LeBron James was at the Lakers-Sixers Summer League game

The Lakers had another Summer League game Wednesday night, playing the Philadelphia 76ers, and they had a special guest in the stands Cavaliers superstar LeBron James.

None of your young players emerged as a franchise pillar or star last season. Does that make your job tougher, from a player-personnel standpoint?
First off, there are very few guys who shine after one or 2 seasons. Only the elite guys do. But I kind of like it this way. We’re built like you learn from your mistakes. When you’re not a superstar, you have a chip on your shoulder because it makes them hungrier to get better.

So I kind of like the progression. I like slow progression. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Mikhail Prokhorov has told us ‘patience, patience.’ I have the same message. We’re gonna be patient with them. They made some progress, but now to make that next step is harder. I’m looking two, three, sometimes development is four years down the road. That’s when hopefully we’ll see these guys, really. You’ll be talking about ‘man, that guy’s a heckuva player.’

You finished with the NBA’s worst record last season. What kind of progress did you see as a team internally that people on the outside may have missed?
I thought we improved defensively when we put Rondae in the starting lineup and we inserted Caris obviously Bojan [Bogdanovic] was traded. So all of the sudden we go from 30th defensive team to, after the All-Star game we were eighth in defensive efficiency. So I was proud of that. It’s not like the coaches did anything, but Caris and Rondae being a part of that defensive improvement I think is very important.

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Nick Young, Warriors reportedly agree on 1-year, $5.2 million deal

The Golden State Warriors and free agent swingman Nick Young have agreed to a one-year deal worth $5.2 million, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The deal adds more depth to the defending champions, who already re-signed the core pieces to their title-winning team this summer.

Young, known best by his nickname Swaggy P, averaged 13.2 points on 40-percent three-point shooting for the Los Angeles Lakers last season. He projects to fit well alongside a cast of selfless, personable Warriors players who thrive on court spacing and hitting three-pointers.

So why talk about it now? It’s happening when it’s happening because that’s what feels right, Bird says. So even though I understand there are people who think I should have done it sooner, it wasn’t right for me at the time. I have to be true to that. It’s my journey.
Talk about a power couple in sports! Bird recently won Olympic gold in Rio with the U.S. women’s basketball team (her fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal), and Rapinoe is part of the defending World Cup champion U.S. women’s soccer team. Both of them are two of the biggest names in their sport in the United States.

It is interesting what Bird said about people already knowing. Frankly, I was surprised to see she wasn’t publicly out already. Still, her story and being out will help countless people continue their journey to self-acceptance, and it’s wonderful to see her take this step.

Head over to ESPNW for the full article and interview with Bird, in which she talks about almost coming out a year about, but says she chickened out.

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NBA Summer League schedule 2017: Times, TV channels, and live stream for Thursday in Las Vegas

Las Vegas Summer League’s single elimination tournament continues on Thursday with eight more games on the slate. Eight teams that had byes in the first round will all play as the home team in Round 2. The winners from each of Wednesday’s Round 1 advanced to face a team with a bye.

Waiters had reportedly been deciding between the Heat, the New York Knicks, and the Los Angeles Lakers. Last season, Waiters averaged 15.8 points on 42.4 percent shooting, bouncing back from two subpar seasons with the Cavaliers and the Thunder.

Now, the Heat will have retained almost all of the roster that went 30-11 in the season’s second half, reversing their 11-30 first half record. While Miami probably isn’t a 55-win team the rate they were winning at during the final 41 games they are still led by one of the league’s sharpest coaches and surrounded by a lovable mismatch of talents that worked beautifully during February and March last year.

It’s a little strange that Waiters fits into that group, given how much his career had turned into a punchline for Twitter users. But the Heat have found ways to use him effectively, and that shouldn’t change for a player who’s still just 25 years old.

A former employee of the Atlanta Hawks is suing the basketball organization and another employee for treating entertainers and politicians visiting the Hawks differently based on race, according to a lawsuit filed this week.

Samuel Hayes, a former Security Operations Manager for the club, claims in the suit that there were different sets of security protocol for black and non-black entertainers who visited Philips Arena. Hayes said the protocol, when enforced differently, was to the detriment of black entertainers. Hayes also claimed he was fired because of his race.

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Kenny Atkinson explains his vision to patiently bring the Nets back to prominence

Brooklyn’s head coach answered SB Nation’s questions at Vegas Summer League about his relationship with Sean Marks, Brook Lopez, and D’Angelo Russell.

The way we play offense, it’s very conducive to both of them getting enough touches. You look at C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard and I don’t want to compare the players but they end up both playing a ton of point guard. They just stagger the minutes. So believe me, there’s gonna be enough minutes, enough touches for both of those guys.

I look at it for myself as like, we just got another really good player. Jeremy’s really good, he’s really good. Now it’s up to our coaching staff to figure out how we can use them best.

