Kobe Bryant said there is no "beef" with Shaquille O'Neal and he has "nothin but love" for his former Los Angeles Lakers team-mate.

O'Neal responded to comments made by five-time champion Bryant, who thought he could have won 12 NBA titles if his team-mate shared the same work ethic.

During an interview at the 10th annual PHP Agency Convention in Las Vegas, Bryant seemingly took another shot at O'Neal.

Bryant was asked what would have happened if O'Neal had his work ethic. Bryant replied: "He'd be the greatest of all time".

"He'd be the first to tell you that," Bryant added. "I mean this guy was a force like I have never seen. I mean, it was crazy. A guy at that size…. Generally guys at that size are a little timid and they don't want to be tall. They don't want to be big. Man, this dude was… he did not care. He was mean. He was nasty. He was competitive. He was vindictive.

"I wish he was in the gym. I would have had f****** 12 rings…. It wouldn't even be close. ... Me and Shaq sit down all the time and I say 'if your lazy a** was in shape'."

The video surfaced on Instagram earlier this week and four-time NBA champion O'Neal responded with a comment of his own.

"U woulda had twelve if you passed the ball more especially in the finals against the pistons #facts. ... You don't get statues by not working hard," O'Neal wrote.

Bryant later tweeted on Wednesday: "There is no beef with @SHAQ I know most media want to see it but it ain't gonna happen. Ain't nothin but love there and we too old to beef anyway #3peat."

O'Neal then responded to Bryant's tweet, writing: "It's all good bro, when I saw the interview, I thought you were talking about Dwite, is that how u spell his name lol."

Bryant and O'Neal became known for their "beef" when they played alongside each other for the Lakers from 1996-2004. The two earned three straight championships before O'Neal was traded to the Miami Heat in 2004.

Jeremy Lin won the NBA championship with the Toronto Raptors in June but will spend next season with the Beijing Ducks.

Lin joined the Raptors after being waived by the Atlanta Hawks in February, adding backcourt depth behind Kyle Lowry and Danny Green.

He became the first Asian-American player in league history to lift the Larry O'Brien Trophy, but he struggled in 23 regular-season games with Toronto and has found a new home in China.

"Thanks to the NBA and everyone who's supported me the last 9 years! Will always cherish being able to rep Asians at the NBA level. Excited for the next step with the Beijing Ducks. Excited to make more history," Lin wrote on Twitter. 

The guard remained unsigned when free agency began and last month described how he felt like he hit a new level of "rock bottom" after receiving little interest from teams in the NBA.

He said: "In English, there's a saying, and it says, 'once you've hit rock bottom, the only way is up.'

"Rock bottom just seems to keep getting more and more rock bottom for me. So free agency has been tough, because I feel like in some ways the NBA's kind of given up on me."

Lin, who turned 31 last week, played nine seasons in the NBA for eight different teams, never spending more than two years with one franchise.

NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo sat out Greece's final FIBA World Cup warm-up match against Venezuela on Tuesday.

The Milwaukee Bucks forward is set to be his country's main man at the tournament in China after an outstanding season in the United States in which he was named MVP.

But Antetokounmpo was not available to face Venezuela after complaining of irritation in his knee and opted not to take the risk with the World Cup beginning on Saturday.

Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Giannis' brother, had been dealing with a foot problem but was included in the team.

Greece begin their World Cup campaign against Montenegro on Sunday, with further group stage games against Brazil and New Zealand following next week.

Dwight Howard's return to the Los Angeles Lakers was confirmed by the NBA team on Monday.

Howard will head back to the Lakers for the first time since the 2012-13 season, when he spent one year with the team.

After the center cleared waivers, Los Angeles quickly made the well-reported move official.

Howard planned to sign a non-guaranteed deal with the team, according to an earlier report from ESPN. 

Los Angeles lost DeMarcus Cousins to an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear earlier this month, leaving JaVale McGee as the only active center on the Lakers' depth chart.

Joakim Noah and Marreese Speights were also considered as potential replacements for Cousins.

Howard, 33, averaged 12.8 points and 9.2 rebounds for the Washington Wizards last season but only appeared in nine games because of a back injury he suffered early on in the year.

He was traded to Memphis following the 2018-19 season. The Grizzlies recently negotiated a buyout with the big man so he could rejoin the Lakers.

Los Angeles have seen some major turnover on their roster, as they traded Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and multiple future first-round picks to the New Orleans Pelicans to acquire Anthony Davis to pair with LeBron James.

The Lakers finished last season with a 37-45 record and missed the playoffs and will look to improve upon that mark with their new personnel in 2019-20.

Caris LeVert has agreed a "multi-year" contract extension with the Brooklyn Nets, the team confirmed on Monday.

The terms of the deal were not announced, but ESPN reported late on Sunday that LeVert had agreed a three-year, $52.5million extension that will begin with the 2020-21 season.

