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Thread: Cnotes 2018 nba previews - news - notes - projections !

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    Default Cnotes 2018 nba previews - news - notes - projections !

    NBA Offseason Grades/Win Total Leans
    August 6, 2018
    By Tony Mejia


    The Westgate Vegas Superbook released projected win totals on the first Sunday in August. With the majority of offseason activity now in the books, determinations can safely be made. The following are my over/under leans and grades on roster tweaks from both the draft and free agency for all 30 teams.

    Atlanta Hawks
    Projected win total/Recommendation: 23.5 UNDER
    In: Trae Young (R), Jeremy Lin, Alex Len, Justin Anderson, Vince Carter, Kevin Huerter (R), Omari Spellman (R), Jaylen Adams
    Out: Dennis Schroder, Mike Muscala, Malcolm Delaney, Isaiah Taylor, Tyler Cavanaugh, Antonius Cleveland, Jaylen Morris, Damion Lee

    The Hawks are hoping that Young will develop into the next Steph Curry and will give him every opportunity to be successful since they're going up-tempo and are handing him the reins. They even got their lottery pick a mentor and sparring partner in Lin, who could have a big season if healthy. It's likely to be a rocky first year for new head coach Lloyd Pierce, but a lot of that is by design since another Top-5 pick would best serve the franchise's fortunes. Grade: C


    Boston Celtics
    Projected win total/Recommendation: 57.5 OVER
    In: Robert Williams (R), Brad Wanamaker (R), Walt Lemon, Jr.
    Out: Abdel Nader, Kadeem Allen

    Not prevailing in the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes meant it was a quiet offseason for the 2018-19 Eastern Conference favorite, which gets a huge boost with Gordon Hayward expected to return no worse for the wear following multiple surgeries after breaking his left leg in last year's season opener. Kyrie Irving enters a huge contract year, Williams was a fantastic value pick in the draft and Wanamaker has been excellent overseas. Danny Ainge hasn't had many bad offseasons and should see an improvement on last season's 55-win output after another strong one in 2018. Grade: B


    Brooklyn Nets
    Projected win total/Recommendation: 32.5 UNDER
    In: Ed Davis, Kenneth Faried, Shabazz Napier, Dzanan Musa (R), Jared Dudley, Treveon Graham, Rodions Kurucs (R)
    Out: Jeremy Lin, Timofey Mozgov, Isaiah Whitehead, Dante Cunningham, Jahlil Okafor, Quincy Acy, Nik Stauskas

    GM Sean Marks turned briefly taking on Dwight Howard into additional cap room for next summer and re-signed Joe Harris, whose efficiency last season opened some eyes. Although he's talked openly about competing for a playoff berth, Marks' team remains another year away. Getting D'Angelo Russell to grow up and capitalize on his huge potential joins developing center Jarrett Allen into a huge asset in his second season as franchise priorities. I don't see them avoiding 50 losses. Grade: C


    Charlotte Hornets
    Projected win total/Recommendation: 35.5 OVER
    In: Miles Bridges (R), Tony Parker, Bismack Biyombo, Devonte' Graham (R)
    Out: Dwight Howard, Michael Carter-Williams, Treveon Graham, Julyan Stone

    Although Howard played well last season, new president/GM Mitch Kupchak traded his presence for Tony Parker's influence and picked up Biyombo from division rival Orlando to help Cody Zeller handle the rim protector role. We'll likely see more of Frank Kaminsky and Willy Hernangomez if James Borrego opts to play more small ball. A run at the playoffs hinges on Nicolas Batum and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist being healthy and more efficient on offense than they've shown to date. The fact Kemba Walker may be moved since he's in the final year of an expiring deal makes it difficult to pull the trigger on the recommendation above since they could wind up blowing things up. If the Hornets make it through the season with the roster they enter the season with, they'll make a run at .500. Grade: C-


    Chicago Bulls
    Projected win total/Recommendation: 27.5 OVER
    In: Jabari Parker, Wendell Carter (R), Chandler Hutchison (R), Rawle Alkins (R), Antonius Cleveland
    Out: Jerian Grant, Noah Vonleh, David Nwaba, Paul Zipser, Sean Kilpatrick

    The big splash was getting Parker to return to his hometown after a disappointing run in Milwaukee spoiled by two ACL tears. The Bulls are rolling the dice on him getting into great shape and staying healthy, making him their highest-paid player this season after offering a two-year/$40 million offer sheet that the Bucks opted not to match. With Zach LaVine healthy, Lauri Markkanen and Bobby Portis looking like productive frontcourt options and Carter coming on board as a post threat, the Bulls should be much improved. At 100-to-1 to win the Central, that's worth a gamble given LeBron James' departure from Cleveland. Great value there. Grade: A


    Cleveland Cavaliers
    Projected win total/Recommendation: 30.5 OVER
    In: Collin Sexton (R), Channing Frye, Sam Dekker, Billy Preston (R)
    Out: LeBron James, Jeff Green, Jose Calderon, Kendrick Perkins, London Perrantes, Okaro White

    Locking up Kevin Love was the only move GM Koby Altman could make since you hold on to your best assets whenever possible, but $120 million over four years won't make him easy to deal if the need arises. With LeBron leaving, the Cavs are going to rebuild around Love and rely almost exclusively on a supporting cast that just failed miserably around the league's best player in June's Finals. The new blood comes via Sexton, who will have to beat out Jordan Clarkson and George Hill for the keys but is a nice Rookie of the Year option if he's successful. His selection is the highlight of a dark but inevitable offseason and will probably help this group avoid a 50-loss season.Grade: D


    Dallas Mavericks
    Projected win total/Recommendation: 34.5 OVER
    In: DeAndre Jordan, Luka Doncic (R), Devin Harris, Jalen Brunson (R), Chinanu Onuaku, Ray Spalding (R), Yanyuhang Ding (R)
    Out: Yogi Ferrell, Nerlens Noel, Seth Curry, Doug McDermott, Aaron Harrison

    It will be important to see how Doncic and last year's top pick, Dennis Smith, Jr., co-exist, but the Mavs have the horses to be much improved, potentially flirting with .500 despite a loaded Western Conference. Between Rick Carlisle's coaching and the potential for Jordan's ability to significant upgrade the defense, making Dirk Nowitzki and J.J. Barea more useful, the Mavs have improved depth. Harrison Barnes and Wes Matthews will have less pressure on them with Doncic on board. Grade: A


    Denver Nuggets
    Projected win total/Recommendation: 47.5 OVER
    In: Isaiah Thomas, Michael Porter, Jr. (R), Jarred Vanderbilt (R)
    Out: Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, Devin Harris, Darrell Arthur, Richard Jefferson

    The Nuggets signed star center Nikola Jokic to an extension, shed salary to escape a huge luxury tax penalty without sacrificing significant depth and took fliers in the draft (Porter - likely to sit year out) and by bringing in Thomas. Brilliant work from Tim Connolly and Arturas Karnisovas. The Nuggets should top last year's win total of 46, which fell one shy of a playoff berth. Grade: A+


    Detroit Pistons
    Projected win total/Recommendation: 37.5 OVER
    In: Khyri Thomas (R), Zaza Pachulia, Glenn Robinson III, Jose Calderon, Bruce Brown (R)
    Out: James Ennis III, Anthony Tolliver, Eric Moreland, Jameer Nelson, Dwight Buycks

    The biggest move this past offseason saw Stan Van Gundy let go, ultimately replaced by reigning Coach of the Year Dwane Casey. He's got an advantage in having Blake Griffin around for a full season, including training camp. If Reggie Jackson stays healthy and Stanley Johnson, Luke Kennard and Reggie Bullock take steps forward, they've got a shot at .500. Keep an eye on Thomas, a second-round pick, as a potential x-factor. Can Casey have an immediate impact? I expect him to. Grade: B-


    Golden State Warriors
    Projected win total/Recommendation: 62.5 UNDER
    In: DeMarcus Cousins, Jonas Jerebko, Jacob Evans (R), Damion Lee
    Out: David West, JaVale McGee, Zaza Pachulia, Chris Boucher

    Picking up Cousins for what will probably amount to 30-plus regular-season games was my favorite move of the offseason, falling into the Warriors' lap due to extenuating circumstances. If he's healthy in May and June, it should help yield another title for the Dubs in their final season at Oracle before moving to San Francisco in 14 months. Even if West doesn't return, re-signing Durant and landing Boogie has made for a tremendous few weeks following a second straight title. As far as this regular-season win total is concerned, it's hard to trust that a group chasing their third title will care enough about the first 82 games not to drop at least 20.Grade: A+


