Three-time All-Star Donovan Mitchell admitted his preseason debut for the Cleveland Cavaliers was "definitely weird" following his blockbuster offseason trade from the Utah Jazz.

Mitchell left the Jazz after five seasons in Salt Lake City, opting against a move to the New York Knicks to join an exciting Cavs line-up where he will play in the backcourt alongside Darius Garland.

The Cavs also boast All-Star Jarrett Allen and 2021-22 Rookie of the Year runner-up Evan Mobley along with veteran Kevin Love, offering hope of their first playoffs campaign since 2017-18.

Mitchell played 19 minutes, scoring 16 points on six-for-nine shooting, including three three-pointers along with five assists, in the Cavs' 113-112 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers in his first outing for his new franchise.

"Today, I just kind of sat there and had one of those moments where you sit there and look out and see everything, and it's like, 'Wow. It's really here'," Mitchell said.

"Then once you get on the court, basketball is basketball. But all the little things, it's definitely weird. A little different. But I'm excited. It's going the way I thought it would, in a good way.

"It just didn't feel real… it still didn't hit me yet."

Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff was pleased with Mitchell's initial cohesion alongside All-Star point guard Garland.

"I thought it was pretty seamless," Bickerstaff said. "The way they played together, the way the ball moved, everybody got involved.

"As long as we play in the same style we want to play, where it isn't just based on one guy, but based on the team, I think it's going to work out well for us."

The Cavs finished last season with a 44-38 record, missing the playoffs after losing in the Play-In Tournament to the Atlanta Hawks in the number eight seed game.

LeBron James scored 23 points in the first half and Donovan Mitchell made his Cleveland Cavaliers debut to highlight Wednesday's NBA preseason action.

Against the Phoenix Suns, James shot eight-of-11 from the field, including three-of-six from deep, adding four assists, three rebounds, a steal and no turnovers in his 17 minutes, helping the Los Angeles Lakers to a 69-62 halftime lead.

They would end up losing 119-115 as James would sit out the entire second half while fringe rotation players got a chance for some extended run, with Kendrick Nunn scoring 21 points on eight-of-13 shooting as he prepares for a significant role for the Lakers this season.

Devin Booker scored 22 points on seven-of-20 shooting, and Chris Paul posted a double-double with 13 points and 10 assists.

Meanwhile, Mitchell was impressive in his first action in a Cavaliers uniform, scoring 16 points on six-of-nine shooting before also sitting out the second half of his side's 113-112 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Tyrese Maxey led the 76ers with 22 points on nine-of-11 shooting, while Joel Embiid had 12 points, six rebounds and three assists in his 18 minutes.

Three-time NBA All-Star Ben Simmons says he is simply grateful be back on the court after making his long-awaited debut for the Brooklyn Nets in preseason on Monday.

Simmons played 19 minutes in the Nets' 127-108 loss to his former franchise, the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday.

The Australian guard scored six points with five assists and four rebounds in his return, after mental health and injury issues meant he did not play at all last season, even after being traded from the 76ers to the Nets in February.

"I'm grateful just to be able to step on that floor," Simmons said. "Step on an NBA floor again. I had a lot of fun out there.

"That's the one thing, I thought I was going to be nervous, but I wasn't nervous. I was excited."

Simmons' return, which was rusty at times, marked 470 days between games for the 2018 NBA Rookie of the Year.

It is also the first time the Nets have fielded Simmons alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, offering excitement for the franchise.

"Ben's playing with a totally different unit than he has in the past, different style," Nets head coach Steve Nash said.

"It's going to be ugly at times, but I thought as the half wore on you definitely started to see glimpses of the potential. The way the ball moved. The way they were hounding the basketball defensively.

"I thought Ben looked pretty good overall and grew into the game through the half."

Simmons admitted that working alongside Durant and Irving would take time but he was excited by the learning process as the Nets build cohesion.

"It was fun messing up because I know how good we can be," Simmons said. "And seeing just different looks and opportunities there with Kevin and Ky and Joe [Harris]. Seeing where they want the ball and just how things are going to work and flow.

"But the only way you learn is to make mistakes so I had a few out there tonight and I can go back and watch film and say I know what I did wrong and how to fix that, so it's all a learning process for me so it's good."

The NBA is back, which means excitement for most fanbases – but anxiety for others.

The new season should ensure a clean slate for everyone, but some situations have been allowed to fester in recent months without the distraction of on-court action.

