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.

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."

Quinn Cook is excited he joined the Los Angeles Lakers, with the recruit expecting a better NBA season for the LeBron James' team.

The Lakers revamped their roster this offseason as they acquired Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans to pair with James.

They had the cap space to add a third max player, but missed out on Kawhi Leonard, who signed with city rivals the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Lakers – who missed the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season – then went on to sign Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee, DeMarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo, Alex Caruso and Avery Bradley to deals.

Cook swapped the Golden State Warriors for the Lakers on a two-year, $6million contract and he told USA Today's HoopsHype: "We have our team group chat going and the guys are very active in it.

"It feels like this team has been together for a while. Everyone has been really active in the group chat. … All of the guys are really excited to get things going. I know this NBA season will be one of the better ones for everyone."

"It was a great experience for me, learning more about the business and stuff like that, but it was a long couple of days," Cook added. "The biggest thing was joining a winner. That's why I play this game. I want to win as much as possible.

"Also, I wanted to go somewhere I'd have the opportunity to be a consistent role player and just try to help as much as possible. … I think the Lakers presented the perfect situation and opportunity for me."

Cook – who was part of Golden State's 2017-19 championship-winning team – spent the last two seasons with the Warriors and averaged 6.9 points in 14.3 minutes per game in 2018-19.

He was originally a restricted free agent, but Golden State rescinded his qualifying offer in order to create cap space to acquire D'Angelo Russell in a sign-and-trade with the Brooklyn Nets.

"I am very thankful for my opportunity [in Golden State]," Cook said. "I think I really took a big step forward in my NBA career in the two years that I was there. I accomplished some things there that I'd always dreamed of accomplishing."

Believe it or not NBA free agency is still happening, even if there are not any All-Star calibre players remaining on the market.

Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Khris Middleton, Kemba Walker and Kawhi Leonard are all spoken for. But there are still players available who can make a difference.

Let's look at some of the top role players for hire this offseason.

 

Carmelo Anthony

No one really knows what Anthony plans on doing. The 35-year-old forward only played in 10 games for the Houston Rockets in 2018-19 before stepping away after the team decided he was not a good fit. He was later traded to the Chicago Bulls and released.

Some wonder if Anthony is just washed up and should retire, but he can still have some value as a spark plug off the bench. It is just a matter of whether he is willing to accept that role.

The 10-time All-Star has a career scoring average of 24.0 points per game and averaged more than 20 points for his first 14 seasons in the league. His already questionable efficiency has dropped in recent years, but plenty of teams need firepower from their reserves.

Everybody shipped Anthony to the Los Angeles Lakers after he was released by the Bulls. But that did not pan out. Nevertheless, it is not crazy to think a team will take a chance on signing a consistent double-digit scorer for the league minimum.

Thabo Sefolosha

Sefolosha can be plugged into basically any line-up, making him one of the best catches available.

The three-and-D wing has length at 6-7 and can pester opposing teams on the ball or off it. He shot 43.6 per cent from beyond the arc with the Utah Jazz last season. However, his durability could be looked at as a major concern, as he has played more than 70 games just five times in his 13-year career.

Sefolosha consistently demonstrates his skillset and knows exactly what role he is brought in to fill, regardless of schemes.

Kenneth Faried

Whoever signs Faried will get the ultimate hustle guy.

The 6-8 big man is undersized but can bring an influx of energy to any line-up when he is on the court. Faried catches lobs, blocks shots and grabs rebounds with an intensity that is rarely matched by the opposition.

Faried did not make any noise as a reserve of the Brooklyn Nets last season, averaging 5.1 points and 3.7 rebounds. Once Brooklyn waived him, he tallied 12.9 points and 8.2 rebounds on a significantly better Rockets team.

Faried is a product of his environment and plenty of teams could benefit from his grit and relentless effort. He is called "The Manimal" for a reason.

James Harden insists there is no bad blood between him and Chris Paul.

The Houston Rockets star was rumoured to have had enough of Paul following their second-round playoff exit at the hands of the Golden State Warriors in May.

Some reports stated Harden would not answer Paul's phone calls after last season and claimed the duo's relationship was "unsalvageable."

Paul has since been traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, with Russell Westbrook coming the other way in a blockbuster deal.

However, Harden told reporters on Saturday that speculation of friction between him and Paul was not accurate.

"It was a lot of false talk," Harden said. "Obviously as team-mates, as competitors we argue on the court. You have your disagreements on the court. Your arguments on the court. But that's just part of basketball. Everybody has that. No matter what level of basketball you're in.

