Zion Williamson's fellow NBA rookies do not expect him to have the best career of the players in his draft class, with Cam Reddish coming out on top in the league's annual rookie survey.

Only five per cent of respondents in the survey believe Williamson will have the best career of the 2019 draftees.

Atlanta Hawks guard Reddish, meanwhile, received 19 per cent of the vote for the question.

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (16 per cent) and Hawks forward De'Andre Hunter (11 per cent) also ranked higher than Williamson.

Three other players – Jaxson Hayes, who will play alongside Williamson for the New Orleans Pelicans, RJ Barrett and Coby White matched the small forward at five per cent.

Reddish, who was selected at number 10 by the Hawks, and Williamson were team-mates at Duke Blue Devils.

Williamson was the story of college basketball last season and averaged 22.6 points, along with 8.9 rebounds, while shooting 68 per cent from the field.

He was the consensus top prospect in the 2019 draft and the Pelicans chose him with the number one pick.

However, Williamson is favoured to win the Rookie of the Year among members of his draft class, as 35 per cent of respondents in the survey predicted he would take home the award.

Victor Oladipo believes the Indiana Pacers have a "chance to be really special" as they prepare for the 2019-20 NBA season.

The Pacers finished 2018-19 with a 48-34 record and were swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs after star Oladipo ruptured a quad tendon in his right knee.

Indiana lost some key pieces from that team — including Thaddeus Young, Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collision and Cory Joseph. But, the Pacers replaced them with the likes of Jeremy Lamb, T.J. Warren, T.J. McConnell, Justin Holiday and JaKarr Sampson.

The Pacers made multiple moves this offseason and two-time All-Star Oladipo said Indiana will "definitely" make the playoffs.

"I feel like we got some great additions," Oladipo said, via the Indianapolis Star. "We got a chance to be really special. I feel like the league is wide open."

Indiana's biggest acquisition was Malcolm Brogdon, who they landed in a sign-and-trade with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Brogdon, who averaged 15.6 points and shot 42.6 per cent from three-point range last season, then signed a four-year, $85million deal with the Pacers.

"We added a lot of fire power offensively, but we always wanted a team on a good timeline," Indiana president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard told reporters in early July.

"We feel we have a young team, a very vibrant up-and-coming team that's willing to get better. We like guys who love the game. You can always tell when guys love the game, they have these incremental improvements every year."

Oladipo said he was excited to play with Brogdon.

"I know what type of player he is, the level that he plays on and has been playing on the last couple of years from Milwaukee," Oladipo said. "To have him as an addition is pretty big for us."

Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey believes James Harden is a better scoring than NBA and Chicago Bulls great Michael Jordan.

Harden is fresh off the best offensive season of his career after averaging 36.1 point and 7.5 assists in 78 appearances for a Rockets team who were dependent on his ability to draw fouls and crafty shot making.

The 2017-18 MVP led the NBA in scoring last season and tallied the league's highest points per game average since Jordan averaged 37.1 points during the 1986-87 season.

Most basketball fans agree that Jordan is the greatest of all time, but Morey would argue Harden has a leg up on the sport's most iconic player in one area.

"It's just factual that James Harden is a better scorer than Michael Jordan," Morey said on the 'Selfmade with Nadeshot' podcast.

Morey is the creator of Houston's analytics-based offensive system known as "Moreyball" and says statistics make him ranking Harden above Jordan logical.

"Based on literally, like you give James Harden the ball and before you're giving up the ball how many points do you generate? Which is how you should measure offense. James Harden is by far number one in NBA history," Morey said.

Harden has been an All-Star in each of his seven seasons with the Rockets, has led the league in possessions per game for the last three campaigns and has won the last two scoring titles. 

The argument for Jordan being the better offensive player stems from the fact that basketball has evolved. The game is faster, players shoot more and scoring is up. But Morey is holding onto his beliefs.

"The counterargument is reasonable," Morey said. "They say if you put Michael Jordan on a team now he would do more than James Harden. That's possible. But if you're just saying: 'NBA history, if you give this guy the ball, how much does his team score after you give him the ball before the other team gets the ball?' It's James Harden. And I know that makes people mad, but it's literally a fact."

The Rockets have had plenty of success in the regular season with Harden as the centrepiece but have yet to reach the NBA Finals during his time in Houston.

But the Rockets shipped off Chris Paul and an assortment of future draft picks to bring in the 2016-17 MVP in Russell Westbrook.

The Rockets have two elite, high-usage guards on their team, and Morey believes Harden alongside a triple-double machine like Westbrook can get Houston over the hump.

Billionaire Joseph Tsai has finalised a deal that makes him the sole owner of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center, the team announced on Friday.

Tsai, 55, already owned 49 per cent of the Nets, which he bought for $1billion last year.

Reports this week said he is buying the remaining 51 per cent from Mikhail Prokhorov for $1.35billion, valuing the franchise at $2.35billion.

The deal must be approved by the NBA's board of governors and is expected to be completed by the end of September, the franchise said.

"I've had the opportunity to witness up close the Brooklyn Nets rebuild that Mikhail started a few years ago," Tsai - worth an estimated $9.7billion according to Forbes - said in a statement.

