NBA

LeBron James signs four-year deal with Los Angeles Lakers

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LeBron James signed his new four-year NBA contract worth $154 million with the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday, with Lakers president Earvin “Magic” Johnson calling it a “huge step” for the team.

The Klutch Sports Group, agents for James, tweeted a photo of the four-time NBA Most Valuable Player on Monday night with “officially signed with the Lakers” as the caption.

The agents revealed July 1, hours after the start of free agency, that James had agreed to terms on the Lakers deal, leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers after four seasons in which he led them to four NBA Finals.

James brought Cleveland its first major sports crown since 1964 when the Cavs won the 2016 NBA crown but lost three of four finals showdowns with the Golden State Warriors, falling to 3-6 for his career in the NBA Finals, and decided to make a move in hopes of rebuilding the Lakers into a winner.

The Lakers tweeted an image of James wearing the team’s purple and gold jersey with his name and number, 23, on the back and the city lights of Los Angeles in the background plus “The King has arrived” as a caption.

“Today is a great day for the Lakers organization and Lakers fans all over the world to welcome LeBron James, a three-time NBA Champion and four-time NBA MVP,” Johnson said.

“LeBron is special. He is the best player in the world. He loves to compete and is an awesome leader who is about winning and making sure that his teammates are successful. The Lakers players are excited to have a teammate who has been to nine NBA Finals.

“It’s a huge step closer to returning the Lakers to the playoffs and to the NBA Finals.”

The Lakers, a 16-time NBA champion, have missed the playoffs for five consecutive seasons. They haven’t gone past the second round of the playoffs since Kobe Bryant led the Lakers to consecutive NBA titles in 2009 and 2010.

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Atlanta Hawks rookie Trae Young has had a rough summer

Jay Asser 9/07/2018
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Trae Young is dealing with a quad contusion.

Trae Young’s summer league campaign has been less than ideal and there’s a chance he won’t be in action again until the preseason.

The Atlanta Hawks rookie left Sunday’s 85-68 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers in Las Vegas with a right quad contusion – an injury that isn’t considered serious but may force Atlanta to be cautious with last month’s number five overall pick.

Atlanta only have one more scheduled game before the playoffs – against Chicago on Tuesday – and Young is hoping to return to the court before the summer league comes to an end.

“I’m going to try to get back in and get my body healed,” Young said, via ESPN. “It’s really up to them (when I play). I want to be back for the playoffs for sure, get some more games under my belt and keep playing.”

Young sounds like he’s eager to play again as soon as possible, and with how underwhelming he’s been so far, it’s understandable why.

Young entered the league known for being an elite shooter and playmaker, yet the former hasn’t lived up to the billing. After shooting 23.0 per cent in three games in Utah, the 19-year-old hasn’t been much better in Las Vegas, where he’s 4-of-16 so far.

His outside shot has especially been off the mark as he’s knocked down just 6-of-35 attempts from deep in total this summer.

While his free-and-easy shot selection hasn’t been uncharacteristic, the makes haven’t been there for a player that drew comparisons to Stephen Curry in his eye-popping season in college at Oklahoma.

Shooting during summer league rarely means anything because of the sample size, but Young’s aforementioned shot selection is arguably the biggest culprit for his low percentages. If he continues to take the kind of difficult shots he’s fired off so far, his shooting may not significantly improve.

Young’s playmaking, however, has been mostly encouraging as he averaged 4.3 assists in Utah and now 7.0 in Vegas.

If he tunes his decision-making and looks to facilitate more than looking for his own shot, he may find more success.

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NBA

New York Knicks rookie Kevin Knox stole the show on the second day of Las Vegas Summer League

Jay Asser 8/07/2018
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Kevin Knox flies for a dunk in his first Summer League game.

The Las Vegas Summer League offers rookies a stage on which to make an eye-catching first impression, and that’s exactly what Kevin Knox did in his highlight-filled debut for the New York Knicks.

The 18-year-old, who was greeted by boos from Knicks fans when he was drafted ninth overall last month, quickly converted his detractors into believers with an impressive outing in his first game on Saturday.

Knox finished with 22 points, eight rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block in New York’s 91-89 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.

His 8-of-20 shooting, including 1-of-7 from beyond the arc, was nothing to write home about, but his stat line didn’t do complete justice to just how bright Knox shined.

What immediately stood out with the 6-foot-9 forward was his fluidity and smoothness, which amplified his athleticism.

Knox was often used as a small forward in his lone college season at Kentucky, but he looks like the perfect small-ball four in the NBA as someone who will greatly benefit from the increase in spacing at the next level.

His fluidity was especially noticeable in the open court, where Knox terrorised Atlanta with baskets in transition, including three dunks – one of which saw him go coast-to-coast after coming up with a steal.

Defensively, Knox displayed his ability to switch onto smaller players and contest shots on the perimeter before leaking out on the fast break.

Though he didn’t shoot efficiently from long range, his stroke looked as smooth as the rest of his game and showed a lot of promise.

“I thought it went really well, totally different from college, fast-paced, a lot of 3s,’’ Knox said of his first taste as a pro. “It was real fun. That’s what the coaches told me from the jump, to attack the basket and get to the free-throw line.”

Summer League isn’t always indicative of future success, but in Knox’s case he’s already passed the eye test with flying colours. It’s obviously too early to say just how good he can be, but it certainly looks like the Knicks have got themselves a player.

Wendell Carter Jr

He didn’t get the same buzz as fellow bigs Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III, Jaren Jackson Jr or Mohamed Bamba in the lead-up to the draft, but Wendell Carter Jr has the chance to be just as good as the players selected ahead of him, if not better.

Coming out of Duke, Carter was considered fairly polished and skilled across the board, but not elite in any one particular facet. In his Summer League debut, however, the 19-year-old centre showcased elite rim protection by swatting five shots in his 29 minutes.

He might not be adept or quick enough to keep smaller players in front of him after switching over, but it might not matter if Carter can recover to challenge shots at the basket like he did in the Chicago Bulls’ 86-81 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

On the other end, he knocked down 2-of-3 triples – both from the corners – to register 16 points. Carter shot 41.3 per cent from 3 on just 46 attempts at Duke, so it’s not as if outside shooting is foreign to him, but if he can consistently be somewhat of a threat from deep in the NBA, that will open up his offensive game even more.

“In the NBA game, the court is a lot bigger than college,” Carter said, via the Chicago Tribune. “It’s one-on-one most of the time, so I am going to be able to showcase a lot more things as I get bigger, stronger.

“It’s so that no one will be able to score on me in the post. That’s what I want to get to at some point.”

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