Zion Williamson is planning on spending his entire career with the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Pelicans forward was selected with the first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft after a stunning freshman year at Duke and many expect him to blossom into a superstar.

It has been suggested Williamson will only spend a few seasons with New Orleans before leaving to sign with a major market for his prime years.

However, Williamson wants to emulate Los Angeles Lakers icon Kobe Bryant and Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki by sticking with one franchise.

"I'm gonna try to give you the best answer I can give. Personally, I've always told myself I want to stay with one team," Williamson told Complex. 

"Growing up, I loved what Kobe did and Dirk did, and I think if anybody's a Michael Jordan fan, they kinda erase the Wizards thing. He still did very well there, but at the end of the day, I don't think people look at it from the business point of view.

"Some people want to stay with one team but they get traded. My intentions are to stay with the Pelicans my whole career, but if something happens, I wouldn't leave because I hate the place. It's just the business."

Williamson believes New Orleans can be a championship contender in 2019-20 despite the fact the team missed last year's playoffs.

The Pelicans brought in a talented rookie class in 2019 by securing first-round picks in Williamson, Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil Alexander-Walker. They also sent Anthony Davis to the Lakers for a massive haul that included Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and multiple future first-rounders.

"Me being confident in my team-mates, I would say I think the ceiling is [a] championship," Williamson said.

"But I have to be realistic about this. I have high expectations for us, but you gotta see how we're gonna work. I think we are going to work, but it does take time to adjust to each player — knowing what they like to do, finding out their tendencies.

"So, I think the quicker we find out those things, I think we have a very high ceiling."

Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis said he will view his career as a failure if he does not win an NBA championship.

Davis swapped the New Orleans Pelicans for the Lakers in a blockbuster trade and the six-time All-Star is eyeing his first title.

Preparing for his first season with the Lakers, Davis told ESPN: "I don't think I have a failure that I've had yet.

"Obviously at the end of my career if I don't win a championship that would be, I would feel that's one of my biggest failures. But right now, I still have a lot to do in this world on and off the court.

"So, I don't feel like I've failed in anything. I think I just continue to do it over until I succeed at it."

Davis joined the Lakers after a deal that sent Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, three first-round picks and a pick swap to the Pelicans.

He has yet to come close to NBA glory after New Orleans made the playoffs in just two of his seven seasons there. The furthest Davis went was to the second round in 2017-18 when the Pelicans lost to the Golden State Warriors.

Davis will now partner up with LeBron James and a handful of other top talents with the hopes of returning Los Angeles to the playoffs for the first time in six seasons.

That is also a priority for newly appointed head coach Frank Vogel and general manager Rob Pelinka.

"For us, anything short of a championship is not success," Pelinka said at Davis' introductory press conference. "We have to learn from last season, because we didn't win a championship. A lot of that went into the construction of the roster this year."

In addition to Davis, the Lakers also landed Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee, DeMarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo, Alex Caruso and Avery Bradley to bolster the team's chances in the Western Conference.

Enes Kanter wanted to win, leading to his decision to sign with the Boston Celtics.

The 27-year-old center inked a two-year, $10million contract with the Celtics earlier this month.

He discussed his decision to head to Boston during an interview with USA Today's HoopsHype.

"It's my ninth year in the league and I understand that, for many people, the money is important," Kanter said.

"For me, the most important thing is being with a team that you're really happy on and playing with a team that's competing for a championship. That was the big thing for me. For everybody else, the money matters [more]. For me, the number one thing was winning."

Kanter began the season with the New York Knicks but was released after the trade deadline. He then signed with the Portland Trail Blazers, where he averaged 13.1 points and 8.6 rebounds in 23 games.

Kanter was also a reliable scorer in the playoffs for the Trail Blazers, who advanced to the Western Conference finals before falling to the Golden State Warriors in four games.

"When I was with the Knicks, the season wasn't going the way that I wanted," Kanter said. "I wanted to go out there and win. I'm glad that I picked Portland [after being waived]. Portland was definitely one of the best stops of my career. It helped me grow into a better player and a better person at the same time."

The Celtics' roster underwent a major overhaul this offseason. They lost Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn Nets), Al Horford (Philadelphia 76ers) and Marcus Morris (Knicks) in free agency but signed star Kemba Walker away from the Charlotte Hornets, in addition to Kanter.

"The reason I went [to Boston] is for a championship," Kanter said. "I feel like the team is really young and willing to learn and we have an amazing group of guys. I feel like we can beat any team on any floor. All we have to do is just be good friends and stay together … It's definitely going to be a very, very exciting season."

The Celtics entered last season as the favourites to win the East but finished with a 49-33 record and were eliminated by the Milwaukee Bucks in five games in the conference semi-finals.

Russell Westbrook acknowledged the need for "sacrifice" as he and James Harden try to lead the Houston Rockets to an NBA championship.

Westbrook was acquired by the Rockets in a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder earlier this month, which included future draft picks, pick swaps and Chris Paul leaving Houston.

The 2017 MVP, Westbrook averaged a triple-double for the third consecutive season in 2018-19, but he admits the path to success with a new team might require a different approach. Especially playing alongside his long-time friend and former Thunder team-mate Harden, who was the league's most valuable player in 2018.

Speaking during his introductory news conference on Friday, Westbrook told reporters: "Me and James have been friends for many, many years, since I was 10 actually.

"To be able to win something, you have to be able to sacrifice some parts of your game and we both understand that," Westbrook continued. "We both understand that we have one common goal and that's to win a championship.

"I don't have to touch the ball to impact the game... I can do other things on the floor to make sure we have a better chance of winning."

Westbrook and Harden both like to have the ball a lot. The duo are the only players in NBA history to exceed 40.0 in usage percentage, and now they will have to share a backcourt. They last played together in 2012-13, before Harden was traded to the Rockets.

Since then, both have been named MVP. Regardless, Westbrook is confident the two will can work well together in Houston.

"We play great off the ball with each other. We've done it in OKC," Westbrook said.

Westbrook elaborated on what else he brings to the table, besides orchestrating an offense.

"I think I can be able to help a lot on the rebounding end and switching and finding a way to get into the passing lanes," the 30-year-old added. "Maybe throw a few lobs to James if he's still got it. Figuring out a way to be able to just impact and use my athleticism."

He also addressed his health, as he underwent a procedure on his right knee in May.

"I'll be ready to go by training camp," Westbrook said. "I'm doing great. Taking my time. Resting as much as I can, because we're gon' go after it at the start of the season and I'll be ready to go."

All in all, Westbrook appears like he's prepared for the next chapter.

"I think it's a great opportunity to be able to bring a championship here to Houston," he said. "An opportunity to do great things, have some fun and I'm excited for it."

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."

Talented youth get the opportunity to showcase their skills as the KFC Star Search basketball camp gets underway.

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.

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