholesale basketball jerseys rebounding, first in field-goal percentage and defending. Watch the minutes the first couple weeks back from the All-Star break. This is his chance.

Dropped out: none.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. Trending

Simmons takes humbling path to earn role with Spurs

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He attended two junior colleges, the University of Houston for one season, went undrafted in 2012 and tried the American Basketball League before it folded. After all that, Jonathan Simmons was so not a NBA prospect that a year later, he was among the herd of NBA D-League hopefuls with, let’s face it, no real hope, who spent $150 for the privilege of being told to go away by the Austin Toros (the San Antonio Spurs Jerseys’ D-League affiliate).

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He couldn’t get a Summer League invite. He had to pay a minor-league team to watch him in a workout.

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The small detail is that that Simmons’ agent at the time put up the D-League entry fee, but same difference: Simmons left his home in Houston and drove roughly 175 miles west to Austin in 2013 because he was pretty much out of chances. If he couldn’t stand out in an open tryout where the majority of players, by his estimation, couldn’t dribble or pass and could barely shoot, he knew it was time to think hard about a career change.

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He stood out. Rather than being passed over again, Simmons made the Toros for 2013-14, and again in 2014-15. He was playing a lot, defending and shooting with range.

And then he really stood out.

Simmons — undrafted, overlooked, the guy who had to pay a minor-league team to give him a chance — has become the guy who is being paid by a major-league team this season. Not just any team either — the Spurs, the ultimate in stature.

An NBA rookie after two seasons in the D-League, he’s averaging 14.3 minutes in 51 games, a decent role for a newcomer on a team loaded with veterans and on pace for 69 wins. He is second in the class in defensive rating, seventh in field-goal percentage and first in long shots who paid out.

Simmons looks around the locker room and still can’t believe this is happening — “I do every day,” he said — and yet it is. He bought his way into the gym that day in Austin, but earned his way into NBA minutes.

“I definitely do” appreciate being in the league more than most players, he said.

“It took some perseverance to get here. With that being said it’s like you have no choice but to be humble about it and to appreciate every part of it and not take one minute for granted.”

One of the success stories of the season, for any player regardless of experience and for any team, has come close to being ranked among the top 10 rookies, only to be held back by the lack of a prominent role. Averaging more than 15 minutes just once in a month (January) that included at least 10 appearances has been enough of a hit to so far keep him off The Ladder that is down to the final few installments.

1. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves

Last week’s ranking: No. 1

Towns Leads Wolves To Win

Karl-Anthony Towns scores 27 points and grabs 10 rebounds as the Timberwolves defeat the Wizards 132-129 in double overtime.

We have reached the point where it would be impossible to justify voting for anyone else for Kia Rookie of the Year. The leading contender from the opening month and the clear leader since about midseason has only one remaining challenge: whether he will be the unanimous winner of the award. The finishing kick to make it happen has included 22.3 points, 10.5 rebounds and 58.5-percent shooting in March, on pace to be his best full month for scoring and field-goal percentage.

2. Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks Jerseys

Last week’s ranking: No. 2

Porzingis’ Behind-The-Back Pass

Kristaps Porzingis passes behind his back to find Robin Lopez for the dunk.

He needed to find solid ground on offense, and got some. Porzingis is at 19.3 points, 47.7 percent from the field and 37 percent on 3-pointers the last six games. That span also included three blocks on three occasions and two on another, putting him in good position to hold off Towns for No. 1 in the category among rookies, an accomplishment in a season when two first-year players may finish among the top 10 of the entire league. Porzingis is currently seventh, Towns ninth.

3. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

Last week’s ranking: No. 3

Jokic Finds Faried

Nikola Jokic dishes to Kenneth Faried for the two-handed jam.

Jokic took advantage of the knee injury that ended Jahlil Okafor’s season early to move into third place with 14 double-doubles, behind only Towns and Porzingis, even while averaging a modest 20.9 minutes. The workload has increased to 25.1 minutes in March, mostly because of the defense and rebounding that has reached 8.5 boards this month, including eight, nine, 12, eight, four and 14 the last six appearances. That has moved Jokic to 6.6 overall, fourth in the class with a slight chance of climbing one spot to Okafor’s 7.0 but no real risk of being passed by Myles Turner (5.4). “He’s skilled,” one scout said. “Very skilled.”