    Houston Rockets
    Projected win total/Recommendation: 54.5 OVER
    In: Carmelo Anthony, Michael Carter-Williams, James Ennis III, Isaiah Hartenstein (R), De'Anthony Melton (R)
    Out: Trevor Ariza, Luc Mbah a Moute, Chinanu Onuaku, Aaron Jackson

    Even though Melo's addition has been nearly universal panned, there is a chance that this ends up a better fit for him than he enjoyed in OKC since there will be less wear and tear on him down the stretch. Losing Ariza and Mbah a Moute puts more pressure on P.J. Tucker and has GM Daryl Morey shopping for better two-way options, dangling Ryan Anderson. Melton looks like a steal and the other new blood could be an asset to guard against complacency. Dropping double-digit wins from the 65 they managed last season would leave Anthony in a scapegoat's role whether it's his fault or not, but I don't see that happening barring injuries to James Harden and Chris Paul, who will both likely also play less minutes. Grade: C+

    Indiana Pacers
    Projected win total/Recommendation: 47.5 OVER
    In: Tyreke Evans, Aaron Holiday (R), Kyle O'Quinn, Doug McDermott, Alize Johnson (R)
    Out: Lance Stephenson, Al Jefferson, Trevor Booker, Joe Young, Glenn Robinson III, Alex Poythress

    Thaddeus Young opted back in, preferring to push free agency off to next summer, so GM Kevin Pritchard got a nice surprise regarding one of his biggest decisions. Evans was the big get, especially if he can build off a resurgent season in Memphis. O'Quinn and McDermott were solid signings, rounding out the frontcourt with a pair of competitive veterans. Stephenson's loss will be felt, but Evans is an upgrade and both rookies are the types to fit in and make everybody better. Grade: A


    Los Angeles Clippers
    Projected win total/Recommendation: 35.5 UNDER
    In: Marcin Gortat, Luc Mbah a Moute, Mike Scott, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (R), Jerome Robinson (R)
    Out: DeAndre Jordan, Austin Rivers, Sam Dekker, C.J. Williams

    Losing Jordan officially put an end to the "Lob City" era, although Doc Rivers is hanging around to mold this new version. Gortat may start in the middle, but this team will likely play more small ball given the assembled personnel. Although the Clips had an excellent draft and have plenty of guard depth, the fact key figures like Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley and Avery Bradley will likely be available before the deadline means they could be tanking when the final few weeks roll around. Grade: C


    Los Angeles Lakers
    Projected win total/Recommendation: 48.5 OVER
    In: LeBron Jarmes, Rajon Rondo, Michael Beasley, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee, Mo Wagner (R), Svi Mykhailuk (R), Isaac Bonga (R)
    Out: Julius Randle, Isaiah Thomas, Brook Lopez, Channing Frye, Tyler Ennis, Thomas Bryant

    Magic Johnson got his man, but James' supporting cast raised more than a few eyebrows. Still, what the group lacks in perimeter accuracy, they make up for in competitiveness. Rondo will be one of the smartest players LeBron has ever played alongside. With the re-signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope set to do dirty work and young talent like Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Jason Hart sure to blossom next to LeBron, the Lakers will make the playoffs. This roster wins 50 games if James plays over 75. Grade: A


    Memphis Grizzlies
    Projected win total/Recommendation: 34.5 UNDER
    In: Jaren Jackson (R), Kyle Anderson, Omri Casspi, Garrett Temple, Jevon Carter, Dakari Johnson
    Out: Tyreke Evans, Ben McLemore, Deyonta Davis, Mario Chalmers, Jarell Martin

    Mike Conley missing 70 games went about as well as you would've expected for the Griz but Jackson's presence could pay off that strife since he's talented and won't turn 19 until mid-September. There appears to be more depth and Conley expects to be ready for training camp, so 35 wins would be possible if he looks like he'll be able to recover his previous form. If it takes him a while, the franchise could prioritize extending the careers of Conley and Marc Gasol for when the team is better equipped to compete for a playoff berth. The threat of tanking down the stretch makes going over on this win total a tough sell. Grade: B-


    Miami Heat
    Projected win total/Recommendation: 41.5 OVER
    In: Duncan Robinson (R), Yante Maten (R)
    Out: Jordan Mickey, Derrick Walton

    Although they didn't have a pick in this past draft, the Heat liked Robinson and Maten enough to make them their two-way players this season. One of last year's two-ways, Derrick Jones, Jr., made strides and was a Summer League standout. Miami will seek a resolution to whether team legends Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem will return around mid-month. The hope is that Hassan Whiteside will have a better attitude and Bam Adebayo can push him and continue improving so the team can have an athletic shot-blocker and inside presence at all times. Last season's team lacked the magic of the '16-'17 group, but there's enough talent here to finish above .500. Grade: C-


    Milwaukee Bucks
    Projected win total/Recommendation: 46.5 OVER
    In: Brook Lopez, Ersan Ilyasova, Pat Connaughton, Donte DiVincenzo (R), Trevon Duval (R)
    Out: Jabari Parker, Brandon Jennings, Shabazz Muhammad

    Mike Budenholzer taking over as head coach ended up being the highlight of the offseason and losing Parker was unexpected, but the Bucks added some nice pieces to compensate. Lopez, Ilyasova and Connaughton can knock down the 3-pointer, which should help better spread the floor for Giannis Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe to attack the paint. DiVincenczo is a winner. If Greek Freak's jumper improves, they'll win the Central (-110). Grade: B-


    Minnesota Timberwolves
    Projected win total/Recommendation: 44.5 UNDER
    In: Anthony Tolliver, Josh Okogie (R), Keita Bates-Diop (R)
    Out: Nemanja Bjelica, Cole Aldrich, Amile Jefferson

    It's been a terrible offseason for the Wolves. It's come to light that Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns haven't gotten along. Andrew Wiggins has looked lost, the front office reached for Okogie with the No. 20 pick and a group that went just 24-21 over their final 45 regular-season games and were wiped out in five in the playoffs may already need drastic changes to avoid being swallowed whole by the collective strength of the Western Conference.Grade: D-

    New Orleans Pelicans
    Projected win total/Recommendation: 44.5 UNDER
    In: Julius Randle, Elfrid Payton, Trevon Bluiett (R)
    Out: DeMarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo, Charles Cooke

    Although the Pelicans extended Cousins a qualifying offer, they were never truly serious about signing him long-term after Nikola Mirotic arrived and the team thrived by pushing tempo. Losing Rondo hurts since their two-point guard system was a force and Payton isn't the same caliber of creator, but he does have a high motor and should be a capable backup. Landing Randle to ease Boogie's departure was a big deal, but the Pelicans could still regress due to their lack of firepower on the wing. Solomon Hill and E'Twaun Moore are the likely starters. If Davis can't play at least 75 games for the third straight season, reaching the playoffs will be a challenge. Grade: B-


    New York Knicks

    Projected win total/Recommendation: 29.5 UNDER
    In: Kevin Knox (R), Mario Hezonja, Noah Vonleh, Mitchell Robinson (R), Kadeem Allen
    Out: Michael Beasley, Kyle O'Quinn, Jarrett Jack, Troy Williams

    The David Fizdale era begins and the Knicks will be better for it -- just probably not this season. The franchise is likely best served giving Kristaps Porzingis most of the season off as he returns from a torn ACL, which would afford Knox a great opportunity to get more touches early, aiding his development. Passing on Missouri's Porter, Jr. was booed on draft night but looks like the right move since Knox shined in Vegas. Hezonja and Vonleh have taken their lumps early with other teams but may be ready to contribute and could respond, aiding the NYK rebuild. Grade: B-


    Oklahoma City Thunder
    Projected win total/Recommendation: 50.5 OVER
    In: Dennis Schroder, Nerlens Noel, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Abdel Nader, Hamidou Diallo (R)
    Out: Carmelo Anthony, Corey Brewer, Nick Collison, Josh Huestis, Dakari Johnson

    Keeping Paul George from leaving for L.A. was GM Sam Presti's biggest win this offseason, but he also landed a few underrated pieces and unloaded Carmelo Anthony while getting a much-needed sixth man in Schroder, who will take some pressure off Russell Westbrook. With defensive stopper Andre Roberson returning, OKC is loaded enough to expect a top-four Western Conference finish, complete with a Northwest Division title if Westbrook, George and Steven Adams stay healthy. Grade: A+


