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NBA Daily: ‘Education’ Key to Change for Solomon Hill

In the midst of a country-wide push for social justice reform, Basketball Insiders’ David Yapkowitz and the Atlanta Hawks’ Solomon Hill discuss education as the first step toward real change.

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Mater Dei High School, the well-known private school located in Orange County, has produced its fair share of NCAA Division I and NBA talent. From recent players such as Stanley Johnson, David and Travis Wear and Jamal Sampson, to early ’90s players such as Reggie Geary and LeRon Ellis, Mater Dei has long been a Southern California high school basketball powerhouse.

And, when Solomon Hill first walked into their gym, he immediately understood the advantages many private high schools have.

“That’s one of the biggest gyms I’ve ever been in,” Hill told Basketball Insiders. “That’s an advantage. That’s just their gym, what about their equipment and their facilities? It gives you advantages.”

Hill attended Fairfax High School, a Los Angeles public school and basketball powerhouse in its own right that often squared off against Mater Dei. Growing up in South Central, Los Angeles, Hill normally would have attended Fremont High School on the Eastside but, before he reached his freshman year, Hill’s father enrolled him in a middle school magnet program that enabled him to attend any high school in the Los Angeles area, including Fairfax.

There, Hill played under the legendary Harvey Kitani. One of the most successful high school basketball coaches in the state of California, Kitani has won three Los Angeles City Section Division I titles, four Los Angeles City championships, and two California State championships. He’s also coached for Team USA’s U17 team, served as a McDonalds All-American coach and took part in both LeBron James’ and Chris Paul’s high school training camps.

Hill knew that, although he still was attending a public school, Fairfax gave him an advantage that kids from his home neighborhood didn’t have, especially when it came to his dream of playing in the NBA. Fairfax’s reputation earned them matchups against some of the top high school basketball programs in the country. Hill recalls playing against other future NBA players throughout his high school career.

“The same guys I’m playing against now are the same guys I’ve been going against since high school,” Hill said. “If you wanted to play in [Los Angeles] and you wanted to find success, it was either you go to Fairfax or Westchester. It’s like trying to go to college, it starts when you pick your high school. I’m picking its history, I’m picking its coaching staff, a lot of it was based on what can that school do for me as far as putting me in a position to make it to the NBA.”

When the NBA decided to finish the 2019-20 season back in July in the Orlando bubble, each player was given the opportunity to include a pre-approved slogan or word on the back of their jersey that was supposed to signify a message pertaining to social justice. Hill chose “education” as the word he wanted to display. Thinking back to his high school days and what he saw growing up, he felt education is the starting point to the greater conversation surrounding social justice.

Had he stayed in his home neighborhood and attended Fremont, Hill’s not sure as to where he would’ve ended up, let alone go on to play college basketball and in the NBA.

“Since I was a kid, I’ve been told that part of the American Dream is hard work. That’s what you’re told, no matter what school you go to,” Hill said. “When you work hard, you reap benefits, you’re able to do more. But if you’re not at the right type of school, your life can be drastically different especially if you’re in a certain area. It can almost mean life or death.”

“We’re not talking about the best player at Fremont, you don’t get too far when you have to go to a school like Fremont.”

“But that’s not fair,” Hill said, “that’s the opposite of what the American Dream… education has been something that’s been told to us as far as you get an education, you go to school and you go to college and these opportunities are provided to you. Let’s be honest, let’s really try to give our children and people of the future a certain type of education that will allow them to open doors and opportunities as the people that live in better neighborhoods.”

This past summer was a big one for the NBA. Not only was the country in the midst of a global pandemic, but also a time of civil unrest during which conversations focused on addressing the social and systemic injustices that have permeated the country grew ever louder. When the league and the Players Association came to an agreement to finish off the season in Orlando, part of that agreement was with a plan in place for players to continue to use their voices and platforms for real change even beyond the 2019-20 season.

Back in May after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, many NBA players were at the forefront of the various actions that popped up across the country. And, since, the NBA has established a social justice coalition and several teams opened their arenas as voting centers, providing voters a safe place to do their civic duty.

