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Buzz City Beat is Swarm and Sting’s one stop for the best articles from around the internet surrounding the Charlotte Hornets.

After the injury to Nicolas Batum, a YouTuber made a video explaining why the team should trade Kemba Walker. In this edition of Buzz City Beat, we look at where the Charlotte Hornets‘ top players rank in the NBA, a trade made by the Greensboro Swarm and Kemba praising Avery Bradley.
Hornets have five players rank in NBA top-100 (BleacherReport.com)

Wake the heck up if Kemba Walker checking in at No. 23 grinds your gears. You’ve been sleeping on him for too long. (If you’re more rattled because you think he’s too low, then you have my #respek.)

Kemba was the highest ranking Charlotte player as he came in inside the top-25. He was just ahead of Klay Thompson and just behind Kyrie Irving. If those players are considered stars in this league, then I think it’s time that Walker is considered one as well. Taking the next step on defense will help put him over the top and into the next tier of players.

Dwight Howard was the second-highest ranked Hornets’ player at No. 73. Nicolas Batum (80), Cody Zeller (85) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (87) were all named inside the top-100 giving Steve Clifford’s side five players ranked on the list. Marvin Williams was in the “Soul-Crushing Exclusions” section as he barely missed the cut.
Greensboro Swarm trade (Twitter)

We have acquired 1st round draft picks in 2017 & 18 from @WisconsinHerd in exchange for the returning player rights to Xavier Munford

Munford played 30 games for the Swarm last year before leaving to Spain as he signed with FC Barcelona Lassa midseason. With Marcus Paige, who is on a two-way contract with Charlotte, set to spend most of the 2017-18 season in the G-League with Greensboro, it made Xavier expendable. Over the summer, Munford put up 10.2 PPG with Team USA as he helped lead them to the FIBA AmeriCup Title.

The Swarm got a pretty good return in exchange for Xavier with two first-round picks. The 2017 NBA G-League Draft is on October 21st. He averaged 18.5 PPG, 5.3 APG and 4.7 RPG with the Hornets’ G-League affiliate.
Kemba Walker praises Avery Bradley ahead of regular-season opener (freep.com)

Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker rolled his eyes when asked about the Bradley snub. “That’s ridiculous. He’s probably, if not the best, one of the best on-ball defenders in our league,” said Walker, who will lead the Hornets against the Pistons on Wednesday night in both teams’ season opener.

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Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid’s five-year, $146.5 million maximum extension is essentially guaranteed but protects the franchise financially should Embiid suffer a contractually specific catastrophic injury, league sources told ESPN.

Embiid, 23, signed the rookie-scale max extension Tuesday, with the $146.5 million total for the deal based on the NBA’s new salary cap projections for the 2018-19 season.

For the Sixers to curb the ultimate value of the extension, it would take the triggering of several severe circumstances detailed in a 35-page-plus contract. Embiid’s unique career trajectory — missing his first two NBA seasons with successive foot surgeries and playing only 31 games in the 2016-17 season — created a pathway for Philadelphia general manager Bryan Colangelo; Embiid’s agent, Leon Rose of CAA Sports; and the National Basketball Players Association to work together on creating a complicated and creative contractual agreement. The dramatic impact of Embiid’s brief but dominant debut season left him as the only rookie since Wilt Chamberlain to average at least 28.7 points per 36 minutes played.

Here’s how a perfect storm of calamity would have to unfold for Embiid to earn any less than the full $146.5 million: Across each of the final four seasons of the extension, ending with the 2022-23 season, the 76ers could waive Embiid for a financial benefit if he’s lost because of a contractually agreed-upon injury that causes him to miss 25 or more regular-season games and if he plays less than 1,650 minutes, league sources said.

Specific injuries are laid out in the contract and include only past problem areas with Embiid’s feet and back, sources said. Embiid has to miss 25 or more regular-season games because of injuries in those areas, and play less than 1,650 minutes, for Philadelphia to have the option of releasing him for cost savings.

