The network faces the Thunder in Mexico City.

Mexico City

Mexico City

Russell Westbrook will have the chance to collect a triple-double on foreign soil when the Oklahoma City Thunder play the Brooklyn Nets in Mexico this season.

The NBA Mexico City games will feature the Nets playing regular-season games against the Thunder and the Miami Heat.

The Thunder’s Westbrook — the reigning Most Valuable Player — and his new All-Star teammate Paul George face the Nets on Dec. 7. The Nets, featuring Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell, then play the Heat and Hassan Whiteside on Dec. 9. ESPN and Televisa in Mexico will televise the game, which will also be available to watch on NBA League Pass.

“We are thrilled to be able to participate in the NBA Mexico City games,” Heat president Pat Riley said in a statement. “The game of basketball is truly a global game and we are proud to be a part of its return to Mexico City. We look forward to our first-ever regular season game there and bringing the HEAT experience to our fans in Mexico.”

The games in Mexico City, hosted by events company Zignia Live, are part of the 25th anniversary celebration of the first NBA game in Mexico. In January, the NBA held two games in Mexico, with Phoenix playing against Dallas and San Antonio.

The Nets’ games against Oklahoma City and Miami will be the 25th and 26th games in Mexico since 1992, the most held in any country outside the United States and Canada.

“They will also mark the 25th anniversary of our first game in Mexico City, a milestone in our relationship with our Mexican fans and a further indication of our desire to strengthen our ties to Mexico and Latin America,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.

Michael Jordan: You can beat the LaVar Ball with one leg

Michael Jordan is quite sure he’d beat LaVar Ball in a game of one-on-one … even “if I was one-legged.”

Months after Ball made headlines by saying he “would kill” Jordan “back in my heyday,” the Hall of Famer finally discussed Ball’s comments.

“You got to understand the source. I think he played college, maybe?” Jordan told campers at his Flight School basketball camp Monday. “He averaged 2.2 points a game. Really?

“It doesn’t deserve a response, but I’m [going to] give it to you because you asked the question. I don’t think he could beat me if I was one-legged.”

Ball, the father of Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball, fired the first shot in March.

“I would just back [Jordan] in and lift him off the ground and call a foul every time he fouls me when I do a jump hook to the right or the left,” Ball told USA Today Sports as to how he’d beat Jordan. “He cannot stop me one-on-one. He better make every shot ’cause he can’t go around me. He’s not fast enough. And he can only make so many shots outside before I make every bucket under the rim.”

Ball responded to Jordan’s assertion Tuesday as mere “entertainment.”

“Look at everybody, man. Everybody used to say, ‘You know, I think Wilt Chamberlain is better than Shaq; I think Oscar Robertson is better than LeBron.’ Now the story is LaVar is better than Michael Jordan,” Ball told The Really Big Show on ESPN 850 WKNR in Cleveland.

“C’mon, I didn’t even play basketball in the pros and they’re talking about me and Michael Jordan. That’s what I’m talking about. He tells me he can beat me with one leg. Well, guess what: I can beat him with one hand. Now we both look like we out there like we can’t play.”

His Big Baller Brand also chimed in:

Ball averaged 2.2 points and 2.3 rebounds a game in the 1987-88 season at Washington State before he transferred to a smaller school seeking more playing time. That same season, Jordan averaged an NBA-leading 35 points for the Chicago Bulls.

LeBron James will not give up the knight’s non-trading terms

No matter the reconstruction of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ roster, no matter the potential for heightened inner turmoil, no matter the win-loss record, and with or without Kyrie Irving, LeBron James will not waive his no-trade clause for any teams at any point during the 2017-18 season, league sources tell ESPN.

James, Dirk Nowitzki and Carmelo Anthony are the only players equipped with no-trade clauses. James holds a $35.6 million player option for the 2018-19 campaign, which means he could elect to test unrestricted free agency next summer.

In regards to that scenario, a decision has not been made.

The four-time MVP winner, according to sources, is focused solely on competing for a championship as a member of the Cavs and will fulfill his contractual obligations, whatever unexpected circumstances may arise.

Irving’s request for a trade has put the franchise in a distressing position considering it has gone to three straight NBA Finals and has captured one title in that span. The Cavaliers are very much in win-now mode, but they face the arduous task of seeking to obtain close to equal value if they trade Irving.

If the Cavs find the most profitable suitor, the process of developing and sustaining continuity begins, and it automatically puts the likes of Golden State and San Antonio laps ahead in that area from the onset of the season. Furthermore, Boston, Toronto and Washington continue to knock on the door of Eastern Conference supremacy.