    Orlando Magic
    Projected win total/Recommendation: 31.5 UNDER
    In: Mo Bamba (R), Jerian Grant, Timofey Mozgov, Jarell Martin, Isaiah Briscoe (R), Melvin Frazier (R), Amile Jefferson
    Out: Bismack Biyombo, Mario Hezonja, Arron Afflalo, Mo Speights, Shelvin Mack, Rodney Purvis, Jamel Artis

    The team with the league's worst point guard situation looks to be tanking one more time for a top pick, though we'll see if Grant can capitalize on this opportunity by filling the stat sheet and shooting it well enough to justify getting extended minutes. Bamba was a home run pick at No. 6 and should see plenty of action, while last year's No. 5 selection, Jonathan Issac, will hopefully stay healthy enough to gain the experience he missed out on as a rookie. Dealing Nikola Vucevic at some point is a must. Grade: C+


    Philadelphia 76ers
    Projected win total/Recommendation: 54.5 UNDER
    In: Wilson Chandler, Zhaire Smith (R), Mike Muscala, Jonah Bolden, Landry Shamet (R)
    Out: Ersan Ilyasova, Marco Belinelli, Justin Anderson, Richaun Holmes, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot

    The Sixers lost two of their best shooters and could very well be the third-best team in their own division again. Although the expectation is that they'll get more from Markelle Fultz, this roster doesn't look as deep. If Joel Embiid misses any significant time, expecting this team to win 55 games would be ludicrous. Ben Simmons must prove he can shoot it better too. The whole group must also deal with a target on their chest after enjoying the element of surprise last season. Grade: C


    Phoenix Suns
    Projected win total/Recommendation: 28.5 UNDER
    In: Deandre Ayton (R), Trevor Ariza, Mikal Bridges (R), Darrell Arthur, Richaun Holmes, Elie Okobo (R)
    Out: Tyler Ulis, Elfrid Payton, Alex Len, Jared Dudley, Alan Williams, Danuel House

    A 21-win season helped the Suns secure the No. 1 overall pick, which they smartly used on Ayton. In picking up Ariza, they've got an anchor on the wing to ease the burden of last year's No. 4 pick, Josh Jackson. There's much better depth on this team and a talented new head coach in Igor Kokoskov, but expecting them to reach even 29 wins will hinge on whether Brandon Knight can return from a torn ACL to take the reins ahead of a number of less experienced options. Grade: A


    Portland Trail Blazers
    Projected win total/Recommendation: 41.5 UNDER
    In: Nik Stauskas, Seth Curry, Wade Baldwin IV, Anfernee Simons (R), Gary Trent, Jr. (R)
    Out: Ed Davis, Pat Connaughton, Shabazz Napier, C.J. Wilcox, Georgios Papagiannis

    The Blazers won a division title and then were immediately humbled by New Orleans in the first round, so Terry Stotts will have to help his team leave that demoralizing sweep in the past. Last year's lottery pick, Zach Collins, will be the x-factor, but the guards behind Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum will be extremely young and inexperienced. Someone has to freefall in the West. This is the top candidate to do so. Grade: C


    Sacramento Kings
    Projected win total/Recommendation: 25.5 OVER
    In: Marvin Bagley III (R), Nemanja Bjelica, Ben McLemore, Yogi Ferrell, Deyonta Davis, Wenyen Gabriel (R)
    Out: Garrett Temple, Vince Carter, Bruno Caboclo, Nigel Hayes

    Improved depth should help yield significant improvement in California's capital city, where competition for minutes should yield better results. Bagley will get most of the headlines -- and credit -- for a resurgence, but a lot of serviceable pieces came in who should upgrade the team's level of play. Grade: A-


    San Antonio Spurs
    Projected win total/Recommendation: 43.5 OVER
    In: DeMar DeRozan, Marco Belinelli, Jakob Poltl, Lonnie Walker IV (R), Dante Cunningham, Chimezie Metu (R)
    Out: Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kyle Anderson, Brandon Paul, Joffrey Lauvergne

    The Spurs turned over 40 percent of the roster, highlighted by pulling the trigger on a blockboster trade that moved Leonard for DeRozan. There are going to be issues due to a lack of accuracy from beyond the arc and some slow-footed bigs who could be taken advantage of, but coaching and talent should keep this group in the playoff hunt.Grade: C+


    Toronto Raptors
    Projected win total/Recommendation: 54.5 UNDER
    In: Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Greg Monroe, Chris Boucher
    Out: DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poltl, Lukas Nogueira

    There are too many variables to call for 55 wins here, from Nick Nurse taking over in the head chair for Casey to Leonard getting acclimated to a new system while coming off an injury. He won't be dogging it in a contract year but will likely err on the side of caution, especially early and in back-to-backs. The Raptors have fantastic depth and won the trade over the Spurs since they held on to OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam and Delon Wright, so they've earned high marks for thier offseason work. I just don't see them being cohesive enough to win the Atlantic again, so look for a dip. However, if Leonard is on board and humming come April, Toronto will be a threat to reach the Finals.Grade: A


    Utah Jazz
    Projected win total/Recommendation: 48.5 OVER
    In: Grayson Allen (R)
    Out: Jonas Jerebko

    With Donovan Mitchell exploding on to the scene, the Jazz fell a win in the regular-season finale short of at least a share of the Northwest title. Although they lost Kokoskov, the top assistant to Quin Snyder, the team returns virtually intact, losing only Jerebko while adding the talented Allen, whose toughness should be an asset and fits in well with this team's attitude. Look for this group to win 50 games, serving as OKC's top challenger in the division. Grade: C


    Washington Wizards
    Projected win total/Recommendation: 44.5 OVER
    In: Dwight Howard, Jeff Green, Austin Rivers, Troy Brown (R), Thomas Bryant
    Out: Marcin Gortat, Mike Scott, Ty Lawson, Ramon Sessions, Tim Frazier, Chris McCullough

    It seems like it's now or never for this Wizards group, which has already been altered with Gortat moved. Howard is the major tweak, but Green, Rivers and top pick Brown upgrade the team's depth and should factor in heavily in Scott Brooks' rotation. After finishing 43-39 last season in a major disappointment, Washington should surpass its projected win total and has rightfully been favored to win the Southeast (5-to-7). Grade: B
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    Kawhi Leonard says he is ready to go
    September 24, 2018
    By The Associated Press


    TORONTO (AP) Kawhi Leonard spoke publicly in his first appearance as a Toronto Raptor and said he is physically ready to play.

    Leonard joined the Raptors in a summertime blockbuster trade with the San Antonio Spurs. How long he stays in Toronto is unclear but the former NBA Finals MVP and two-time defensive player of the year who was limited to nine games last season because of a right quadriceps injury insists he is ready to go as the team gets ready for training camp in Vancouver, British Columbia.

    Sharing a podium with Raptors president Masai Ujiri, who pulled the trigger on the trade that included acquiring forward Danny Green and losing DeMar DeRozan, Leonard addressed the biggest question about him: His health.

    ''Right now I'm feeling great, ready to play basketball.'' Leonard said. ''Throughout the summer I worked on my body. Took it step-by-step, just getting fully healthy, getting ready to make this extra step this season.''

    The usually reserved Leonard also attempted to offer the crowded a room a little insight about himself.

    ''I'm a fun guy,'' Leonard said. ''Obviously, I love the game of basketball. I mean, there's just more questions you have to ask in order for me to tell you about myself. I just can't give you the whole spiel. I don't even know where you're sitting.''

    Even after he located the reporters, Leonard was characteristically brief but managed to make his feelings clear, starting with his reaction to the July 18 trade that ended a sometimes fractious seven-year relationship with the Spurs and sent him to Toronto.

    ''Excited,'' Leonard said. ''I'm coming to a great city that loves basketball, a great organization and I'm happy Danny was coming with me as well.''

    A free agent next summer, Leonard said he arrived in Toronto ''with an open mind,'' but wasn't ready to talk about what that means long-term.

    ''My focus is on this year, this group that we have, and us striving to get to a championship,'' he said. ''We all want to win, and if you're looking into the future, you're going to trip over the present.''

    To land Leonard, Toronto gave up DeRozan, a team icon and four-time All-Star. San Antonio also got center Jakob Poeltl and a 2019 protected first-round draft pick.

