LeBron James has agreed a two-year contract extension with the Los Angeles Lakers worth a whopping $97.1million.

James, 37, had been entering the final year of a contract worth $44.5m. His new deal, as reported by ESPN, includes a player option for the 2024-25 season.

The NBA great missed the Lakers' final two games of the 2021-22 season after suffering a sprained ankle, although he did enjoy the second-most productive campaign of his storied career in terms of points per game.

He played 56 games overall, averaging 30.3 points per game, only the second time he has averaged over 30 in a season (31.4 PPG for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2005-06). 

 

James averaged 8.2 rebounds per game, 6.2 assists and brought three-pointers into his arsenal more than ever, hitting a career-high season average of 2.9 successes and 8.0 attempts per game.

He also became the first player in NBA history to record more than 10,000 career points, rebounds and assists.

During career, James has won four NBA titles with three different teams – the Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Lakers.

In each of his championship-winning seasons, James was voted as Finals MVP, while he is also a four-time regular-season MVP, and an 18-time All Star.

Shareef O'Neal, the son of Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal, has signed with the NBA G League Ignite team. 

After playing for the Los Angeles Lakers during Summer League, The Athletic reported that O'Neal had put pen to paper on a six-figure contract. 

The 22-year-old, who was not picked in the 2022 NBA Draft, confirmed the news by tweeting: "Vegas, let's do it! Thank you Ignite!" 

O'Neal averaged 4.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 10.9 minutes per game in his six Summer League appearances. 

The Ignite team was established in 2020 to help elite NBA prospects develop their game without going to college. 

O'Neal was diagnosed with a right anomalous coronary artery and underwent open heart surgery in December 2018 while at UCLA. 

After taking a shot at Russell Westbrook by using him as the butt of a joke, San Antonio Spurs rookie Jeremy Sochan took to Twitter to say he was "not intending on being disrespectful" to the Los Angeles Lakers superstar. 

In a social media video, Sochan and fellow Spurs rookie Malaki Branham participated in a word association game while at this month's NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. 

Branham gave the hint, "Russell Westbrook get 'em a lot", with the hope Sochan would guess "triple-double" in response.

However, Sochan immediately said "bricks".

The 19-year-old eventually correctly guessed "triple-double" and apologised for the insult on Twitter. 

"It's banter, I was not intending on being disrespectful," he said. "Heat of the moment, I was playing a game baby."

Sochan, the ninth overall pick of this year's draft, later went on to say Westbrook has "been one idol since I started watching the NBA and my dog is called Russell".

While Westbrook is the NBA all-time leader in triple-doubles with 194, the 2016-17 league MVP struggled mightily with his shot from 3-point range last season, shooting 29.8 per cent from beyond the arc. 

Among the 142 players with at least 250 3-point attempts in 2021-22, Westbrook had the fourth-worst shooting percentage.

LeBron James showed no rust on Saturday in his return to competitive basketball at the Drew League, while former team-mate Kyrie Irving was a no-show after being expected to take the court. 

James had 42 points, 16 rebounds and four steals while teaming with Chicago Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan at the Drew League, a pro-am event held every summer in the Los Angeles area. 

It was James' first action since missing seven of the Los Angeles Lakers' final eight games due to a sprained ankle. James appeared in just 56 games in 2021-22 as he dealt with ankle, knee and abdominal injuries. 

However, he managed to average 30.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 6.2 assists for a Lakers team that missed the playoffs with a 33-49 record. 

"I'm 100 percent healthy," James told ESPN on Saturday in his first appearance at the Drew League since 2011. 

Irving, meanwhile, was expected to play in the event but instead attended a camp hosted by Lakers assistant coach Phil Handy. 

"They were pretty sure he was coming," Drew League Commissioner Dino Smiley told NBA.com of Irving's representatives. "But you know how Kyrie is. I guess he changed his mind in the middle of it."

James and Irving won an NBA title with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, and rumours have been swirling that they could be reunited in Los Angeles. 

Irving recently exercised his $36.5million player option for next season with the Brooklyn Nets, but with Kevin Durant requesting a trade out of Brooklyn, the Nets could be looking to move Irving as well. 

ESPN has reported that the Nets and Lakers have been in talks about a deal that would send Irving to Los Angeles and Russell Westbrook to Brooklyn. 

"In order to get great talent, you have to give up a lot of great talent and value in draft picks," Lakers president Jeanie Buss told NBA.com. "Every team is sophisticated and smart. Nobody is just asleep at the wheel. 

"Everybody is just trying to make their team better. Some teams are pivoting from a path they were on and want to deal because they have players that don't fit what their plans are. So it's a fluid situation. You always have to stay on top of it."

Russell Westbrook has split from long-time agent Thad Foucher due to "irreconcilable differences" over "his best pathway forward".