"All the negative media stuff and all the stuff that was running, it wasn't true. Me and Chris had constant communication and you know, we're good."

With Paul now out of the picture, Harden is set for a reunion with Westbrook, who he played alongside in Oklahoma City from 2009-12 before being traded to the Rockets.

Harden led the NBA in scoring with 36.1 points per game while Westbrook averaged a triple-double for a third straight year in 2018-19.

"I'm excited for this opportunity," Harden said. "It's a new chapter, but I know he's [Westbrook] excited."

 

James Harden says he will not need to make any changes for new team-mate Russell Westbrook when the pair are reunited at the Houston Rockets.

The Rockets completed a blockbuster trade for Westbrook this week, giving the Rockets two of the last three NBA MVPs on their roster.

Harden played with the new arrival at the Oklahoma City Thunder between 2009 and 2012 and is already confident about how their rekindled partnership will work out in a loaded Western Conference.

So much so, he insists nothing will need to change in his game to make the Rockets successful after Westbrook's move.

"None. None. None," he told reporters at an Adidas and James Harden ProCamp event when asked what adjustments would be needed.

"We played with each other in the NBA and the Olympics and all that. When you have talent like that, it works itself out. You communicate. You go out there and compete possession by possession. 

"You figure things out throughout the course of the season. That's just what it is. When you have talent, you have guys with IQ, you have guys willing to sacrifice, it always works itself out.

"It's that trust factor. I trust him; he trusts me. With the group that we already have and the things we already accomplished, it should be an easy transition for him to be incorporated right in, and things are going to go."

Chris Paul, whose relationship with Harden reportedly soured last season, two protected first-round draft selections and two pick swaps were sent to the Thunder to secure Westbrook's arrival.

"I'm excited for this opportunity," added Harden. "It's a new chapter, but I know he's excited. 

"He's been in Oklahoma City for 11 years so it's a new chapter for him. We welcome him with open arms. It's going to work.

"That's my boy right there, since I was like 10 or 11 years old. Obviously, we were team-mates for years. Now, we're at different stages of our careers. I hear a lot of negative things, 'You can't, he can't, they can't'. But we'll figure it out."

The Rockets lost out in six games to the Golden State Warriors in the second round of the playoffs last season, having gone 53-29 to claim the fourth seed in the West.

Chris Paul did not get what he wanted, but he is apparently not too mad about it.

In the meantime in MLB, batters really need to start watching their heads.

And in the NHL a ton is happening, and yet, nothing actually is.

 

1. Paul staying with Thunder

The Oklahoma City Thunder had hoped to move Paul quickly after acquiring him in a package for Russell Westbrook last week, but that is apparently not going to happen.

Paul is likely to start the season in Oklahoma City, according to ESPN, and could play out a good portion of the campaign, or even longer, there.

Oklahoma City reportedly tried to move Paul to the Heat, but their proposals were not to the liking of Miami, so Paul, and his three years and more than $100million left on his contract, will stay with the Thunder.

Fortunately, both Paul and the Thunder reportedly see value in him sticking around, so it is not a total loss for either party.

2. Plunk wars

It is that time of year. Baseball players are throwing at each other again and two pitchers were suspended for their actions on Wednesday after throwing at the heads of opponents a day earlier.

Philadelphia Phillies reliever Hector Neris was mad at himself so he threw at David Freese.

Then, Los Angeles Angels reliever Noe Ramirez threw at Jake Marisnick for breaking his catcher's nose and giving him a concussion.

Both players were suspended for three games. Both men will appeal.

 

3. NHL has oddly eventful week

For some reason there was a lot going on in the NHL this week. There were several signings and a somewhat notable trade.

- The Chicago Blackhawks traded Artem Anisimov to the Ottawa Senators for Zack Smith.
- Minnesota Wild re-signed Ryan Donato to a two-year deal after he excelled following his trade there for Charlie Coyle at the deadline.
- The Washington Capitals re-signed Jakub Vrana to a two-year deal.
- Colorado Avalanche signed J.T. Compher to a four-year deal but still have not given Mikko Rantanen an offer.

Rantanen remains unsigned as do other restricted free agent stars such as Patrick Laine (Winnipeg Jets), Matthew Tkachuk (Calgary Flames), Brayden Point (Tampa Bay Lightning) and Mitch Marner (Toronto Maple Leafs).

