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Free Agent Kevin Durant Leaves OKC Thunder; Joins Rival Golden State Warriors Creating New Super Team

NBA Free Agency: Kevin Durant shocks the NBA by leaving the OKC Thunder, signs with Western rival Golden State Warriors:

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Via The New York Times:

The biggest question of the N.B.A. off-season was answered Monday when Kevin Durant, one of the best players ever to hit unrestricted free agency in any sport, agreed to join the Golden State Warriors.

Durant’s decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Warriors, who won an N.B.A-record 73 games in the regular season, lets the rich get richer. Although Durant nearly led the Thunder to a stunning upset of the Warriors in the Western Conference finals this spring, the Warriors ultimately prevailed before losing to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the N.B.A. finals.

Now the Warriors, regrouping, have added the 27-year-old Durant, creating a virtual Dream Team out of a starting unit that also includes the All-Stars Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. The Warriors now become the overwhelming favorites to win next season’s N.B.A. championship, which would be their second in three years.

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Kobe Bryant Scores 60pts In His Final Game Of Illustrious 20 Year NBA Career

NBA: Retiring Kobe Bryant has a game for the ages in his final NBA game after 20 seasons; scores 60pts in his Lakers finale: 

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Via The Associated Press:

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kobe Bryant scored 60 incredible points. He carried a miserable Los Angeles Lakers team to an improbable comeback victory.

And with sweat and confetti all over his gold uniform for the final time, he expressed humble thanks to his fans and family for their loving support over two decades.”What else can I say?” Bryant asked. “Mamba out.” Now that’s a Hollywood ending to a remarkable career. Bryant utterly dominated his final game Wednesday night, wrapping up 20 NBA seasons with one last offensive showcase in the Lakers’ 101-96 victory over the Utah Jazz. He scored 23 points in the fourth quarter, posting his first 50-point game since February 2009 and rallying the Lakers from a 15-point deficit to win the final game of the worst season in franchise history.

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Exciting NBA All-Star Weekend Hits Toronto As West All-Stars Win Again

(Video) Recapping NBA All-Star Weekend in Toronto, as retiring Kobe Bryant plays in his final All-Star game and Russ Wins MVP:

Video courtesy of the NBA

The Top 100 NBA Plays Of 2015

Video courtesy of @NBA

Warriors Set New NBA Record With The Most Consecutive Wins To Begin Season

NBA: The Defending Champion Warriors remain unbeaten setting a new NBA record with the most wins to start the new season:

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Via NBA dot com’s Scott Howard Cooper:

Now what?

Will it be 34 wins in a row, in any stretch of the schedule?
Seventy wins in all in 2015-16, maybe even 73 for the full-season record?

Or this NBA stuff has become too easy and the Warriors will search for outside challenges? Stephen Curry will break 18 at Pebble Beach. The San Francisco 49ers will name Luke Walton coach — interim coach — and win the Super Bowl. Suddenly, nothing seems impossible.

They play without coach Steve Kerr nearly the first quarter of the season and minus center Andrew Bogut for six games, and wins pile up in historic ways. They fall behind the Clippers by 23 points on the road and not only rally to win late, but then play a good team — the Bulls — on the second night of the back-to-back in Oakland and win that too.

The Warriors let the possibility of the best start ever in the NBA build for several days … and then quickly end the suspense Tuesday night, letting the Los Angeles Lakers hang around Oracle Arena to watch the show. Read the rest of this entry

NBA: The LeBron James Financial Stimulus To The City Of Cleveland

The New York Times on the economic and financial impact of local hero LeBron James’ return to Cleveland and NE Ohio:

When LeBron James announced his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in July, fans celebrated by hanging banners, getting drunk and digging old jerseys out of purgatory. They ran into the streets, honked horns and hugged strangers. And some of them started trying to figure out just how much money was about to rain down on Cleveland. According to one estimate, the return of the “king,” as James is known, will add $500 million a year to the city’s economy. “When people say this is just about an athlete making money, there’s more to it than that,” said Edward FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County executive, at a news conference devoted to the anticipated windfall. “Other people will make a living.”