I think we had a film session the other day, and one of the things I showed them was us turning down open shots. I think I’m an expand-your-game type of coach. I see the good in all players. … It’s just a mindset, a growth mindset for players. I think they can do a lot more.

Now once the season starts, when the competition starts, we’ve got to figure out who does what best. But I think right now, we’re in a growth mindset. So I think we can take a little risk in terms of letting the ball fly a little and giving them freedom to play.

This coming season, the NBA will employ 60 more players than ever before. Don’t take my word for it: You’ll likely hear this fun fact oversaturate NBA television broadcasts almost as frequently as you’re reminded that the NBA replay center is based in Secaucus, N.J.

In the new collective bargaining agreement, the league has introduced two new roster slots where teams can sign players to a two-way contract, which allows them to spend a finite amount of time with their respective NBA team and the rest of their season with a G-League affiliate.

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Magic Johnson thinking face is the first meme of NBA Summer League

As the Lakers played their first Summer League game on Friday, the ESPN cameras zoomed in on Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka watching the young squad on the court. It wasn’t much, but a timely screen grab caught Magic Johnson looking like he’s low-key flexing for the gram. He definitely knew the cameras were on him, and he wanted to look as stoic as possible. We don’t blame him; it’s a good look, but it jumpstarted the first meme of the NBA Summer League.

This is especially difficult for Magic, who I assume has a fairly large garage. Imagine he left the door open while he’s all the way in Las Vegas? We’d be pensive about the whole situation too.

Oh me? Just trying to gather my thoughts in this candid photo that I’m posting on Instagram later. This needs an accompanying fake-deep photo caption to really be peak Instagram. That or some delectable colorful dessert.

The NBA Finals were anticlimactic, but they served to ensure Iguodala gets paid one way or another. He looked downright spry after a hobbled close to the season, and his clutch defense on LeBron James showed he still has it.

He created a market to threaten Golden State into giving him a bigger contract than the Warriors likely wanted, but at least he’s back.

It seems impossible that C.J. Miles just turned 30 at the end of the regular season. The power of the preps-to-pro black mirror knows no bounds.

Miles is just a very solid NBA wing: he’s quite efficient, will defend anyone you throw at him, and fits in. He never stands out, but every team could use a few players like him. He seems like the perfect Houston Rocket.

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Gordon Hayward’s free agency is being fought through Twitter emojis

The Utah Jazz, Boston Celtics, and Miami Heat are in the midst of a frantic bidding war for free agent Gordon Hayward, who is taking meetings with all three over the first three days of free agency. There’s no clear favorite right now, so players on those teams have taken to tweeting their own arguments for Hayward joining those teams. Emojis only, though.

Luke [Walton]’s a helluva coach, but I thought [Russell] was just looking for a fresh start, he told SB Nation. So we’re like a fresh program, fresh start, and I really hope that can jumpstart him.

For Atkinson, a Northport, N.Y. native, coaching the Nets has been a dream too good to be true. But he can’t stop to pinch himself. Atkinson’s a go guy; it’s how he’s risen up the ranks from an assistant coach in France to an assistant coach with both the Knicks and the Hawks before landing his dream job at home.

That’s why pacing back-and-forth along the Thomas & Mack Center sidelines, Atkinson has the demeanor of a man who knows his work is cut out for him. Because the Nets aren’t competing for the now; they’re pacing themselves for the future.

Then there are the good players with question marks. Really good players future or current stars don’t make it to restricted free agency, and if they do, their teams lock them up immediately. The best young players usually sign rookie extensions after their third seasons. Some don’t, and become restricted free agents ever so briefly after mutually agreeing to a new contract (as happened with Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, and Draymond Green) or being yanked into a new max contract (as happened with Jimmy Butler). Below the star level, it’s not so simple.

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Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is the latest victim of NBA restricted free agency

Van Gundy’s rash move may have been foolish we’ll see how Caldwell-Pope pans out, but renouncing valuable players you could still extract value from is usually a bad idea but it had a huge impact on how the player’s summer will wrap up. There are two routes: A one-year balloon contract with a team preserving cap space for 2017 (hello, Lakers) or a more reasonable, closer-to-market-value multi-year deal (perhaps with the Hawks).

Getting out of restricted free agency has its benefits. But Caldwell-Pope’s foray into the market was damaged heavily already. What a weird system.

There’s good and there’s bad, one agent who recently had a client sign a two-way contract told me. On one hand, when teams are looking to make call-ups, you’re locked into the one team. But on the other, if the team really likes you, you have to do anything you can to get your foot in the door.

It cements in place the opportunity to have guys in a development situation where they really are connected to the NBA organization and affiliate organization, Kent Lacob, general manager of the Santa Cruz Warriors, told me. It really provides more synergy and opportunity for guys to be integrated into both. I think that aids in the development of not just improving as a player, but specifically catered to the system, and the culture, and the team that they’re with.

