Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer certainly aims high as he unveiled plans for a new facility for the NBA team.

The former CEO of Microsoft and majority owner of the Clippers unveiled plans for a new multi-billion dollar, state-of-the-art facility, one day after the team officially announced the acquisitions of All-NBA players Paul George and Kawhi Leonard.

While Leonard was briefed on the possibility of a new arena – which Ballmer said will be entirely privately funded – it was not something meant to convince the 2019 Finals MVP to choose the Clippers.

For Ballmer, it was more about showing the All-Star that he is committed to improving the franchise.

"I want it to be beautiful," Ballmer told ESPN. "But I want it to be about basketball. I want it to be comfortable. But I want it to be about basketball."

He continued: "Being in LA, the free-agency thing will always be a little more important to us. That means we've got to invest in the player's experience."

The building does face opposition from Madison Square Garden, which owns The Forum, which sits less than a mile away from the proposed site for the new arena in Inglewood, California.

The litigation surrounding the proposition could take a while to figure out, but Ballmer sounds confident the plans will come to fruition.

"This is really going to happen," Ballmer said he told Leonard. "Obviously we have to go through the process... the lawsuits that Madison Square Garden has brought, but we are feeling confident that we can build our stadium in Inglewood."

Ballmer wants the building to hearken back to college basketball, with large sections devoted to rows and rows of stands completely absent of suites and boxes.

He wants to have a portion of the seats behind one basket from the floor to the top row dedicated to fans, and above all else – noise.

"I want it to be a noisy building," Ballmer said of the section he dubbed 'The Wall of Sound'. "I really want that kind of energy; think Oracle [Arena] has been that way, Utah, Portland has got good energy.

"I think our Clipper fan base is a little more tenacious. They're people [who have] decided they're sticking with us, and now I think we will get new kinds of fans with Paul and Kawhi joining us but I think it is a hardcore fan base. I think that we can get real noise, real energy in the building."

Ballmer said he was aiming for the stadium to be ready by 2024. Leonard and George might not ever play there, as both could be free agents after the 2021-22 season.

But Ballmer was clear, while this was something to show off to the team's new star players, this is about more than them.

"I don't want to say it was a major milestone in the meeting but we did share because it is another statement that we are really committed," Ballmer said. "I don't know how it's humanly possible but I still occasionally get a question about it; will your team move to Seattle? We are building our billion-dollar-plus house here in Inglewood, California."

Steve Kerr is ready to integrate D'Angelo Russell into the Golden State Warriors' offense.

Kevin Durant joined the Brooklyn Nets in free agency, but Golden State managed to offset that loss, somewhat, by acquiring guard Russell in a sign-and-trade.

Kerr discussed the addition of Russell during a recent appearance on NBC Sports Bay Area's The Warriors Insider Podcast.

"[Russell's a] dynamic player in the pick-and-roll, excellent shooter and I like his in-between game," Kerr said.

"He makes a lot of plays out of the pick-and-roll. Those float shots are tough to master, and he makes those pretty routinely. So, we can do a lot of things with D'Angelo on and off the ball."

Russell is expected to slot into the Warriors' backcourt next to star Stephen Curry in 2019-20 as Klay Thompson continues to recover from the torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) he suffered in Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors.

"I'm anxious to get started with him and see how he's going to play with Steph," Kerr said.

"We'll probably run more pick-and-roll than we have in the past, given our change in personnel. But, I'm really excited to have him on board and can't wait to coach him."

Russell had a career year for the Nets last season, averaging 21.1 points and seven assists while shooting 36.9 per cent from three-point range. He made his first All-Star team, as well.

Russell inked a four-year max contract, but many have speculated the Warriors may look to move him for another asset once Thompson returns healthy.

"That's the business of it. It is what it is," Russell told reporters earlier this month, via The Athletic. "You put yourself in position to go somewhere for a long period of time and it may not be what it is a year later. That's the business. I've come to the realisation of that, I understand that. Whatever situation Ism in, I know the business side of it. We'll just see. I can't predict it."

The Warriors traded Andre Iguodala to the Memphis Grizzlies in order to create salary cap space to land Russell. They also signed center Willie Cauley-Stein, along with wings Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III.

The talk in the NFL right now is about who is not there rather than who is.

In MLB, teams are starting to battle injuries and, in the NBA, a young team just locked up a key piece officially.

All that and more this week from the United States.