James is certainly a good investment for the Cavaliers, who will probably cover his $20.6 million salary just from increased ticket sales. The last season James played in Cleveland, after all, the Cavs sold every available regular-season seat at an average price of $55.95, earning about $47 million. Last season, the Cavaliers sold just 84 percent at an average price of just $43.31, for a decline of $16 million. This year, season tickets sold out the day James announced his return, and demand is so overwhelming that the team is raffling the remaining single-game tickets so that everyone in Cleveland has a fair chance. Read the rest of this entry

New Lakers PG Jeremy Lin On His New Opportunity In LA, Moving On From Houston & Gaining Magic’s Support

Sports Media World and Sports Illustrated connect w/ Lakers PG Jeremy Lin to talk Lakers, Kobe, Magic and departing Houston:

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Jeremy Lin found out he’d be the Lakers’ starting point guard in peculiar fashion. Magic Johnson vouched for Lin last Wednesday, shortly after Steve Nash was ruled out for the season with a back injury. And yet coach Byron Scott, Johnson’s Showtime backcourt partner, delayed his decision until after Ronnie Price bruised his right knee in the preseason finale on Friday. Once Scott was ready to choose Lin as the starter for Tuesday’s opener against the Rockets in Los Angeles, he informed reporters before telling Lin or his teammates.

Many NBA players might be taken aback by not receiving a direct show of support or a team-wide pronouncement, but the world learned at the beginning of Linsanity in 2012 that Lin isn’t easily included in the group of many NBA players. In less than eight months he went from the D-League, to the toast of the Big Apple and global superstardom, to a three-year, $25.1 million offer sheet with Houston that went unmatched by the Knicks. Read the rest of this entry

Kansas Freshman Joel Embiid Outshining Top NBA Prospect; Teammate Andrew Wiggins

CBS Sports Garry Parrish on the impact of Kansas freshman Joel Embiid who is emerging as the top 2014 NBA draft prospect:  

LAWRENCE, Kan. — It was clear in the preseason, if you spoke with anybody on the Kansas staff, that Bill Self and his assistants believed they had something special in Joel Embiid.

The freshman big was getting a fraction of the attention reserved for Andrew Wiggins.

But his so-called ceiling, they quietly insisted, was just as high.

Perhaps even higher.

I realized this for the first time in late September when I attended a KU practice while in town. I returned home still intrigued by Wiggins, of course, for all of the obvious reasons. But the lasting image from that trip was one of Embiid — alone on the court, perfecting post moves, smiling when his coaches instructed him to show me his Dream Shake.

Everything Embiid did seemed so natural.

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Tony Parker Continues To Lead San Antonio After 12 Years Under Popovich

SI’s Ian Thomsen on the mutual respect and bond between under rated Spurs PG Tony Parker and his coach Greg Popovich:

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Some NBA coaches wouldn’t know how to say it. Some NBA stars wouldn’t know how to listen. Those people have nothing in common with Gregg Popovich and Tony Parker.

“Pop, he was like, ‘Are you going to shoot sometimes during the season?’ ” Parker recalled. “He was just messing with me. He was telling me he wanted me to be more aggressive.”

Parker had been shooting poorly as San Antonio headed out last week on a six-game trip through the East. Popovich knew what to say and how to say it: He has been coaching Parker for 12 seasons and knows how to criticize his point guard without doing harm to their relationship. Over the first four games of that road trip — all won by the Spurs — Parker was shooting 61.9 percent and averaging 26.5 points. The relationship with his coach continues to grow.

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Brooklyn Nets Strategic Partnership With Jay-Z Already Paying Off Nicely

The NY Times examines Jay-Z’s influence on re-branding the new Brooklyn Nets, a small investment yielding big results:

When the developer Bruce Ratner set out to buy the New Jersey Nets and build an arena for them in Brooklyn, he recruited Jay-Z, the hip-hop superstar who grew up in public housing a couple of miles from the site, to join his group of investors.

Mr. Ratner may have thought he was getting little more than a limited partner with a boldface name and a youthful following that could prove useful someday. But Jay-Z’s contributions have dwarfed the $1 million he invested nine years ago. His influence on the project has been wildly disproportionate to his ownership stake — a scant one-fifteenth of one percent of the team. And so is the money he stands to make from it.

Now, with the long-delayed Barclays Center arena nearing opening night in September and the Nets bidding in earnest for Brooklyn’s loyalties, Jay-Z will perform eight sold-out shows to kick things off. But away from center stage he has put his mark on almost every facet of the enterprise, his partners say.

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