Now, even with basketball returning, developments around Kevin Durant's future might prove every bit as intriguing to the neutral as anything that happens in the regular season.

And Durant and the Brooklyn Nets are not the only player-team combo in a tricky spot heading into the year...

Everyone at the Lakers

Before considering the wide-ranging implications of Durant's trade request, let's check in on last year's team in crisis.

Plenty of outsiders could have forecast difficulties for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2021-22, with LeBron James and Anthony Davis joined in a 'big three' by Russell Westbrook – at this stage in his career, consistent only in using up a huge number of possessions.

Westbrook had averaged a usage rate above 30 per cent in every season between 2014-15 and 2020-21, with his average over the seven seasons (34.6 per cent) only narrowly trailing James Harden's league-leading 34.7 per cent (minimum 500 possessions). A ball-dominant player on often mediocre teams, Westbrook's winning percentage of 59.2 ranked 109th over this period among those to play 100 or more games. Harden (66.2) was a far more respectable 29th.

Although his usage dipped to 27.5 per cent around better players in LA, Westbrook remained every bit as erratic as expected and, unfortunately for the Lakers, played more than 500 more minutes than any team-mate – comfortably ahead of an ageing James and bulkier Davis.

The three superstars started just 21 games together and even then only scraped a winning record at 11-10.

Having missed the playoffs – and even the play-in – in 11th in the West, the Lakers fired coach Frank Vogel, perhaps optimistically hoping he alone was the problem, and brought back each of James, Davis and Westbrook.

Seemingly determined to further upset a team who won the title just two years ago, the Lakers were also linked with a move for Kyrie Irving before settling instead on Patrick Beverley, who might prove only marginally less disruptive.

Westbrook and Beverley have repeatedly clashed in the past, although the new Lakers signing has described his team-mate as "someone I always wanted to play with", praising his "competitive spirit, that fire, that will, that dog, that nastiness, that grit".

New coach Darvin Ham thinks the pair can work together, but the potential for fireworks is considerable even before taking into account James' own "competitive spirit".

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving at the Nets

The 2019 free agency moves for Durant and Irving certainly made the Nets relevant. But they haven't yet made them successful. And right now, Brooklyn might be the most explosive environment in the NBA.

Durant missed their first year together with an Achilles injury sustained playing for the Golden State Warriors, yet the Nets have still only won seven playoff games in the past three postseasons – all seven of those wins coming in a short-lived 2020-21 run.

Last season, as they had been in their first season with Durant and Irving, Brooklyn were swept in the first round. It concluded a miserable campaign that was not about to get better in the offseason.

With Irving unvaccinated and so unable to play in New York City until March, he and Durant started only 17 games together in the regular season. The Nets had started the season with their own 'big three', but Harden – much to his frustration – appeared just twice alongside the star pairing before he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. Ben Simmons came in the other direction and did not play once.

Far from a happy camp, when Irving then opted in to the final year of his contract in late June, the Nets were vulnerable to a trade request from Durant, which quickly followed.

However, with four years remaining on his own deal and Brooklyn asking for a huge price in trade talks, it was reported Durant had returned to the Nets and promised to stay if head coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks were replaced.

Ultimately, Durant "agreed to move forward with our partnership" – as Marks phrased it – regardless, with Nash saying in September his relationship with the superstar was "good".

"I love the guy," added Nash, who understood Durant being "seething" at the end of the season. "Families have issues. We had a moment, and it's behind us. That's what happens."

In theory – especially if Simmons can return to his two-time All-Defensive First Team best – the Nets could have a great team in 2022-23.

Yet based on how this project has gone so far, it is not difficult to imagine a scenario in which Brooklyn endure another desperately disappointing season and are again left attempting to convince Durant to stay.

James Harden at the 76ers

The 76ers moved one miserable superstar in Simmons for another in Harden, which was only enough to take them as far as the Eastern Conference Semifinals last year.

And en route to that unsatisfactory conclusion, team-mate Joel Embiid was not shy in criticising Harden, repeatedly calling on him to be more aggressive while recognising he is no longer "the Houston James Harden".

It was an understandable complaint; Harden attempted only 13.6 field goals per game for the Sixers in the regular season – little more than half the number of shots he was taking in 2018-19 for the Houston Rockets (24.5), when he scored a career-high 36.1 points per game. He was also only making 40.2 per cent of his field goal attempts in Philly, down on every other season in his career.

