Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti said Russell Westbrook is the "most important player" in the NBA team's history following his trade to the Houston Rockets.

On Tuesday, the Thunder announced they had finalised the trade that sent Westbrook to Houston in exchange for two future first-round selections, two pick swaps and Chris Paul.

Westbrook, who spent his first 11 seasons with the franchise, will "always remain part of the Thunder family", Presti said.

"Russell Westbrook is the most important player in the brief history of the Oklahoma City Thunder," Presti said in a statement.

"He has left an indelible mark on this team, city and state. None of us could have anticipated the player he has become, and we are all deeply proud of what he has contributed to the success of the franchise and to our community."

Westbrook was the second top-level player the Thunder sent away this offseason. They moved Paul George — who finished third in the MVP voting in 2018-19 — to the Los Angeles Clippers and received five first-round selections, two pick swaps, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari in return.

The Thunder then dealt forward Jerami Grant to the Denver Nuggets for another first-round pick.

"We recently had conversations with Russell about the team, his career, and how he sees the future," Presti said. "Through those conversations we came to the understanding that looking at some alternative situations would be something that made sense for him. As a result, and due to his history with the Thunder, we worked together to accommodate this.

"Our ability to have these types of conversations and work so closely with Russell and his agent Thad Foucher is only possible because of the depth of the relationship that has been built over the last 11 years."

The deal reunites Westbrook with James Harden in Houston. The pair played together with the Thunder from 2009-12.

The Thunder could look to trade veteran guard Paul again before the start of 2019-20.

James Harden and Russell Westbrook will "make it work" at the Houston Rockets, insisted head coach Mike D'Antoni.

The Rockets acquired Westbrook in a blockbuster trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder, reuniting the 2017 NBA MVP with Harden.

Harden and Westbrook like to control the ball but D'Antoni is confident the latter will fit into Houston's line-up without any drastic changes to accommodate the All-Stars.

"We're not changing much," D'Antoni said on the The Woj Pod while discussing the addition of Westbrook. "We'll tweak it, but to say you've gotta change and you can't win that way, that's B.S."

Some critics believe the Rockets do not spread the ball around enough and play too much isolation.

Now, some are questioning whether it will be even more challenging to play that type of offense with both Harden and Westbrook, who are two ball-dominant players, on the court.

D'Antoni, however, does not think it will be a problem because the two want to play together, and they previously teamed up in Oklahoma City.

"They’ll make it work," D'Antoni said. "Do we sometimes go too much one-on-one? Yeah. Do we sometimes iso or not move enough? Yeah, we do sometimes. But I can also make the argument that sometimes teams over-pass. You try to find the balance of what is best for your players."

D'Antoni explained the Rockets will find what works best for both players to maximise their talents.

"I will start looking now at tape and trying to figure out the dynamics between the two and how they played in Oklahoma City and how it's changed since then, in the Olympics," D'Antoni said.

"But it's exciting. Whenever you have great talent, it's exciting because it gives you a chance to win, and that's what we all want to do. But it'll be my job to maximise their talents and what they do best, and it should be really good.

"I saw it in USA Basketball. You put [the stars] all together and they want to make it work, it doesn't matter. The more talent you have, the better it is. And I think right now with this duo and other people, it'll work. Now, to what degree, we'll see."

 World Indoor champion Alia Atkinson CD is one of 10 Texas A&M University legends to be honoured on September 13, 2019, at the Burgess Banquet in College Station, Texas.

Kevin Durant swapped the Golden State Warriors for the Brooklyn Nets because he loves the "system", according to general manager Sean Marks.

Durant joined the Nets via free agency after winning two championships and two NBA Finals MVPS with the Warriors.

Recovering from an Achilles injury sustained in the Finals defeat to the Toronto Raptors, Durant thought highly of Brooklyn and their style of play, which is one of the reasons he chose the Nets over other suitors in free agency.

Marks told WFAN on Tuesday that in his first conversation with Durant after the announcement, the star said: "I love the system. I love how you guys play. I see how hard you guys play ... you were never out of games. We could never take you guys lightly."

Marks stood by the fact he did not know Durant's choice to join the Nets until he announced it on Instagram just a few minutes after free agency began on June 30. 

"What we knew was we were either getting a teleconference call with Kevin that night or we were going to potentially get a meeting," Marks said.

"We'd seen some media reports earlier in the day that Kevin had crossed several teams off his list and we were still one of them [being considered]. And those reports were there for everybody to read. And when Kevin posted it on The Boardroom Instagram site, that was news to all of us in the office."

