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  1. LVSL: How's Chinese frontliner Zhou Qi with the Rockets?

    Las Vegas Summer League (seeds 9-24)

    Philadelphia (1-2) vs. LA Lakers (1-2)

    July 13, 10:30 a.m. today Manila time at Thomas and Mack Center.

    No Markelle Fultz (left ankle sprain) for the 76ers but Lonzo Ball could be back for Lakers after missing previous game vs. Sacramento due to a sore groin.

    Earlier result: Denver 87- Houston 81

    Chinese frontliner Zhou Qi, the Rockets' second-round draft pick a year ago, had 4 points and 3 rebounds in 23 minutes as a starter.

    Overall, the 7-2, 21-year-old Qi, who inked a multi-year rookie pact with the Rockets last month, has averaged 6.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in four games in the LVSL, including a 17-point. 6-rebound effort in 25 minutes in a 102-99 win over Denver in his Rockets debut.
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  2. Harden Agrees to Richest Contract in NBA History

    Move over, Wardell Stephen Curry II, a two-time National Basketball Association Most Valuable Player (2015 and 2016) who on June 30 agreed to a new five-year, $201-million deal with the reigning league titlist Golden State Warriors.

    That?s because one week and a day later, the record for the richest contract in NBA history no longer belongs to him.

    Last July 8, Houston Rockets guard James Edward Harden Jr., accepted a four-year, ?super-maximum? contract extension that is projected to be worth $170 million or more and will guarantee him at least $228 million through the 2022-23 season. This will be the largest ever NBA contract extension.

    Adding the two years and $58.72 million remaining on his current pact with the Texas squad (which came about as a result of Harden?s inking a four-year, $118.1 million contract extension on July 9, 2016 with an early-termination option in the final year), the 6-5 guard will be earning $228 million (or more) over the next six seasons for the richest player contract in league history, surpassing Curry?s new deal that makes the 6-3 long-range bomber the first NBAer ever to reach the $200-million plateau.

    Harden, who turns 28 in August, will earn $28.299399 in 2017-18 and $30.421854 million in 2018-19.
    Depending on how the NBA salary cap escalates each year, Harden's annual stipend under the extension will vary although he is expected to bankroll $37.8 million in 2019-20.

    The salary upgrade will go up to $40.8 million in 2020-21, $43.8 million in 2021-22 and $46.8 million in 2022-23.

    Harden is taking advantage of a provision in the new labor contract (collective bargaining agreement), which takes effect starting the 2017-18 season, that allows contract extensions for top-tier players such as Harden.

    ?The Beard? became eligible to add four years to his current contract after securing a berth on one of the three All-NBA teams this past campaign.

    During the 2016-17 wars, the California-born Harden played point guard for the Rockets for the first time in his pro career under NBA Coach of the year Mike D?Antoni, pacing the NBA in assists (11.2 apg) and ranking second in scoring (29.1 ppg) while norming 8.1 rebounds in 81 appearances ? an eight-year career high in all three categories.

    Harden also placed second in the MVP polls for the second time in three years and was the lone unanimous selection on the All-NBA First Team in media balloting ? the third time in four years that the Arizona State product was a first-team pick following selections in 2014 and 2015.

    With the arrival of playmaker de luxe Chris Paul in a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers in late June, Harden is likely to revert to his old role of 2-guard with the Rockets, who produced the third-best regular record (55-27) in the NBA last season.

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    Avery Antonio Bradley Jr., the final link to the Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett-Ray Allen Big 3 era in Beantown, became the scapegoat ? a salary cap casualty ? in the Boston Celtics? pursuit of Utah free agent Gordon Hayward.

    But there?s more work to do by the Celtics to help Hayward secure a maximum contract.

    Already Danny Ainge, the Celtics? president of basketball operations, has also pulled its qualifying offer to Kelly Olynyk (making the Canadian frontliner an unrestricted free agent and who has since inked a four-year, $50 million-plus deal with the Miami Heat). The club must likewise renounce veteran free agents Jonas Jerebko, James Young and Gerald Green, trade Terry Rozier, and then waive the non-guaranteed contract of Jordan Mickey. Additionally, it has another partially non-guaranteed pact in second-year point guard Demetrius Jackson, who could be waived or traded.

    Even then, the Celtics will still be about $300,000 shy of rewarding Hayward a maximum contract with a first-year salary of $29.444533.

    Could small forward Jae Crowder, who has three years and $21.9 million left in his contract, also be on the way out?

