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NBA rumors: Celtics make Nikola Vucevic 'top priority'

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The Celtics, who now expect to see center Al Horford walk in free agency, apparently have a replacement in mind: Nikola Vucevic.

According to Shams Charania of Stadium, the 7-foot center will be "one of the top priorities potentially" for the Celtics. 

Vucevic, 28, averaged career highs in points (20.8) and rebounds (12) per game last season for the Magic and reportedly is working on a new contract with Orlando. But ESPN reported Thursday that if they can't reach an agreement, the Celtics and Lakers could be destinations for the All-Star.  

The Celtics and Horford had been expected to reach new contract terms until earlier this week, when he reportedly rejected a three-year offer.

While Vucevic's offensive skills would be an asset for Boston, he's not a strong defender, which seemingly makes him a bad fit for coach Brad Stevens' emphasis on defense.

The Celtics reportedly also have "checked in" with the Rockets about a trade for big man Clint Capela.

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Josh Hart bids farewell to Lakers via Twitter

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Josh Hart has said goodbye to Los Angeles.

The 24-year-old shooting guard delivered a message to the Lakers on Saturday via Twitter and thanked them for "believing in him." The Villanova product was drafted by the Jazz with the last first-round pick in the 2017 NBA Draft before being traded to Los Angeles, where he spent two seasons.

Hart wrote:

"I want to thank the Laker organization, Jeanie Buss & Magic Johnson for taking a chance on me & believing in me. To my teammates thank you for teaching me how to play & grow in this league. To the fans....THANK YOU! Thank you for embracing me and for supporting me through all the ups and downs! One of the best fan bases in the league. It was a dream come true to wear the purple and gold! It’s always love on this side but now N.O 'Let’s dance.'"

Hart was traded to New Orleans earlier this month alongside Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and three first-round picks, including the No. 4 pick in 2019. The last words in his statement to the Lakers referenced a message Zion Williamson delivered to Pelicans fans Thursday after he was selected with the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft.

New Orleans is about to undergo a serious transformation, and Hart could be a big part of that. H[......]

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NBA rumors: Rockets waiting on Butler to deal Capela

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The Rockets could be getting closer to a big move.

Houston has found a willing trade partner for big man Clint Capela, according to a report from the New York Times, which cites an unidentified source familiar with the team's thinking.

The Rockets won't part with Capela until they're sure they can get Jimmy Butler from the 76ers, that report states. An earlier ESPN report suggested Houston has been planning to "push" Philadelphia into a sign-and-trade for the 29-year-old wing, and it might actually be interested.

The Rockets don't quite have the funds though, and are reportedly making Eric Gordon and PJ Tucker available alongside Capela in an attempt to open up cap space for Butler.

Butler averaged 18.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 55 games for Philadelphia in 2018-19 after being traded by Minnesota. His vital clutch factor and versatility as a defender helped the 76ers reach the second round of the playoffs before they fell to the Raptors in[......]

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Zion Williams injury update: Pelicans star calls NBA Summer League shutdown ‘precautionary’

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Pelicans rookie sensation Zion Williamson says the decision to shut him down from Las Vegas Summer League play was "precautionary" and he'll focus now on getting ready for his first NBA season.

Williamson sustained a bruised left knee in Friday's summer opener when he banged knees with another player.

The Pelicans subsequently decided to have him sit out the rest of summer competition.

"It was more precautionary," Williamson told reporters (via ESPN.com), adding that it's "frustrating" not to be playing with his new teammates.

"I'm a competitor," Williamson said. "Whenever I can play, I just want to play."

Without Williamson, the Pelicans defeated the Bulls, 109-72, on Monday night as fellow 2019 draft picks Jaxson Hayes, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Didi Louzada led the way.

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Rockets reunite Westbrook, Harden: A look back at what happened the last time they were together

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The NBA world was shocked again Thursday as ESPN reported the Rockets and Thunder completed a trade sending Chris Paul to Oklahoma City and Russell Westbrook to Houston.

This is a huge deal for the Western Conference as Houston boasts a similar team to what it had last year, but got younger and more athletic in the process.

Rockets fans can dream about the potential of this tandem, but it's not an idea that is foreign. In fact, we've seen this combination before as Harden and Westbrook both were drafted by the Thunder and played together from 2009-12 and made an NBA Finals alongside Kevin Durant in their last season together.

So what did those teams look like in Oklahoma City? They looked great, we'll tell you that.

With Westbrook, the Thunder had a high-energy point guard who was unstoppable going to the rim and a terror on defense. With Durant, Oklahoma City had the player who could ge[......]