4. Justise Winslow, Miami Heat Jerseys

Last week’s ranking: No. 5

Justise’s Strong And-1

On the break, Justise Winslow takes it to the hole, draws the foul and hits the running floater.

He is shooting 47.3 percent on 6.6 attempts per game in March in what will be a third consecutive month of improved shooting, moving Winslow at 43.2 percent overall. It’s far from a big area of impact, but the push toward respectability in that area is an important sign of progress in developing into more than a one-way player capable of helping only on defense. The team in a tight race in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff pack is sold — the Heat are playing him 30.5 minutes overall in March and nine in the fourth quarter, more than any rookie.

5. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns

Last week’s ranking: No. 8

Booker Shines In Sacramento

Devin Booker leads the Suns scoring 26 points versus the Kings.

He is averaging 22.7 points per game in March even while struggling behind the arc (28.0 percent) after breaking 50 percent in two previous full months. Imagine the scoring numbers with Booker anywhere close to his past play there. As it is, he has at least 26 points in three of the last four games and seven of his last 14. Now to see if it’s enough to halt Towns’ season-long strangle hold on Rookie of the Month in the West.

6. D’Angelo Russell, Los Angeles Lakers

Last week’s ranking: No. 4

Russell’s Fiery Feed

D’angelo Russell fires the bounce pass ahead of the defense to Larry Nance Jr. for the big-time flush.

The January and February that showed why the Lakers took him second have been replaced by the offensive struggles of March that has been too much of a reminder of the slow start the first half of the season. Russell is shooting 40.2 percent this month with only nine more assists (42) than turnovers (33) in 14 games. He is at 34.9 percent the last five games with six assists total and has shot 25 percent or worse in four of the last eight.

7. Jahlil Okafor, Philadelphia 76ers Jerseys

Last week’s ranking: No. 6

Towns (18.3 points cheap nba jerseys per game) has pulled away enough to essentially end the possibility that Okafor (17.5) could still finish first in the class in scoring, with no chance that Porzingis (14.3) will catch Okafor for second. By playing 53 games before being sidelined by a knee injury, Okafor fail to reach the qualifying minimum of 62 appearances and will not make the final league-wide scoring rankings. He is currently 33rd.

8. Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers Jerseys

Last week’s ranking: No. 7

Kia Awards: Myles Turner

Myles Turner is a nominee for the Kia Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month.

He is third among rookies in blocks, sixth in rebounding, eighth in shooting and seventh among rookies in scoring. The follow-up to winning Rookie of the Month in the East for February has been a slight struggle, though, with drops from 29.8 to 25.1 in minutes, 51.0 to 41.7 in shooting and 1.8 to 1.4 in blocks. It will be interesting to see whether the minutes continues to decline if the inconsistent production continues as the playoffs near and every outcome has big implications for Indiana’s playoff hopes.

9. Josh Richardson, Miami Heat Jerseys

Last week’s ranking: No. 10

The story keeps getting better. After not playing more than nine games any previous month, after shooting 25 percent in December and 23.5 percent in January, Richardson should be among the contenders for Rookie of the Month for the Eastern Conference. His dream-sequence of a March includes shooting 56.8 percent overall, 63.5 from behind the arc (on 33-for-52 shooting), 29.1 minutes and 12.8 points. Richardson has not only surged to No. 1 in the class in 3-point shooting, his 50.0 for the season leads the pack by a wide margin.

10. Trey Lyles, Utah Jazz

Last week’s ranking: Not ranked

Lyles is on pace for his third consecutive month of 45 percent shooting or better, especially noteworthy because it comes with occasional 3-pointer. The minutes haven’t always been there — 25.1 in January, followed by 10.2 in February and back to 15.8 in March — but the No. 12 pick has shown why many front offices regarded him as such a promising stretch-four prospect. What hasn’t gotten the same attention is that Lyles has also had good moments on defense.

Dropped out: Emmanuel Mudiay (9).

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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