    The Celtics need to prepare for the impending free agency of All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas, who led the all East players in scoring last season with an NBA third-best 28.9-point average, in the summer of 2018 .Thomas, who has a year left on his contract, will attract huge offers from other teams if the 5-9 guard opts to try his luck in the open market. A contract extension may now be in the offing.

    The Celtics peddled seven-year veteran guard Avery Bradley Jr. (along with a 2019 second-round draft pick) to the Detroit Pistons (for Marcus Morris) to clear salary-cap space in preparation for the entry of Hayward and his proposed four-year, $128-million maximum deal, possibly through a sign-and-trade agreement with the Jazz.

    Bradley, who had ...
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  3. NBA Free Agency: Hayward Goes Celtics Green

    While National Basketball Association teams have been negotiating with veteran free agents and reaching trade agreements since the free-agency derby began last July 1, no contract signing can be consummated until noon of July 6 (or July 7, 12:00 a.m., Manila time) when the league-imposed moratorium ends and the league?s team salary cap for the 2017-18 season has been determined to be $99,093 million (up by nearly $5 million from the $94.143 million cap in 2016-17 when the NBA?s nine-year, $24-billion television contract started to take effect and around $30 million higher than the $70 million cap in 2015-16).

    By the wee hours of July 7 (Manila time), expect a lot of fireworks as the signings and trades can be made official.

    This early, the reigning NBA titlist Golden State Warriors, who last month shellacked the then-champion Cleveland Cavaliers, 4-1, in the Finals to corral their second title in three years, have already committed $328.3 million to re-sign five of their own free agents, namely, two-time league Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry ($201 million over five years), 2017 Finals MVP Kevin Durant ($53 million over two years), 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala ($48 million over three years), Shaun Livingston ($24 million over three years), and David West ($2.3 million for one season).

    The 6-3 Curry, an eight-year veteran guard, agreed to a super-maximum contract worth $201 million over five seasons to remain with the Warriors, the only team he has played for since breaking into the majors in 2009-10 out of the University of Davidson The 29-year-old long-range bomber has led the league in three-pointers made in each of the past five seasons (including an all-time NBA single-season record of 402 triples in 2015-16).

    Curry, who only got a bargain-basement four-year, $44-million deal in his previous contract, a pittance by today?s standards but more of a huge gamble by Golden State in the summer of 2013 due to issues regarding his brittle ankles that, in fact, limited the son of former NBA three-point marksman Dell Curry to just 26 games in 2011-12, will soon own the richest contract in U.S. pro team sports history, surpassing along the way the erstwhile NBA record held by Memphis guard Mike Conley, who inked a five-year, $153-million maximum pact to remain with the Grizzlies in July 2016.

    The first NBA player ever to reach the $200-million plateau, Curry is in line to become also the first player ever to bankroll $40 million in a single season, easily obliterating the current record of $33 million that His Airness Michael Jordan (now the majority owner of the Charlotte Hornets) salaried with the Chicago Bulls during their second ?three-peating? title finish in 1997-98.

    The sudden skyrocketing of player salaries can directly be attributed to the NBA?s humongous TV revenues.

    Curry is eligible for the super-max contract, or the Designated Player Veteran Contract, from his incumbent team under a provision in the new seven-year collective bargaining agreement (with an early-termination option after six years) between the league and the players? union that takes effect starting with the forthcoming 2017-18 wars.

    A player qualifies for the Designated Player Veteran Contract if he has been the NBA MVP, Defensive Player of the Year or made one of the three All-NBA teams the previous season, or been All-NBA/DPOY in two of the previous three seasons, or league MVP once in the previous season.

    Such a player can receive a super-max deal only from a team that drafted him or traded for him during his first four seasons.

    The maximum amount allowable for a DPVC also depends on the player?s years of service in the NBA. Each team can have a pair of DPVC players and their contracts can amount to as much as 35 percent of a team's salary cap.

    Curry has qualified for the DPVC list because over a three-year period, he has been an NBA MVP twice (2015 and 2016, when he was the first and only unanimous MVP in league annals and the first player ever to pace the league in scoring while shooting at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point range and 90 percent from the free-throw line), and was an All-NBA First Team selection twice (2015 and 2016) and an All-NBA Second Team choice this past campaign.

    Oklahoma City wunderkind Russell Westbrook also has qualified for the DPVC, having been this year?s MVP, a second-team All-NBA selection in 2014-15 and a first-team All-NBA pick in 2015-16 and 2016-17.

