The Suns are a blank canvas. Here’s their plan to paint a masterpiece

Like other young teams, Phoenix values its own brand of character. Team personnel call it the Suns fit, Watson says good guys who play with a chip on their shoulder, even if it means picking up the occasional technical foul.

Phoenix won’t be a playoff team for some time. But the Suns feel like they have the three pillars in place as the foundation to a contender down the road.

Booker has already emerged as a future star in this league. They hope Chriss and Bender keep developing the chemistry needed to form one of the more unique 4-5 tandems the NBA can offer. They’re encouraged that Jackson has shown flashes of dominance on both ends of the floor in Summer League.

But the other reason agents are wary of two-way contracts is that it restricts the player’s freedom of movement. Players who once could be called up by 30 different NBA teams now are linked exclusively with just one and on a limited basis, at that.

Sure, there are technically 60 more players in the NBA. But it will only be at a specific team’s discretion, with no lateral movement until the contract is up. Before, the G-League’s most convincing selling point was how easily any player could be called up for a 10-day tryout. That goes away for players who sign two-way contracts.

For some prospects, a two-way deal will make sense. Players looking for more money but who can’t go overseas have a more lucrative G-League option. Prospects who believe an organizational investment in them as players is more beneficial to their development than floating around unattached will likely love the new structure.

The two-way contract is an attempt to keep the G-League moving toward a true minor league system, which is important to the NBA, and deservedly so.

But the new system isn’t a universally beneficial one, even if it improves the G-League in certain places.

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3 winners and 2 losers from a surprising week in the WNBA

The best team in the WNBA had their worst week yet, while the worst team had their best. That’s where we’re at in this year’s WNBA season, which only has a few weeks left to play.

Here are the winners and losers from the WNBA this past week, featuring good times in San Antonio, a bad few days in Minnesota, and an excellent day for dancing.

The Stars were a dreadful 3-21 on the final day of July, drifting aimlessly through a lost season with little to show for it, not even from their thrilling rookie Kelsey Plum who barely played. That’s how you lose a locker room and why fans stop showing up. You can be bad, but you have to give them something.

The Wizards and the Celtics playing at noon should have been a given, so I didn’t even try to get around that. But we could have started to shake things up in the afternoon with a Kyrie vs. LeBron matchup. We needed a quick break from Cavs-Warriors so this will suffice.

Then, we would have seen a solid Texas matchup between the Spurs and Rockets, which would have taken place while you absolutely have to pay attention to your families. The night could have started with Russell Westbrook taking his new best friend Paul George right into the Bay Area to see how they stack up against the Warriors. The score of this game doesn’t matter. It’s the drama that we need.

Then, the night would have finished with a fun game between the youngest stars in the game.

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Lonzo Ball wears Kobes in Summer League game, drops 36 points and 11 assists

Lonzo Ball had far and away his best game of Summer League Wednesday night, putting up a stat line of 36 points, 11 assists, eight rebounds, and five steals in a Lakers win against the Sixers.

Aside from the shoes, Ball really did play a brilliant game. He scored all of his 36 points in the final three quarters. He started the game dishing out assists to all of his teammates, finishing with six assists after the first quarter.

Ball had a three-point play that put the Lakers up one with 5.9 seconds left. The Sixers would score again, giving the Lakers one last chance to put the game away. Ivica Zubac was fouled on the inbounds pass and hit both free throws to win the game.

Rose feels like empty calories at this point. With the right coach and teammates, he could turn into a top-drawer back-up point guard. You just wonder if he’s ready to follow that path or if he still believes he can still be an all-star (which he cannot). Seeing what market develops for him this summer should be fascinating.

Collison has actually been solid for the Kings over the last couple of years, and he’s quite a shooter. There’s a strong possibility Sacramento will re-sign him to help bring De’Aaron Fox along, but he could end up as a back-up somewhere for $10-12 million per season.

Shan Livingston and the Warriors agreed to a 3-year, $24 million deal that begins to keep the Warriors bench in place. Livingston doesn’t put up numbers, shoot threes, or set up his teammates too much. But he’s a fierce defender, a high-character teammate, and the post-up god of point guards. Livingston probably could have taken a bigger payday elsewhere but winning with the Warriors was more important.