So far, it is fair to say this has not worked. Doc Rivers, in a training camp clip published by the NBA, told Harden he and Embiid needed to "listen to each other" and acknowledged the partnership needed work as it was "unnatural".

Echoing some of Embiid's complaints, coach Rivers said: "You can't just say you're a facilitator. I need you to be a scorer and a facilitator."

Rivers for now believes it can still be fixed. "When it clicks, James, we're going to be unbeatable," he told a player who, for his part, agreed to a restructured contract that allowed Philly to bolster their roster in the offseason.

But this team – and certainly Embiid – might argue more help would not be required if Harden played in the manner he is capable.

"We've got to establish Joel and you – it's a pecking order," added Rivers. "This ain't a democracy."

Embiid may not believe this is "the Houston James Harden", but the team and Harden himself seemingly do, with the former Rocket announcing: "If my conditioning can be level with my skill set and my IQ and the work that I put in, it's MVP – and I feel like my conditioning is where it needs to be."

Harden needs to start showing that, or this time his team might tire of him, rather than the other way around.

Jaylen Brown at the Celtics

Little has gone to plan for the Boston Celtics since winning Game 3 of the 2022 NBA Finals, as they lost the next three to the Warriors and then saw preparations for a bounce-back season in 2022-23 rocked by a number of key absences.

Boston will begin the year without new signing Danilo Gallinari, who tore his ACL playing for Italy, Robert Williams, who has also undergone knee surgery, and, crucially, coach Ime Udoka.

Udoka had turned around his first season as a head coach spectacularly, with the Celtics tied for ninth in the East at the turn of the year after a 17-19 start before leading the conference the rest of the way (34-12) to take the second seed.

But a year-long suspension for Udoka "for violations of team policies" was announced by the team last month.

And even between the ultimately disappointing postseason and repeatedly disrupted preseason, not everything was rosy, with Boston also impacted by the Durant saga.

When Durant looked to be on the move, reports claimed the Celtics had offered the Nets a package that included Jaylen Brown. That trade did not materialise, of course, but it is difficult to imagine Brown was too impressed.

In recent seasons, Brown has been hugely valuable to the Celtics – not least because he is being paid below his value.

Brown is one of only 11 players who has scored at least 1,400 points at an average of at least 23.5 per game in each of the past two seasons. Of the other 10, four have current or future contracts with an average annual value of more than $50m, another four are being paid over $40m per year, and the final two are bringing in a salary in excess of $30m a season.

Brown's deal, which ranks outside the top 50 contracts in the NBA in both total value and average annual value, earns him $26.6m each year.

And the rules around NBA extensions will prevent Brown being paid on par with his contemporaries unless he makes All-NBA in one of the two seasons remaining on his contract.

In theory, that carrot should encourage Brown to enjoy another big season, but at a franchise as fractured as the Celtics have suddenly become, focus could understandably drift instead towards free agency in 2024.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at the Thunder

Unlike the other teams on this list, the Oklahoma City Thunder do not have the pressure of needing to win now – but that is part of the problem.

OKC moved on their ageing stars, loaded up on draft picks and put together a young core that includes Chet Holmgren, Josh Giddey and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. That is all very exciting... or at least it will be.

Rookie Holmgren is down for the year, seemingly making this another season in which the Thunder will lose games and then see what they can do in the draft.

That is no great issue for 20-year-old Holmgren or 19-year-old Giddey, but it does not suit Gilgeous-Alexander, now 24 and entering his fifth year, quite so much – even if he also starts the year injured.

Among the 63 players to score 2,000 or more points across the past two seasons combined, Gilgeous-Alexander ranked 18th for points per game (24.2). He ranked 61st for wins (32).

This is not a case of an average player stat-padding on a bad team; he is simply too good to be in this situation.

And having agreed a five-year extension in August ahead of Holmgren's injury, it appeared Gilgeous-Alexander had unknowingly signed up for more of the same.

He disagrees, insisting: "I know what I signed up for when I signed a five-year extension. I don't think we're going to be losing for much longer. It's not like I signed up to lose."

But lose they will, if they have any sense – and past experience suggests they do.

Without Holmgren, the Thunder are not going to be in any position to seriously compete, which opens up the possibility to pick high in a draft that includes a potentially generational talent in Victor Wembanyama.

At some stage, OKC will be ready, but that is not now, and Gilgeous-Alexander could be forgiven for finding his patience waning.