For example, if Embiid hypothetically suffered a serious knee or wrist injury — something outside the contractual language surrounding the feet and back — the 76ers would have no avenue to waive Embiid to reclaim any portion of his salary. And given Embiid’s rare talent, there’s a belief that he’d have to suffer a career-ending injury to inspire the 76ers to release him.

If Embiid met that narrow criteria and the Sixers decided to waive him after the 2018-19 season, he would receive $84.2 million of his full contract; $98.2 million after the 2019-20 season; $113.3 million after the 2020-21 season; and $129.4 million after the 2021-22 season.

What’s more, if Embiid played a minimum of 1,650 regular-season minutes in three consecutive years during the extension, or three out of four including the 2017-18 season, those benchmarks would eliminate the possibility of a reduction in the contract, league sources said.

The first full season of Embiid’s contract extension starts with the 2018-19 season and pays him $25.3 million, a salary that escalates a standard 8 percent a year until the 2022-23 season.

For Embiid to reach the threshold of the super maximum contract criteria — which would pay him 30 percent of the salary cap and ultimately as much as $176 million — Embiid must earn first-team All-NBA honors or be voted the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in the 2017-18 season.

Despite missing the entirety of his first two seasons with injuries, and underdoing season-ending surgery limiting him to 31 games in 2016-17, Embiid showed the promise of being a transformational talent. He averaged 20.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game in the 2016-17 season.

Embiid, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft, had successive surgeries on his right foot that sidelined him in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. Surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee ended his 2016-17 season in March. Embiid has yet to make his debut this preseason, but recently returned to full-contact participation in practices.

Embiid is expected to be ready to play for the Sixers on opening night on Oct. 18 against Washington, but could initially face minute restrictions as part of the rehab process on his knee.

Embiid is the centerpiece of a Sixers revival that will include the debuts this season of the NBA’s two previous first overall picks, Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons. The Sixers signed two veteran free agents this summer, guard JJ Redick and forward Amir Johnson.

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Atlanta Hawk


Atlanta Hawk

Two years ago, the Atlanta Hawks set a franchise record by winning 60 regular season games, but after being swept out of the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals by Cleveland, the team has essentially hit the reset button.

The Hawks haven’t won an NBA title in 59 years and haven’t made an appearance in the Finals since losing to the Celtics in 1961.

After making it halfway to a championship just two years ago, winning eight postseason games, the team has once again entered a rebuilding mode.

All five of the starters from the 60-win season have either been traded away or allowed to walk in free agency, prompting Atlanta to bring in a new general manager to oversee the complete breakdown of the roster.

The 2017-18 rendition of the Hawks is dramatically different from the playoff team from just a season ago.

Dwight Howard spent just one season playing for his home town team, before being unceremoniously dumped in a trade to Charlotte. After four consecutive All-Star selections, Paul Millsap was allowed to leave town without an offer from the Hawks in free agency.

An offer from the Knicks for restricted free agent Tim Hardaway Jr. went unmatched by Atlanta, removing three of the four leading scorers from last season’s roster and tempering expectations heading into 2017-18.

The Hawks have qualified for the postseason in 10 consecutive years, the second-longest active streak in the NBA, behind only San Antonio.

Only seven returning players are on the roster, with the backcourt pairing of Dennis Schroder and Kent Bazemore being the only players to spend 1,500 minutes on the floor for the Hawks.

The dramatically different roster poses plenty of questions, so let’s examine the strengths and weaknesses of the Atlanta Hawks heading into the 2017-18 season.

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 David T. Foster III

David T. Foster III

Three practices into the Charlotte Hornets’ training camp at Spectrum Center, some minor injuries have cropped up.

Forward Treveon Graham suffered a left hamstring injury Wednesday. Also, center Dwight Howard experienced lower-back tightness that limited him in the morning session at the Hornets’ practice gym.

Prior to that, the only injury limitation was backup point guard Michael Carter-Williams, who hasn’t been cleared for contact, following Platelet-Rich Plasma procedures on both knees over the summer.