Hill is grateful to have the platform that he does in the sense that much of the country has come to regard NBA players as being leaders for social change, but he’d also like to continue to see change, to ensure that the Black community and other minority communities can find success and advocate for change beyond the entertainment field. He also believes that neighborhood empowerment is the first step, where the seeds of success can and should be planted.

“I think what we’re trying to say is that, just because I came from this, doesn’t mean that you got to come from this, and that’s easier said than done,” Hill told Basketball Insiders. “We shouldn’t have to hear helicopters above our house at night. We shouldn’t have to have gates and bars on the windows. But that’s the reality we live in. I want to create a different reality, I don’t want to have to move from who I grew up around and move from them to put myself in a whole new situation just because I got a little bit of money.”

One of the biggest issues that Hill sees in terms of NBA players using their platform and giving back to the communities is the fact that many of them were steered towards basketball and that education, especially financial education, isn’t emphasized enough.

“There’s going to be people that make financial mistakes that equate to either thousands or millions of dollars lost because of that lack of education because of that lack of education around us, even with our parents,” Hill said.

“That’s a huge conversation for whoever makes it, that our parents aren’t educated in handling millions of dollars or even hundreds of thousands of dollars and their education may only span to high school if we’re being realistic. We have to have those realistic conversations.”

Hill also believes that he needs to use his platform in the NBA as much as he can now because, once players are out of the league, they tend to lose the interest of the general public. It’s one of the reasons why Hill’s done as much outreach as possible to various community leaders, not only to keep himself educated on social issues but to figure out how he can continue to make an impact and help kids find success in their own field, and beyond the entertainment industry, long after his NBA days are over.

“The most attention that you get in the African-American community comes from entertainment. That’s just the way it’s been cut,” Hill said.

“I would hope that it does continue to change. I love the platform that I have, but I would love if there were people we could connect with that can speak about this and be in the public eye just as much as an athlete, Hill said. “We need those leaders in the community that we can work with, that can help us in the right way.”

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Grizzlies trade Jonas Valanciunas to Pelicans for Eric Bledsoe, Steven Adams

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According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Andrew Lopez, the New Orleans Pelicans are shipping guard Eric Bledsoe, center Steven Adams, the Nos. 10 and 40 picks of the 2021 NBA Draft, and two future first-round picks to the Memphis Grizzlies for center Jonas Valanciunas and the Nos. 17 and 51 picks of this week’s upcoming draft. So, the Pelicans are giving up the Lakers’ 2022 first-round pick. Valanciunas, the 29-year-old veteran center, averaged 17.1 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game in 62 games played throughout the 2020-21 season. He also shot 59 percent from the field. The seven-foot Lithuanian also ranks fourth overall in true shooting percentage (.616) among active players. On July 11, 2019, Valanciunas signed a three-year, $45 million contract with the Grizzlies. He is set to earn $4 million next season.

Additionally, in 71 games played last season, Bledsoe averaged 12.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. The six-foot-one guard also shot 42.1 percent from the field in the 2020-21 season. On November 23, 2020, as part of a four-team trade, Bledsoe and Adams were traded to the Pelicans from the Oklahoma City Thunder, along with two future first-round picks and the right to swap two additional first-round picks. Last season, in 71 games played, Bledsoe averaged 12.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. His field goal percentage was 42.1 percent as well. The 11-year veteran is set to earn $18,125,000 in the 2021-22 season. Before he was traded to New Orleans, on March 4, 2019, the guard signed a four-year, $70 million extension. He earned his first All-Defensive second-team selection in the 2019-20 season.

Moreover, in 58 games played last season, Adams averaged 7.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. The six-foot-eleven center ranks fifth among active players for effective field goal shooting percentage (.591). The eight-year veteran also ranks third in offensive rebounding percentage, with an active statistic of 14 percent. On November 23, 2020, the same day Adams was traded to the Pelicans, he signed a two-year, $35 million extension. For next season, he is projected to earn $17,073,171. To add to this trade news, the Grizzlies and Pelicans are swapping second-round picks in this year’s draft, too. Referencing NBA.com’s “Consensus Mock Draft” article, with the No. 10 pick of the draft, the Pelicans were originally expected to draft either Josh Giddey or Davion Mitchell at this number. However, plans have now changed.