 

1. Holdout season

Let's be honest, NFL training camps aren't about who shows up anymore, they're about who is staying home. Le'Veon Bell didn't show up to Pittsburgh Steelers camp last season and missed the entire year because he refused to play under the franchise tag. That has to be in the back of everyone's minds this year as key players continue to stay away from their teams.

Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon is officially holding out for a new deal, Dallas Cowboys tailback Ezekiel Elliott wasn't on the plane with the team camp on Thursday and Chiefs defensive end Chris Jones also has yet to show up to any offseason activities with Kansas City.

Will any of these men be brave enough to do what Bell did and miss some of the season? We shall see.

 

2. Taylor Lewan's start of season in question

The Tennessee Titans are built on their offensive line, but one key piece may be gone to start the season.

Offensive tackle Taylor Lewan apologised to the Titans as he faces a four-game suspension after failing a drugs test. Lewan insists he never knowingly took a banned supplement.

This is huge to Tennessee's start to the year as quarterback Marcus Mariota has already dealt with a lot of injuries and will need all the protection he can get.

3. MLB injuries piling up

It's that time of year in baseball. As the 100-game mark passes, more little injuries start to pop up and playoff hopefuls have already been hit leading up to the trade deadline.

New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez is out with a groin injury for a while, Tampa Bay Rays lefty Blake Snell could be out for a month after undergoing surgery on his elbow and Texas Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo could miss a month with a hamate bone injury.

All three of these players' teams have playoff aspirations and they will need each man going into the playoffs. It's tough to get hurt now, but missing a month in July is far better than missing one in September.

 

4. Jamal Murray extended

The Denver Nuggets have one of the best teams in basketball and they secured their future this week by officially announcing they have signed Jamal Murray to a five-year max extension.

The deal is reportedly for $170million and will make him the highest-paid Canadian basketball player in NBA history, according to TSN.

The Nuggets finished second in the Western Conference last season and will have some of the best continuity of any team in the conference as they bring back a great young core which includes Murray and Nikola Jokic.

Chris Paul said he is "excited" to play for the Oklahoma City Thunder after being traded by the Houston Rockets.

Veteran guard Paul was dealt by the Rockets, along with multiple draft picks, to the Thunder as part of the Russell Westbrook trade earlier this month.

A nine-time NBA All-Star, Paul – who briefly played in Oklahoma City at the beginning of his career when the then-New Orleans Hornets were displaced by Hurricane Katrina – addressed the move in an Instagram post on Wednesday.

"So thankful to the city of Houston for all your generosity and kindness toward my family and me these past few years!" Paul wrote. "I'm truly blessed to have amazing fans who continue to support me throughout my career.

"I'm excited to be joining [the Thunder] next season and for this new opportunity to compete alongside my Thunder team-mates. I started my NBA career playing in Oklahoma City with the New Orleans Hornets and I look forward to returning!"

Oklahoma City were reportedly looking to flip Paul and had some initial discussions with the Miami Heat, but no deal materialised, and he is expected to begin the season with the team.

"Getting a player of Chris' calibre gives us another experienced playmaker and leader, while the additional draft picks continue to allow us to further commit to the long-term vision that we are embarking on for the Thunder," general manager Sam Presti said in a statement. 

"We welcome Chris back to Oklahoma City where as a member of the Hornets he helped to pave the way for the Thunder's arrival in OKC."

The Thunder are expected to enter a major rebuild after moving Westbrook, Paul George and Jerami Grant in July.

The Denver Nuggets have signed star guard Jamal Murray to a five-year contract extension, it was announced on Wednesday.

Murray's new deal with the Nuggets – who reached the NBA Western Conference semi-finals last season – is reportedly worth $170million.

The 22-year-old was set to become a restricted free agent next offseason and is scheduled to make about $4.4m in 2019-20.

Murray was selected seventh overall by Denver in 2016. He is coming off the best season of his career so far after averaging 18.2 points, 4.8 assists, and 4.2 rebounds on 43.7 per cent from the field and 36.7 percent from beyond the arc.

"I want to thank the man above for showing my family and I how life works in a full circle," said Murray. "I also want to thank the Nuggets organization for believing in a kid from a small unheard-of town in Canada, and finally to Nuggets fans, I can't wait to shoot more arrows for you all."

Nuggets president and governor Josh Kroenke added: "It's an exciting day for our franchise to officially announce this contract extension with Jamal.

