LeBron James wants to "destroy as many people as possible" as the Los Angeles Lakers superstar looks to silence his doubters, according to Richard Jefferson.

James swapped the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Lakers in 2018-19 but he was unable to lead the storied NBA franchise to the playoffs.

The 34-year-old averaged 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 8.3 assists for the Lakers, who missed the postseason for the sixth successive season.

James, who also struggled with a groin injury that limited him to 55 games, failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004-05.

Jefferson, who played alongside James for the Cavaliers from 2015-17, backed the three-time champion and four-time MVP to bounce back in a big way.

"LeBron James will be the best player in basketball next year, again," Jefferson told ESPN's 'Get Up!' on Monday.

"Now, will he be the LeBron James from '08 and chasing down blocks? No. But, he's going to do so many different things. … I think he understands the disrespect. He's felt it over the course of his career, at different levels. Now, it's like 'Oh, you're old. You're not that guy anymore'.

"But, I think, really and truly, he's more focused on proving to people that basketball is the most important thing to him. And, the only way to do that is to go and destroy as many people as possible."

The Lakers' roster should be much improved this season after they acquired Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and three first-round picks this offseason.

Los Angeles had cap space to add a third star next to James and Davis, but missed out on Kawhi Leonard, who joined cross-town rivals the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Lakers then signed Avery Bradley, Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee, Quinn Cook, DeMarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo and Alex Caruso to deals.

Toronto Raptors star Kyle Lowry will not be competing for the United States at the upcoming FIBA World Cup in China.

Raptors guard Lowry announced his withdrawal from Team USA on Monday, citing health reasons.

Lowry had surgery on his right thumb in July following Toronto's NBA triumph over the Golden State Warriors. He reportedly made the trip to training camp despite having a fear the injury would not allow him to play.

He was a member of the 2016 gold-medal team and still hopes to represent USA at the 2020 Olympics.

"This is a status update message regarding the 2019 FIBA World Cup," he wrote, in part, in a note posted on Instagram.

"I was hoping [to] be cleared and ready for the tournament but I was not cleared for full basketball activities...

"At the end of the day I believe the men that are playing will be great and will win the gold for our country."

Lowry was one of the 17 finalists to make the roster for the tournament, which will run from August 31 to September 15.

The news of Lowry's departure comes just a day after Marvin Bagley III also withdrew. There are now 15 players for the 12 open roster spots.

USA head coach Gregg Popovich has had to deal with the dwindling numbers.

"All I care about is who's here," Popovich said at the first day of training camp last week. "I've got a fine group of guys and we're going to get the best possible team we can.

"This is the most satisfying form of putting a bunch of guys together and them have empathy and love for each other to form the kind of team they're going to have to beat some really good European teams."

Lowry is the latest in a long list of players — including Bradley Beal, James Harden, Anthony Davis, CJ McCollum, Eric Gordon, Tobias Harris, Andre Drummond, Montrezl Harrell and Bagley — who pulled their name out of consideration for the World Cup.

Zion Williamson believes RJ Barrett will thrive in the NBA.

Williamson and Barrett were team-mates at Duke and both were selected in the top three – by the New Orleans Pelicans and New York Knicks respectively – of the 2019 NBA Draft.

Williamson was asked about Barrett during a recent interview with SNY.

"[Knicks fans] can expect that they're getting a killer," Williamson said.

Barrett averaged 22.6 points per game as a freshman for the Blue Devils in 2018-19. But, he shot just 30.8 per cent from three-point range and was inconsistent during summer league last month, leading some to speculate he will struggle with New York.

"For the people that are trying to look down on him, RJ's been through worse," Williamson said.

"He knows how to battle through it and he's going to bring the city everything he's got."

The Knicks' roster underwent a major overhaul this offseason. They had reportedly been pursuing stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, however, both signed with the cross-town rival Brooklyn Nets.

New York then went on to sign Wayne Ellington, Elfrid Payton, Julius Randle, Marcus Morris, Reggie Bullock, Taj Gibson and Bobby Portis.