Levert, the number 20 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, finished last season averaging 13.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 40 games, having missed three months with a dislocated foot.

"Caris personifies what it means to be a Brooklyn Net, and we firmly believe his best basketball is in front of him," general manager Sean Marks said as the new deal was confirmed.

"The growth he has displayed in his first three seasons is a testament to his tireless work ethic, along with an unrelenting will to maximise his talents and achieve team success.

"Our entire organisation is excited to continue to have Caris as one of the leaders of our programme moving forward."

The Nets have completely rebuilt their roster this close season to potentially put themselves in position to be in title contention for the next few seasons.

They landed a pair of stars, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, in free agency and also signed veteran center DeAndre Jordan.

"I feel everyone has a chip on their shoulders from one to 15 before those guys, and I know those guys do, too," LeVert said, via the New York Post.

"I feel everyone at this level, that's kind of what you have to have to be one of the top players. That's our identity. I know we won't lose that."

LeVert is looking forward to eventually sharing the court with Irving and Durant, who is expected to miss most of 2019-20 after rupturing his Achilles in the NBA Finals.

"Honestly I was a little surprised," LeVert said. "I'm definitely very excited because those are two guys I like to play against and watch a lot of film on. Obviously, I can't wait to play alongside those guys."

The Nets finished last season with a 42-40 record and made the playoffs for the first time since 2014-15, where they were eliminated by the Philadelphia 76ers in five games.

The Sacramento Kings and NBA announced on Friday they have cleared coach Luke Walton after a four-month investigation into allegations of sexual assault and harassment.

Kelli Tennant, a former Spectrum SportsNet reporter, sued Walton on April 22, accusing him of sexual assault, verbal and physical harassment and unwanted physical contact over a three-year period.

A day later, Tennant held a press conference and recounted an alleged incident at a Los Angeles hotel in 2014 during which, she said, Walton pinned her to a bed.

At the time of the alleged incident Walton was an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors.Tennant's lawsuit and news conference came only a week after he was named the Kings head coach.

Her allegations prompted the NBA and Kings to launch a joint investigation. Almost two-dozen people were interviewed during the investigation, but despite "repeated attempts" to interview Tennant, she did not participate on the advice of her legal team, according to an NBA statement.

The statement read: "Based on this and the available evidence, the investigators determined that there was not a sufficient basis to support the allegations made against Coach Walton."

Tennant's civil suit is believed to still be active. Tennant's attorney, Garo Mardirossian of Los Angeles, did not immediately respond to a request for comment by the Sacramento Bee.

Walton, who coached the Los Angeles Lakers for three seasons before parting ways with the team in April, takes over a Kings club that finished 39-43 last season.

"I am 100 per cent focused on coaching the Sacramento Kings and energised to work with this incredible group of players and coaches as we start this preseason," Walton said in a statement on Friday. "I will have no further comment."

"Luke Walton is our head coach and we support him and his team as they continue to prepare for the upcoming season," the Kings said in a statement.

The Minnesota Timberwolves need Andrew Wiggins to be more consistent, according to president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas.

Wiggins signed a five-year, $146.5million extension with the Timberwolves in October 2017, but the 24-year-old regressed over the last two NBA seasons. 

Rosas was asked about Wiggins – the 2015 Rookie of the Year – and his development during an appearance at the Minnesota State Fair on Thursday.

"Andrew in particular with his talent and physical abilities, the potential he's shown, we've got to get that on a more consistent basis," Rosas told the Star Tribune. 

"He's focused on it as well. In order for us to have the success we want to have, he's got to be a main contributor. He understands that, we understand that."

The Timberwolves acquired Wiggins from the Cleveland Cavaliers before his rookie season as the centrepiece of the Kevin Love trade.

Wiggins averaged 18.1 points and 4.8 rebounds while shooting a career-low 41.2 per cent from the field in 2018-19.

Rosas thinks Wiggins will benefit from playing under Ryan Saunders, who was named the Timberwolves head coach after serving in an interim role to end last season. 

"To be fair to [Wiggins], he needs some continuity in terms of coaching, philosophy, strategy and style of play," Rosas said. "We think he's going to be one of the better beneficiaries of this style of play.

"His physical tools, talent and skill. We do feel there's a lot of upside for him. He's worked very hard this summer. He's been committed to everything that we've done."

The Timberwolves finished 2018-19 with a 36-46 record and missed the playoffs.

 

James Harden believes a media narrative was behind Giannis Antetokounmpo beating him to being named NBA MVP for 2018-19.

Houston Rockets guard and 2018 MVP Harden averaged 36.1 points in the regular season – the most since Michael Jordan tallied 37.1 in 1986-87 – and went on a stunning run of 32 30-point games in succession.

However, Antetokounmpo was the best player for the Milwaukee Bucks, who finished the regular season with the best record of any team. He averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.3 steals per game.