ESPN reported that James is disappointed with the Irving development, and Cleveland.com reported that he was frustrated by owner Dan Gilbert sabotaging the front office and the lack of offseason moves. However, sources are adamant that James is committed to leading the team with the personnel the organization imports to training camp in September.

His primary focus is next season, an entire season with the Cavs in pursuit of another championship.

Introducing Miss Dennis Smith Jr., Future Mavericks franchise

LAS VEGAS — Dennis Smith Jr. didn’t play cards with his teammates, put on a pair of Beats by Dre headphones or catch a nap during the first team flight of his NBA career. He wanted to work, not that he had much choice in the matter.

Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr. is off to a strong start at Las Vegas Summer League.

 
Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle sat side by side with Smith and spent the two and a half hours it took to fly to Las Vegas putting the No. 9 pick in the draft through a video tutorial. They watched a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder last season, with Carlisle particularly emphasizing details of the Dallas point guards’ defense against MVP Russell Westbrook.

They studied some of the Mavs’ offensive sets and discussed Smith’s responsibilities, how he’d fit and situations he should expect to see, the rookie impressing Carlisle with his intellectual curiosity for the game.

“His eyes light up when you turn on NBA film,” Carlisle said proudly a couple of days later, fresh off watching Smith light up the Phoenix Suns’ summer league team for 25 efficient points in 27 minutes, driving and finishing in electrifying fashion for several buckets.

“I like your point guard,” a Western Conference coach told Carlisle as they greeted each other after the game.

The Mavs, whose draft room erupted with glee when the New York Knicks selected Frank Ntilikina with the previous pick and left Smith on the board for Dallas, really like their point guard. So much so that Carlisle, without prompting, declared on draft night that he projected Smith as an instant starter and impact player.

“I appreciated it,” Smith said. “That’s one of the great minds in basketball. He’s one of the best coaches in the league, if not the best. When he said that, it’s high praise, but that means I’ve got to come in and put in the work, if he’s got that much faith in me.”

There is a buzz around the Mavs, who haven’t had a draft pick develop into a long-term starter in Dallas for more than a decade, that the 19-year-old Smith might be the franchise player they so desperately need with Dirk Nowitzki (the No. 9 pick in 1998) entering his 20th season and in the midst of his twilight.

“I think that he has amazing ability that needs to be brought along the right way,” Carlisle said. “That’s on all of us. That’s on Mark [Cuban], on me, on our coaching staff, our training staff, our strength and conditioning staff. You don’t just declare a guy a franchise cornerstone player. You help put him in the position to get there. That’s going to be our plan.”

Smith says he sees the glass as half full when asked about slipping to No. 9 in the draft, stressing that he’s ecstatic with his situation, landing with a franchise that features one of the NBA’s premier coaches and respected, unselfish veterans to help groom him. However, he can’t deny that he felt it was a slap in the face to see eight players picked before him, including four point guards.

“You could say that, because I believe that I’m the best player, as should everybody else,” Smith said. “They do their work, but I definitely took it as an insult.”

It’s never wise to come to grand conclusions during the first week of summer league, but Smith certainly looked like a Rookie of the Year candidate while leading the Mavs to wins in the first two games, averaging 19.5 points on 50 percent shooting, 7.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists. Everyone in the league knew that Smith, whose vertical leap measured at 48 inches, possessed elite athleticism. He has impressed in Vegas with a rare blend of aggressiveness, poise and discipline.

“He’s strong, plays with force, but he also plays with great vision and good discipline,” Carlisle said. “That’s a really unusual thing for a young guy like that.”

The Mavs, who have had 14 players start at point guard in the five seasons since Jason Kidd’s Dallas departure, identified the position as their primary need early in the draft preparation process. Carlisle, who started studying for the draft in March with the Mavs out of playoff contention, instantly fell in love with Smith’s game.

“The one thing that I remember thinking to myself right off the bat is, there’s no way this guy’s going to be there at No. 9,” Carlisle said, chuckling at the Mavs’ luck. “I thought he was a top-five talent for sure.”

Some questions about Smith’s character might have contributed to the Mavs’ good fortune. North Carolina State went 15-17 in Smith’s lone season, with coach Mark Gottfried getting fired in February, and frustration was frequently evident in Smith’s body language. He got a bad rap for being a lazy, unwilling defender and there were whispers about him being a bad teammate.

Smith never fell out of the top five on Dallas’ board, and the Mavs did extensive homework on his character when it appeared that he could be available when they picked. Their findings reinforced that he was a player they wanted, according to Mavs owner Mark Cuban.