    At $40.2 million a year on the average, Cleveland' LeBron James, the NBA union's lead vice president behind re-elected president Chris Paul (now of Houston), thinks Curry is underpaid and should be getting a contract worth $400 million or double his annual stipend.

    James, touted as the best player in the league, is ...
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  4. NBA Awards Night: Westbrook, Rockets and Bucks are Big Winners

    Oklahoma City?s do-everything guard Russell Westbrook was the biggest winner in the first ever National Basketball Association Awards Night held last June 26 at the Basketball City in Pier 36, New York.

    Westbrook, who became the first player in 55 years to post a triple-double season average with an NBA-leading 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and league third-best 10.4 assists in 81 games, romped away with the Maurice Podoloff Trophy that goes to the NBA?s Most Valuable Player in a landslide balloting by a 101-member media panel.

    The 6-3 Westbrook, who has spent his entire nine-year pro career with the OKC Thunder, received 69 first-place votes, far outdistancing Houston?s James Harden (who had 22), San Antonio?s Kawhi Leonard (nine) and Cleveland?s LeBron James (one).

    I have no idea yet what the final points total were for the four men in the MVP race. A voter needed to select five players according to ranking with points assigned for first to fifth choices on a 10-7-5-3-1 basis and the MVP winner is determined by the total points he accumulates. There is no criterion in the selection of the MVP, not even a player?s statistics.)

    Westbrook, who captured his second NBA scoring title (the first came in 2014-15), broke a pair of 55-year-old triple-double NBA records previously held by ?The Big O? Oscar Robertson. The 28-year-old UCLA product racked up 42 T-D games ? one more than the 6-5 Robertson?s output with the Cincinnati Royals (the predecessors of the Sacramento Kings) in 1961-62 ? and joined him as the only players to register a triple-double season average. That year, Robertson normed 30.8 ppg, 12.5 rpg and 11.4 apg in 79 appearances as a second-year pro out of the University of Cincinnati.

    Be that as it may, my personal choice for MVP was ?The Beard? Harden. The 6-5 left-handed playmaker, who was Westbrook?s Thunder mate for three seasons (2009-12) before being jettisoned to the Rockets in late October 2012, finished second in the NBA in scoring behind Westbrook and first in assists. He is the first player ever to both score and assist on at least 2,000 points in a single season and accounted for the most points in league history with 4,554, surpassing Nate (Tiny) Archibald's 4,539 total in 80 games (2,719 points and 910 assists) with the Kansas City-Omaha Kings (now Sacramento Kings) in 1972-73 when the left-handed court general became the first and only player in NBA annals to pace the league in both scoring and assists in the same campaign. (Note that the three-point shot was not introduced until the 1979-80 season.)

    In his long, emotional NBA MVP acceptance speech wherein he thank just about everybody from the Thunder organization to his brother, wife and family (Pambansang Pabati, in short), I would have thought that Westbrook would graciously also acknowledge the great season turned in by his MVP rivals Harden and Leonard. That would have been great from a public-relations (PR) standpoint.

    In the Rookie of the Year derby, a long shot (at least to some non-media voters), Milwaukee?s little-known Malcolm Brogdon defeated a pair of Philadelphia freshmen in Joel Embiid and Dario Saric.

    A 6-5 backcourter, Brogdon averaged 10.2 points in 75 games (28 of them starts) and topped all rookies in assists (4.2 apg) and steals (1.1 spg) while also grabbing 2.8 rebounds in 26.4 minutes every time out. The 24-year-old Brogdon, a lowly second-round pick (36th overall) in the entire 2016 NBA draft after spending five years (including one sitout) at the University of Virginia, joined Lew Alcindor (now known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) as the only players in Bucks history to earn the ROY honor. He is also the first player not drafted in the first round to win the award since 1966 when the modern-day draft system was instituted (and the ?territorial first-round selection? rule abolished).

    Brogdon was one of only two unanimous choices by a media panel on the NBA All-Rookie First Team, along with the 23-year-old Saric, a 6-10 power forward who posted averages of 12.8 points, 6.3 boards and 2.2 assists in 81 games (including 36 starts) with the 76ers and led all rookies with five 20-point, 10-rebound performances. Saric, the 12th overall selection by Orlando in the 2014 draft whose rights were shipped to Philly in return for co-first-rounder guard Elfrid Payton on draft day, is a member of the Croatian national team.