"My father and I know what kind of kid Jamal is both on and off the court, and there wasn't a second of hesitation to get this done as soon as we could. He is an extremely talented player and we look forward to watching him continue to grow as one of the cornerstones of this team for many years to come."

Kawhi Leonard said he was "very close" to signing for either the Los Angeles Lakers or Toronto Raptors before joining the Los Angeles Clippers.

Leonard swapped Toronto for the Clippers via free agency after leading the Raptors to their first NBA championship in 2018-19.

A return to the Raptors or a move to the Lakers to team up with LeBron James had been mooted for Leonard, who eventually opted for the Clippers after they acquired Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Asked how close he was to joining either the Raptors or the Lakers, Leonard told ESPN: "I was very close. Real close.

"When [the Clippers] presented the opportunity of playing with Paul [George], it was easy, it was a yes. I said let's get it going."

Leonard entered free agency coming off one of the best postseason runs ever with the Raptors.

He averaged 30.5 points in the playoffs, was named the Finals MVP and helped the team avoid elimination by knocking down a crazy bouncing buzzer-beater against the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

All-Star Leonard said Clippers head coach Doc Rivers played a role in his decision to join the franchise.

"I grew up a Clippers fan," Leonard said during his introductory news conference on Wednesday. "I loved the Clippers as a kid. With Doc [Rivers] being a championship head coach, that is something I wanted, an experienced coach. And the front office is very transparent with me. They want to win. It's an opportunity for us to build our own [thing] and make history."

George, meanwhile, reportedly asked Oklahoma City to move him to the Clippers, who ended up landing him in exchange for guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, forward Danilo Gallinari, five future first-round selections and two pick swaps.

"This [wasn't something] that came out of the blue," George told ESPN. "We were all on the same page. The initial plan was to give it another year, see what we could do, and I did that. We played another year and it felt like we were just stagnant. Next thing was, let's move forward with other plans.

"Again, it was mutual amongst everybody. [The] Thunder got amazing packages out of it ... And we all thought it was a win across the board, we all thought it was the best moment to pull the plug."

Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer brought plenty of noise and enthusiasm as he welcomed Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to the NBA franchise.

NBA Finals MVP Leonard and fellow star George were introduced as Clippers players on Wednesday, following their arrivals from the Toronto Raptors and Oklahoma City Thunder respectively.

It was a landmark day for the Clippers, but a hyped and loud Ballmer stole the show as he went crazy with excitement.

"I have these notes, but I've gotta say, I'm just fired up to be here today," Ballmer started off by saying in his news conference.

"It's pretty cool. It's pretty damn cool!... WOOOO!"

Ballmer – gesturing to reporters and fans – added: "I'm pumped to say hello as Clippers to Paul and Kawhi… COME ON, GET UP! COME ON AND GET UP IF YOU'RE AS PSYCHED AS I AM!... YEAH!"

The Clippers earned plenty of admirers last season after reaching the playoffs with a 48-34 record before falling to the Golden State Warriors in the first round.

Los Angeles are yet to win a championship and Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said: "This is a great moment, but it's not our finest moment. That's coming. We're here to celebrate. This feels like a movement. Today is more about what's coming."

Leonard knows what championships are made of. He has two rings to go with two Finals MVPs.

"For me, Doc's a championship coach and that's something that I wanted," Leonard said. "The front office was transparent with me. It's an opportunity for us to build our own. We have a chance to do something special."

But, of course, Leonard had to put his own spin on the perspective around a title potentially going to the Clippers and not the Los Angeles Lakers.

"If we go to the championship and win and we get no coverage, that's fine with me," he said.

Leonard chose the Clippers and did not say goodbye to the Raptors. It felt weird, but it turns out it was just Kawhi.

"I want to think the Toronto Raptors fans. I don't have social media so I'm not able to put a paragraph out or whatever," he said. "Thanks all of Toronto, the city, the country. It was a great, amazing season. It was the best parade ever."

He continued: "Thanks to the doctors for delivering my baby boy. I also just want to thank the city as far as the restaurants. They had 'Kawhine and Dine' throughout the playoffs. I took advantage of that."

George will link up with Leonard, who was drafted by the Indiana Pacers in 2011 before being sent to the San Antonio Spurs in a trade.

"I remember I was in Indy when we drafted Kawhi," former Pacers star George said. "I was a little confused by it because I was the two-guard and Kawhi was the same position and I was a bit nervous for the competition that was coming.