Cuban had Don Kalkstein, the Mavs’ sports psychologist, interview Smith and expected to get a mixed review afterward. Kalkstein instead told Cuban that Smith was one of the best interviews he had ever done.

Smith never visited Dallas before the draft, but Carlisle, president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson and team executive Michael Finley asked him several pointed questions during a 30-minute FaceTime conversation days before the draft. Smith struck them as “a kid that was very confident but had an appropriate level of humility,” as Carlisle put it.

“It was perception over reality,” Cuban said. “We talked to people around him, talked to people he had played with, people who had worked with him. None of those [negative] things came out. It was the exact opposite — great teammate, tough situation with the coach getting [fired late in the season]. The perception wasn’t reality. We just had to find out for ourselves.”

A perception of Carlisle is that the coach is particularly tough on rookies and on point guards.

“I’m both,” Smith said with a big smile. “It’s cool, though.”

Carlisle scoffs at his reputation regarding point guards and rookies: “I think if you ask Yogi Ferrell, he’d say that it was a pretty good situation meeting up with me.” Ferrell, a midseason call-up from the D-League, was a second-team All-Rookie selection last season.

Smith says he’s fine with being coached hard, pointing to his background as a football player, a cornerback who had a scholarship offer from Wake Forest and interest from many other programs before deciding to focus on basketball after his sophomore year of high school. He’s eager to learn and is grateful that Carlisle’s commitment to him is strong enough that they’ve had individual sessions in the gym every day that Smith has been in Dallas.

Smith also readily admits that he needs to be taught how to play defense. He believes that. He also understands that orchestrating the offense to make sure that established players like Nowitzki, Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews are getting the ball when and where they want it is the key on-court factor in determining how impactful he can be as a rookie.

“I don’t have to hunt for buckets,” Smith said, figuring he’ll score plenty within the flow of Carlisle’s pick-and-roll-intensive system. “They’re going to come naturally. I’m going to get to the rack. That’s a given.”

Carlisle has butted heads with point guards over playcalling in the past, most notably Rajon Rondo, and has perhaps the thickest playbook in the league. But, as he did for Ferrell, Carlisle plans to scale things back significantly this season. He wants Smith to operate within a simple structure that allows him to focus more on making plays than running plays.

If Smith coasts, Carlisle won’t hesitate to start Ferrell or veteran J.J. Barea at point guard and make the rookie earn the job. But the reality is that the Mavs are in the early stages of a rebuilding process, and the development of their prized lottery pick is as important as anything this season. Carlisle insists he can deal with Smith’s anticipated rookie growing pains because the potential short- and long-term gains are so promising.

“He’s got a unique skill set and unique ability level athletically that we haven’t had at that position in my nine years,” Carlisle said. “Fans are going to see a different element to our game because of him. There’s no question about that. It’s a different kind of force that he brings to the game at the point guard position. We’re excited.

“This is great for our franchise. I’m a loyal franchise guy, and this is something that we desperately need.”

The Celtics signed Aron Baynes a year contract

The Boston Celtics plan to sign free-agent center Aron Baynes to a one-year, $4.3 million contract, according to a league source.

The 6-foot-10 Baynes, born in New Zealand but an Australia national, averaged 4.9 points and 4.4 rebounds over 15.5 minutes per game last season in Detroit. Baynes provides much-needed help on the defensive glass, grabbing 21.6 percent of all defensive caroms when he was on the floor last season.

The Celtics can’t officially sign Baynes until a sequence of moves that will include first signing Gordon Hayward. Boston traded Avery Bradley to Detroit last week in order to generate the necessary cap space to sign Hayward to a maximum-contract salary that starts at $29.7 million for the 2017-18 season.

The Vertical first reported Baynes’ signing.

The Celtics were thin up front with the recent departures of Kelly Olynyk (4 years, $50 million with Miami) and Amir Johnson (1 year, $11 million with Philadelphia). Baynes adds a bruiser to a big-man depth chart in which the only other veteran is Al Horford.

While the Celtics have a bunch of players capable of playing as undersized 4s, the team is thin on pure centers. Boston’s frontcourt is likely to be filled out with first-year players in Ante Zizic (2016 first-round pick who played last year in Croatia and Turkey), Daniel Theis (undrafted, played last year in Germany), and Guerschon Yabusele (2016 first-round pick who played last year in China and the G-League).

Baynes playfully hinted at his Boston signing on social media on Sunday afternoon.

The Detroit Pistons owned a net rating of plus-5.2 with Baynes on the court last season, best among the team’s regulars. Detroit posted a defensive rating of 105.3 for the season but that number plummeted to 98.5 with Baynes on the court. Baynes’ overall rebound rate of 15.8 was third on the Pistons — trailing Andre Drummond and little-used Boban Marjanovic — but that number would have easily led the Celtics. Olynyk topped Boston regulars with a rebound rate of 13.1 last season.