"When it comes to everything on the court with the fan base and everything, I just feel like I went to Duke and we got a lot of attention," Barrett told reporters in late June about playing in New York.

"Being in New York there's going to be a lot more, but I've just been built this way to handle it.

"I'm a player that plays with a lot of passion, competitiveness and excitement, so to be able to go in a home arena [Madison Square Garden] that has such a great fan base like that is going to make the game so much more fun. It's going to be great."

The Knicks finished 2018-19 with a 17-65 record and missed the playoffs for a sixth straight season.

Kemba Walker has already had an impact on his new Boston Celtics team-mates, who are thrilled to be playing alongside the point guard.

Walker joined the Celtics this offseason as a part of a sign-and-trade with the Charlotte Hornets in which Boston sent Terry Rozier the other way.

The 29-year-old signed a four-year, $140million deal with the Celtics and will be taking over the spot left vacant by Kyrie Irving, who went to the Brooklyn Nets in free agency.

Playing alongside Walker next season will be established Celtics stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who are thrilled to be welcoming the point guard to Boston.

"I'm just excited," Tatum said at a Team USA practice session in Las Vegas ahead of the FIBA World Cup.

"We've got a good team, it's a new season, everybody's kind of ready to just get going. Last year didn't finish how we wanted, so it makes guys hungry and excited for next season."

"We're going to be positive," Brown added. "Last year, I can't say it can be any worse than that, so coming out and being positive is everybody's mindset."

The Celtics were picked to win the Eastern Conference after going 55-27 in 2017-18, when they finished second in the East and lost in seven games in the conference finals to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But Boston struggled last season, sliding to 49-33, finishing fourth in the East and losing in the second round of the playoffs to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Walker, meanwhile, missed the postseason for the sixth time in his eight-year spell at Charlotte, and though he made staying with the Hornets a priority in free agency, a deal could not be thrashed out.

He has always stated his love for the city of Charlotte and for his team-mates and the organisation, but it ultimately turned out it was time for him to move on.

However, Walker's loyalty is something that has endeared him to the Celtics squad, according to Marcus Smart.

"We talked a little bit about basketball, but mostly just getting to know each other," Smart said.

"Knowing things that we probably didn't know about one another and just laughing and joking and building that camaraderie up."

Walker echoed Smart's sentiments, but made it clear he still has a way to go before guaranteeing any titles in Boston's future.

"I'm the new guy, they already know each other, so it's just kind of really me and getting acclimated to them and how things go," Walker said.

Jrue Holiday is ready for the New Orleans Pelicans' next chapter.

New Orleans' roster underwent a major overhaul as the team selected former Duke star Zion Williamson with the number one pick and sent star Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and three first-round picks.

Holiday, who has been with the Pelicans since 2013-14, said Williamson has already made an impact.

"You can see just how much joy he's brought to the city," Holiday told The Athletic.

"I don't want to put too much on him because it can be hard to carry something like that at such a young age. I know he's a freakish athlete and a smart kid. If anyone can carry that burden, it would probably be him."

Holiday and Davis are close friends off the court, but the former said it would be "different" playing against the 26-year-old star.

"Obviously I grew up a Lakers fan, so it's cool to see [Davis] go there. But I still want to beat him – hands down," Holiday said.

"It's going to be different seeing him on the other side because we know each other so well. But he knows when we play [the Lakers], it's going to be a battle. I'm going to want that win just as badly as he does."

Holiday, 29, averaged a career-high 21.2 points – along with 7.7 assists – while shooting 47.2 per cent from the field last season. He also added 5.0 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game.

"I want to be the ultimate professional and the best team-mate,"  Holiday said. "When people talk about me, I want them to say, 'Jrue can really hoop.' That's it. I'm here to play basketball. I'm here to help my team-mates. I just want to be known as a good basketball player. Obviously, winning is a big part of that and I want to be known as a winner. That's the ultimate goal."

The Pelicans signed veterans Derrick Favors and JJ Redick this offseason.

Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez wished their MVP-winning Milwaukee Bucks team-mate Giannis Antetokounmpo the best with Greece at the FIBA World Cup, just not against the United States.

Middleton and Lopez watched as Antetokounmpo dominated in the NBA last season after he averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists while helping the Bucks clinch in the number one seed and an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Bucks pair heaped praise on Antetokounmpo, even if they are set to be his rivals at the upcoming World Cup in China.

"There are just so many possessions, so many dunks, but the vision, the unselfishness that he has, it's just so impressive for a superstar of his talent," Lopez told reporters on Wednesday. "And his work ethic is just what amazes me the most, it’s really second to none."

"Every night he steps on that court, you know he's going to give it his all," Middleton added. "You know he's due for one of those big plays."

Middleton and Lopez will not be Antetokounmpo's team-mates at the World Cup, which gets underway in China on August 31.

Antetokounmpo will lead Greece, who have been drawn in Group F alongside New Zealand, Brazil and Montenegro.

Reigning champions Team USA, meanwhile, will face Turkey, Czech Republic and Japan in Group E.

"We've spent hours in practice against each other and it will definitely be fun to get it in a real game," Middleton said. "That's my team-mate, my brother and wish him the best but hopefully not too good against us."

There is no guarantee Middleton will get a chance to match up with Antetokounmpo, but it is not out of the realm of possibility, either.

If both teams finish in the top two of their pools, they could get a chance to face off down the line.

It is something Lopez said USA are not planning for yet but admitted it would be a difficult task on defense, just like it was for every NBA team this past season.

"It would be a total team job," Lopez said. "All five guys have to be on the same page all doing our job."

Kevin Durant has set the record straight about whether the Golden State Warriors pressured him to return from injury and play against the Toronto Raptors in the 2019 NBA Finals.

The now-Brooklyn Nets star opened up about the events leading up to the ruptured Achilles he suffered in the first half of Game 5.

According to him, Golden State's staff do not deserve the blame.

"Hell, no. How can you blame [the Warriors]? Hell, no," Durant told Yahoo Sports. "I heard the Warriors pressured me into getting back. Nobody never said a word to me during rehab as I was coming back.

"It was only me and [director of sports medicine and performance] Rick [Celebrini] working out every day. Right when the series started, I targeted Game 5. Hell, nah. It just happened. It's basketball. S*** happens. Nobody was responsible for it. It was just the game. We just need to move on from that s*** because I'm going to be back playing."

Durant had strained his calf in a second-round series against the Houston Rockets and missed the team's sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers.

When Durant finally stepped back on the court in the championship series, he torched Toronto for 11 points in 12 minutes before suffering the possible career-altering injury.

Durant said he is focused on moving forward and making a comeback.

"Yeah, I still think about that night," Durant said. "Every experience I've been through in the league is obviously always ingrained in my mind, but that one is definitely always going to be a huge part of my career because it's the biggest stage and the type of injury I had.

"But now I look at it as me just going out there playing basketball, and I happened to get hurt. And now I'm just waiting to get back. I know it's a huge deal to everybody else, but I just try to take it on the chin and keep it moving."

Durant will play alongside his close friends Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan in Brooklyn. When Durant was asked why he joined a team that finished 2018-19 with a 42-40 record and was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, he kept his answer short and sweet.

"Because I wanted to," Durant said. "The basketball was appealing."

Durant averaged 26.0 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.9 assists for the Warriors last season and was named Finals MVP twice in his three years with the team.

While he will likely miss all of 2019-20, it appears like he is content with his new team.

"If I was leaving the Warriors, it was always going to be for the Nets," Durant said. "They got the pieces and a creative front office. I just like what they were building."

Kyle Lowry wants to stay with the Toronto Raptors for the long haul despite Kawhi Leonard opting to leave during free agency.

NBA Finals MVP Leonard departed the championship-winning Raptors for the Los Angeles Clippers, where he will team up with six-time All-Star Paul George.

Danny Green left Toronto for a contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, but Lowry, who is set to become a free agent in 2020, is not intending to follow them through the exit door.