"But fast forward, knowing that the player I am and the player he developed into, I wish we would have kept that pick and we could have [grown] together ... It seems like this was destiny that we were supposed to play together."

Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr is concerned with how the Los Angeles Lakers handled their recruitment of Anthony Davis.

The saga was well noted, with Davis publicly wanting a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles blatantly going after Davis near the trade deadline in February before negotiations with the Pelicans fell through.

For Kerr, that left a bad taste in his mouth, even though other players have negotiated their way to different teams. Kerr said Davis' situation is different because he had a couple of years left on his contract with New Orleans.

"I’m talking more about the Anthony Davis situation," Kerr said on The Warriors Insider Podcast. "Where a guy is perfectly healthy and has a couple years left on his deal and says, 'I want to leave'. That’s a real problem that the league has to address and that the players have to be careful with.

"When you sign on that dotted line, you owe your effort and your play to that team, to that city, to the fans. And then (once the contract runs out) it’s completely your right to leave as a free agent. But if you sign the contract, then you should be bound to that contract.

"If you come to an agreement with the team that, hey, it’s probably best for us to part ways, that’s one thing. But the Davis stuff was really kind of groundbreaking — and hopefully not a trend, because it’s bad for the league."

Eventually Davis got his wish and joined Los Angeles this offseason, but only after he played on a part-time basis with New Orleans after the initial trade rumors.

"As a former player, I would always sort of lean toward player empowerment, guys who have earned their right to free agency," Kerr said. "If they want to make a move for their own careers, I’m all for it. They’ve earned that right.

"My only issue is when a player who is under contract decides not to honour the contract. That’s a problem. That’s something that can really affect the league."

Kerr cited LeBron James and Kevin Durant, both of whom moved on to different teams in 2018 and 2019, respectively, as the proper way to transition to another team in the league.

"There’s a way to move and a way to not move," Kerr said. "What LeBron did, played out his contract. What Kevin did both when he arrived at Golden State and when he left. You sign contracts, you play them out and you move on. That’s how it should be done.

"But it’s a little disturbing that there has been some action that happens before contracts are up, where teams are sort of held hostage and the league is sort of held hostage. I’m not a big fan of that. That’s damaging for everybody."

Zion Williamson has been a pro for one month and is already joining the elite.

On Tuesday, the NBA's top overall draft pick announced a shoe deal with Nike's Jordan Brand.

The New Orleans Pelicans forward follows the likes of Russell Westbrook, Jayson Tatum, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul in signing with the brand.

"Zion's incredible determination, character and play are inspiring," Michael Jordan said in a release. "He's an essential part of the new talent that will help lead the brand into the future.

"He told us he would 'shock the world' and asked us to believe him. We do."

"I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of the Jordan Brand family," Williamson said. "Since I was a kid, I dreamed of making it to the league and having the type of impact on the game Michael Jordan had and continues to have today.

"He was one of those special athletes I looked up to and I really can't express how happy and excited I am for this journey."

Williamson, who turned 19 earlier this month, was selected first overall by New Orleans in June's draft.

He averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.8 blocks per game in his lone college season at Duke.

The Los Angeles Lakers have been awarded the rights to Giannis Antetokounmpo's brother Kostas on a waiver claim.

Kostas Antetokounmpo – the younger brother of the reigning NBA MVP and Milwaukee Bucks superstar – arrives from the Dallas Mavericks on a two-way contract.

Initially drafted 60th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in 2018, 21-year-old Kostas played two games for the Mavericks last season.

Kostas made 40 appearances for the Texas Legends in the G League, averaging 10.6 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks.

Tim Duncan has returned to the San Antonio Spurs as one of Gregg Popovich's assistant coaches.

Duncan, 43, spent his entire 19-year playing career with the Spurs and retired following the 2015-16 season.

Now he will once again link up with the man who has led the franchise since 1996, with San Antonio bidding to get back to the heights they enjoyed during Duncan's heyday. 

“It is only fitting, that after I served loyally for 19 years as Tim Duncan's assistant, that he returns the favour,” Popovich said in a press release. 

The Washington Wizards have hired Tommy Sheppard as general manager while former NFL executive Sashi Brown has also been appointed to a prominent role in the organisation.

Ted Leonsis, owner of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Wizards among other franchises including the NHL's Washington Capitals, announced a reorganisation of his basketball operations on Monday.

