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Goran Dragic

Goran Dragic

ISTANBUL — Slovenia won its first European basketball championship on Sunday by defeating Serbia 93-85 behind 35 points from Goran Dragic. Dragic’s 35 points in the title game were the most in a single game in EuroBasket 2017. They were also the most in a EuroBasket Final since Pau Gasol had 36 in 2003.

Dragic, the Miami Heat guard who was voted MVP of the tournament after the game, watched the final four minutes from the bench due to cramp. He had been visibly tiring, missing all three shots and the one free throw he took in the final quarter.

With Dragic out, Serbia briefly took the lead at 79-78 and again at 82-80 with 3:37 to go. But Slovenia, which upset pre-tournament favorite Spain 92-72 in the semifinals, refused to fold. It went on a 12-0 run, during which guard Klemen Prepelic scored the go-ahead basket, 84-82, with 2:20 to go.

After a balanced first quarter, which ended with Serbia ahead 22-20, Dragic scored 20 of Slovenia’s 36 points in the second quarter to help give it a 56-47 halftime lead.

“We gave them a lot of transition points. They brought the NBA speed on the floor,” Serbia coach Aleksandar Djordjevic said.

“We are an uptempo team … the importance of the game shouldn’t change what we do,” said Slovenia’s Serb coach, Igor Kokoskov.

Djordjevic responded by taking out his 2.21-meter (7-foot-3) center, Boban Marjanovic of the Detroit Pistons, in favor of more mobile players, who managed to slow the pace in the third quarter at the 16,000-seat Sinan Erdem arena. Dragic still managed to score nine points, and Slovenia stayed ahead 71-67 but lost young star Luka Doncic with a sprained ankle.

Dragic finished with 22.6 points per game during EuroBasket 2017, which is the fourth-highest in the tournament. He trailed only Alexey Shved (24.3), Dennis Schroder (23.7) and Kristaps Porzingis (23.6).

Kokoskov, also the assistant coach for the Utah Jazz, gave a nod to his boss, coach Quin Snyder.

“He is my dear friend, my boss. He told me, ‘Be prepared for the press conference and say something deep and smart.’ Well, I can’t say anything.”

Dragic might be a nine-year NBA veteran, but Kokoskov, the first European to be a full-time assistant coach in the league, has spent 17 seasons there after a brief stint at college level. He and Dragic worked together at the Phoenix Suns for four seasons (2008-11 and 2012-13).

Bogdan Bogdanovic, who is set to join the Sacramento Kings next season, led Serbia with 22 points.

Earlier, Spain defeated Russia 93-85 to take third place, with 51 points coming from the Gasol brothers, Pau (26) and Marc (25). Alexey Shved led Russia with 18.

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Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook, the NBA’s reigning Most Valuable Player, will look to continue to establish himself as one of the league’s top global superstars, inking a 10-year extension with Nike’s Jordan Brand that will be the most lucrative total endorsement deal for a Jordan athlete to date, according to industry sources.

After first signing a five-year endorsement deal in 2013, Westbrook has been positioned as the face of the brand and the annual Air Jordan model each subsequent season. During that stretch, he also elevated his game yearly as the franchise point guard of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The new shoe deal extension, negotiated by the Wasserman agency and Westbrook’s longtime agent, Thad Foucher, is in advance of the initial deal’s expiration next fall. The increased pay rate will also retroactively apply to his 2016-17 MVP season, according to sources. Westbrook wore Nike sneakers during his first four years in the NBA, before the company aligned him with Jordan, in order to have a dual-brand presence alongside Nike signature athlete and then-teammate Kevin Durant.

This past season, the 6-foot-3 star not only led a retooled OKC roster to the postseason after Durant’s departure, but did so while averaging a triple-double — 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists — a first in the NBA since Oscar Robertson’s feat in 1962.

The long-term extension will link the 28-year-old Westbrook with Jordan Brand through as long as the 2025-26 NBA season. The deal will also include both on- and off-court signature sneakers, new territory for Westbrook. As he has continued to be the face for the Air Jordan game shoe each season, the brand launched two off-court-geared silhouettes, dubbed the Westbrook 0.1 and 0.2, but held off on designing him a performance signature shoe for the hardwood.

Now that the decade-long deal has been locked in, the process is underway to begin developing an on-court Westbrook signature shoe. The shoe is expected to highlight his flashy and unpredictable fashion lens — “unlike anything that Jordan Brand has done before” — according to an industry source. There’s also been a distinct separation in his tastes for game and lifestyle sneakers, as he prefers deconstructed and simplified casual shoes off the court, versus highly sculpted, molded and responsive basketball shoes.