    DeRozan's departure wasn't the only big offseason change in Toronto. The Raptors also fired Dwane Casey, who was later named NBA Coach of the Year, and replaced him with former assistant Nick Nurse. The rookie head coach said Leonard's diverse skill set will help bolster a ''versatile'' Raptors roster.

    ''He can guard smalls and bigs and he can score in and out,'' Nurse said. ''That's really cool.''

    The architect of the offensive overhaul that saw Toronto dramatically increase its 3-point shooting last season, Nurse suggested there may be more to come this season thanks to the addition of Leonard and Green.

    ''We could,'' Nurse said. ''On paper, our team has gotten better from behind the line. We'll see how that all plays out.''

    One player who might take more 3-pointers is holdover point guard and four-time All-Star Kyle Lowry, DeRozan's close friend. Lowry, who had also not spoken publicly since the trade, disputed the notion he was miffed at Ujiri's move.

    ''I'm here to do my job,'' Lowry said. ''One thing about me is I've always been prepared to come in, work, and try to win a championship. My mindset never changes: Come to work for the Toronto Raptors, try to win a gold ball.''

    With Leonard along for the ride this season, that goal might be within reach for the Raptors.

    ''It's going to be fun, man,'' Lowry said. ''An opportunity like this, you've got to take advantage of it.''
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    Wolves will deal Butler for right offer
    September 24, 2018
    By The Associated Press


    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The Minnesota Timberwolves have started their 30th season amid more drama and dysfunction, an all-too-familiar feeling.

    Jimmy Butler, the four-time All-Star shooting guard whose heralded arrival from Chicago sparked a 16-win improvement and an end to a 13-year absence from the playoffs, told president of basketball operations and head coach Tom Thibodeau last week he wants to be traded and won't re-sign with the team.

    Talk about bad timing, even by Timberwolves standards.

    ''It's not the first time a player has made that type of request, nor will it be the last, and our job is to seek out the best opportunity for us.'' Thibodeau said. ''If something's good for us, then we're interested in doing it. If not, then we're ready to move forward the other way.''

    While most players dismissed the notion of a major distraction during their media sessions on Monday at the commencement of training camp, power forward Taj Gibson bluntly declared Butler's decision a significant setback to the progress made last season.

    ''You look at the talent and the strides we took last year just to get to the playoffs, so many up and downs, and you get hit with a right hook before training camp,'' Gibson said. ''It's weird.''

    Butler had a minor procedure done on his right hand in July after meniscus surgery on his right knee in February, an injury that kept him out for 21 games. He reported to the team as contractually required for his physical exam, Thibodeau said, but he won't be on the court for the first practice on Tuesday.

    Thibodeau said that is because Butler needs another week for conditioning and rehabilitation to be ready for action - but even if he were fully healthy the awkward situation would be reason enough for him to stay away.

    ''I just wish him nothing but happiness,'' said backup guard Derrick Rose, who like Butler and Gibson played for Thibodeau with the Bulls. ''He's the only person in his shoes and dealing with what he's dealing with, and he's betting on himself, so I feel like there's nothing wrong with that.''

    Center Karl-Anthony Towns signed his five-year, $190 million contract extension on Sunday. The summer-long delay, Towns said, was unrelated to any rumored rift with Butler and rather a deliberate series of discussions with owner Glen Taylor about the mutual commitment.

    ''We finally found common ground at a very awkward time, and the story is very awkward how that happened, but it worked out and I'm truly excited to have a future here,'' said Towns, who later added he was surprised by Butler's demand.

    The Butler saga not-so-subtly played out last week on social media for all to view.

    Nick Wiggins, the older brother of Andrew Wiggins, wrote a simple ''Hallelujah'' on Twitter on Wednesday in commenting on The Athletic's post of its article about Butler's request. That tweet was soon deleted.

    Butler then fired back with a ''Hallelujah'' of his own stamped on an Instagram video of him going through hill workouts, approaching the camera at the end with this barb presumably lobbed at Andrew Wiggins for a perceived lack of intensity on the court: ''Keep that same energy.'' Andrew Wiggins later engaged in a round of Instagram trash talk with NBA analyst and former player Stephen Jackson, who decided to jump in and defend Butler.

    Former Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio even chimed in on Twitter with a simple emoji depicting an exasperated man with his face buried in his hand.

    Butler is the in-your-face, alpha-male overachiever that Thibodeau has long admired and trusted, embodying the type of toughness he sought to instill in Towns and Wiggins, who have more laid-back personalities.

    ''Conflict in the NBA, it's not unusual. Every team has it, so you navigate through it,'' Thibodeau said, adding: ''Sometimes a player may say something and it may not be in the right tone, but it is the right message.''

    Neither Towns nor Wiggins acknowledged any hint of tension with Butler.

    ''It was good energy,'' Wiggins said, before realizing his allusion to the social-media spat. ''I didn't mean it like that.''
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    LeBron 'humbled' to join L.A. Lakers
    September 24, 2018
    By The Associated Press


    EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) LeBron James realizes the size of the challenge he accepted when he joined the Los Angeles Lakers. After eight consecutive NBA Finals appearances, he knows his new team isn't a true contender with Golden State and the NBA's elite just yet.

    The superstar welcomed every step in the process Monday as he began his next chapter in purple and gold.

    James finally made his first formal appearance as a member of the Lakers at their media day, nearly three months after he left Cleveland for a four-year, $153.3 million free-agent deal. In between posing for photos in his new gold No. 23 uniform, the 33-year-old superstar revealed part of the motivation behind his decision to join an iconic franchise that hasn't made the playoffs in five years.

    ''No matter what uniform I'm in, I'm always humsbled that I'm able to play this game at this level,'' James said. ''I think we all know that this franchise has been a historical franchise in this league for years. ... That's an excitement in its own right. And then it's just always humbling for me when I get a chance to be a part of something special.''

    The burgeoning entertainment mogul also politely scoffed at the notion his numerous interests in film and television production would be any distraction from his day job. Moving to Hollywood was not his motivation for going West, he insisted.

    ''My decision was based solely on my family and the Lakers,'' James said. ''I'm a basketball player. I play ball. That's what I do.''

    James joined the Lakers along with veterans Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley this summer. They'll team up with the Lakers' talented young core to change the face of a 16-time champion franchise emerging from the worst half-decade in its lengthy history.

    But James made it perfectly clear he won't judge his achievements in Los Angeles solely on championships, particularly not during these Lakers' first season together.

    ''I don't believe the only thing that's a success in marking a season is winning a championship,'' James said. ''There's only one champion, but that doesn't mean you're not successful. There's going to be wins and losses, but what you control is how you prepare every day.

    ''We're a new ballclub coming together. They have some returning guys, but as far as the ballclub, we're all new to each other. So we have to take our bumps and our bruises. There's going to be good times. There's going to be bad times. That's what happens when a team is new. But if we continue to work the process and we continue to sacrifice for one another and put in the commitment and the time to being great, everything else will fall into place.''

    This perspective contrasts sharply with the ring-or-bust mentality held by Kobe Bryant, the last superstar to wear this uniform. Two seasons after Bryant's retirement, the Lakers have been replenished by the arrival of James and the veterans that he assembled around him.

    ''I think this is a great start for the Lakers to get back to championship caliber,'' said McGee, who just won two championship rings in Golden State. ''For me personally, I feel like this is everybody's dream as a basketball player, to put on the purple and gold and compete for a championship.''

    But on their first formal day together, nobody suggested the Lakers are remotely ready to compete with the Warriors, who would have four consecutive championships if James hadn't won the Cavs' first championship in legendary fashion instead in 2016.

    ''We've got a long way to go to get to Golden State,'' James said. ''They can pick up right where they left off, starting with training camp. ... We're picking up from scratch, so we've got a long way to go. We can't worry about what Golden State is doing.'
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    Spurs looking forward to new faces
    September 24, 2018
    By The Associated Press

    SAN ANTONIO (AP) DeMar DeRozan's first month with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has been serene, though the All-Star guard acquired in the offseason from Toronto has been warned about provoking ''angry Pop.''

    ''That hurts me,'' Popovich said playfully. ''I just, just . it hurts me. Our relationship is not starting off well, I guess. I guess I have more work to do than I thought.''

    Welcome to the kinder, gentler Spurs?

    Hardly.

    Popovich is still going to scream at his players on the court and will always be mischievous off it. More specifically, the franchise he built is still going to rely heavily on ball movement and defense, albeit with a whole lot of new faces.