From ESPN’s Bobby Marks, the trade will not be finalized until August 6th, and this is because of the annual salaries of these said players. Free agency will begin on August 2, 6:00 p.m. (EST). Furthermore, per Spotrac’s 2021-22 NBA salary cap table, next season’s luxury tax threshold is $136,606,000. The team’s current available luxury tax space is $22,555,195. The Pelicans and Grizzlies have a salary cap maximum of $112,414,000. Brandon Ingram, Bledsoe, and Adams had a combined cap percentage of 39.2 percent. Considering that Bledsoe and Adams are traded away, this will clear up $35,198,171 of dead cap space.

Yesterday, CBS Sports reported the news pertaining to Lonzo Ball’s desire to remain in New Orleans. With extra cap space, the team is expected to re-sign the 23-year-old guard. Likewise, for the Grizzlies, the teams has a luxury tax space of $37,019,952. Their current cap space is $8,321,229. As stated before, the transactions have not yet been finalized. The Grizzlies’ outgoing cap is now $14 million, but from the contracts of Adams and Bledsoe, they are bringing in $35,198,171.

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NBA Trade Rumors: Jazz considering trade offers for Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Ingles, Royce O’Neale, and No. 30 pick of the 2021 NBA Draft

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Per one interesting announcement from Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, the Utah Jazz are open to trading forward Bojan Bogdanovic, forward-guard Joe Ingles, small forward Royce O’Neale, and the No. 30 pick of the 2021 NBA Draft. Fischer stated, “The Utah Jazz are known to be one of the few teams actually searching to move playoff-tested talent. Retaining Mike Conley is an offseason priority, sources said, and the Jazz have held numerous discussions with teams around the league about offloading salary to create for Conley in free agency.” Point guard Mike Conley is set to become a free agent this offseason. Though, general manager Justin Zanik will aim to re-sign the 33-year-old guard in the coming weeks. Conley earned $34.5 million in the 2020-21 season.

“League personnel most often mention Joe Ingles as the Jazz wing to watch, and Bojan Bogdanovic and Royce O’Neale are also considered available for trade as Utah narrows its focus towards building a contender around Donovan Mitchel. The Jazz are also open to discuss trading their No. 30 pick, sources said.” In the 2020-21 season, in 72 games played, Bogdanovic averaged 17 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. On May 1, 2021, in the team’s 106-102 victory over the Toronto Raptors, the six-foot-seven Croatian scored a season-high 34 points, shooting 12-for-22, and he finished his performance with four rebounds and four assists as well. On July 7, 2019, he signed a four-year, $73 million contract with the Jazz.

In 67 games played last season, Ingles averaged 12.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game. The six-foot-eight forward is set to earn $14 million in the 2021-22 season. Plus, among the mentioned players, Royce O’Neale has contributed the least. In 71 games played last season, he averaged seven points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.5 assists. On January 19, 2020, the forward signed a four-year, $36 million extension with the team. He will earn $8.6 million next season. According to The Athletic, in the team’s seventh workout for draft prospects, they viewed Quentin Grimes, David Duke, Matt Mitchell, and a few other players. In the first round, if the team chooses not to draft any of the players they are holding workouts for, the organization will trade the No. 30 pick.

Just for a reminder, retrieved from Spotrac, the 2021-22 NBA luxury tax threshold is $136,606,000. Utah’s active roster cap is $133,284,695, the maximum cap is $112,414,000, and the current cap space is $72,990,215. Furthermore, center Rudy Gobert currently has the highest guaranteed contract on the team. On December 20, 2020, Gobert signed a five-year, $205 million extension with the organization. Gobert is set to earn $35.3 million in the coming season, whereas Donovan Mitchell will earn $28.1 million. Gobert and Mitchell combined consume 47.6 percent of the team’s salary cap. For the upcoming 2021-22 season, the Jazz have a guaranteed total of $129,719,453. Based on the team’s future outlook, the Jazz will have to make a trade or two in order to retain their star players. This should go without saying.