As for the delay in creating a signature model for the league MVP during the rise of his prime, there’s a bit of a case study in place from the brand’s recent history. After Dwyane Wade joined the Jordan roster of endorsers before the 2009-10 season, the then-Miami Heat star led the Air Jordan 2010 and 2011 campaigns, before debuting his own Fly Wade signature series. As Wade’s endorsement deal was set to expire in 2012, he left the brand for equity in Chinese company Li-Ning, making his Jordan signature series short-lived, with just two models being released in stores.

Rather than invest resources into designing, developing and marketing another possibly short-lived signature line, Jordan Brand wanted to first ensure that Westbrook would be with the company for the long haul. Just after agreeing to the extension, Westbrook and Jordan embarked on a multicity, rapid-fire tour of China, with Westbrook again supporting the newest Air Jordan model. He’s expected to lead the XXXII for this upcoming NBA season.

While he’s looking forward to accelerated creative control on his upcoming signature footwear and clothing in the near term, there’s another element to the deal that Westbrook is equally proud of: Jordan Brand will contribute an annual donation to Westbrook’s “Why Not?” Foundation, which aims to launch even more “reading rooms” and other educational and athletic initiatives for kids in Westbrook’s two home bases of Oklahoma City and Southern California. As the two sides look to continue their partnership beyond the prime of his career, the deal also includes a rare “ambassador clause,” providing Westbrook with appearance opportunities and additional Jordan Brand legacy potential even after he retires from the NBA.

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Stephen Curry responded to Kevin Durant’s recent shots at Under Armour, telling the Charlotte Observer that the teammates had a conversation and the issue won’t affect the Golden State Warriors’ chemistry.

Durant, a Nike spokesperson, told The Ringer on a podcast last month that “nobody wants to play in Under Armours.” No athlete has generated more revenue for Under Armour than Curry, who left Nike for Under Armour in 2013.

“Where we were four years ago and where we are now — you can’t tell me nobody wants to wear our shoes,” Curry told the Observer. “I know for a fact they do.”

Despite some of the stir caused by Durant’s comments, Curry said he wasn’t angered by them.

“There is nothing that is going to put a wrench in our locker room,” Curry said.

An Under Armour spokesperson declined to comment on the story.

For the 2015-16 season, revenues for UA shoes and apparel associated with Curry reached $200 million before dropping off last year because of the lack of success with the Curry 3 signature shoe.

Durant was very close to representing Under Armour when the company offered a deal worth at least $265 million over 10 years when he was a sneaker free agent in the summer of 2014. Nike, at the 11th hour, matched and eventually exceeded the offer.

Curry, who signed a five-year, $201 million deal with the Warriors this offseason, also told the Observer that he intends to play beyond his current deal.

“When I came into the league, that’s the only thing I did say — I want to play 16 years just because my dad did,” said Curry, in reference to his father, Dell Curry. “I’ve always had an appreciation of what that meant. But now — having done eight years and understanding the work that it takes and whatnot — playing eight more years somewhere near the level I’m playing now would be solid.”

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HOUSTON — Rockets point guard James Harden says he will donate $1 million to the city of Houston to aid in Hurricane Harvey recovery.

Harden made the announcement Saturday with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. They spoke at a news conference at the NRG Center, which has housed evacuees since Harvey swamped the Houston area more than a week ago.

Harden went to high school in California and college in Arizona but said Houston is his home.

He posed for photos with fans and said the money would go to people who need it.

The Rockets gave Harden a four-year extension in July, with sources telling ESPN at the time that it is a supermaximum extension that will guarantee him $228 million through the 2022-23 season.

Oscar winners Sandra Bullock and Leonardo DiCaprio also have pledged $1 million to charities helping with Harvey relief.

President Donald Trump also pledged a $1 million donation, but it’s unclear who will get the money. The donation is expected to come from his personal fortune.

Trump also visited evacuees Saturday in Houston.

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The Boston Celtics will formally introduce their two summer All-Star acquisitions in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward on Friday morning at TD Garden.

The Celtics’ offseason roster overhaul was highlighted by signing Hayward to a four-year, $128 million contract in July and landing Irving in a blockbuster trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers this month.

While the Celtics and Cavaliers originally agreed to their league-shocking swap on Aug. 22, the trade wasn’t officially completed until Wednesday night when the Celtics added a 2020 second-round pick (via the Miami Heat) to a package that featured Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round pick.

The Celtics got a commitment from free-agent Hayward on July 4 but, because of roster shuffling, didn’t formally announce his signing until July 14. Hayward engaged in a conference call with Boston reporters that day but never had an introductory news conference.

Boston is set to return just four players — Al Horford, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier — from a team that won 53 games and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals last season.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said the Celtics needed more top-line talent after Boston got bounced from the East finals in five games by the Cavaliers. Ainge was able to land two star players in Irving and Hayward but had to overhaul much of the rest of the roster in the process. The Celtics must replace four starters and will have at least five rookies on their roster this season.

