NBA

Paul and Leonard expected to decline options ahead of NBA free agency period

By Sports Desk August 01, 2021

Chris Paul and Kawhi Leonard are expected to decline player options for next season ahead of the NBA free agency period opening on Monday, but the veteran stars may stay with their teams.

After leading the Phoenix Suns to the NBA Finals, Paul will not exercise his $44million option for the 2021-22 season, The Athletic reported. ESPN added that the Suns are optimistic they will be able to re-sign the 36-year-old. 

Yahoo Sports first reported Leonard would decline his $36m option with the Los Angeles Clippers and become an unrestricted free agent, but ESPN reports he is expected to remain with the Clippers on a new deal after suffering a season-ending knee injury during the playoffs. 

Even if they end up staying where they are, those two will be the two biggest names on the open market beginning on Monday, but others figure to be available in trades. 

Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors may top that list as he is expected to move on from Toronto. ESPN reported that the Miami Heat's move to pick up Goran Dragic's $19.4m team option might have been designed to facilitate a sign-and-trade deal for Lowry. 

Ben Simmons also could be on the move from the Philadelphia 76ers, but Bradley Beal now seems set to stay with the Washington Wizards after they sent Russell Westbrook to the Los Angeles Lakers in a draft-night trade. 

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    The Boston Celtics return to the NBA Finals as a different team to that beaten by the Golden State Warriors two years ago, says their Eastern Conference finals hero Jaylen Brown.

    Brown won the Larry Bird Trophy as Eastern Conference finals MVP on Monday, having helped the top-seeded Celtics complete a 4-0 series sweep of the Indiana Pacers.

    In Game 4, Brown sank 10 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter as the Celtics recovered from a nine-point deficit with under nine minutes left for a 105-102 victory.

    The Celtics have reached the Eastern Conference finals six times in the last eight years but this is just the second time they have progressed to the NBA Finals in that run. They last did so in 2021-22, only to be beaten 4-2 by the Warriors.

    Brown believes they have become a better team for that experience, however.

    "We feel like we're a different team than we were last year and the year before that," Brown said. 

    "I know everybody wants to continue to pigeonhole us with what was happening in the past but we've had a different team every single year, different coaches, we've had like three coaches in the last five years. 

    "Still people want to make it seem like it's the same, it's the same, it's the same.

    "Time has gone by, experience has been gained and I think we are ready to put our best foot forward."

    Jayson Tatum supported Brown with 26 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists on Monday, while Jrue Holiday had 17 points and Derrick White tacked on 16.

    "It's special," Tatum said. "Even though we've been there before, most of us have, you don't take it for granted. We were excited.

    "It was a hell of a team we just played, they made us earn every single game and we're extremely grateful to move on to the Finals."

  • Celtics sweep Pacers to reach NBA Finals Celtics sweep Pacers to reach NBA Finals

    Derrick White's tie-breaking 3-pointer with 45 seconds left sent the Boston Celtics into the NBA Finals for the second time in three years with a 105-102 win over the Indiana Pacers in Monday's Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals.

    The top-seeded Celtics, who were ousted in seven games by the Miami Heat in last year's East finals, completed a sweep of this best-of-seven series by rallying from a nine-point deficit with under nine minutes left.

    Jaylen Brown led Boston's comeback by scoring 10 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter and coming up with a key late block that preceded White's winning shot. The Celtics also received 26 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists from Jayson Tatum, as well as another strong performance from their backcourt duo of White and Jrue Holiday.

    Holiday totalled 17 points and nine rebounds while White had 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting along with a game-high five steals.

    The sixth-seeded Pacers were unable to extend the series while playing a second straight game without All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton, who injured his hamstring in Thursday's Game 2.

    Andrew Nembhard led Indiana with 24 points and 10 assists, while Pascal Siakam posted 19 points and 10 rebounds.

    The Celtics will face the winner of the Western Conference finals between the Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves, and will host Game 1 on Thursday, June 6. The Mavericks lead that series 3-0 and can advance at home in Tuesday's Game 4. 

    A tightly contested game saw neither side lead by more than eight points until the Pacers put forth a 5-0 run, capped by Nembhard's 3-point play with 8:57 left to play, to take a 94-85 advantage.

    Indiana led 98-90 with under six minutes to go before the Celtics began catching fire. After Brown hit two free throws and Tatum knocked down a 3-pointer, Holiday drove the lane and was fouled while getting a layup to go down following a made basket by Nembhard. Boston's veteran guard calmly hit the ensuing free throw to bring the Celtics within 100-98 with 3:54 left.

    It remained a two-point game until Brown knocked down a floater with 2:40 left to tie the score at 102-102. Shortly thereafter, the All-Star forward rejected Nembhard in the lane as Boston's Al Horford grabbed the rebound with the contest headed towards the final minute of play.

    Brown then found an open White in the right corner, and the valued guard drained a 23-footer to send the Celtics ahead.

    Indiana had one final chance to force overtime, but Nembhard's 3-point try missed the mark and the Pacers failed to get another shot off. 

     

     

     

  • NBA legend Walton dies at 71 NBA legend Walton dies at 71

    Basketball legend Bill Walton died Monday at the age of 71.

    The NBA announced he passed away following a prolonged battle with cancer.

    During a 10-year professional career, Walton won a pair of NBA titles and was named the 1977-78 league MVP. He was also included on the NBA's 50th anniversary and 75th anniversary teams.

    He was the No. 1 overall pick of the 1974-75 NBA draft by the Portland Trail Blazers following a brilliant collegiate career that saw him win a pair of national titles at UCLA and earn three national player of the year awards.

    "Bill Walton was truly one of a kind," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.

    He helped redefine the centre position, but his career was cut short by foot injuries.

    After averaging 17.1 points and 13.5 rebounds in his first four seasons with the Trail Blazers, he averaged 10.2 points and 8.1 boards in his final six seasons with the Clippers and Celtics.

    He led Portland to the 1976-77 NBA title, while being named Finals MVP, and later won a championship with Boston in 1985-86.

    He retired after playing just 10 games in the 1986-87 season, and was inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame in 1993.

    Following his playing career, Walton became a star broadcaster for decades. He became known for his colourful broadcasting style, where he enthusiastically offered high praise and also blunt criticism.

    "What I will remember most about him was his zest for life," Silver said. "He was a regular presence at league events – always upbeat, smiling ear to ear and looking to share his wisdom and warmth. "

     

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