Foucher, who has represented the former MVP for his entire NBA career, revealed the news in a statement released to ESPN.

The development comes as Westbrook's future remains unclear, with his huge contract and underwhelming performances hampering the Los Angeles Lakers.

Trade rumours have circled Westbrook, even as new Lakers coach Darvin Ham described himself as "excited as hell to have Russell Westbrook on our team".

Foucher also feels Westbrook and the Lakers should continue together, although he did not make clear whether this opinion had contributed to their parting.

"I represented Russell Westbrook for 14 years and am proud of our partnership, which included a highly successful 2008 draft, a super-max contract and the only renegotiation-and-extend max contract in history," Foucher's statement read.

"I also supported Russell throughout his rise into a prominent fashion industry figure and recently orchestrated three successive trades on Russell's behalf – culminating with the trade to his hometown Los Angeles Lakers.

"Each time, teams gave up valuable players and assets to acquire Russell – and each time, a new organisation embraced his arrival. We did it together with grace and class.

"Now, with a possibility of a fourth trade in four years, the marketplace is telling the Lakers they must add additional value with Russell in any trade scenario. And even then, such a trade may require Russell to immediately move on from the new team via buyout.

"My belief is that this type of transaction only serves to diminish Russell's value and his best option is to stay with the Lakers, embrace the starting role and support that Darvin Ham publicly offered.

"Russell is a first-ballot Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame player and will prove that again before he is retired.

"Unfortunately, irreconcilable differences exist as to his best pathway forward and we are no longer working together. I wish Russell and his family the very best."

LeBron James has criticised the United States government for its handling of WNBA star Brittney Griner's imprisonment in Russia. 

James addressed the issue in a trailer for his online talk show, "The Shop: Uninterrupted."

"Now, how can she feel like America has her back?" the Los Angeles Lakers forward said. "I would be feeling like, 'Do I even want to go back to America?'"

The episode will air in its entirety Friday on YouTube.

Griner, a seven-time WNBA All-Star with the Phoenix Mercury, was arrested in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport on February 17 for carrying vape cartridges that allegedly contained cannabis products. 

Last week, Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard referenced James in her plea for officials to act more quickly. 

"If it was LeBron, he'd be home, right?" Nygaard said. "It's a statement about the value of women. It's a statement about the value of a Black person. It's a statement about the value of a gay person. All of those things. We know it, and so that's what hurts a little more."

The sports community has continued to advocate for Griner's return to the U.S. over the last five months, but she remains in Russian custody while the war in Ukraine continues to cause tension between Washington and Moscow.

The WNBA held its All-Star Game Sunday in Chicago, with Griner’s detention receiving plenty of attention. Players on both teams wore Griner’s No. 42 and name on their jerseys during the second half.

In recent weeks, both Griner and her wife Cherelle have had correspondence with President Joe Biden, but the administration has not publicly declared a plan for her return. 

Griner entered a guilty plea last Thursday in Russian court, saying she packed the cartridges accidentally. ESPN reported over the weekend that Griner’s plea could be part of a strategy to facilitate a prisoner exchange that could also include former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who is also being detained in Russia. 

In June, the U.S. State Department classified Griner as being wrongfully detained. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has reiterated that returning the prisoners to the U.S. remains a priority.

"We will not relent until Brittney, Paul Whelan and all other wrongfully detained Americans are reunited with their loved ones," Blinken said on Twitter last week. 

Thomas Bryant is once again a Los Angeles Laker after the free agent centre signed a one-year contract with the team on Wednesday. 

A second-round pick by the Utah Jazz in the 2017 NBA Draft, Bryant was then traded to the Lakers on draft night but only appeared in 15 games with Los Angeles, averaging 1.5 points and 1.1 rebounds. 

He was then waived by the Lakers following his rookie year and signed with the Washington Wizards, where he has spent the past four seasons. 

His last two years with Washington were marred by injury, however, as he appeared in a combined 37 games due to a torn ACL suffered in January 2021.  

Prior to the injury, Bryant was off to an encouraging start to the 2020-21 season, averaging 14.3 points on 64.8-per-cent shooting, along with 6.1 rebounds in starting the first 10 games for Washington. 

Bryant, who turns 25 years old on July 31, played well at times in his return last January, averaging 7.4 points and 4.0 rebounds in 27 games. 

The Lakers are hopeful after another off-season of training that he will be able to regain his prior form and provide frontcourt depth.

Another high-profile star has opted in to a lucrative contract as the NBA continues to prepare for free agency.

Hot on the heels of Kyrie Irving committing to the Brooklyn Nets, with potential destinations for a move thin on the ground, Russell Westbrook has picked up his option with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Westbrook will be paid $47.1million for the 2022-23 season, making it little surprise his decision was reported on Tuesday.