Ben Simmons has criticised the Philadelphia 76ers for not giving him the mental health help he required.

The point guard sat out the entirety of last season while dealing with mental health struggles and his time with the Sixers, who drafted him as the first overall pick in 2016, came to an end in February.

A trade with the Brooklyn Nets was completed at the February trade deadline, with James Harden moving in the opposite direction.

Simmons has now claimed he did not get the support he needed from his former team when speaking on JJ Redick's 'Old Man and the Three' podcast.

"I was in such a bad place where I was like, f***, I'm trying to get here and you guys are, like, throwing all these other things at me to where you're not helping. And that's all I wanted, was help," he said.

"I didn't feel like I got (help) from coaches, team-mates, I won't say all team-mates, because there are great guys on that team that did reach out and are still my friends. But I didn't feel like I got that, and it was just a tough place for me."

Simmons also believes the team did not handle things correctly, though he admits he must shoulder some responsibility, and cited Doc Rivers' approach that ultimately led to Simmons' suspension.

"I actually spoke to Doc before practice. I was like, 'Doc, I'm not ready. Mentally, I'm not ready. Please just understand that,'" he added.

"I tried to let him know prior, and he was like, 'Well, I'm going to put you in anyway.' I'm like, 'All right.' He told me to get in. I looked at him. It was like one minute into practice, like, 'Ben, get in.'

"I'm like, first of all, no one's doing that. You're doing this on purpose. And that's how I felt, too. It seems like everyone's trying to f*** with me now. I'm getting fined for not lifting weights, but physically I'm one of the strongest guys on the team.

"So now they're fining me for little things. It was just a build-up. Obviously, I didn't handle things the right way, but, also, the team didn't either, and the people who had that power."

Currently carrying an injury, Simmons is expected to be ready for the start of training camp and is excited to join his new team-mates, sharing his belief they can go all the way.

"It's going to be sick. I can't wait. I'm so excited. Got a new number, new jersey. I'm just looking forward to it," he declared.

"I think we have a special team. I think if we get it all together, we're going to be the champions. That's the end goal."

Free agent big-man Montrezl Harrell has agreed to a two-year contract with the Philadelphia 76ers. 

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the signing on Tuesday, noting that it is worth $5.2million, with the second year being a player option that Harrell can opt out of if he outperforms his contract.

The 28-year-old Harrell spent last season with the Washington Wizards and Charlotte Hornets, averaging 13.1 points and 6.1 rebounds in 71 games, and has previously been on teams with current Sixers coach Doc Rivers as well as James Harden. 

A second-round pick by Houston in 2015, Harrell spent his first two seasons in the NBA as a teammate to Harden with the Rockets. 

He then spent his next three seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers with Rivers as the coach and was named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year in 2019-20, when he averaged career highs of 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds. 

With just 29 starts in 458 career games, Harrell will again provide depth off the bench, this time backing up five-time All-Star and back-to-back MVP runner-up Joel Embiid. 

In seven NBA seasons, Harrell owns career averages of 12.9 points and 5.3 rebounds while shooting 62.0 per cent. 

Among the 126 active players with a minimum of 3000 field goal attempts, Harrell’s shooting percentage ranks fourth. 

Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers have reached a settlement agreement after the Brooklyn Nets guard filed a grievance to recoup a portion of the nearly $20million withheld during the 2021-22 season, according to ESPN.

Simmons did not play for the 76ers during the 2021-22 season after demanding a trade in light of their messy fallout from their 2021 playoffs exit.

The All-Star missed their training camp and did not play in the preseason, with the 76ers subsequently opting to withhold his salary. As Simmons' holdout extended, even infamously declining head coach Doc Rivers' request to play as a substitute in a drill at training, the 76ers' continued to withhold payments.

Simmons would cite mental health reasons for his absence, and was eventually traded to the Nets in February.

The guard, alongside the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), filed the grievance in April after Simmons' representatives and the 76ers could not reach a settlement, according to reports.

However, a settlement agreement has now been reached after entering into an arbitration process prior to judgement, with both sides agreeing to confidentiality on the exact financial details.

The 76ers had claimed that Simmons was in breach of his contract under the NBA and NBPA collective bargaining agreement for his continued absence.

Simmons is yet to play for the Nets following his trade due to a back injury, but is hopeful of a franchise debut in the 2022-23 season after surgery in May.