Celtics co-owners Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca, along with Ainge and coach Brad Stevens, will also be part of Friday’s introduction of Hayward and Irving.

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The Philadelphia 76ers hired Elton Brand as the general manager of their G League affiliate in Delaware, the 87ers, the team announced Monday.

Brand, a two-time All-Star, retired last October. He played five of his 17 NBA seasons with the Sixers, including his final season, 2015-16, when he appeared in 17 games.

“We are thrilled that Elton has agreed to take on the GM position of the Sevens, a natural next step given both his personal and professional skillset,” 76ers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said in a statement.

“The transition from a terrific playing career to team management was something that we have been talking about for some time and this opportunity is both timely and appropriate. I look forward to working side-by-side with Elton as we continue to grow and develop our overall basketball program.”

Brand, 38, was a consultant for the Sixers last season, focusing on player development.

“I look forward to building upon the successes the Sevens have had both on the court and in the community in Delaware,” Brand said in the statement.

Brand averaged 15.9 points and 8.5 rebounds in 1,058 games with the Bulls, Clippers, Mavericks, Hawks and Sixers.

Brand’s first four seasons with the Sixers came after he spurned better offers to sign a five-year, $82 million contract with Philadelphia in 2008. The Sixers waived him in 2012.

The Chicago Bulls selected the Duke standout with the No. 1 pick of the 1999 NBA draft. Brand shared Rookie of the Year honors with Steve Francis for the 1999-2000 season.

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LeBron James is fired up over the idea of fans burning a player’s jersey, and he let it be known in a Twitter rant on Thursday.

James posted five tweets on the subject, defending new teammate Isaiah Thomas, who was traded to the Cavaliers on Tuesday night as part of a deal that sent Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics.

There have been images on social media of Celtics fans burning Thomas’ jersey in response to the trade. And there were videos of Utah Jazz fans doing the same to Gordon Hayward jerseys in July after the free agent announced he’d be signing with the Celtics.

Thomas had emerged as the face of the Celtics since arriving at the trade deadline in February 2015.

The Celtics also sent Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and a 2018 unprotected first-round pick to the Cavaliers in the deal.

On Tuesday, James retweeted one Cavs fan’s response to the trade. In that video, the fan shows an Irving jersey lying on the ground and then places a sign on top of the jersey saying, “Thank U so much.”

James is no stranger to this type of negativity after leaving a team, having experienced it firsthand when he left Cleveland in 2010 and the Miami Heat in 2014.

In the aftermath of James’ departure from Cleveland after “The Decision” in 2010, images of fans burning his jersey circulated on social media, and the same happened — to a much lesser extent — when he left Miami to return to Cleveland four years later.

James wasn’t the only one to weigh in on the subject.

Former NBA star Ray Allen, who played for four different teams during his 18 years in the league, posted on Instagram, in a follow-up to a Caron Butler post.

Lonzo Ball, Ben Simmons (NBA) Rookie of the Year NBA Rookie Season wins.

Lakers

Lakers

A ballyhooed NBA rookie class has caused disagreement among Las Vegas oddsmakers.

William Hill’s Nevada sportsbook on Wednesday opened Los Angeles Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball as the favorite to win Rookie of the Year at 9-5. The next day, the Westgate SuperBook went with Philadelphia 76ers forward Ben Simmons as the favorite at 5-2.

Dallas Mavericks guard Dennis Smith Jr. and 76ers guard Markelle Fultz, the No. 1 overall pick, are next at 4-1 and 13-2, respectively. Sacramento Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox and Boston Celtics small forward Jayson Tatum are each listed at 8-1, rounding out the players with odds in the single digits at William Hill.

Simmons sat out last season, recovering from foot surgery, but is expected to make his debut this year and spearhead a Sixers squad with playoff aspirations.

“We expect Philadelphia to exceed the Lakers in wins and make the playoffs in the East, with Simmons having better stats [than Ball],” Jeff Sherman, assistant manager at the Westgate, told ESPN in a text message. “Had Simmons come out in this loaded class, he still would have been the No 1 pick in the draft.”

Simmons and the 76ers are currently favorites to make the playoffs at the Westgate. Ball and the Lakers are 6-1 underdogs to reach the postseason in the rugged Western Conference.

This will be the first season that Nevada sportsbooks will offer betting on the NBA Rookie of the Year and regular-season MVP. William Hill made the request to gaming control and, upon approval, opened betting on the awards Wednesday.

“With so much attention on the rookie class and the stars of the league, this is a fantastic year to start offering them,” Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading for William Hill U.S., said in a release.

Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook opened as the favorite to win the regular-season MVP. Westbrook, who averaged a triple-double last season on his way to winning the MVP, is listed at 5-2 at William Hill.

Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant is next at 4-1, followed by Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James at 6-1 and San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard at 13-2. Houston Rockets guard James Harden is 15-2.