    The era of the Big Three is officially over for San Antonio with Tony Parker leaving in free agency and Manu Ginobili joining Tim Duncan in retirement this summer. DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, Lonnie Walker, Dante Cunningham, Quincy Pondexter and Chimezie Metu and a host of others were invited to training camp, which starts Tuesday.

    ''I still don't know all the names,'' Popovich said Monday during media day.

    The biggest missing name is that of Kawhi Leonard, who was traded to Toronto in the offseason in an awkward, uncharacteristic move for a franchise known for stability. Leonard missed all but nine games last season due to a right quadriceps injury that initially flared up last summer and never healed to his satisfaction. The All-Star forward demanded a trade this offseason and the Spurs relented, trading Leonard and Danny Green to the Raptors for DeRozan and Poeltl in July.

    As the Spurs were chatting with reporters, Leonard told reporters in Toronto he was ready to play.

    ''We're happy to turn the page,'' San Antonio forward LaMarcus Aldridge said. ''DeMar's here and he's happy and he's motivated. He's going to make us better. You've got to look forward.''

    After needing two weeks to get over the initial shock of being traded, DeRozan is also happily looking forward after seeing what San Antonio accomplished last season.

    The Spurs were a top three seed in the Western Conference for much of the season before dropping to seventh in the final month following various injuries to Leonard, Green, Parker, Kyle Anderson, Rudy Gay and Pau Gasol.

    ''You seen what they did last year being down one of their best player and what they were able to accomplish,'' DeRozan said. ''The fight that they had with the young guys.''

    Still, the Spurs nearly missed the playoffs last season and the loss of Leonard along with the departures of Green, Ginobili, Parker and Anderson places San Antonio's streak of 21 straight postseason appearances in danger.

    ''In one way it's a little bit melancholy (being without the Big Three),'' Popovich said. ''Because I've been with them for so long and at the same time it's a great opportunity for a new challenge and new energy, a different route, a different perspective and seeing all the new faces we have to try to put together will make it a really interesting and challenging year, but in a good way.''

    Many see this as a rebuilding season, especially with so many new faces, but the Spurs insist they have already been there and done that.

    San Antonio spent last season transitioning fully from a team that relied heavily on the Big Three to one that evolved from its shadow. The period to that evolution was Dejounte Murray replacing Parker in the starting lineup and helping guide the team to the postseason despite not having Leonard.

    ''I think last year was kind of our rebuilding year,'' Aldridge said. ''Kind of a transitional year as far as putting DJ at point and getting his first year at point and growing with him.''

    Murry spent the offseason working with San Antonio shooting guru Chip Engelland, who helped reshape the shooting strokes of Leonard and Parker amongst others. Entering his third season, Murray's confidence has grown to the point he wants to be a vocal leader, too, if Popovich asks that of him.

    ''We're going to build a brotherhood off the court and then it's going to carry on to the court,'' Murray said.
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    Clippers seeking new identity in LA
    September 24, 2018
    By The Associated Press


    LOS ANGELES (AP) The Big Three have cleared out and Lob City is no more.

    For the first time in 10 years, the Los Angeles Clippers will soon begin a season without DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin or Chris Paul on the roster.

    So just who is this team?

    Well, coach Doc Rivers isn't sure yet.

    But Patrick Beverley offers a bold take: Clamp City.

    ''You got two of the best on-ball defenders in the league,'' he said, referring to himself and Avery Bradley. ''We can be a defensive juggernaut.''

    Despite coming off a season in which the team missed the playoffs for the first time in his five-year tenure and LeBron James joining the Lakers, Rivers feels good about the Clippers' future.

    ''This is the healthiest this franchise has been,'' the coach said Monday. ''We never had flexibility and now we have flexibility. We have an owner who is willing to do whatever it takes.''

    Heck, even All-Star Jimmy Butler of Minnesota is saying he'd like to be a Clipper.

    And Luc Mbah a Moute decided to return as a free agent, impressed with the roster changes.

    Quite a difference from the dark days of 1994 when Ron Harper said being a Clipper was akin to doing time in jail.

    ''We don't have nobody on this team that thinks they're bigger than the program,'' said Montrezl Harrell, who re-signed in July and figures to have a larger role since Jordan left for Dallas this summer.

    Injuries plagued the team last season, with 11 players missing a total of 265 games. Rivers was forced to use a league-high 37 different starting lineups in one of his best coaching jobs. The Clippers' playoff hopes were kept alive until the final week of the regular season.

    ''For us to have a successful campaign, we have to be healthy,'' Rivers said. ''We got a group of guys we can win with on the roster.''

    The roster features a glut of guards - ''a thousand,'' Rivers joked - including Beverley and Bradley, both of whom had their first season in LA derailed by injuries.

    Also at the position are rookies Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson, who could end up playing for the Clippers' G League entry in nearby Ontario simply to get minutes.

    ''We'll do whatever,'' Robinson said.

    He already has.

    Robinson gave up his No. 13 jersey after a conversation with veteran Marcin Gortat, who has worn the number throughout his career. Robinson will don No. 10.

    Besides working Gilgeous-Alexander and Robinson into the flow, new additions Gortat, Mike Scott and Mbah a Moute will need time to get acclimated starting Tuesday when training camp opens in Hawaii.

    Along with Beverley and Bradley, Danilo Gallinari missed a chunk of last season with hand and glute injuries. The trio already forged an off-court friendship with all their downtime last season, and finally got to play together this summer in pickup games.

    ''We know how good we are,'' Gallinari said, ''and we're going to show it.''

    Tobias Harris, acquired along with Bradley in a mid-season trade from Detroit for Griffin, averaged 19.3 points in his 25 games. He will be a candidate to join Beverley and Bradley in a closeout role late in games.

    The Clippers added free-agent forward Desi Rodriguez on Monday, bringing the camp roster to 20 players.

    Rodriguez played four seasons at Seton Hall, averaging 12.8 points and 4.9 rebounds. He wasn't drafted in June.

    ''We have a very talented group here,'' said Lou Williams, last year's Sixth Man of the Year. ''I definitely expect us to be in the playoffs.''
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    Aaron Gordon now face of the Magic
    September 24, 2018
    By The Associated Press


    ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon figures it is time to take on some new responsibility now that is starting the season with a new coach and a new long-term contract.

    After signing a four-year, $76 million contract in July, the 23-year-old forward says the responsibility for turning around the fortunes of the Orlando Magic is on him as much as anyone.

    ''I'm here to spearhead, to make sure it's all-systems-go and make sure everybody is fighting every single night,'' Gordon said Monday at the team's media day. ''I feel like I need to set the tempo, the energy. Energy is very contagious, and I know if my energy is low, then the next person's energy is low, and that's not how it's going to be.''

    The Magic have had six straight losing seasons, four of them since drafting Gordon fourth overall in 2014. They are a long way from NBA respectability, but Gordon believes they can get there under new coach Steve Clifford.

    ''That's why I came back,'' he said. ''It's to win with this franchise and do something special. We have the ability to do it, whether it's going to be right away or a slow grind. Either way we're going to get there.''

    If they do, the 6-foot-9 Gordon will have to lead the way.

    ''I've talked to him about this in detail. I think it starts at the defensive end now for him,'' said Clifford, who will be Gordon's fifth head coach. ''You know, he's 19 and 8 (actually 17.6 points and 7.9 rebounds per game last season), and if he becomes a good individual and team defender with that, then he's an All-Star caliber player.''

    Gordon enters his fifth NBA season with two flatly stated goals - to be an All-Star and to be on the All-Defensive team. He acknowledged that several things would have to improve for him to reach either of those goals.

    ''We're definitely going to have to win, first and foremost,'' he said. ''And then I've got to bring it every night. Coach Cliff was telling me I would bring it some nights, if it was (against) an All-Star. But if it wasn't, then I'd be taking those nights off. I've got to defensive rebound better, and I think I need to up my steals.''

    Hope for an upgrade in Orlando's defense is based largely on the reach and shot-blocking abilities of their most recent first-round picks - 6-11 Jonathan Isaac and 7-footer Mohamed Bamba. But Gordon has impressed teammates by taking responsibility for leading the transformation.

    ''Right after he signed that contract, he was back to work. That was a really mature moment,'' said veteran guard Terrence Ross. ''I'm happy to see him grow and I'm happy I can be here to see him go into his prime.''