The NBA has begun an investigation into a potential tampering violation by the Philadelphia 76ers and their signings of James Harden, P.J. Tucker and Danuel House Jr, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. 

The league is interested in the circumstances surrounding Harden declining his $47million player option to sign a two-year, $68m contract that includes a player option for the second year of the deal.  

Questions have been raised about whether there was a handshake agreement in place on a future contract – which would be in violation of collective bargaining rules. 

Harden’s decision to decline his option gave Philadelphia more flexibility to sign Tucker and House. 

"Taking less money this year to sign as many players as we needed to help us contend and be the last team standing was very, very important to me," Harden said in an interview this month. "I wanted to show the organisation, the Sixers fans and everybody else who supports what we're trying to accomplish, what I'm trying to accomplish individually, that this is what I'm about."

Tucker signed a three-year, $30m contract, and House signed for $8.4m over two years. The 76ers were able to sign Tucker to the full mid-level exception and sign House to the bi-annual exception only because Harden declined his option. 

According to the report, 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey has already begun answering questions from league attorneys.  

With tampering often a potential issue, the NBA approved stiffer penalties in 2019 and stripped a draft pick from the Chicago Bulls for early contact with Lonzo Ball in 2019, and the Miami Heat for doing the same with Kyle Lowry last summer. 

James Harden has officially finalised his deal to stay with the Philadelphia 76ers, agreeing to a two-year, $68.6million contract on Wednesday.

Harden will make $33m for the 2022-23 season and then has the player option for $35.6m in 2023-24. He can decline the option and become a free agent again ahead of the 2023-24 and sign a new deal. 

Harden had previously declined his $47.4m player option for this upcoming season from the 76ers, but was set to return to them all along while taking a pay-cut to help the team sign other players with the hopes of building a championship roster. 

Thanks in part to his pay-cut, the 76ers have been able to add P.J. Tucker and Danuel House this offseason, and are expected to contend amongst the best teams in the Eastern Conference with MVP runner-up Joel Embiid and Harden leading the way. 

Philadelphia acquired Harden from the Brooklyn Nets in February, and he averaged 21 points, 10.5 assists and 7.1 rebounds in 21 games with the Sixers, but the team suffered the same fate as three of the previous four seasons, again losing in the Eastern Conference semifinals. 

The 76ers have not been past the conference semis since losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2001 NBA Finals, and the 32-year-old Harden has never won a title, only reaching the NBA Finals once, in 2012 with the Oklahoma City Thunder. 

A 10-time All-Star and the 2017-18 NBA MVP, Harden averaged 22 points, 10.3 assists and 7.7 rebounds in 65 total regular-season games for the 76ers and Nets, missing time due to hamstring issues. 

James Harden made it clear this offseason that at this point in his career he cares more about having an opportunity to win an NBA championship than money. 

While his deal with the Philadelphia 76ers has yet to be finalised, Harden is expected to sign a two-year contract that will pay him $32million next season and includes a player option for 2023-24. That $32m salary is a steep discount after he declined his $47.4m player option for 2022-23. 

"I had conversations with [76ers president of basketball operation Daryl Morey], and it was explained how we could get better and what the market value was for certain players," Harden told Yahoo Sports. "I told Daryl to improve the roster, sign who we needed to sign and give me whatever is left over. 

"This is how bad I want to win. I want to compete for a championship. That's all that matters to me at this stage. I'm willing to take less to put us in position to accomplish that." 

The 32-year-old Harden has racked up plenty of personal accolades – NBA MVP, 10-time All-Star, three-time league scoring champion and NBA Sixth Man of the Year, to name a few. However, he has never won a title and only reached the NBA Finals once, in 2012 with the Oklahoma City Thunder. 

Following that NBA Finals appearance, Harden was traded to the Houston Rockets and became a superstar in the league. He was then dealt to the Brooklyn Nets in January 2021 to play alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but that experiment failed, and Harden was sent to Philadelphia last February. 

Harden averaged 21 points, 10.5 assists and 7.1 rebounds in 21 games after joining the 76ers. He then put up 18.6 points, 8.6 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game in the playoffs, where the 76ers lost to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals. 

Harden wound up appearing in 65 regular-season games overall in 2021-22, mostly due to hamstring issues. He averaged 22 points, 10.3 assists and 7.7 rebounds in those 65 contests. 

"I don't really listen to what people are saying. I wasn't right last season and I still almost averaged a triple-double," Harden said. "If anybody else had those numbers, we'd be talking about them getting the max. 