Marks remains excited about the addition of Durant, despite him recovering from an injury that will likely have him sidelined for the upcoming season. Brooklyn also signed Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan.

Irving joined Durant after he opted out of his deal with the Boston Celtics following a number of reports surfaced about the turmoil he faced at TD Garden.

"I'm not going to lie, there's been a couple of times I'm definitely excited about — Kevin for sure, the whole group and really the challenge of getting all these guys together on the same page and watching how it unfolds," Marks said.

"I think that's the magic and that's the real special piece where you see elite talent ... want to play together and see who's going to sacrifice what and who's going to bring what to the table and just see how they all mesh."

David Griffin saw the future of the New Orleans Pelicans in a brief moment during NBA Summer League practice, and the executive vice president of basketball operations said things look "crazy" good.

Griffin introduced recruits Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart after a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers centred on Anthony Davis, and Derrick Favors – acquired from the Utah Jazz.

Coupled with first pick Zion Williamson and eighth selection Jaxson Hayes, along with returning guard Jrue Holiday, and the Pelicans are expected to be one of the most-improved teams in the NBA in 2019-20.

Griffin is thrilled with what he has seen so far, like that special moment in a recent Summer League practice.

"There was a moment where Jaxson Hayes was out running the floor in a practice with Zion on the other side, and they were sort of just messing around … and the speed those guys have just at a trot is mind-numbing," Griffin told reporters on Tuesday. "Alvin and I looked at it and we thought, 'Man with those guys on the wing, and with Lonzo at the point, what we'll be able to do speed-wise is crazy'."

That is crazy in a good way for the Pelicans, unlike last season's 33-49 craziness, lowlighted by the persistent trade rumours surrounding Davis.

Griffin said he is excited all the acquisitions come from winning backgrounds, adding: "We want to surround ourselves with people that have won championships on any level, because it's a frequency you learn to tune to. We're deep with selfless winners."

Former Lakers guard Ball welcomes the move to New Orleans, saying: "It's a fresh start. It's a restart. … I know the media is not like it was in LA, but I know the fans are great and come out and support [us]."

Ball added: "I'm getting back to playing the style I've been playing my whole life, I'm very comfortable in a high uptempo offense like coach Gentry has."

The Pelicans will enter this season with high expectations and playing under a microscope with Williamson on display. But Griffin wants the players to believe anything is possible.

"Look at what the NBA has become, and the way teams are built," Griffin said. "You can't dream big enough in this league. I think I want everyone's approach to this to be, 'Why not us?'"

Mike Vrabel said the Tennessee Titans are looking at a quarterback to lead the way for the "next 7-10 years" as he discussed Marcus Mariota's future.

Tennessee picked up the fifth-year option on Mariota's rookie contract, but the sides have yet to agree to a new deal.

The Titans originally selected Mariota out of Oregon with the second pick in the 2015 draft. However, the 25-year-old has registered just a 27-28 record as a starter over his four NFL seasons.

Titans head coach Vrabel was asked about the future of Mariota and he hold MMQB: "I think everybody has a contract, and we're very aware of players who are in the last year of the deal.

"Marcus is obviously one of those. When you make a commitment to the QB you want to make sure that this is going to be your guy for the next 7-10 years when you look at the percentage of the cap quarterbacks are driving."

Mariota completed 68.9 per cent of his passes and threw for 11 touchdowns, along with eight interceptions, in 14 games for Tennessee last season. He also added two scores on the ground.

The Titans finished with a 9-7 record and missed the playoffs.

"Nobody is prouder of what Marcus has done in the offseason than me," Vrabel said. "He's come back stronger, bigger, with greater understanding of what we're doing offensively, being able to communicate it to players [on] the field.

"I don't look at the lack of a long-term extension as a negative, though that's what people try to make it."

"I know Marcus's demeanour and that won't change whether he's on a 10-year contract or it's up after the season," Vrabel added. "He's that type of person. So, I know it'll work because of how he is."

The Titans are set to begin training camp next week.

Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons will not play for Australia at this year's FIBA World Cup, though he will feature in exhibition games against the United States.

After initially making himself available for August's World Cup in China, Simmons announced on Tuesday that he will skip the tournament and instead focus on the upcoming NBA season with the 76ers.

While he is set to sit out the World Cup, Simmons will travel to Australia for a pair of games against Canada in Perth on August 16 and 17 before facing Team USA in Melbourne on August 22 and 24.