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Kristaps Porzingis is being groped by a giant honey-soaked arm in this Latvian Visa commercial

A commercial for a new Visa card in Latvia has given us one of the most confusing, bizarre, awe-inspiring pieces of video ever to star Kristaps Porzingis. Pour yourself a stiff drink for this one, because you’re going to need it:

It opens with an uncomfortably long arm extending through the clouds and reaching out to us. The arm is covered in an extremely long sleeve, the maker of which we’re never introduced to. Conceivably, it’s from a God-like tailor of unimaginable skill in the arts of tensile strength and textile flexibility:

The arm swims with dolphins and strokes a vintage car before making its way to a very good dog alone in a field:

There are no clouds in this world. Humans have no deign to build in the pupper’s realm. It is alone, waiting to be touched by human hands and is sadly met with a hellish nightmare arm.

While they have been linked to every star player to come along, Ainge has been a discerning shopper at the moment of truth. He was nowhere near the DeMarcus Cousins fire sale and he held off on Jimmy Butler’s draft night trade to the Wolves.

He wanted Paul George, but he wanted to do it on his terms and his timetable. The Pacers said no and we’ll see if that was a wise move or impulsive. For his part, Ainge wasn’t giving up on the Brooklyn pick or the Sauce Castillo Swap (as Ziller has termed it) and he wasn’t giving up their young guys like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown either.

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De’Aaron Fox tweets and deletes response to Lonzo Ball missing their rematch at Summer League

Los Angeles Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball and Sacramento Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox had a heated rivalry during their stints in college, and the feud could carry over to the NBA. However, even though the Kings and Lakers will collide in the Summer League on Monday, fans will have to wait for both players to compete against one another at the next level.

According to’s Ramona Shelburne, Ball will not play Monday night against Sacramento because of a groin injury he suffered. Shelburne noted that the 19-year-old guard has been dealing with groin issues since last week.

The Mavericks and Knicks were also teams that showed interest but Holiday ultimately signed back with Chicago. Holiday was part of the Derrick Rose trade in 2016 that sent Rose and Holiday to the Knicks. His choice to go with Chicago in free agency could be that it gives him an opportunity to be a starter as the Bulls are in rebuilding mode after trading away All-Star Jimmy Butler on draft night. Holiday has bounced around with many teams in his career but this is his first big day and hopefully a good fit for the future.

As such, the only teams that get into the restricted free agency business are those with already existent cap space. Few teams are willing to perform cap sheet gymnastics just to submit an offer sheet, and rightly so.

One more minor twist: RFA offer sheets must be at least three years in length. So teams with one year of cap space to burn aren’t in the game. This is why the Lakers weren’t available to RFAs L.A. wants to retain its cap space for next summer.

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Clippers sign European star Milos Teodosic to 2-year deal

After star point guard Chris Paul left Los Angeles via trade to the Houston Rockets, the Clippers addressed their need for a floor general by signing Serbian guard Milos Teodosic, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The deal is worth $12.3 million over two years and includes a player option on Year 2.

Pierce averaged 21.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 3.9 assists with Boston in 15 seasons. He was the Finals MVP for the Celtics in the 2008 Finals alongside Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen as they beat the Los Angeles Lakers in six games.

His name will forever be a constant throughout the Celtics’ all-time leaderboards. The California native tops the franchise lists in three-point field goals (1,823), free throws (6,434), and steals (1,583), while also placing as the Celtics’ second all-time leading scorer with 24,021 career points.

Boston originally drafted with the No. 10 overall pick in the 1998 NBA Draft out of Kansas. He made his first All-Star Game in 2002 when he was 24 years old.

For his career, Pierce played with four teams, including the Nets and Wizards later in his career. He averaged 19.7 points per game throughout his 19 seasons in the NBA.

Furthermore, if the player is willing to take a reasonable deal, he’ll just agree to it with the original team and bypass the games. If the original team values the player highly, they’ll likely make a generous offer to avoid the contract trickery that restricted free agency brings.

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Kyrie Irving requests trade from Cavaliers, stunning LeBron James and entire NBA

Kyrie Irving shocked the basketball world when he requested to be traded from the Cavaliers, according to multiple reports. Despite winning a championship and reaching three straight Finals, Irving is reportedly tired of ceding the spotlight to LeBron James and yearns to run his own team.

For those who are emoji illiterate (no shame in that!), here’s a translation: a palm tree represents the Miami Heat, who are trash. The shamrock emoji is the Celtics, of course, and they’re poop. And the Jazz, represented by a saxophone? The trophy emoji is often used to represent something that’s generally positive, but in this specific instance, perhaps Gobert is trying to say that if Hayward returns then Utah will win a championship.

Ah yes, the we have more rings flex. That’s what he’s saying: the Heat have three, the Celtics have 17, and the Jazz have … none. (That’s what the little emoji guy is saying, crossing his arms and shrugging.)