"I want to be there – I would love to do a long extension, but we'll see what happens," Lowry said. "But we'll have that discussion when the time is right."

Lowry understood why Leonard chose the Clippers, but he retains faith in the quality of the Raptors' roster.

"[Leonard leaving] wasn't a surprise," Lowry added. "I'm always happy for guys, especially a guy that helped do something fantastic and something great. He's an unbelievable friend of mine and is a good guy.

"He made a decision to go home and he is happy with that and I am happy for him. Truly. I am genuinely happy for him. It gives him a chance to be around his family and friends. You've got to respect the guy and be happy for him.

"We are champions. No matter what. [It will] never be taken away from us. Ever. Ever, ever. Ever, ever.

"We're still going to be able to run it back. We're the champions and we're trying to defend our title. I'm confident with our team."

Washington Wizards star John Wall does not want to miss the 2019-20 NBA season after rupturing his Achilles in February.

Wall – a five-time All-Star – is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon suffered earlier this year after he underwent left heel surgery in January.

The 28-year-old is facing a significant period on the sidelines but the Wizards guard wants to return as soon as possible.

"No I'm not willing to," Wall said, when asked if he was willing to sit out all of next season. "But that's what the doctors say, that's what the team says. So I'm fine listening to them [the team] and not trying to do my own thing."

Wall averaged 20.7 points and 8.7 assists per game through 32 appearances in 2018-19. While he was once known as the fastest player in basketball, his pace has slowed significantly in recent years. He is working to get back into top shape, though.

"Me right now, I don't know. I don't know where I'm at," Wall said when responding to how his recovery is going. "I feel great. I've been jogging the last couple days, I've been on the court doing basketball workouts, I'm doing weightlifting every day.

"So, I don't know where I'm at. I don't want to lie to you guys.I always try to be honest with y'all. I don't know exactly where I'm at, but I know I'm making progress and I'm headed where I'm supposed to be. But I'm not rushing myself back."

The Wizards struggled without Wall and missed the playoffs last season, posting a 32-50 record. But in his absence, Bradley Beal blossomed and put together a career year.

Beal averaged career highs in points (25.6), rebounds (5.0) and assists per game (5.5). Washington have offered the 26-year-old guard a three-year, $111million max extension, but he has not accepted yet and garnered trade interest from multiple teams.

Wall thinks Beal will remain with the Wizards though.

"Brad's a very smart guy. He's going to make the best decision for himself and the organisation," Wall said. "He enjoys D.C. I mean, he won the Community Assist Award for all the things he did here. He loves playing with me."

Wall is owed $170m over the next four seasons. 

Golden State Warriors star forward Draymond Green has reportedly agreed to a four-year extension.

Green's agent Rich Paul reportedly told ESPN his client has come to terms with the Warriors on an extension worth $100million, taking the total value of his five-year contract to $118m.

The extension brings the Warriors' number of max contract players to four.

Green had signed a five-year, $82m deal in 2015-16 and was entering the final season of that contract before Golden State offered him an extension, keeping him with the team until 2023-24.

His payday comes earlier than expected, a turn of events most likely brought on by Kevin Durant's switch to the Brooklyn Nets.

The Warriors were reportedly prepared to offer Klay Thompson and Durant max contracts this offseason and did sign the former to a five-year, $190m deal despite the fact he tore his ACL in Game 6 of this year's NBA Finals and will miss the majority of next season.

Durant, who ruptured his Achilles in Game 5 of the championship series, chose to join forces with Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn, making it feasible for the Warriors to give Green a hefty sum now.

Green, 29, is a three-time All-Star and won Defensive Player of the Year in 2017-18. He has been a part of three Golden State championship teams and has been a valuable contributor with his physical play, defensive versatility and playmaking ability.

He had two triple-doubles in the 2019 NBA Finals and averaged 7.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game for the season.

The Warriors acquired D'Angelo Russell in a sign-and-trade with the Nets and also added Willie Cauley-Stein in free agency.