"I wanted to let everyone know that after consulting with my representation, I've made the difficult decision to forego playing in the World Cup in China this summer," Simmons – who has signed a new five-year contract with the 76ers – said in a statement via Twitter.

"I will still be heading back home to Australia to host my camps as well as train and play with the Boomers in the upcoming exhibition games.

"I'm really excited about the talent we have on the Boomers squad, especially moving close to 2020 where I will be honoured and humbled to represent my country on the world's biggest sporting stage at the Olympics in Tokyo.

"Ultimately, we decided it was best that I use the time in September to return to Philadelphia to acquaint myself with my new team-mates and prepare for the upcoming NBA season."

The 76ers selected Simmons with the first pick in the 2016 NBA Draft and he has played a large role in the team's resurgence as an oversized, do-it-all playmaker.

Philadelphia put together one of the most talented starting line-ups in basketball last season, featuring Simmons, Joel Embiid, JJ Redick, Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris as they finished third in the Eastern Conference before falling to the Toronto Raptors in the second round.

The 76ers lost Butler and Redick this offseason, but acquired Josh Richardson and Al Horford, giving them tremendous defensive potential.

Steve Johnson's title defence at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships came to an end in a surprise first-round loss on Tuesday.

Johnson, the fifth seed at the ATP 250 event, went down to wildcard Christopher Eubanks 7-6 (11-9) 7-6 (7-5) on the grass at Newport.

Eubanks, the 23-year-old ranked 188th in the world, sent down 15 aces in a shock victory over his fellow American.

Defending champion Johnson was one of two seeds to fall, with Bradley Klahn also departing, suffering a 6-4 7-6 (7-5) loss to Denis Kudla.

Alexander Bublik almost joined them in exiting, but the seventh seed edged past qualifier Alex Bolt 6-4 2-6 7-6 (7-4).

Runners-up from the past two years, Ramkumar Ramanathan and Matthew Ebden moved through.

Last year's finalist and a qualifier in 2019, Ramanathan overcame Sergiy Stakhovsky 5-7 7-6 (8-6) 6-2, while 2017 runner-up Ebden claimed a 6-1 2-6 6-3 victory over Brayden Schnur.

Viktor Troicki served 10 double faults but still got past Jason Jung 3-6 7-5 7-5, while Mischa Zverev was too good for Tim Smyczek 6-3 7-6 (7-4).

Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis does not have any regrets about his trade request and departure from the New Orleans Pelicans. 

Davis will team up with Lakers superstar LeBron James in 2019-20 after finally arriving from the Pelicans in a blockbuster trade.

A six-time All-Star, Davis requested a trade away from New Orleans and the Pelicans attempted to deal him before February's deadline but failed.

When asked if he wished he did it any differently, Davis told ESPN: "No. I wish I did it the way I did it."

"I'm a person who's very upfront and honest," he said. "You know, I want to tell you what it is. I love the city of New Orleans, but from a professional standpoint and occupation in basketball, I felt like it was time for me to move on.

"I see a lot of people that say 'wait' or 'you should have did it this way, that way.' But for me, I've been in the league long enough. I'm a grown man. I know what I want. And so I thought doing it at that time was definitely going to be beneficial for myself and for the organisation to get the best package available, so that way the organisation is still set."

Davis went on to say he wanted to have complete control over his situation and did not want other people's opinions to affect his career.

"Because I allowed people to tell me what to do and advise me to do this or that," the 26-year-old added. "And now, by me being able to take control of my career, any decision that I make, you know — I can sleep at night. I'm good.

"That was the biggest thing for me. I was having a lot of regrets and thinking, I should have done it my way. Or, I should have done this differently. But now it's like, when I do it my way — I'm able to sleep at night and not care what other people's opinions are."

Since the addition of Davis, the Lakers have made big changes to their roster during free agency to complement both him and James.

Davis revealed Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka called "every 30 to 45 minutes" during the free-agency period to get his input on players.

"Sometimes I had to tell him, like, 'Rob, I'm in the movies.' He'd be like, 'All right, well, call me as soon as you get out,'" Davis said. "But we're trying to put the best team around us, and I think he did a great job of doing it."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer again warned there was no "quick fix" at Manchester United, although the Premier League giants are still hoping for further signings.

United are coming off a sixth-place finish last season, a difficult campaign seeing them end up 32 points adrift of champions and rivals Manchester City.

Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have been added to United's squad from Swansea City and Crystal Palace respectively, while the club are linked with numerous other signings – most notably Leicester City defender Harry Maguire – and have the likes of Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku potentially exiting.