The 2017 NBA MVP endured a difficult first year in LA – to say the least – but will hope for a fresh start under new Lakers coach Darvin Ham.

Westbrook's huge contract made him extremely difficult to trade, limiting the Lakers' moves this offseason significantly.

The New York Knicks have worked to ensure they are not in the same position, despite similarly being tied to a highly paid underperforming player in Julius Randle.

The Knicks traded away their 11th pick in the 2022 NBA Draft among transactions that included dumping Kemba Walker's contract with the Detroit Pistons.

And the Knicks have also come to an agreement for the Pistons to take on both Nerlens Noel and Alec Burks.

These moves have cleared around $30m in cap space, and the Knicks appear determined to spend that money on Jalen Brunson, the Dallas Mavericks point guard.

Brunson is set to be a target for the Knicks after the free agency period begins on Thursday, and his departure would deal a blow to the Mavs and superstar Luka Doncic.

Dallas reached the Western Conference Finals in 2021-22 and have boosted their roster with a move for Christian Wood from the Houston Rockets.

But Brunson was the team's second man behind Doncic, leaving work to do just to get back to the level they have reached in recent months.

A trading card of NBA star LeBron James has sold at auction with collectibles marketplace Goldin for $2.4million, including buyer's premium.

The unique 2020-21 Panini Flawless Triple Logoman of James includes embedded segments of the 37-year-old's game-worn jerseys from his time at the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers.

It had been anticipated that it could break the all-time record for a sports trading card, which is a Honus Wagner baseball card that was sold for $6.6m in 2021.

Panini's 2020-21 Flawless release included five Triple Logoman cards, made up of patches from three-star players, though James' was the only card that features three patches from one player.

The four other cards include patches from Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry; Draymond Green, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson; Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball and Tyrese Haliburton, and Jayson Tatum, Luka Doncic and Zion Williamson.

The Los Angeles Lakers did not have a first-round pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, but they will have a pair of high-profile rookies on their Summer League roster. 

Ex-LSU forward Shareef O'Neal and former Vanderbilt guard Scotty Pippen Jr have agreed to free-agent contracts with the team as they try to follow their famous fathers into the NBA.

O'Neal is the son of Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal, who played eight seasons with the Lakers from 1996 to 2004 and helped the franchise to three consecutive NBA championships from 2000 to 2002. 

Pippen's father, Scottie, was a seven-time All-Star and a major part of the Chicago Bulls dynasty in the 1990s that won six NBA titles in an eight-year span from 1991 to 1998.

According to The Athletic, O'Neal has received an invitation to play on the Lakers' Summer League team in Las Vegas, while Pippen Jr has agreed to a two-way contract – as has Syracuse's Cole Swider.

Both players confirmed the signings on their Twitter accounts.

"THANK YOU FOR THIS OPPORTUNITY @Lakers!," O'Neal wrote while posting a short video of him as a child in a Lakers jersey.

"Dreams come true. Let's get to work #lakeshow," Pippen Jr tweeted.

The six-foot-10 O'Neal began his collegiate career at UCLA before transferring to LSU, where his father starred prior to being taken by the Orlando Magic with the number one overall pick of the 1992 draft. Foot injuries limited the younger O'Neal to only 37 games over three college seasons.

Pippen Jr, a six-foot-three guard who attended high school in the Los Angeles area, went undrafted despite a standout three-year career at Vanderbilt in which he scored 1,577 points in three seasons.

The 21-year-old averaged over 20 points per game in each of his final two seasons and was a two-time first team All-Southeastern Conference selection.

Darvin Ham insisted Russell Westbrook is one of the best players the NBA has ever seen upon his announcement as Los Angeles Lakers head coach on Monday.

The nine-time All-Star and former MVP had a patchy first season in the purple and gold despite averages of 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists.

The 33-year-old was widely regarded as the cause behind the Lakers finishing with a 33-49 record which saw them finish 11th in the Western Conference, even missing the Play-In Tournament.

Asked about fitting Westbrook with LeBron James and Anthony Davis during his introduction as the Lakers coach, Ham took the opportunity to defend the embattled point guard.

"Don't get it messed up," he said. "Russ is one of the best players our league has ever seen, and there's still a ton left in that tank. I don't know why people tend to try to write him off.

"I'm going to approach him like I do every player I've ever encountered. We're going to talk about our running habits, with the ball, without the ball. And again, the team, the rhythm of the team and trying to establish a rhythm with LeBron, Russ, AD.

"And again, share the load defensively and offensively. Defensively is where you're going to see us make our biggest leaps and bounds. We have to commit to the defensive side of the ball or we don't have a chance to do anything. Our offence won't even matter if we don't get stops."