Having also bade farewell to veterans Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, the Warriors will have a very different look next season, but retaining Green stabilises their core group by keeping him alongside Thompson and Stephen Curry.

David Griffin wants people to know he maintains a "positive relationship" with LeBron James.

Griffin received scrutiny after comments regarding the Los Angeles Lakers and former Cleveland Cavaliers star were published in a recent Sports Illustrated story.

Griffin – who spent nearly a decade as an executive in Cleveland's organisation before joining the New Orleans Pelicans – said he was "miserable" during his time with the Cavaliers.

His comments shocked James, according to ESPN, and Griffin said on Friday his feelings were unrelated to the NBA superstar.

"The fact that there was so much scrutiny in everything that we did, when I was speaking about being uncomfortable and being miserable, it was my inability to deal with that media scrutiny," Griffin told ESPN.

"It wasn't the man himself. It was everything that came with a team led by LeBron James. It had nothing to do with being miserable with LeBron. We had and have a very positive relationship."

Griffin thought the article was going to focus on New Orleans as he helped rebuild the roster by sending Anthony Davis to the Lakers in exchange for Josh Hart, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and three first-round picks as well as the addition of Derrick Favors and JJ Redick and former Duke star Zion Williamson with the top pick in the 2019 draft.

Jayson Tatum believes he played a big role in the Boston Celtics landing Kemba Walker.

Walker agreed to leave the Charlotte Hornets and sign a four-year, $141million max contract with the Celtics this offseason.

Tatum said he spoke with Walker about the team while they were both in Paris for a Jordan Brand event.

"I'm very excited," Tatum said, via ESPN. "I think I had a big part with him coming here ... I never told him to come, but I told him I would love for him to join the team and told him how it was. Obviously, everybody has to do what's best for themselves, and I'm happy for him."

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.

They lost Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn Nets), Al Horford (Philadelphia 76ers) and Marcus Morris (New York Knicks) in free agency but added center Enes Kanter, as well as Walker.

Gordon Hayward is also expected to take a step forward after he struggled last season following a devastating leg injury in 2017-18.

"I just told [Walker] about Boston, the city, the atmosphere, our fans, the culture, the coaching staff," Tatum said. "I answered all the questions he had. I'm excited, and just ready for the season to start and everybody to be around each other and build some chemistry and just get it going."

Walker averaged a career-high 25.6 points, along with 5.9 assists, in 82 games for the Hornets last season. He shot 43.4 per cent from the field and 35.6 per cent from three-point range.

"I'm a winner. I've always been a winner," Walker wrote in a piece for the Players' Tribune last month. "It's who I am – or at least who I strive to be – anytime I step foot on the court. And when I think about my future with this team, and how I'm now going to be playing for the Celtics. I mean, that's why I feel like it's a match made in heaven.

"I want to win here, badly – and I'm excited to prove myself as that type of player in this league. I want to elevate myself into that Boston winning tradition. I want to get this team back on top."

Tatum had a standout rookie season but was inconsistent in 2018-19.

Klay Thompson thinks the Golden State Warriors will still compete for championships.

Golden State, who have made the past five Finals and won three titles during that time frame, lost Kevin Durant to the Brooklyn Nets in free agency and traded away Andre Iguodala while Thompson tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in Game 6 against the Toronto Raptors and is expected to miss a significant portion of next season.

Some have speculated the Warriors' dynasty is over, but Thompson does not believe that is the case.

"I think that's a little premature, to say there's no more dynasty," Thompson told ESPN. "To say the dynasty is over is a little ignorant because I'm going to come back even better and more athletic. It would not be smart to count the Dubs out. That's all I'll tell people."

Durant won two titles and two Finals MVPs during his time with the Warriors. He averaged 26.0 points and 6.4 rebounds last season but ruptured his Achilles in Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Raptors.

"The one thing I'd share is, he just felt like, it was something inside of him, in his heart, that he wanted to try something different," Warriors president of basketball operations Bob Myers said last month about Durant joining Brooklyn.