Solskjaer is still hoping for further additions to his squad, but – as he did earlier in the year – again asked for patience as United look to close the gap to the top.

"I know it's hard getting players in and over the line," the manager said.

"We've been doing our jobs. We've been finding, identifying players. Scouting them. But they have got clubs.

"It took time with Aaron, it took time with Dan, but they got it over the line. It's not like we're going to sign 10 players. It can't be a quick fix.

"As I've said to you, we're working on one or two and we're still hoping but I also understand that the market has changed. Prices have soared."

Sporting CP midfielder Bruno Fernandes, Newcastle United's Sean Longstaff and Lazio's Sergej Milinkovic-Savic have also been linked with the Premier League giants.

United's approach in the transfer market has been criticised at times, but Solskjaer said the club would remain patient.

"We have been linked with so many players. I am sure you don't believe every single player that we have been linked with," he said.

"But I think that Man United sometimes have, because of the wealth, maybe we have had to pay more, a bigger premium to get players in and that's just the world we live in.

"And we have taken our time and we are not going to overpay but we have to get the right people in, the right players."

Manchester United face Leeds United in their second pre-season friendly in Perth on Wednesday.

The AFC North has been dominated by the Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers for years, but this finally could be the year of the Cleveland Browns.

It is a division that has a new look all around, as the Browns and Ravens made some big offseason signings, the Bengals added a new head coach for the first time in 17 years and the Steelers moved on from two thirds of their 'Killer B' trio.

Here's the outlook for the AFC North heading into training camp:

Team on the rise

Cleveland Browns

The Browns had nowhere to go but up in 2018 after posting a winless record the previous season, but after going 7-8-1 last time out they could really take off in 2019.

One of the biggest stories this offseason was Cleveland's acquisition of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. from the New York Giants. But the Browns didn't stop there and made a controversial decision to sign running back Kareem Hunt following his release from the Kansas City Chiefs after the emergence of a video appearing to show him in a violent altercation with a woman. Hunt is suspended for the first eight games of the 2019 campaign following an NFL investigation.

Among those returning for the Browns after helping turn around the team last season are Baker Mayfield, Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway and Nick Chubb, making the Browns not only the most intriguing team in the AFC North but also one of the most interesting ones in the entire NFL.

Team on the decline

Cincinnati Bengals

It's a new era in Cincinnati, which means the Bengals could be looking up from the bottom of the division for a year or two as they find their footing.

The team brought in first-time head coach Zac Taylor after parting ways with long-time coach Marvin Lewis, and the 36-year-old will face the tall task of helping the team rebound from their first last-place finish in the division since 2010 after the Browns held the position from 2011-17.

However, much of the team's turnaround will depend on the recovery of their offense after the Bengals lost quarterback Andy Dalton (thumb), wide receiver A.J. Green (toe) and tight end Tyler Eifert (ankle) to injuries last season.

Rookies to watch

Devin Bush, LB, Steelers: The Steel Curtain has been far from impenetrable since the team lost Ryan Shazier to a spine injury, so Pittsburgh traded up to take Michigan standout Bush 10th overall and he quickly made an impression on his team-mates during OTAs. Bush, who ran a 4.43-second 40-yard dash at the combine, had 172 tackles, 18.5 tackles for losses, 10 sacks and an interception in 32 games in his three seasons with the Wolverines.

Marquise Brown, WR, Ravens: The Ravens surprised many taking Brown with the 25th pick of the first round. The team doesn't have the best history drafting receivers, and Lamar Jackson carried much of the offensive load last season as he ranked 30th in rushing yards, joining Cam Newton (49th) as the only quarterbacks in the top 50. Still, Brown proved to be a valuable — and speedy — weapon as Kyler Murray's top target at Oklahoma, posting 75 catches for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.

Player spotlight

Earl Thomas

After spending the first nine seasons of his career in Seattle, ex-Seahawk Thomas is in for an adjustment in 2019 with the Ravens, but that doesn't mean he isn't up for the challenge.

A key member of the "Legion of Boom" secondary and Seahawks defense that was among the NFL's stingiest for almost a decade, Thomas brings a level of intensity, determination and leadership that the Ravens defense has arguably lacked since Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed's retirement.

Imagine what Thomas brings to a defense that ranked first in yards allowed in 2018. His fire was only fuelled after he broke his leg last season, and he famously didn't hide his feelings from the Seahawks...

Expect to see that ferocity throughout this season, beginning Week 1 when he finally makes his return to the field.