    Gordon missed 24 games last season due to a variety of injuries, including two concussions. Part of his task this year is stay on the court and ''to make everybody else better,'' he said. ''That's the mark of a great player, that people are better around him.''

    Once the season starts, the contract will be a thing of the past.

    ''I feel like some people would feel added pressure but I don't,'' Gordon said. ''It's a lot about reputation in this league. You've got to develop one and you've got to earn that respect as a defender and a basketball player.''
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    Cavaliers start anew without star
    September 24, 2018
    By The Associated Press


    INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) As the Cavaliers wandered around posing for silly photographs, reading radio promotions and doing interviews, everything felt different.

    This media day was nothing like the past four. Cleveland heads into the season with very little buzz, zero drama and low expectations. The spotlight, which has illuminated the Cavs in recent years, is pointed elsewhere.

    LeBron James left and it all went with him.

    ''I'm still here,'' coach Tyronn Lue said, laughing.

    The Cavs began life without James in earnest on Monday, taking their first steps since the superstar signed with the Los Angeles Lakers this summer and promptly ended the greatest run in franchise history.

    Without James, Cleveland has tumbled from an elite team and title contender to one many believe isn't good enough to make the playoffs. However, Lue doesn't believe the Cavs are starting over.

    ''No tanking,'' he said. ''Start from what we have and build from that. Not a rebuild at all. It's a challenge for all of us, something different with LeBron gone but we're up for the challenge.''

    The Cavs likely won't regress to where they did when James bolted for Miami in 2010, but it could be a long time before they're competing for a championship.

    ''When you have the best player in the world who has dominated this game for the last 12 or 13 years in LeBron, it's always tough to lose a player like that,'' Lue said. ''But moving forward, talking to (owner) Dan (Gilbert) and how he sees us building and approaching this season of being a playoff team.

    ''That's our goal and that's what we want to do. We want to win and continue to get better, and develop our younger players while winning games.''

    That's easier said than done, but Cleveland still has some talent led by All-Star forward Kevin Love, who signed a four-year, $120 million contract extension this summer and is now the Cavs' best player and No. 1 offensive option.

    It's a new, yet familiar role for Love, who was Minnesota's franchise player before he was traded to Cleveland and joined forces with James and Kyrie Irving. Four years ago, Love stood side by side with James and Irving on media day as the Cavs' ''Big Three'' were introduced to the world before embarking on a journey that led to a title in 2016.

    That run seemed more of a distant memory on Monday as Love smiled and posed next to Lue and rookie guard Collin Sexton. And perhaps as a nod to his former teammate, Love wore a pair of James' signature sneakers.

    He certainly won't try to fill his shoes.

    Love, like all the Cavs, will have to adjust his game now that James isn't around. But that doesn't mean Love will revert to being the bruising big man he was with the Timberwolves.

    ''I'm 30 now, so I don't know if he's still there,'' Love said when asked if he could play like the younger version of himself. ''Will there be nights when my stats are gaudy? It's very, very likely. This will be a new chapter for all of us, and I think we've very excited.''

    Kyle Korver feels refreshed. Following a personally challenging season, which included his younger brother's death, the 37-year-old walked out of Quicken Loans Arena following the Game 4 loss to Golden State in the Finals unsure of his future.

    ''I was done,'' Korver said. ''I took a good chunk of time and got away from the game and evaluated a lot of things and tried to decide if I still had the desire to play. Talked things through with my wife and my family, looked at my kids. After doing all that I felt like I wanted to come back, I still wanted to play. I still love the game. I'm excited to be back.''

    While James is gone, reminders of him hang inside Cleveland Clinic Courts, where one wall is lined with Central Division and Eastern Conference championship banners.

    There's also one to commemorate the '16 title, which ended the city's 52-year championship drought.

    It might be some time before the Cavs contend for another, but while he may have lost the best player he'll ever coach, Lue isn't convinced there's a better team in the East.

    ''We haven't lost yet, have we?'' he said.
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    Point guard biggest question for Suns
    September 24, 2018
    By The Associated Press


    PHOENIX (AP) The Phoenix Suns have made a host of roster moves for what they expect to be a vastly improved season ahead.

    ''I feel like we checked most of the boxes on our to-do list this summer,'' general manager Ryan McDonough said at the team's media day Monday. ''We have more shooting. We have potentially a better defensive team. And we have a lot of veteran guys to teach our young guys how to win and help them win.''

    But one glaring question remains. Just who is the point guard?

    There is no experienced point guard among the 17 players who head north for the Suns' weeklong training camp at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

    ''I figured that would be the first question,'' McDonough said. ''We're young there. We're inexperienced there.''

    The team has four point guards, including rookies Elie Okobo and De'Anthony Melton. The veterans are Isaiah Canaan, who was playing well for Phoenix until a gruesome leg injury ended his season, and Shaquille Harrison.

    A trade remains a possibility.

    ''We don't have the proven players there that I think we have to some extent (at positions) two through five,'' McDonough said. ''So we'll go up to training camp with this group but throughout the preseason and probably up to the trade deadline we'll continue to evaluate trade possibilities as well.''

    The goal, McDonough said, ''is to be the most improved team in the league.''

    To accomplish that the Suns have shaken up the roster, including the addition of the No. 1 overall pick in the draft in Deandre Ayton, and brought in coach Igor Kokoskov, who said he wasn't interested in hearing how young and talented the team is.

    ''We don't want to be young and talented,'' said Kokoskov, the top assistant to Quin Snyder with the Utah Jazz before coming to Phoenix.

    If he wasn't before, Devin Booker is the unquestioned face of the franchise after signing a five-year, $158 million contract. Booker will miss training camp after undergoing surgery on his right (shooting) hand but has set opening night as his goal to return.

    He said he welcomes the responsibilities that come with the big money.

    ''I'm not representing myself anymore, not representing my family, but representing a whole franchise, a city, a storied organization,'' Booker said. ''With fans that are ready to win, with a whole organization that's ready to win. It's a good pressure to have. That I feel like I'm built for. With a great supporting cast around me I think it's going to be a very exciting year.''

    Suns fans sure could use some excitement. The team has missed the playoffs for eight years in a row. Last year, Phoenix had the worst record in the NBA (21-61) and second-worst in franchise history.

    McDonough has said it's time for some wins.

    Newcomers include small forward Trevor Ariza, signed as a free agent, and power forward Ryan Anderson, acquired in a trade with Houston. Forward Josh Jackson is back for a second season after a strong second half to his rookie year, and high-scoring T.J. Warren reportedly is working on his outside shot, an aspect of his game that's been missing.

    The 7-foot-1 Ayton is literally at the center of it all. The big guy played some power forward collegiately at Arizona but he will be strictly a center in the NBA.

    ''They take this life very serious,'' Ayton said of his short time as a pro. ''Like this is really a job. You've got to take care of your body every day. You've got to watch what you're doing off the court as well.''

    Ayton has had a most good-natured Twitter rivalry with Philadelphia's Joel Embiid but he wasn't talking about that Monday, saying he couldn't talk until he'd played the game.

    Acknowledging he has a mischievous side, Ayton was asked when he would let more of that show.

    ''As soon as I put the ball in the hoop,'' he said.

    And what do most people not understand about him?

    ''The monster about me,'' he said.

    Suns fans can only hope.
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    Hawks expected to begin long season
    September 24, 2018
    By The Associated Press


    ATLANTA (AP) Taurean Prince knows the Atlanta Hawks are about to begin one of the toughest seasons in franchise history.

    A year after going 24-58 - worst in the Eastern Conference - the Hawks are likely to take a step further back in the standings with an even younger team.

    Point guard Trae Young, the fifth overall draft pick, and shooting guard Kevin Huerter, the 19th overall pick, are both 20 years old. Forward Omari Spellman, the 30th overall pick, is 21.

    Young is projected to start alongside forward John Collins, 21, and Prince, a 24-year-old small forward who began to flourish in the final six weeks of last season.

    ''I'm still super young, so I'm looking for advice, too,'' Prince said Monday. ''I'm still figuring out things. I'm still getting better along with them every day. I'm no better than them just because of my age.''

    The Hawks have mixed in several veterans to balance out the roster. Guard Kent Bazemore, a sixth-year veteran, and center Dewayne Dedmon, a fifth-year veteran, will start. Reserve guard Jeremy Lin is with his seventh team in nine seasons and coming off a major knee injury.