"People were used to seeing me averaging 40, 30 points, and so they viewed it as a down year. I was in Philadelphia for a couple of months and I had to learn on the fly. That's just what it was. I'm in a good space physically and mentally right now, and I'm just looking forward to next season."

With a full season ahead of playing alongside perennial NBA MVP contender Joel Embiid, and with the additions of P.J. Tucker and Danuel House (thanks in part to Harden's paycut), the 76ers are expected to be a favourite in the East. They also added De'Anthony Melton in a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies. 

"I think we have a much deeper team," Harden said. "That's something we wanted to address. If you look at our team now, we're positioned to go a lot further. I like how we stack up with the rest of the top teams."

Oklahoma City Thunder second-year standout Josh Giddey posted a triple-double in his side's 87-71 win against the Memphis Grizzlies in Wednesday's Summer League action.

Giddey, who at 19 years old is still younger than team-mate and newly acquired second overall pick Chet Holmgren, was in total control against a Grizzlies team consisting of players battling for the last few roster spots.

He finished with 14 points on seven-of-15 shooting, with 10 rebounds, 10 assists, two steals and a blocked shot.

Holmgren could not match his incredible debut where he set the Summer League record with six blocks, but he still found a way to contribute despite shooting three-of-11 from the field. He scored 12 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, dished three assists and blocked two shots.

The seven-foot-one, 195-pound rookie was locked in a tantalising matchup against the Grizzlies' Kenny Lofton Jr, who measures in at six-foot-six and 290 pounds. Lofton's massive weight advantage provided a glimpse into the potential struggles Holmgren will face early in his career as he was physically pushed around at times on Lofton's way to 19 points on eight-of-17 shooting.

The Thunder's other two lottery picks were also serviceable, with Jalen Williams hitting all three of his three-point attempts on his way to 16 points, two assists and two steals, while the six-foot-11 Ousmane Dieng hit two-of-five from long range and collected a couple of assists.

Later in the day, the Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Utah Jazz 86-82 in a game where Charles Bassey made his case as the back-up center behind Joel Embiid.

Bassey, the 76ers' second-round pick from the 2021 NBA Draft, scored 17 points (seven-of-12 shooting), grabbed nine rebounds and snatched four steals as he made the most of his seven-foot-three wingspan.

For the Jazz, there were signs of life from Bruno Caboclo – the man who became famous for being called "two years away from being two years away" by ESPN's Fran Fraschilla when he was drafted in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft.

Caboclo was out of the league this past season, but at six-foot-nine with a ridiculous seven-foot-seven wingspan, and an improved three-point stroke, the 26-year-old has a chance to make another run at sticking in the NBA after stuffing the stat sheet.

He scored 16 points with six rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks – although he did commit five turnovers and seven personal fouls.

Lu Dort, Bobby Portis and P.J. Tucker were among the players to get paid on a busy Thursday evening of free agency action.

Dort was shown good faith by the Oklahoma City Thunder, who opted to decline his team option that would have kept him on a $1.9million deal for next season, instead choosing to sign him to a five-year, $87.5million extension.

On a roster stacked with rookie salaries, the Thunder simply need to have some bigger contracts on their books to meet the league's salary floor, and in doing so they have rewarded a player who has become a cult figure, averaging 17.2 points per game this past season while being his side's premier wing defender.

Speaking of cult figures, Portis' connection with the Milwaukee Bucks after helping to deliver the city their second NBA championship was strong enough to have him stick around for the following year on just over $4m.

That loyalty was rewarded with a new four-year, $49m deal that will keep the 27-year-old big-man in Milwaukee until after the 2026 playoffs.

The Bucks also made a second notable move, signing 34-year-old free agent Joe Ingles to a one-year, $6.5m contract. Ingles suffered a season-ending injury with the Utah Jazz this past season, but figures to fill a role as a 41 per cent career three-point shooter, who can also handle, pass and defend at six-foot-eight.

Tucker was also a member of the Bucks' 2021 championship team, and after contributing to the Miami Heat's run to the Eastern Conference Finals this past season, the 37-year-old has signed with the Philadelphia 76ers for three years and $33m.

Over the years, Tucker has evolved into one of the game's best corner three point shooters, and across the past five seasons he has started 77 playoff games, often guarding the opposition's most dangerous wing scorer.