Key injuries

James Conner, ankle: The Steelers running back broke out last season as he took on a larger role in the absence of Le'Veon Bell during his contract holdout, but an ankle injury limited Conner to just 13 games. With Bell gone, expect Conner's duties to be expanded - if he can stay healthy - as he looks to build on the 973 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns he had in 2018.

Andy Dalton, thumb: The Bengals quarterback went down with a thumb injury late in the season, landing on injured reserve on November 26, but threw for 2,566 yards and 21 touchdowns with 11 interceptions before being sidelined. Pairing his return to the field with Green and Tyler Eifert's comebacks will certainly give Cincinnati a boost.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has promised star midfielder Paul Pogba he can get the "new challenge" he is seeking at Manchester United.

A month ago, France international Pogba said he wanted "a new challenge somewhere else" amid reports former club Juventus and LaLiga giants Real Madrid could try and prise the 26-year-old away from Old Trafford.

Pogba returned to Premier League side United for a then-record fee of £89million in August 2016, though he has been criticised for failing to consistently deliver the type of performances he did when helping France to win the World Cup at Russia 2018.

Solskjaer, who replaced Jose Mourinho as United manager in December 2018, revealed he has spoken to Pogba on several occasions and is not annoyed by his comments.

"I've said many times about Paul that he's a top, top boy and a great player and he's never, ever been a problem," Solskjaer said in quotes published on several British newspapers' websites.

"When we get him playing as he did when I came in, and if we get him playing like that again, he will win you over as well.

"I've not been upset by anything he's said because we've had many conversations and I know exactly what Paul is thinking. I can give him a new challenge."

A fresh challenge is exactly what Alexis Sanchez expected when he swapped Arsenal for United in January 2018.

However, the Chile international has underwhelmed so far and has failed to reproduce the type of form he showed across three-and-a-half seasons with the Gunners having scored just five goals in 45 games for United in all competitions.

Sanchez, sidelined by a hamstring injury sustained at the Copa America, has been warned he must show he is worthy of a place in Solskjaer's team.

"I will have to help," Solskjaer added.

"I've just answered a question here that you can't spoon-feed them. They've got to come in and grab their chances.

"And Alexis is quality and he showed it in the Copa America."

Leicester City have rejected two bids for rumoured Manchester United and Manchester City target Harry Maguire, Brendan Rodgers has said.

England international Maguire is thought to be of interest to both Manchester clubs, with United having been linked with the 26-year-old a year ago during Jose Mourinho's time in charge.

A deal did not materialise then and the defender signed a new five-year contract in September 2018.

However, United are said to have renewed their interest and Leicester boss Rodgers revealed on Tuesday that his club had turned down two offers for a player the Foxes are thought to value at £80million.

In quotes published by the Leicester Mercury after Maguire played 45 minutes in a pre-season friendly against Scunthorpe United, Rodgers said: "It's pretty simple really and we're quite relaxed about it.

"Harry is a top-class player. Of course, he has attracted interest with two bids coming in but they nowhere near meet the valuation of the club.

"Harry is relaxed about it – we are. He's been absolutely brilliant, I have to add, because I've been in a similar situation a number of times and it can be very difficult for players, but he's a special guy."

There have been reports that Maguire has informed Leicester of his desire to leave and though Rodgers would not comment on those suggestions, he did admit he saw the appeal of the clubs linked with his player.

"Any conversation with me and a player would be private," he added.

"If a team like Man City or Man United are interested, I understand the attraction.

"We're relaxed because until the valuation is met, there's not a decision to be made."

Nicolas Jarry enjoyed a winning start at the Swedish Open on Tuesday, while Fabio Fognini learned his second-round Croatia Open Umag opponent.

Fifth seed Jarry came through his opener unscathed, beating Henri Laaksonen 7-6 (7-1) 7-5 despite trailing by a break early in the first set.

The Chilean joins compatriot and top seed Cristian Garin, who was handed a bye, in the next round, with the latter to face Jeremy Chardy.

Chardy came through in three sets in his first-round clash with Pablo Carreno Busta, a qualifier this week.

Juan Ignacio Londero and Joao Sousa eased through, while Damir Dzumhur had too much for Casper Ruud.

In Croatia, Fognini was in doubles action as Stefano Travaglia secured a date with his compatriot, beating another Italian in Thomas Fabbiano.

Filip Krajinovic had to wait until late in the day to take on and defeat Taro Daniel, but Martin Klizan let a one-set lead slip up against Facundo Bagnis. Leonardo Mayer, meanwhile, beat Pablo Andujar in straight sets.

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