Leonsis revealed the formation of Monumental Basketball, a new collective with oversight of not only the Wizards but also the WNBA's Washington Mystics, the G League's Capital City Go-Go, and the Wizards District Gaming esports operation. 

The revamped organisation will be led by Sheppard, who will serve as GM of the Wizards after holding down the interim role since Ernie Grunfeld was fired on April 2.

While Sheppard's promotion was reported late last week, a couple of other familiar names joining the group were revealed on Monday. 

Former Cleveland Browns executive vice president Brown has been named chief planning and operations officer for Monumental Basketball, while ex-Georgetown coach John Thompson III will lead the organisation's athlete development and engagement department. Monumental also added Daniel Medina from the Philadelphia 76ers as chief of athlete care and performance. 

"We have formed a new leadership team with a forward-thinking structure to adapt to the 'new NBA' that requires every possible strategic advantage to compete and win," Leonsis said in a release.

"We are building a leadership brain trust with deep Wizards/NBA experience and with sports professionals from inside and outside the NBA to challenge our thinking and adapt to an ever-increasing competitive environment."

While Sheppard is a long-time fixture in the Wizards front office, having worked there for the last 16 seasons, Brown is the name that likely will draw the most attention.

The Harvard-educated attorney previously worked as a lawyer in Washington before serving as senior vice president and general counsel for the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2005 until 2012. 

The Browns hired him away in a similar capacity in 2013, and he was put in charge of the team's football operations in January 2016, lasting just under two years on the job before being fired near the end of the 2017 season. Cleveland went 1-27 during his tenure. 

While the Wizards have not been nearly that hapless, mediocrity has been the rule since Leonsis, a former AOL executive, took control in June 2010. The Wizards have missed the playoffs in five of the nine seasons since, but did finish first in the Southeast Division in 2016-17 before falling to the Boston Celtics in the second round of the playoffs. 

Washington went 32-50 last season, losing star guard John Wall to an Achilles injury in late December and seeing marquee free-agent addition Dwight Howard play in only nine games due to back troubles. 

Dirk Nowitzki has never known anything like this offseason's "crazy" NBA free agency frenzy, which he believes is "good for the business."

NBA Finals MVP Kahwi Leonard is among the high-profile stars to have moved on, leaving champions the Toronto Raptors to join the Los Angeles Clippers.

Kevin Durant swapped the Golden State Warriors for the Brooklyn Nets, while Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul swapped places as the former left the Oklahoma City Thunder to link up with the Houston Rockets ahead of the 2019-20 season.

Jimmy Butler and Anthony Davis are among the other stars to have moved on to pastures new.

Retired Dallas Mavericks great Nowitzki has found it hard to keep track of all the deals, but says they will be great for the competition.

"It's definitely crazy. I was very surprised," said the German, who played in a charity football match in his homeland last weekend.

"I've been in Europe for three weeks now and every day when I've switched on my phone there's been another announcement that someone had joined another team.

"I can't remember a time in my 20-year career when so many top players have changed teams. It was a crazy summer, but it's good for the business.

"There's been a lot of media coverage and it will be a crazy season. There's a lot going on."

Los Angeles Lakers recruit Anthony Davis said he would "definitely consider" playing for hometown team the Chicago Bulls.

Davis is preparing for his first NBA season with the Lakers after arriving from the New Orleans Pelicans in a blockbuster trade.

The All-Star will be a free agent at the end of 2019-20 and he is yet to publicly commit his long-term future to the Lakers.

While Davis could re-sign in Los Angeles, the 26-year-old Chicago-born center would be open to joining the Bulls.

"I mean, [this is] definitely [my] hometown," Davis told the Chicago Tribune. "If the opportunity ever presents itself and when that time comes, I'd definitely consider it."

"A lot of these kids are from the same neighbourhoods that I'm from. And so to have someone come back that they can relate to, I think that's a huge impact on them," Davis said.

"It's fun to come back to where you're from and help the youth. These kids are amazing. They're fun to hang around and they listen. They want to learn. There's some good talent. ... I'm excited to give my knowledge and experience and spend this time with them."

Davis remains focused on the 2019-20 season as he joins forces with Lakers superstar LeBron James.

In addition to Davis, the Lakers also landed Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee, DeMarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo, Alex Caruso and Avery Bradley.

"We stand great," Davis said of his current team. "I feel very confident in our team and our roster. I'm excited about it. The league is going to be fun this year."

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