All of these men face holdouts if they do not get the deals they want, but with all of the contracts already handed out teams simply might not have enough money to give especially with a lower salary cap than many anticipated. There could be a lot of disappointed young players this offseason.

 

4. Falcons, Deion Jones agree to four-year, $57m deal

This is how much Deion Jones means to the Atlanta Falcons defense.

After going down early in the season to injury, Jones was still given a four-year, $57m deal on Wednesday. Jones played in just six games in 2018, but Atlanta clearly have no concern about his long-term health and locked him up accordingly.

The Falcons are due for a bounce-back season if they are healthy and Jones will be a big part of it.

Kyrie Irving's decision to leave Boston and sign with the Brooklyn Nets in free agency did not come as a surprise to Celtics general manager Danny Ainge.

During an interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub's Toucher and Rich, Ainge opened up about some of the conversations he had with the six-time All-Star in the months leading up to his free agency.

"He did express to me on a couple of occasions between March and the end of [the season] that he really wanted to go home," Ainge said about Irving, who grew up in New Jersey.

"I got the impression at that point that he wanted to go play in Brooklyn more than he wanted to play in New York or Boston."

Irving had mentioned at one point that he planned to re-sign with the Celtics, but Ainge revealed he never had that conversation with him.

"He told everyone else, but I never had that conversation with him," Ainge said. "I asked him point blank in the conversations that I had with him, 'Would you consider returning to Boston?' And he was always 'Yes'. He was always in that frame of mind. I don't think he was out the door for sure by then. I think he was contemplating all his options."

Ainge went on to defend Irving and said he wanted to take the blame away from the veteran.

The Celtics finished the season with a 49-33 record and many questioned Irving's leadership.

"A lot of people put a lot of heat on Kyrie of being the guy that's supposed to be this great leader and it was his responsibility to lead everybody," Ainge said.

"I continually tried to remove that pressure from Kyrie and [tell him to] just be yourself, just go play, just have fun, find joy in the game ... I think he did feel that burden, that he had to be too much, and wasn't able to do that.

"I don't like the fact that it's all the blame on [Irving]. I'd like everybody to take responsibility for that. I feel like the Kyrie bashing is unfair, that's all."

James Harden has joined MLS club Houston Dynamo's ownership group.

The Dynamo announced on Thursday that the Houston Rockets superstar had become part of the group led by Gabriel Brener, also owners of the NWSL's Houston Dash.

Harden, arguably the face of Houston sports and winner of the NBA MVP award in 2018, joins six-weight world champion Oscar De La Hoya in the group.

"I'm very excited about the opportunity to join the ownership group of the Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash and proud to be a part of a club with tremendous history and a great future," Harden said in a statement.

"Houston is my home now, and I saw this as a way to invest in my city and expand my business interests at the same time. Soccer in general, and especially MLS, have exploded in this country throughout my lifetime.

"I've been a fan of the game for several years, and I know that Houston has a massive soccer fanbase, so it was an easy decision for me when this opportunity arose."

"We are thrilled to welcome James into our club. He's an icon in the Houston community, and not only is he a great basketball player, he has an extremely smart and savvy mind for business," Brener said.

"James will bring a very unique perspective to our ownership group, and I'm looking forward to hearing his thoughts and opinions on the club going forward."

Boston Celtics recruit Kemba Walker will "forever love" Michael Jordan for giving him a chance in the NBA.

Walker joined the Celtics via sign and trade earlier this month, ending an eight-season stay in Charlotte with the Bobcats and Hornets.

The three-time All-Star guard, unveiled by the Celtics on Wednesday, paid tribute to Hornets owner and NBA great Jordan.

"He had a great influence on me. First of all, he drafted me. He gave me my opportunity to play in this league," Walker said.

"He allowed me to play through mistakes, allowed me as a person, as a man. I love that dude, that's my guy, we have a great relationship.

"I'll forever love him because of the opportunity he gave me."

Walker has reportedly signed a four-year, $141million max contract with the Celtics, who are 17-time NBA champions.

The 29-year-old said he was eager for success with Boston after reaching the playoffs just twice in eight seasons in Charlotte.

"For me, it's the competitiveness of this organisation, they've been winning for years," Walker said.

"You can see all the banners upstairs and in the arena. It's a winning organisation and I want to win – that's what I'm about.

"Throughout my basketball career and as a pro, I haven't won consistently, and I just want to get a taste of that. I thought that this was the best place for me to do that."

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