NBA Analysis Network reported a few days ago that a potential Jazz-Knicks trade target is Bojan Bogdanovic. Greg Patuto proposed the Knicks receiving Bogdanovic, while the Jazz would receive Kevin Knox II, and the Nos. 19 and No. 32 picks of the 2021 NBA Draft. Now, this could still happen at some point during this draft week, but then again, sports bettors and fans alike understand that these news reports could be just rumors. The most intelligent, unforthcoming general managers know not to leave bread crumb trails for the media, especially leading into the offseason. They will do everything necessary to protect their foolproof plans.

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Raptors, Pacers, Timberwolves, Kings, and Cavaliers among teams showing interest in Ben Simmons

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According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, five teams have shown interest in pursuing Ben Simmons from the Philadelphia 76ers. Fischer reported, “Cleveland, Indiana, Minnesota, Sacramento, and Toronto all showed interest in acquiring the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year.” Furthermore, the teams are wanting Simmons to change position from point guard to forward. “Multiple executives from those teams, when contacted by Bleacher Report, mentioned their excitement at incorporating Simmons as a play-making forward—not at the point guard position he’s played in Philadelphia.” The six-foot-eleven guard averaged 14.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 6.9 assists in the 2020-21 NBA season. This might sound fine for a young rookie, but as a five-year player, these aforementioned statistics were career lows.

However, the 25-year-old also earned his third NBA All-Star selection and second All-Defensive first-team selection last season. After a less than mediocre performance in his third postseason of his NBA career, the majority of 76ers’ fans would agree that it’s now time for Simmons to have a change in scenery. With a regular season record of 49-23 (.681), the No. 1 ranked 76ers in the Eastern Conference entered the conference semifinals as favorites over the Atlanta Hawks. Leading into this series, some NBA analysts were predicting Philadelphia to prevail four games to two. The 2016 first overall pick was expected to limit Trae Young in scoring and rally his team from point deficits, but none of this ever manifested.

Pertaining to postseason averages, Simmons had a playoff series-low of 9.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in the conference semifinals against the Hawks. This lackluster showing proved to be a more significant downfall for the superstar, considering Simmons had only five points, eight rebounds, and 13 assists in Game 7 versus the Hawks. In the 2019-20 season, he averaged 2.1 steals per game, leading all other players in the league. Moreover, Simmons currently ranks sixth in the NBA for active player triple-doubles (32). With a total of 32 career triple-doubles, he ranks 13th on the all-time list, tied with Clippers’ guard Rajon Rondo.

On July 16, 2019, Simmons signed a five-year, $169.65 million contract extension with the 76ers. He is set to earn $30.5 million in the 2021-22 season. Among these teams interested in Simmons, Cavs’ Kevin Love has the fourth largest contract guarantee of $91.4 million. Love is due to earn $31.3 million next season, and the 13-year veteran’s contract consumes 26 percent of the team’s salary cap. He could be traded this offseason. Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns has a contract guarantee of $130.8 million. The 25-year-old Wolves center will earn $31.6 million in the upcoming season.

Plus, Kings’ 2017 first-round pick De’Aaron Fox has a guaranteed contract of $171.1 million. Fox will earn $28.1 million next season. To add to that, Raptors’ Pascal Siakim has a contract guarantee of $131.4 million. Not to mention, reported by Yahoo Sports via trade rumors yesterday, the Golden State Warriors are a potential trade partner for Toronto. The Warriors could make a move on Siakim, clearing up space on the Raptors for Simmons. Per Spotrac, the 2021-22 season cap maximum is $112,414,000. In the coming weeks, one of these said five teams might make a substantial trade offer to the 76ers’ organization that they cannot refuse.

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