The 30-year-old Baynes is a veteran of five NBA seasons. He began his NBA career with the San Antonio Spurs in 2013 and has averaged 5.2 points and 4.1 rebounds over 14.1 minutes per game for his career.

Serge Ibaka insisted on using the Raptors, agreed to three years $ 65 million in transactions

Serge Ibaka

 

Free-agent forward Serge Ibaka has agreed to a three-year, $65 million contract to stay with the Toronto Raptors, league sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Ibaka’s representation, ASM Sports, confirmed that a deal had been agreed to in a tweet Sunday.

Acquired from the Orlando Magic in a trade for Terrence Ross and a first-round pick, Ibaka averaged 14.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in 23 games after the All-Star break deal. Brought in to give the Raptors’ All-Star backcourt some much-needed help inside, Ibaka helped Toronto eliminate the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round by averaging 12.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game in the series.

However, Ibaka’s production on the glass dipped considerably to 3.8 rebounds per game during Cleveland’s sweep of Toronto in the second round. Ibaka averaged 16.5 points per game against the Cavaliers but shot 48.3 percent from the field in the series.

In 56 games with Orlando last season, Ibaka averaged 15.1 points and 6.8 rebounds.

Ibaka was ranked No. 16 on the list of top available free agents this offseason by ESPN’s Kevin Pelton.

Lonzo Ball said the Lakers had a plan, but he did not do that

NEW YORK — After seeing the Los Angeles Lakers trade D’Angelo Russell on Tuesday, Lonzo Ball says he believes Magic Johnson has “a plan.”

Whether that includes drafting Ball with the second overall pick in the NBA draft on Thursday night, Ball said he is making no assumptions despite the fact that most believe he will be a Laker.

“You know, the Lakers have a plan,” Ball said when asked whether he thought the Russell trade was to make room for him to play point guard. “So whatever that is, we will see whatever that is in the future.”

Speaking at media availability for draft prospects, Ball deftly handled every question that came his way with straightforward answers, in stark contrast to his father, LaVar, who has made headlines with many of his eye-catching comments.

Despite the fact that he said he has met with only the Lakers during the pre-draft process, the UCLA point guard stuck to the script that he does not know whether Johnson will make his dream come true of becoming a Los Angeles Laker.

“It will mean a lot to play for my hometown [team] and learn from the best point guard ever,” Ball said of Johnson, the team’s president of basketball operations. “Yeah that’s crazy to me [if it happens]. Magic Johnson is the best point guard ever. … Words [couldn't] describe that.”

Ball said the Lakers told him that they would embrace his outspoken father as well if they pick him.

“They were open-armed and said they loved my dad,” Ball said when asked whether the Lakers had any concerns about LaVar Ball. “So I left it at that.”

On Tuesday, the Lakers agreed to trade Russell, their second overall pick from the 2015 draft, and Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets for Brook Lopez and the 27th overall pick in Thursday’s draft. Russell, 21, averaged 15.6 points and 4.8 assists this past season.

The trade not only clears cap space for the Lakers to pursue at least one max free agent next summer but it would also appear to pave the way for Ball to come in and run point for coach Luke Walton.

Wearing his Big Baller Brand shirt, Ball said he has a “clean” suit picked out that does not have the “BBB” logo on it to wear for Thursday night. Ball said his Big Baller Brand shoes will be out in November.

Ball, who grew up a Lakers fan watching Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal and recently met Bryant for a few minutes while the two were working with ESPN, hopes he will be adding a Lakers cap to his suit after the second pick is announced.

“I can’t tell the future,” Ball said of why he kept saying he isn’t sure who will draft him. “I don’t know where I am going.”

“I know he is going to be happy,” Ball added of his father’s reaction once he will be drafted. “He will be smiling, I will be smiling, get the hat and go from there.”

The source said that the knight’s pursuit of Jimmy Butler, Paul George encountered obstacles

The Cleveland Cavaliers remain seriously interested in trading for Chicago’s Jimmy Butler or Indiana’s Paul George, but have encountered significant obstacles on both fronts, according to league sources.

Sources said Tuesday that the Cavaliers have been notified that Butler hopes to stay with the Bulls and would be reluctant to commit his long-term future to Cleveland. Butler, sources said, remains intent on trying to lead the Bulls back to Eastern Conference prominence.

 

Paul George
When it comes to George, meanwhile, ESPN reported earlier Tuesday that the Indiana Pacers have commenced trade talks with the Los Angeles Lakers, who overwhelmingly rank as his preferred destination as his own free agency looms in the summer of 2018.