    Embiid would have been a runaway ROY winner if he had stayed healthy throughout the season. The 7-foot center from Cameroon, who was sidelined for two seasons due to a pair of surgeries on his right foot, was limited to 31 appearances due to a torn meniscus in his left knee (an injury that was sustained in mid-February and sidelined him for the remainder of the regulars) and averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in just 25.4 minutes a game. The 23-year-old ...
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  5. NBA: Russell, Howard Traded

    The first major off-season transaction struck by new Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations Earvin (Magic) Johnson Tuesday is not geared for the 2017-18 National Basketball Association (NBA) season but rather for the summer of 2018.

    In a cost-cutting move, the Lakers shipped guard D'Angelo Russell and center Timothy Mozgov to the sad-sack Brooklyn Nets - who finished with the NBA's worst record this past campaign at 20-62 - in exchange for the Nets' one-time All-Star center Brook Lopez, sophomore-to-be swingman Caris LaVert and their 27th overall selection (which originally belonged to Boston) in the 2017 NBA draft on June 23 Manila time (7:00 a.m.) at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

    (The Nets agreed to swap first-rounders with the Celtics this year as part of the July 12, 2013 trade involving Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.)
    The 7-foot, 29-year-old Lopez, who was born in North Hollywood, California, is in the final year of his three-year Nets contract worth $22.64 million in 2017-18 - which frees salary cap space for the Lakers in the summer of 2018 to go after a prominent free agent.

    Russell, a shoot-first, pass-later point guard, has a year remaining on the original three-year rookie-scale deal he inked with the Lakers as a No. 2 overall choice in the 2015 NBA draft.
    The Lakers were not about to pick up the option on the rookie pact of the 6-5, 21-year-old Russell in 2018 and probably has an insurance anyway with the drafting of UCLA playmaker Lonzo Ball with the second overall in the college grab-bag on Friday.

    El-Ay, which also owns the No. 28 overall choice (via Houston) and now the No. 27 pick following the trade with the Nets for back-to-back selections, has a plethora of backcourters with Jordan Clarkson and Nick Young still under contract.

    The 7-1 Mozgov, who turns 31 next month, has three years left on the four-year, $64-million he signed with the Lakers as a free agent last summer.

    However, the Lakers shut down a healthy Mozgov for the remainder of the 2016-17 season in mid-March - along with another high-priced free-agent acquisition last summer in 6-8 forward Luol Deng - officially to give the majority of playing time over the final 15 games to the team's younger players but more for "tanking" to secure a higher draft position with their frigid 26-56 record.

    The 32-year-old Deng, signed to a four-year, $72-million deal under the unlamented regime of former Lakers president Jim Buss - elder brother of Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and now-deposed general manager Mitch Kupchak - is also a "white elephant" and may be moved as well during this off-season.

    With Russell, Mozgov out and Lopez's contract to expire in a year's time, the Lakers will have around $64 million in salary-cap room in the summer of 2018 to go after two maximum-contract free agents.

    Could one be Cleveland's Lebron James, who seem disgruntled after the team opted not to renew the contract of general manager David Griffin, whose deal expires on June 30. The King still is under contract with the Cavs for the 2017-18 wars but can opt out of the final year his three-year pact with Cleveland.

    James' wife Savannah wants to live full-time in Los Angeles, where they have a house there. Scuttlebutt has it that James may depart for either of the teams in the LA area and that the Clippers recently pried The Logo Jerry West away from newly-minted NBA titlist Golden State for an identical executive consultant post to lure James to the team.

    And what was before purely speculations is fast becoming a reality in the case of Indiana's Paul George. George has already declared that he won't renew ties with the Pacers once his contract expires in July 2018. A native Californian, the 6-8 27-year-old wingman has two years and $40.2 million left on his contract but could option out after the 2017-18 seasons.

    Rather not get any compensation if he eventually walks away, the Pacers have opened trade talks with the Lakers, George's preferred destination, this early.

    A deal for George could be struck before the NBA draft.

    Meanwhile, it was also announced yesterday that Atlanta is jettisoning over-the-hill center Dwight Howard after just one season with the Hawks along with their first pick in the second round of the 2017 NBA draft (No. 31 overall, via Brooklyn) to Charlotte for the Hornets? Miles Plumlee, Marco Belinelli and the club?s 41st selection overall.

    The 6-11 Howard, who turns 31 in December, has two years left on a three-year, $70.5-million pact he inked with his hometown Hawks in July last year.
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