    And the most recognizable name belongs to Vince Carter, who at 41 is the oldest player in the league. The eight-time All-Star joined the Hawks on a one-year contract to mentor young players and provide some reassurance when the inevitable losses begin to pile up.

    It all adds up to a major rebuilding job for Lloyd Pierce, a first-time head coach who was an assistant the last five years in Philadelphia. The 76ers went through a similar experience before breaking through last season, so Pierce knows to keep his lessons simple in the early going.

    ''We're starting out with four guys that have never played an NBA game,'' Pierce said. ''How much better can they be at the end of the year and at their position what are they capable of doing? The goal is to upward mobility. The reality is you're going to have some good nights, some bad nights, some stretches when you're rolling and some stretches when you're not.

    General manager Travis Schlenk had a busy offseason, parting ways with coach Mike Budenholzer and trading away the team's top scorer, Dennis Schroder, to begin the rebuild with a largely unproven roster.

    Young is the centerpiece. He struggled in the second half of his only season at Oklahoma with poor shot selection and getting open against double-teams, but still became first major conference player in NCAA history to have 800 points and 250 assists in a single season.

    After a rough early going in the NBA summer league, Young settled down and improved his shot selection and passing. Defensively, though, Young has a reputation for taking plays off, so he wants to begin rewriting the narrative when training camp begins Tuesday.

    The Hawks have five exhibition games before opening the season Oct. 17 in New York.

    ''I can play defense,'' Young said. ''I played for teams before if I didn't play defense, I wouldn't be on the court, and I've always been on the court. So that shows I can play defense. I'm looking forward to showing that I can.''

    Bazemore, about to begin his fourth season with the Hawks, said Pierce has installed a scheme that won't put too much responsibility on one player.

    ''The offense is not so intricate that you really have to think a ton,'' Bazemore said. ''It's the freedom to react. All five guys on the floor have the freedom to make a play. It's not any set plays or any one guy. It's free flow. And it eases to the defensive end as well. We're all on a string. We're all moving together.''
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    Pelicans' Davis keeps focus short-term
    September 24, 2018
    By The Associated Press


    METAIRIE, La. (AP) Anthony Davis swatted away the notion that his decision to hire new representation meant he was setting the stage for a change of scenery.

    With three seasons left on his contract and five All-Star nods to his name, Davis' leverage to control where he plays is growing. So when he recently left the Wasserman agency that negotiated his current contract and joined Klutch Sports, which also represents Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, it begged questions about the reasons for the switch.

    The move also stoked paranoia in New Orleans, the city Chris Paul left in his prime shortly after he changed agents.

    But Davis said the move was aimed primarily at helping him become the ''the most dominant player in the league.''

    ''It was just for where I am right now in my career - what I'm trying to do - I thought the change was necessary,'' Davis said Monday, when the Pelicans held media day on the eve of training camp. ''That's all it was.''

    Increasingly, agencies representing athletes are involved in player development, particularly during the offseason. A certain agency's clients might work out together at preferred facilities or with particular trainers, for example.

    Theoretically, Davis also could try to parlay his agency switch into a trade aimed at changing the balance of power in the NBA, but whether he does so remains to be seen.

    ''I'm here,'' Davis said. ''I want to focus on winning this year with the squad that we have. We have a good squad.''

    The 25-year-old, 6-foot-10 Davis has embraced New Orleans since his arrival, dedicating himself to community service and enjoying local cultural traditions that revolve around music, food and festivals. On Monday, he posed for photos next to a painting depicting him as a saxophone player - a scene reminiscent of the city's jazz clubs.

    But Davis hasn't experienced an abundance of winning in the Big Easy. He has been to the playoffs twice in his six seasons since New Orleans drafted him first overall in 2012. Last season, Davis won both his first playoff game and playoff series - without the help of fellow All-Star DeMarcus Cousins, whose season was shortened by an Achilles tear.

    Cousins left for Golden State in free agency, as did veteran guard Rajon Rondo. The Pelicans moved to fill those voids with younger players who appear to fit the up-tempo style coach Alvin Gentry prefers: 6-foot-9 forward Julius Randle and 6-foot-4 guard Elfrid Payton.

    With a roster also featuring guard Jrue Holiday and forward Nikola Mirotic, the Pelicans hope to be better.

    And if they continue to improve, so should their prospects for retaining Davis, Gentry said.

    ''We have to try to make AD the best player that he can possibly be,'' Gentry said. ''We have to try to be successful as a franchise, and then if we do all of that, all of the other stuff takes care of itself.''

    Small forward Solomon Hill said teammates don't concern themselves with Davis' long-term outlook because they're taking the type of short-term approach Davis has discussed.

    Speculation about Davis' future is ''going to happen all through the year,'' Hill said, mentioning numerous reports about the Boston Celtics' interest in orchestrating a blockbuster trade for New Orleans' franchise player.

    ''We've heard the past couple of years about the Boston thing and them trying to move on AD. I'm thankful that he's here today,'' Hill said. ''But he's a guy that's committed to playing for the Pelicans, regardless of who is his agent.

    ''We're not going to let the stuff that flies in the air distract us from our ultimate goal.''

    Dell Demps was in his second year as general manager in New Orleans when the club -then called the Hornets - traded Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers rather than keeping the disgruntled star until the end of his contract and risk losing him for nothing in free agency.

    Yet when Paul left, New Orleans' ownership was in flux, the team's playoff prospects were uncertain and their practice gym was a temporary facility in a wing of a recreation center.

    Now the Pelicans are under the same stable ownership as the NFL's Saints and have a plush, permanent practice headquarters on the same campus as the football club.

    Asked if he could appreciate fears in New Orleans that history might be repeating itself with Davis, Demps responded, ''Good question. I'm not sure how to answer it.

    ''I have told myself, `In the NBA, never be surprised.' You never know what can happen. But we feel good about the team,'' Demps said. ''We feel good about the relationship with Anthony. We are really more focused on the team winning this year and putting ourselves in the right situation'' for sustained success.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Pistons hope PG Jackson will be ready
    September 24, 2018
    By The Associated Press


    DETROIT (AP) The Detroit Pistons have a new coach - and the usual amount of optimism that accompanies such a big change.

    What they really could use this season is a healthy point guard.

    The Pistons are hopeful Reggie Jackson will be ready to play by the start of the season, although he's still working his way back into shape following an ankle injury. Jackson went down in late December, derailing what had been a promising start for Detroit in 2017-18. Ed Stefanski, a new senior executive for the Pistons, sounds optimistic about Jackson's health, but the point guard's recovery isn't complete yet.

    ''Reggie is fully healed. We did an MRI I think a couple weeks ago, and it's perfect,'' Stefanski said at media day Monday. ''It's just now basketball shape, and he hasn't played all summer long.''

    Detroit got off to a 19-14 start last season, but after Jackson's injury the team floundered, and Stan Van Gundy's tenure eventually came to an end. The Pistons now have a new coach in Dwane Casey and a new front office.

    Their roster, however, looks a lot like it did at the end of last season. About a month after Jackson's injury, Detroit acquired Blake Griffin in a trade, adding a star to the roster but also limiting the team's flexibility.

    Jackson eventually returned, but the Pistons weren't able to salvage the season. If he's healthy throughout 2018-19, that could go a long way toward helping Detroit improve.

    ''I'm excited to be getting on the court,'' Jackson said. ''I didn't touch a court much in the summer, so I'm excited to just go ahead and love on Spalding some - get out there with my teammates and try to get back to playing basketball.''

    Center Andre Drummond says he's tried to encourage Jackson.

    ''He's had a tough go at it since he's been here, with injuries. It's been hard for him,'' Drummond said. ''I've done a great job of just staying on him, letting him know that we do need him. `Don't get down on yourself. Your time is coming.'''

    In addition to Jackson's injury, Luke Kennard had an offseason knee issue, and Jon Leuer had surgery after injuring his right knee during an offseason workout. Stefanski said Kennard and Leuer are progressing fine but are also not in basketball shape.

    ''My goal is to be back before the first game,'' Leuer said. ''Hopefully the last preseason game. That's still kind of fluid right now.''

    NOTES: Drummond discussed a potential addition to his game - the 3-point shot. Drummond has made five 3-pointers in his NBA career and was 0 for 11 from beyond the arc last season. ''The 3-point shot's something I've added six years ago. Just never had a coach that allowed me to shoot it,'' he said. ''I guess now is my time to really showcase it.''
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Kings looking for faster paced offense
    September 24, 2018
    By The Associated Press


    SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) Sacramento Kings coach Dave Joerger wants his team to run more this season and plans to give speedy point guard De'Aaron Fox all the room he needs.