One option for the the Lakers, sources say, is trying to sell the Pacers on a trade package headlined by the 27th pick — acquired as part of an agreed-to deal with Brooklyn on Tuesday — and 28th overall picks in Thursday night’s draft in addition to players such as forward Julius Randle and guard Jordan Clarkson. Indiana, meanwhile, continues to try to pry away Thursday’s No. 2 overall pick despite L.A.’s well-chronicled determination to keep it off limits.

Sources say that David Griffin, in his final few days as Cavaliers general manager, aggressively pursued trades for both Butler and George, seeking to acquire an elite two-way player in the wake of Cleveland’s 4-1 NBA Finals defeat inflicted by the Golden State Warriors.

But Griffin and Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert abruptly announced Monday night that they were parting ways, just three days before the Draft and less than two weeks before the June 30 expiration of Griffin’s contract.

To land either Butler or George, sources say, Cleveland knows it would have to assemble a three-team (or more) trade — likely costing them All-Star forward Kevin Love — to manufacture the top-five draft pick Chicago and Indiana are known to covet in exchange for surrendering their respective best players.

ESPN’s Dave McMenamin and Brian Windhorst reported Monday night that Gilbert himself, alongside Cavaliers assistant general manager Koby Altman, would continue to aggressively pursue upgrades to the roster as Cleveland enters the final season James is under contract.

But sacrificing Love to acquire Butler or George — even for a historically bold team like the Cavaliers — would be risky if neither player is prepared to make a long-term commitment to the franchise.

George has been widely expected since the All-Star break in February to do anything he can to land with the Lakers in the summer of 2018, while Butler could become a free agent as early as July 2019.

Kevin Durant refused to choose, re-signed with the Warriors

OAKLAND, Calif. — Golden State Warriors superstar Kevin Durant will decline his player option for the 2017-18 season and technically become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, but he will re-sign with the team, league sources tell ESPN.

The 2017 NBA Finals MVP will turn down a player-option salary of approximately $28 million to momentarily hit free agency with the intentions of taking less than the max he’s eligible for as a 10-year veteran. This is in order to improve the Warriors’ chances of re-signing reserve stud Andre Iguodala, league sources told ESPN.

 

Kevin Durant

By Durant taking about $4 million less than his max next year and waiting to get his long-term extension for at least another season, the Warriors would be able to use their Bird rights on an Iguodala deal that is far more comparable to what he’d see on the open market.

All signs, according to sources, point to Durant signing another one-plus-one pact, which carries a player-option at the end.

With Durant opting to sacrifice, according to league sources, the Warriors would not need to create room under the cap to re-sign him and thus would not need to renounce their rights to any of their other free agents.

Durant led the Warriors to their second championship in the last three years and in the process, captured his first. The Hamptons 5 — consisting of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Iguodala, Draymond Green and Durant, who all met together last summer during the free-agency recruiting period — has a pathway of remaining intact.

The 6-11 forward has said on multiple occasions that he intends to stay with the Warriors for many years, and he has put roots down in the Bay Area both personally and professionally.

Durant and business partner Rich Kleiman have set up their business, the Durant Company, in the Bay Area. He has forged partnerships with California-based companies such as YouTube, Acorns and Postmates. In a New York Times profile this spring, Durant revealed that he is in business with Silicon Valley “super angel” investor Ronald Conway and consulting with Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs.

Lonzo Ball once again worked for the Lakers, showing the training program

With the NBA draft less than a week away, Lonzo Ball worked out for the Los Angeles Lakers for the second time on Friday to give them an up-close look at his training regimen and work ethic.

Questions were raised about Ball’s conditioning after his first workout for the Lakers, and the former UCLA star even acknowledged that the drills made him tired.

At an unspecified location in the Los Angeles area near his home, Ball did his normal on-court routine, ran hills and lifted weights, showing the team’s brass how he conditions and getting some face-to-face time. Ball’s outspoken father, LaVar Ball, who had not been invited to Lonzo’s first workout at the Lakers’ facility in El Segundo on June 7, was present for Friday’s workout.

According to Spectrum Sports Net, Magic Johnson, president of basketball operations, and general manager Rob Pelinka were the only representatives of the Lakers to attend Friday’s workout.

A source told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne that Friday’s workout was “solid.”

LaVar Ball has been vocal about his desire for his son to play for the Lakers, and he previously has lobbied for the match.

“Team-wise, the Lakers are a better fit,” he said after Lonzo’s first workout. “They really don’t have a leader. Boston already went to the playoffs. They have a leader.”