Likewise, Rio Grande Valley Vipers head coach Matt Brase told me he sees the two-way contract as an awesome new addition.

Last year’s free agency was centered around whether Kevin Durant would stay with Russell Westbrook or bolt for the Bay Area. This summer, on the other hand, has a wider variety of players that can make moves and create the chaos NBA fans long to see. While Durant is again a free agent, it’s known he plans to re-sign with Golden State, so we can’t expect much drama there.

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Sue Bird comes out as gay, is dating Megan Rapinoe

Sue Bird won Olympic gold in Rio with the U.S. women’s basketball team. Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images
WNBA player and Olympic champion Sue Bird has come out publicly in an article with ESPNW. Bird told Mechelle Voepel that her sexual orientation isn’t a surprise to anyone who knows her. From ESPNW:

I’m gay. Megan’s my girlfriend … these aren’t secrets to people who know me, Bird says. I don’t feel like I’ve not lived my life. I think people have this assumption that if you’re not talking about it, you must be hiding it, like it’s this secret. That was never the case for me.

After averaging a career-high 19.6 points per game two years ago with Phoenix, Knight struggled last season. He averaged only 11 points per game while shooting just under 40 percent from the field, also recording a career-low 2.4 assists per game. It looked like there was a path for Knight to bounce back this season, but the injury derailed any chances to do that.

For the Suns, this is an unfortunate blow. Phoenix has been rumored to be in the market as a third team in a Kyrie Irving or Carmelo Anthony trade, taking on assets in exchange for a veteran like Eric Bledsoe. One reason Bledsoe was likely seen as expendable was Knight, however, and now his absence for most of the season could potentially change the mind of the Suns front office. For now, that’s just speculation, especially since the Suns haven’t been definitively linked in any deals. However, it’s a possibility that Knight’s injury has bigger ramifications.

Knight’s injury opens up a larger role for Tyler Ulis and perhaps second-round pick Davon Reed, whom the Suns selected with the 32nd overall pick last month.

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How Danny Ainge brought the Celtics here and delivered Gordon Hayward

Their frontcourt is awfully thin and there are still the other transactional shoes to drop. By using cap space to sign Hayward they won’t have the more valuable exceptions to pad out the roster. Depending on what they can get back in trade, they’ll be relying on rookies and near-rookies to play meaningful roles. Free agency looms for Isaiah Thomas after next season, as well.

That’s alright for now because Ainge and the Celtics are still primed for the future. No doubt there will be more interest about those draft picks and no doubt there will be a million more rumors between now and whenever this incredible string of assets has finally run its course. Ultimately what getting Hayward does is buy even more time for that vision to materialize.

Give Danny Ainge this: He’s walked down all three roster avenues to build this team and he’s not done yet.

So far, 11 such contracts have been officially announced, and both Milwaukee (Wisconsin’s Bronson Koenig and Utah State’s Jalen Moore) and Washington (Florida’s Devin Robinson and Pittsburgh’s Michael Young) have already filled both spots. On the surface, it seems like a win for everyone involved.

A couple of agents I spoke to at NBA Summer League last week said they would not encourage their clients to sign two-way contracts this coming summer. Their pleas, in some cases, will fall on deaf ears, while other agents don’t have the same negative feelings about it.

That addition was only possible because Payton had autonomy to sign with any team rather than being tied into the Rockets.

If your goal is to play in the G-League and you want to have the freedom of movement, then yeah, maybe it does make sense to have freedom of movement in signing instead, Lacob said.

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Giannis Antetokounmpo is sitting out EuroBasket 2017, and Greece is livid for some reason

Against all odds, Giannis Antetokounmpo, an NBA wunderkind, was slated to play with the Greek national basketball team at EuroBasket 2017 this summer. EuroBasket has essentially become an exhibition tournament played for pride: It no longer figures in qualification for the Olympics or the FIBA World Cup. EuroBasket simply crowns the champions of Europe every couple of years.

On the surface, it’s just a bag of course. It’s meant to carry school supplies, which isn’t a small thing, but it’s also very common. But each year now, for four years in a row, Wall has mattered in some child’s life. He’s showed them that they matter, and that they can make a difference given the proper tools. They don’t have to resort to other, sometimes more dangerous, means to make ends meet.

I just want these kids to understand that no matter where you start at or what you go through, you always can accomplish anything in life, Wall said. It might not be a professional basketball player. It might be a doctor, it might be a nurse. It might be whatever you want it to be. But if that’s what you want to be, lock in and set your goal for it and work hard every day for it.

So, even if it seems trivial, a little backpack goes a long way. Wall is showing children there is another way, through what he does and through what they can do in school. And for this community, that means the world.

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