However you want to categorize him, Hayward is an offensive star and offensive stars solve problems. He should fit seamlessly into a system that was desperate for another shot-creator and shooter to pair with Isaiah Thomas. One or the other should be on the court at all times, meaning those interminable minutes when the Celtics couldn’t do anything but fire up contested threes will become a thing of the past.

Hayward does come with a cost. To clear the space to offer him a max contract, the Celtics had to waive Tyler Zeller and renounce their free agents, including Kelly Olynyk. They’ll also need to trade somebody from their roster. That somebody will be one or more of the following: Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, or Jae Crowder.

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How the NBA can keep self-destructive teams like the Nets from hurting the league

The Brooklyn Nets had a productive offseason, adding D’Angelo Russell, Allen Crabbe, DeMarre Carroll, and Jarrett Allen.

But let’s be honest: We’re grading on a curve here. The Nets also lost Brook Lopez, who is better now than anyone else mentioned. It’s not clear Brooklyn will win more than the 20 games the Nets won in 2016-17. The Nets are still in deep trouble.

Consider it from this angle: Brooklyn swung its deal for Russell because the second-worst team in the league was from a team nearly as awful as the Nets themselves! This bodes poorly for immediate improvement.

What’s worse is that tanking still does nothing for the Nets this season: Brooklyn owes Boston its 2018 first-round pick outright due to the Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce trade. That same trade cost the Nets the No. 3 pick in 2016 and the No. 1 pick in 2017. That pick could send Luka Doncic or Michael Porter to the Celtics in 2018.

So yes, the Nets found a way to improve this summer. But without a lottery pick in 2018, Brooklyn is still two years away from being two years away.

There are a number of reasons teams end up not moving disgruntled stars just look at how the Kyrie Irving buzz has stalled and Aldridge might be one of the most complicated cases around. That’s both bad and good.

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Paul George to the Cavs trade was closer than we thought

The Cavaliers may have been closer to a Paul George trade than we thought. And thanks to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, Dave McMenamin and Brian Windhorst, we now know exactly what offer was on the table.

The Cavaliers were just moments away from finalizing a three-team deal that would have sent George to Cleveland, Kevin Love to Denver and Gary Harris and other pieces to Indiana, according to ESPN.

Plans were put in place for a call to be arranged between George and Gilbert, an important step before the trade would become final, sources said. The front office began making other plans to complement George as free agency was about to begin.

But then Pritchard, who had been on the conference call when the deal was tentatively agreed to, sent the message that his team was backing out, sources said. There was no deal.

When Fox heard the news, he tweeted a picture of an emoji character with his hands over his face. He was probably disappointed that he and Ball wouldn’t get the chance to go head-to-head on Monday. Fox later deleted the tweet, though.

Ball’s UCLA Bruins and Fox’s Kentucky Wildcats played against each other twice last year. The Bruins won the first meeting, 97-92, in December. Ball racked up 14 points, seven assists, and six boards, but Fox scored 20 points and dished out nine assists. Ball and Fox met again during the NCAA tournament. Kentucky won, 86-75, eliminating UCLA from the tournament. Fox torched Ball, scoring a game-high 39 points to lead Kentucky to victory. Fox said he scored all those points in the Sweet 16 to shut LaVar Ball, Lonzo’s dad, up.

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Lawsuit claims Atlanta Hawks discriminated against entertainers because of race

One business day before Turner was brought in, Hayes was fired, according to the lawsuit. Hayes was allegedly let go for terminating one staffer and suspending another without consulting the Human Resources department. Hayes said there was no policy against that.

The same day, Hayes sent an email to Shaw, Wilkinson, and one other person to express that his firing was retaliatory. Shaw emailed him back a week later and told him he should have complained in writing, that decisions about security have nothing to do with race, and that there was nothing she could do for him.

The biggest thing is the league gets better, Brase said. I just think it’s good that we’re getting people toward the baseball minor league system where you’re bringing guys up the way you want to bring them up. I think that’s important, too, for players to have some stability. If you’re in a certain situation and learning that system, and you get a chance at the NBA level, you’re comfortable.

Brase brought up Gary Payton II, who played for the Vipers last year, as a player who could have been retained on a two-way deal had he signed with the Rockets organization this summer instead of the last one.

We (would have been able) to keep him in the system, Brase said. Gary is a great system fit for us, the way he played.

Things we could see this summer? Gordon Hayward could leave Utah or Kyle Lowry could walk away from his best friend DeMar DeRozan and the Toronto Raptors. We’ve already seen Chris Paul, who would have been the big fish on the market, engineer a trade to the Houston Rockets. Then we were blindsided when Paul George, who is not a free agent, was traded by the Pacers to join Westbrook in Oklahoma City.

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