"He hired a front office and coaching staff focused on player development, he supported the organisation with all his resources, and he refused to tank.

"I will be the beneficiary of Mikhail's vision, which put the Nets in a great position to compete, and for which I am incredibly grateful."

Tsai's deal for the Nets would represent the largest price paid for a United States sports team in history, surpassing the $2.2billion purchases of the Carolina Panthers and the Houston Rockets.

Last season, Brooklyn finished with a 42-40 record but have renewed hope because of huge off-season acquisitions of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

Durant signed a four-year, $164million deal with the team, while Irving signed a four-year, $141m deal.

The Indianapolis Colts are in wait and see mode with Andrew Luck.

The Los Angeles Lakers are in the same position but in a different way with DeMarcus Cousins.

Meanwhile, in Dallas, the Cowboys have not come to an agreement with any of their three players currently looking for new deals.

All that and more this week in US Sports.

 

1. Colts still waiting on Luck to get healthy

It is 2017 all over again as the Colts continue to wait for quarterback Luck to lead the team's offense. Just two seasons after Luck thought he would start the season but ultimately missed the entire year due to injury, Indianapolis are once again in limbo while Luck deals with an injury.

Exactly what the issue is remains to be seen as it has been reported that he had a calf issue, then an ankle issue and now just a general leg issue. The only thing certain is Luck is not leading the team's offense as the season creeps closer and closer.

Coach Frank Reich told reporters this week he wants to make a decision on who will start week one by the third week of the preseason. Whether that will be Luck or backup Jacoby Brissett remains to be seen.

2. Cousins' season may be done before it started

The Lakers may have already been dealt a devastating injury. Cousins tore his anterior cruciate ligament, the center's agent Jeff Schwartz told ESPN.

Los Angeles were hoping to go with a solid big three with Cousins, Anthony Davis and LeBron James, but now they will likely have to build around Davis and James as Cousins could have just suffered his second season-ending injury in the past three years.

 

3. Cowboys no closer to deals with stars

The Cowboys continue to work to sign Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper and Ezekiel Elliott to deals, but as far as we know, they are no closer to anything.

Jerry Jones offered a colourful illustration as to what trying to sign the three players is like this week.

"Picture you were a driver of a car and you had a wreck and your hand was almost severed off, but you didn't understand your anatomy," Jones said, via the Dallas Morning News. "You look down, you're spurting blood, you open the door, and run to the woods, and either die bleeding to death or shock. The educated man looks down, knows his anatomy, squeezes and knows his best chance is to wait for help. That's because he's been there a lot and done that. So I'm squeezing and waiting for help."

Jones might be a little stressed by his current situation.

4. Pitchers starting to look fragile

It is the dog days of summer in MLB and pitchers are dropping like flies. Just this week, Philadelphia Phillies righty Jake Arrieta went on the 10-day injured list (IL) and is likely done for the season as he is considering undergoing surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow, Houston Astros ace Gerrit Cole was scratched for a start with a hamstring issue and Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon underwent surgery on his elbow and then discovered he needed Tommy John surgery. He will now be out for all of 2020 as well.

At this point teams are just trying to get to the end of the year without losing a pitcher for the season but the Phillies and Pirates were unable to escape that fate.

Los Angeles Lakers' new recruit DeMarcus Cousins has suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament injury, his agent has confirmed.

Cousins, who battled through a quad injury during the play-offs with the Golden State Warriors last season - having already overcome a torn Achilles suffered midway through the 2017-18 campaign - signed a one-year deal worth $3.5million with the Lakers in July.

However, the Lakers look set to be without their star signing for a time, with the center's agent Jeff Schwartz confirming to ESPN that Cousins ruptured his ACL during a workout in Las Vegas.

Cousins was training on Monday when he suffered an injury which forced him off the court, and the 29-year-old underwent scans on Thursday.

After signing with the Lakers, Cousins said previous injury struggles have helped him realise how much he loves the game.

“Everything I've gone through in the past three years it just helped me realise how fast this thing can be taken away from you," Cousins told the Los Angeles Times.

"I love it that much more. I'm grateful for every opportunity. I learned the hard way."

Los Angeles Lakers' new recruit DeMarcus Cousins has suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament injury, according to reports.

Cousins, who battled through a quad injury during the play-offs with the Golden State Warriors last season - having already overcome a torn Achilles suffered midway through the 2017-18 campaign - signed a one-year deal worth $3.5 million with the Lakers in July.

However, the Lakers look set to be without their star signing for a time, with The Athletic reporting Cousins ruptured his ACL during a workout in Las Vegas.

Cousins is said to have been training on Monday when he suffered an injury which forced him off the court, and the 29-year-old was set to undergo scans on Thursday.

After signing with the Lakers, Cousins said previous injury struggles have helped him realise how much he loves the game.

“Everything I've gone through in the past three years it just helped me realise how fast this thing can be taken away from you," Cousins told the Los Angeles Times.

"I love it that much more. I'm grateful for every opportunity. I learned the hard way."

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."

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