    Fox was one of the fastest players in the NBA last year as a rookie, but the Kings offense was uneven most of the season and frequently bogged down in the half-court.

    With an influx of young, quick players added to an already youthful roster, the hope is that Fox can get Sacramento out and running and, possibly, back into the postseason.

    ''The best thing you can do for him is play fast and give him as much room as possible,'' Joerger said Monday at the Kings practice facility during media day. ''To play small and try to do that is best for De'Aaron. He's our franchise guy. I think he is and I think everybody kind of agrees on that.''

    The fifth overall pick in 2017, Fox started 60 games and averaged 11.6 points with 4.4 assists, but shot only 41.2 percent while struggling with an inconsistent mid-range jumpshot.

    The Kings were 20th in the NBA with 10.4 fastbreak points. Those are numbers Fox hopes to improve in his second season.

    ''That's the way I've always played,'' Fox said. ''I've always played for a team that gets up and down, high school college, AAU, all of that. That's what (Joerger is) emphasizing this year. I'm excited to see what happens.''

    The Kings drafted Fox with the first of their three first-round picks a year ago, but used him sparingly early while George Hill ran the point. Hill was eventually dealt to the Cleveland Cavaliers as part of a multi-team trade.

    Fox flourished at times, but Sacramento struggled with its half-court offense and finished 27-55.

    Correcting the problems the Kings had there, as well as getting better in the fastbreak, are Fox's main goals.

    ''When we did do it, it was pretty effective but you don't see too many young teams really executing at a veteran level in the halfcourt,'' Fox said. ''That's something that I definitely need to work on as a point guard myself and us as a team.''

    Sacramento used the second overall pick this year on 6-foot-11-inch power forward Marvin Bagley III of Duke. Harry Giles, the 20th overall selection in 2017 who sat out his entire rookie season injured, is also back to add speed and size to the frontcourt.

    They also signed 6-10, 240-pound forward Nemanja Bjelica to play the stretch-four when the Kings want to go small.

    ''Last year, our fastest lineup was playing Justin Jackson at power forward next to Bogdanovich and Buddy Hield,'' Joerger said. ''That group analytically would have been the fastest-paced team in the NBA. That serves to De'Aaron's strength.''

    Better rebounding will also help, Joerger said.

    ''It's not easy to run when you're always taking the ball out of bounds after a made shot,'' Joerger said. ''We have to try, try to get some stops. It's fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. It's a commitment. DeAaron's going to have to push it, but it takes all five guys.''

    Fox will be without his backcourt mate, Bogdan Bogdanovic, for the start of training camp. Bogdanovic underwent minor surgery Monday on his left knee after having a similar procedure done in April to repair a slight tear of the medial meniscus. No timetable has been given for his return.

    ''It puts us behind a little bit,'' Joerger said. ''I was hoping to play he and Buddy Hield, either of them or play them together, at backup point guard. I wanted to see how that looks and put more scoring, shooting on the floor. So that will be a little behind.''
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Jazz open training camp focused
    September 24, 2018
    By The Associated Press


    SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Utah didn't make any major offseason moves but fans shouldn't mistake that for a sign the Jazz are satisfied with the status quo.

    With the start of training camp, Utah players and coaches are echoing the same message: Continuity doesn't equal complacency.

    The Jazz are focused on maximizing potential they showed toward the end of last season - with a roster that has returned mostly intact - once the regular season starts in mid-October.

    ''I don't want to pick up where we left off,'' coach Quin Snyder told reporters at the team's media day Monday. ''That implies it's the same group beginning to do something. This is a new journey. We can take with us the experience. We can take with us the chemistry and the things we learned. But this is a new team.''

    Nothing encapsulates that attitude better than the work various Jazz players have put in while preparing for the season.

    Derrick Favors and Jae Crowder dropped weight over the summer to improve their mobility and quickness in operating in Snyder's motion offense. Favors and Crowder each shaved nearly 15 pounds from their respective frames.

    Rudy Gobert worked on his footwork and his shooting to increase his impact on the offensive end. Donovan Mitchell put emphasis on changing pace on the court, so he can thwart double teams and find teammates like Gobert for easy shots around the basket.

    Having roster continuity aids their goal of collective improvement. First-round draft pick Grayson Allen ended up being the only major addition over the summer. Rather than jumping headfirst into pursuit of a high-profile free agent, the Jazz banked on bringing back their own free agents - Favors, Dante Exum and Raul Neto - and focusing on continued internal development.

    Utah won 29 of its final 35 regular-season games to claim a playoff spot last season. The Jazz beat Oklahoma City in six games to reach the Western Conference semifinals, where they lost 4-1 to Houston.

    ''We already know the offense, We already know the defense,'' Favors said. ''We know the whole system, so it makes it easier for us to go through training camp and not have to spend as much time doing that again. We can move onto something else and work on different things.''

    No one on the Jazz roster is approaching the season ahead in a vacuum. They are aware of high-profile free-agent additions made by the Warriors, the Lakers, and the Rockets. Keeping pace with other Western Conference contenders starts with putting in the work now.

    ''We have to focus on ourselves first,'' point guard Ricky Rubio said. ''We know that the Western Conference got tougher. But at the end of the day it's about us getting better. Last year, we did a pretty good job of getting better through the course of the season and I think we got to do the same thing now.''
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Bulls look to Markkanen, LaVine
    September 24, 2018
    By The Associated Press


    CHICAGO (AP) The Chicago Bulls won't make any bold predictions about Year Two of their rebuilding project. They also won't deny that a growth spurt on the court for Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine would accelerate the process in a big, big way.

    The 23-year-old LaVine and 21-year-old Markkanen were front and center Monday, when the team held its media day amid cautious optimism for the season ahead.

    ''I want to see growth,'' coach Fred Hoiberg said. ''Last year guys made significant progress in their careers, but it's our job now to take that to the next level.''

    That goes for Markkanen and LaVine in particular.

    LaVine, Markkanen and guard Kris Dunn were part of the Jimmy Butler trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves shortly after the 2016-17 season. They will be the linchpins of a more up-tempo offense that plays to their athleticism and one that Hoiberg prefers. Camp opens as the Timberwolves listen to trade offers for the unhappy Butler after just one season.

    ''(Butler) did a lot of really good things for the organization, but that's not our concern,'' said Bulls executive John Paxson. ''We've moved on. We have too much to worry about internally ourselves to become a better team.''

    In his NBA debut, Markkanen was an all-NBA rookie team selection on the strength of 15.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.

    ''Man, I just want him to keep building on what he did,'' LaVine said. ''You know, the sky's the limit for him.''

    Like many of his teammates, however, the noticeably bulked-up Markkanen remains a work in progress. He has to show that he can be a consistent shot-maker and rim protector as well as endure the rigors of the regular-season grind. He said he added 17 pounds to ''around 240'' over the summer.

    Now the 7-footer has an All-Star Game appearance in mind.

    ''Why not?'' Markkanen said. ''I don't know when that's going to happen, but I definitely set that as a goal.''

    Despite a 27-55 record last season, the Bulls had a largely uneventful summer.

    Nineteen-year-old center Wendell Carter Jr. (No. 7, Ohio State) and Chandler Hutchison (No. 22, Boise State) were drafted in the first round. Both showed flashes in the Summer League, but neither is expected to be an immediate difference-maker. Oft-injured Jabari Parker was signed to one-year, $20 million deal as a free agent that made him the highest-paid player on the roster. The team has the option for a second year for the Chicago native.

    The greatest longterm investment was in LaVine, who said he was healthy again after torn ACL in February 2017 cut short his last two seasons. He sat out training camp last fall, after which he averaged 16.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3 assists in 24 games.

    In July, the Sacramento Kings signed LaVine to a four-year, $78-million offer sheet. Chicago matched it within hours.

    ''This year I was able to get my legs underneath me,'' said LaVine, who was in a rehab program at this time a year ago. ''Last year I was coming off the ACL injury at about 60, 70 percent. Now I'm back at 100.''

    Notes: Free agent forwards Kaiser Gates and JaKarr Sampson were signed Monday to round out the preseason roster. ... Longtime TV broadcaster Neil Funk will have his road schedule reduced 20 games in the regular season.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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