While Tucker is getting paid to come and provide a stabilising force, the Portland Trail Blazers are paying for upside with their four-year, $100m commitment to breakout guard Anfernee Simons.

After averaging no more than 8.4 points and 1.4 assists in each of his first three campaigns, the 23-year-old shot into mainstream attention this season and he piled up numbers on a Trail Blazers team that was missing star Damian Lillard through injury.

Simons started a career-high 30 games, and put up career-high numbers across the board. He averaged 17.3 points and 3.9 assists, while shooting an impressive 40 per cent from three on an aggressive 7.8 attempts per game, emerging as one of the game's more lethal pull-up shooters from distance.

Backup point guard Tyus Jones will return to the Memphis Grizzlies on a two-year, $30m contract after a season where he became one of the league's most valuable backups.

Jones led the entire league in assist-to-turnover ratio at 6.4 – putting a gap on the rest of the field – with his brother, Tre Jones of the Spurs, in second place at 5.1.

He also shot a career-high 39 per cent from long range, and averaged 12.7 points, 6.6 assists and 3.2 rebounds without Ja Morant in the line-up, making him one of the main reasons the Grizzlies were 20-5 in the 25 games their superstar point guard missed due to injury.

James Harden has declined his player option – which would have paid him $47.4million for the upcoming season – to become an unrestricted free agent, although all signs point to an extension with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Since arriving with the 76ers this past season in the trade that sent Ben Simmons to the Brooklyn Nets, Harden's production was up-and-down.

He averaged 21 points, 10.5 assists and 6.5 rebounds in his 21 regular season games with his new team, but he also shot a career low 40 per cent from the field while attempting his fewest shots per game (13.6) since coming off the bench with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2011-12.

His numbers in the playoffs dipped even further, averaging 18.6 points, 8.6 assists and 5.7 rebounds while no-showing in the second half of some crucial defeats in their six-game series loss to the Miami Heat.

The report about Harden declining his player option, broken by The Athletic's Shams Charania, states his reasoning for declining the option is to extend with the 76ers at a more team-friendly salary that would allow the team to spend the savings on additional talent.

In the report, it is said that Harden has also returned to the 76ers' practice facility to begin his off-season program early, with his "sole focus" being to win a title in Philadelphia in this coming season.

By signing a deal more in the range of three years, $100m, the 76ers would have slightly more wiggle room to sign additional talent, but if they have plans on totally revamping the landscape, it would require trading Tobias Harris ahead of a season where he will be paid $37.6m – more than star Joel Embiid ($33.6m).

The Philadelphia 76ers have traded Danny Green and their number 23 pick in Thursday's NBA Draft to the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for De'Anthony Melton.

It was a trade the Sixers had been expected to offer around various teams, and they may well be pleased with the outcome as Melton brings a strong three-point game in particular, averaging 41.2 per cent in 2020-21, and 37.4 per cent in the campaign just gone.

The 24-year-old also averaged 10.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game last season, and is due to make $8.25million next year, and $8m in 2023-24.

The experienced Green heads to Memphis after two years in Philadelphia. The shooting guard has a career average of 8.7 points per game, but managed only 5.9 per game last season from 62 appearances, though only 28 of those were starts, and he suffered tears to his ACL and LCL in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals against the Miami Heat.

The number 23 pick obtained by the Grizzlies was used to obtain Colorado State's David Roddy, who was Mountain West Player of the Year in 2022.

Roddy averaged 19.2 points last season, 37th of college players, while also recording 7.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.

Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid has undergone surgery to repair two finger injuries but is expected to be ready for training camp.

Embiid suffered a problem with his right thumb in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series with the Toronto Raptors.

The 28-year-old played through the issue in Game 4, registering 21 points, eight rebounds and three assists in the 110-102 defeat in Toronto.

He managed to make it through the next two games as the 76ers edged out the Raptors, averaging 26.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 blocks per game.

However, a right orbital fracture and concussion in Game 6 against Toronto kept him out of the first two games of the Eastern Conference semi-finals against Miami Heat.

Embiid returned with a face mask as Philadelphia fell to a series defeat against the Heat, despite the center finishing as the league scoring champion with 30.6 points, 11.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists.

An issue with Embiid's left index finger, though, was not previously disclosed and he has sought to fix both hand problems with procedures in the offseason.

Embiid will hope to guide the 76ers further in the playoffs next season, after Philadelphia failed to make it past the second round for the fourth time in five years.

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