Graham, who can play either small or power forward, had a strong week in Orlando summer league games in July. However, his salary for the coming season – about $1.3 million – is not yet guaranteed under his contract.

That means if the Hornets were pinched for a roster spot, Graham could be cut without ramifications on the team’s salary cap. He played 27 games (a total of 189 minutes) for the Hornets last season.

“I’ll approach it how I’ve approached it the last year: focused and ready to do whatever it takes to make the team,” Graham said of this preseason. “My contract isn’t guaranteed, so it’s (important to) go into training camp with confidence, know I belong, and play my game.”

Graham played in the G-League before the Hornets signed him as a free agent in July 2016.

At 6-foot-5, Graham’s natural NBA position is small forward, but he’s rugged enough to occasionally play power forward:

“Mostly wing, but depending on the lineup situation, I do believe I can move to (power forward) depending on the game.”

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Lonzo Ball


Lonzo Ball

The 2017-18 NBA regular season may start on Oct. 19 for the Los Angeles Lakers as they play host to the Los Angeles Clippers, but Monday’s Media Day is the first day of the marathon 2017-18 NBA season for players, coaches, staff and just about everyone else involved in producing the next year of Lakers’ basketball.

And yes, the NBA is a marathon.

For players, the season will end in mid-April at the earliest, end sometime in May for the optimists and conclude in June for the fans so delusional that they deserve respect for their beliefs in the face of all reason.

For the first time ever, Media Day for the Lakers will be held at the newly built UCLA Heath Training Center, and Monday is bit of a grand opening for the facility that means to spoil players with every convenience. The Lakers are looking to attract big time free agents in the Summer of 2018, and a brand new practice facility designed to cater to a modern player’s every training desire is an overt move to assist in that recruiting mission.

Media Day begins with general manager Rob Pelinka addressing the assembled media and sharing his vision for the first team the former super-agent has assembled, working hand-in-hand with new Lakers president of basketball operations Earvin “Magic” Johnson.

From there, Media Day turns into a noisy circus where fully uniformed players are paraded through a maze-like circuit of activities. For many, this is like the first time they’ve dressed in their brand new jerseys with the Nike logo on one chest and the WISH company logo on another. The circuit of activities include taking photos for team photographers, recording messages for sponsors and the in-arena entertainment and providing various live interviews with television and radio partners, along with the hoards of assembled local and national media.

As the name suggests, the day generates a great deal of media as players will be asked about the usual details of their summer preparations, their expectations for the upcoming season and also, inevitably, about current newsworthy events like the protests that have engulfed sports across the country.

Lakers Announce 2017-18 Training Camp Roster

A season ago, the Lakers decided to lock arms for the national anthem to show support for the kneeling protest aimed at fighting for racial equality and social justice. Whether the team will continue that action, expand it or step away from the protest is yet to be determined, though the last of those three options seems extremely unlikely given that the protests have undoubtedly gained momentum in recent days.

Though the aforementioned subject is sure to be brought up, the majority of the day is lighter in nature and focuses more on the start of a new season and players and coaches’ expectations of the upcoming training camp and season.

Undoubtedly, the central attraction on the day will be Lonzo Ball, as the no. 2 pick in the draft and the new face of the franchise experiences his first go around as the star attraction at Media Day. The point guard turned heads during NBA Summer League and has the fan base and fellow teammates energized.
Lakers Retiring Both of Kobe Bryant’s Jersey Numbers

Ball is not known for being a big talker, but his every word will be dissected and cut up to find its way onto newscasts and into newspapers. The day should feature no shortage of quotes about the new Lakers’ point guard from teammates, the general manager and Lakers coach Luke Walton.

With a full season of separation from Kobe Bryant’s retirement, Ball expects to fill the void left by the Lakers’ retired super star–at least until the team signs those targeted free agents in the summer of 2018.

From Monday until the Lakers’ season opener on Oct. 19 is a straight shot that features four days of training camp, six preseason games and twenty-five total days until the official start of the Lakers’ 58th season in Los Angeles.

Lakers Finish Roster, Reportedly Signing Andrew Bogut

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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, 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.”