"[It was] one for the books. Even when I'm gone, they're going to talk about it," Harden said to 97.9 The Box of his season, before offering his thoughts on how the MVP race unfolded.

"It's out of my control. Once the media, they create a narrative about somebody from the beginning of the year, I think they just take that narrative and just run with it the entire year.

"I don't want to get into details. All I can do is control what I can do, and I went out there and did what I was supposed to do at a high level. There's only a few other seasons that anybody has ever done that before.

"People were tuned in to how many points I was going to score the next game. It was a thing. But I can't control that. The only thing I can control is coming back next year and being better than I was, and winning a championship."

The Rockets dealt Chris Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder to add 2017 MVP Russell Westbrook to their roster for 2019-20 and Harden is eager to get going.

"I'm excited. Obviously, Chris did an unbelievable job the two years that he was here. He's helped our organisation and team a tremendous amount. But we have most of the same core guys coming back, and then we add Russ," he said.

"We all know how Russ plays, and he's even a greater guy off the court. It's difficult playing against him, just because he plays with that aggression. He plays with that anger. But it's going to be better to have him on our team now.

"Now we've got him and PJ [Tucker] … crazy together. We've got a lot of guys who are return and then you add Russ, it's something special."

On potential opponents in next year's playoffs, Harden added: "It don't even matter because we focus on ourselves. We've got so much talent in that locker room, and our organisation is so great.

"We don't pay attention to other teams. We just focus on what we control, our team, and being the best we can be. Whoever we face, let's get it on."

Damian Lillard does not intend to move on from the Portland Trail Blazers to team up with other NBA stars any time soon.

The guard signed a four-year, $196million extension with the Trail Blazers and refuses to "sell out" for championship rings by leaving the city that picked him sixth overall in the 2012 NBA Draft.

Lillard spoke with Complex on Wednesday and discussed his thoughts about super teams.

"I think people are taking control because there's no greater time to do it than now," Lillard said.

"And I don't have a problem with that, but the way I see stuff is, like, I don't prefer to go that route. Just like they're choosing to do this stuff for their career, I'm choosing to do what I want for mine, too."

This offseason was an eventful one in the NBA. Kevin Durant elected to part ways with the Golden State Warriors to join the Brooklyn Nets, Anthony Davis forced his way to the Los Angeles Lakers via trade request and Paul George leveraged his way to an ideal situation when he joined Kawhi Leonard on the Los Angeles Clippers. 

The balance of power has shifted in the NBA because of these moves, but Lillard wants to stay put and win it all on his own terms.

"To leave, what did I invest all this time for just to leave, you know?" Lillard said. "If I go play with three other stars, I don't think that many people would doubt that I could win it. We would win it, but what is the challenge or the fun in that?"

Lillard, a four-time All-Star, has consistently been one of the best guards in the NBA in recent years. He has career averages of 23.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 6.3 assists and has developed a reputation for knocking down clutch shots – like the signature dagger that eliminated the Oklahoma City Thunder from the 2018-19 playoffs.

"I wanna be the one, the star that wants to be here [in Portland]," Lillard said. "I wanna be the one that embodies all of those things and then be a part of the rise from 'we haven't won since '77, and now we won, and Dame's everything to our city'. I just am who I am, and that fits here."

Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward hopes Kyrie Irving is successful with the Brooklyn Nets.

Irving left Boston and inked a four-year, $140.6million contract with Brooklyn this offseason.

Hayward was asked about Irving's departure when he met with reporters on Tuesday. 

"The interesting part of the league is the drama that happens every offseason," Hayward said, via NBC Sports Boston. "I don't know if there's any league like that, where you have major guys moving teams.

"I wish [Irving] the best of luck as he goes to Brooklyn."

The Celtics also lost Al Horford (Philadelphia 76ers) and Marcus Morris (New York Knicks) in free agency.

But, they signed three-time All-Star Kemba Walker and added center Enes Kanter.

"As a team, we're excited about who we have coming in," Hayward said. "I'm more than excited to welcome Kemba and Enes, and all the other guys that are new for us."

Hayward was inconsistent last season after he missed almost all of 2017-18 with a devastating leg injury. He averaged 11.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in 25.9 minutes per game while shooting 33.3 per cent from three-point range. 

Hayward said he has spent the offseason focusing on bouncing back.

"More than anything, just building back some confidence; being able to do everything that I'm used to doing," Hayward said. "Reps is what gives you confidence, being able to do things over and over and over and not worry about how my ankle is feeling or having to be cautious with it, has been really good for my confidence.

"That has felt really nice, being able to train how I'm used to training. Not having to worry about doing stuff for only 10 minutes, only doing a certain amount of reps. It's been really good from that standpoint."

The Celtics entered 2018-19 as the favourites to win the East but finished with a 49-33 record and were eliminated by the Milwaukee Bucks in five games in the conference semifinals.

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.

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