"Nothing wrong with that. I'm at peace about it, personally, I hope our fans are, too. He was one of the best athletes to come through our city, certainly this organisation."

Golden State managed to offset the loss of Durant, somewhat, by acquiring guard D'Angelo Russell in a sign-and-trade.

Russell had a career year for the Nets last season and made his first All-Star team. He will slot into the Warriors' backcourt next to star Stephen Curry in 2019-20 as Thompson continues to recover.

The MLB trade deadline is always fun, but it was especially entertaining this year.

Meanwhile, in the NFL, players continue to play chicken with their teams and in the FIBA World Cup, athletes continue to drop out.

All that and more on this week in US Sports.

 

1. Trade frenzy

This was the first time ever there has been just one trade deadline in MLB. In years past, there was a second deadline in July where teams could make waiver claims and acquire guys who could still help their teams in the postseason. That is gone this year. So that made Wednesday especially exciting.

While the leadup to the 16:00 local time (20:00 GMT) deadline was a bit slow, the second the clock struck four, things started going crazy. The Chicago Cubs announced they had acquired Nicholas Castellanos, the Arizona Diamondbacks said they received Mike Leake from the Seattle Mariners and the Los Angeles Dodgers stated they received Adam Kolarek from the Tampa Bay Rays. But the trade of the day came deep in the heart of Texas where the Houston Astros obtained six-time All-Star and 2009 American League Cy Young winner Zack Greinke.

The Astros gave up a haul to get him and will have to cover a substantial amount of the $75million of his remaining prospect, but his addition instantly gives Houston the best rotation in the American League and possibly baseball with Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley already having top-15 ERAs in the sport.

The Astros made a statement Wednesday and it was one with World Series implications all over it.

 

2. NFL contracts resolved, complicated

The absolute biggest story of NFL training camps is contracts. First, Michael Thomas was made the highest-paid wide receiver in league this week by the New Orleans Saints, but two other players are not nearly as happy.

The Dallas Cowboys are nowhere near a contract with star running back Ezekiel Elliott who has already won two rushing titles in his career and Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon's agent reportedly asked the team to trade him this week. Contracts are an issue now and will continue to be over the next several weeks.

 

3. Clemson number one, Alabama second in the coaches poll

In the least surprising news of the year, Clemson have been named the top team in the college football nation by an assortment of coaches across the country. The Tigers received 59 of a possible 65 first-place votes and are once again thought by many to be destined for the College Football Playoff national championship game.

Alabama are ranked second, and also unsurprisingly, they received all six of the other votes as a first-place team by the coaches. These are the two best sides in the nation — on paper — and the coaches certainly believe that too.

 

4. Dropping like flies

Will there be any basketball players on the USA men's team for the FIBA World Cup? Of course there will be. Will everyone know all of those names worldwide? Absolutely not. The United States lost two more players on Thursday as Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond and Los Angeles Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell both dropped out of the event. They join an assortment of players already to do that and there are very few big names left with a few more likely to fall off before next week's practices in Las Vegas.

But the US are not the only team losing players. New York Knicks rookie RJ Barrett pulled out of Team Canada's roster and Ben Simmons already decided not to play for Australia too. The World Cup this year is going to be pretty thin with big-name players.

Former Cleveland Cavalier big man Samardo Samuels is expected to return to United States to join the Big 3 basketball league.

The professional 3-on-3 league founded in part by rapper Ice Cube has been attracting several former NBA players since its inception in 2017.  The move will see Samuels, the former Louisville centre, return to play basketball in the United State for the first time since 2013.

The 6’9, 270-pound big man signed for the Cavaliers in 2010 after going undrafted but failed to hold down a spot despite playing for three years with the Cavaliers. 

Since then the much-traveled Jamaica, who has had a tumultuous past several years, had plied his trade all over the globe.  The 30-year-old has stints in the NBA Development League, Israel, Italy, Spain, China, Italy again, Belgrade, and France.

Samuels is expected to join the Trilogy where he has been drafted to replace Patrick O’Bryant.  The competition’s eight-game regular season is scheduled to get underway on August 3.

 

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