After an eight-year playing career in the NBA, Ham got his first coaching job in the league working as an assistant at the Lakers, as a part of Mike Brown's staff in 2012-13.

After that season, the 48-year-old spent the following years on Mike Budenholzer's staff with the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks, winning the NBA title in 2021.

"The fact that I got my start as a coach here, this place will always be special for me," Ham said. "It's like a homecoming for me, in all seriousness."

"As sad as it is for me to be leaving coach Bud, sometimes you got to walk that walk on your own. We went from colleagues, to friends, to brothers while all the while making history."

Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka identified Darvin Ham's "no-nonsense and hard-working approach" as key, as he was confirmed as the team's head coach on Friday.

A week after reports emerged of Ham's imminent appointment at Crypto.com Arena, the Lakers officially welcomed their new coach.

Ham previously worked under Mike Brown as an assistant on the Lakers between 2011 and 2013, and he returns to the team from the Milwaukee Bucks.

The 48-year-old – whose only previous head coaching job was with the New Mexico Thunderbirds, now the Cleveland Charge – followed Mike Budenholzer from the Atlanta Hawks to Milwaukee in 2018.

He was part of the staff that helped the Bucks to win their second NBA championship in 2021, adding to a sole success as a player on the 2004 Detroit Pistons.

Now, Ham will be leading the Lakers, looking to improve on a hugely underwhelming season in which the team failed to qualify for the playoffs.

LeBron James is ageing, Anthony Davis has endured injury issues, and the signing of Russell Westbrook as a third superstar was not a success.

James was enthused by reports of Ham's arrival, though, and Pelinka is also looking forward to seeing his latest hire get to work.

"When someone begins his NBA coaching career at the G League level and goes all the way through playing an integral role on the front bench of an NBA championship team, it really speaks to a certain strength of character," Pelinka said.

"Our players and fans will immediately identify with Darvin's no-nonsense and hard-working approach, which we feel will bring toughness and a competitive edge to all we do.

"When you add that to Darvin's sophisticated grasp of in-game strategy and deep knowledge of the game of basketball, we have the ideal coach for this next chapter in Lakers history.

"We could not be more honoured and proud to name Darvin Ham as our new head coach."

Ham is set to meet the media for the first time as Lakers coach on Monday, when potential offseason trades for Westbrook and his significant salary are sure to be a topic of discussion.

The Los Angeles Lakers have hired Milwaukee Bucks assistant Darvin Ham as their new head coach after he was brought in for a formal interview for the position on Thursday.

Ham, who will become a head coach in the NBA for the first time, was chosen ahead of former NBA head coaches Terry Stotts – who spent nine season in charge of the Portland Trail Blazers – and Kenny Atkinson, who oversaw the rebuild of the Brooklyn Nets before the arrival of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

Before becoming a coach, Ham played 417 games across eight seasons in his NBA career, and earned his first assistant role in the league with the Lakers back in 2011.

After two seasons with the Lakers, Ham moved on to the Atlanta Hawks, where alongside head coach Mike Budenholzer he helped them become the top seed in the Eastern Conference in 2014-15, despite their top-scorer being Paul Millsap at 16.7 points per game.

When Budenholzer was fired in 2017 and took the head role with the Bucks, Ham followed, and was a key member in the staff that won the 2021 NBA Championship.

Long-considered a head-coach-in-waiting, Ham was viewed as a front-runner for the vacancies with the Washington Wizards and the Sacramento Kings before ultimately being passed on, leaving him as the man tasked with mounting another championship run while LeBron James remains near the top of his game.

James tweeted his excitement about the hiring, saying: "So damn EXCITED!!!!!!!! Congrats and welcome coach DHam!!"

Ham will also be only the third African American coach to enter an NBA season as head coach of the Lakers, after Mike Brown did so in 2011-12 – getting fired after five games – and Byron Scott in 2014-15 and 2015-16.

Nikola Jokic was named in the All-NBA first team ahead of Joel Embiid and alongside Jayson Tatum, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Devin Booker in Tuesday evening's announcement.

Jokic pipped fellow center Embiid for the NBA's 2021-22 MVP award earlier this month and the Serbian again got the nod in that position in the All-NBA first team, although the Philadelphia 76ers star was eligible as a forward but also missed out.

While Jokic and Embiid split votes, Milwaukee Bucks forward Antetokounmpo was the only unanimous selection in the first team.

Antetokounmpo became the first player over the past 50 years to be a unanimous selection to the All-NBA first team in four straight seasons.

Tatum and Booker were both selected to the All-NBA first team for the first time.

Embiid led the selections for the second team, alongside DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Ja Morant.

LeBron James was named to the third team, with Pascal Siakam, Karl-Anthony Towns, Chris Paul and Trae Young.

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