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NBA trade rumors: Thunder hope to move Chris Paul quickly; Heat remain favorite

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Chris Paul may not stay with the Thunder for long. 

After the Ro夜网论坛ckets sent the guard to Oklahoma City — along with two protected first-rounders in 2024 and 2026 — in exchange for Russell Westbrook, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Friday on "Get Up" that the Thunder are working with the Heat on a deal. Wojnarowski adds that Oklahoma City is trying to move Paul "as soon as they can" with the hope Paul won't "play a game in a Thunder uniform." 

ESPN initially reported Thursday that the Rockets had attempted to involve a third team in their trade with the Thunder in hopes of finding Paul a more suitable home. 

Wojnarowski added that the Thunder and Heat started the process late Thursday night as soon as the trade between the Rockets and Thunder was agreed to. The report adds that there are other teams that Oklahoma City will consider, though Paul's market is considered to be small. 

The one hurdle that Oklahoma City could face in moving Paul is the fact that the interested team would have to take on Paul's massive contract as the 34-year-old has three years and $124 million remaining on his deal.

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Giannis Antetokounmpo says he's only reached '60 percent' of his potential after MVP season

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Giannis Antetokounmpo had an impressive season leading the Bucks. 

He capped off his sixth-year with MVP honors, but the Milwaukee star says he has yet to reach his full potential.

"There's a lot of things I can improve on," Antetokounmpo told ES夜网论坛PN over the weekend. "First of all, [I have to] look at myself before I look at anybody else. Try to self-improve as much as possible. There are a lot of things that I got to work on in my game.

"A lot of people say, 'You are the MVP, you are one of the best players in the league, you are so dominant. But I think I can get better. I think I am at 60 percent of my potential, as good as I can be. I just want to be better. If I am in the same situation again [in the conference finals], react better, play the game better, play better, execute better."

The Bucks were eliminated from the playoffs when they fell to the Raptors in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Despite the disappointing exit, the 24-year-old forward made a strong case for himself when he helped Milwaukee to the NBA's best record at 60-22. He averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 1.5 blocks per game.

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NBA free agency rumors: Trail Blazers looking to add center after trading for Hassan Whiteside

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The Trail Blazers are still looking to bolster their frontcourt.

Portland is hoping to add a center before training camp, according to a report from The Athletic, which cites an unidentified league source.

Greg Monroe, Pau Gasol, Kenneth Faried and Kosta Koufos, among others, are some of the veterans at the position who remain unsigned. Koufos has received interest from at least four teams, according to an earlier report from Yahoo Sports.

The Trail Blazers have already acquired one big man this summer as they landed Hassan Whiteside from the Heat.

"Acquiring Hassan is an impact move for our roster,” Portland president of basketball operations Neil Olshey said in a statement earlier this month. “He is an elite shot blocker, rebounder and paint presence on both ends of the floor. We have pursued Hassan through multiple avenues at various times in his career and are ecstatic to be adding him to our organization."

Whiteside has averaged 13.4 points, 11.4 rebounds and 2.3[......]

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Trail Blazers' CJ McCollum agrees to 3-year, $100M extension, agent says

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Portland is doing everything it can to retain its stars.

CJ McCollum is signing a three-year, $100 million extension with the Trail Blazers, his agent Sam Goldfeder told ESPN on Tuesday. This will be tacked on to the four-year, $106 million contract he inked in 2016. The 27-year-old guard became eligible for the extension last week and will partner with Damian Lillard in Portland's backcourt for the foreseeable future.

Lillard is fresh off a four-year, $196 million supermax extension he signed in July, and has played alongside McCollum since 2013-14.

McCollum averaged 21.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game in 70 appearances with the Trail Blazers in 2018-19. He helped Portland finish the year with a 53-29 record, which ranked third in the Western Conference.

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Portland was swept by the Warriors in the Western Conference finals, though, and is still looking to take the next step and contend for a championship. 

The Trail Blazers are expected to get Jusuf Nurkic back next sea[......]

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Kyle Lowry withdraws from Team USA after not being cleared 'for full basketball activities'

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Kyle Lowry will not be competing in the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

The Raptors guard announced he was withdrawing from Team USA on Monday, citing health reasons.

Lowry had surgery on his right thumb in July. He made the trip to training camp despite having a fear the injury wouldn’t allow him to play, a report from ESPN noted.

He was a member of the 2016 gold-medal team and still hopes to represent the U.S. on the 2020 Olympic team, ESPN added.

"This is a status update message regarding the 2019 Fiba World Cup," he wrote, in part, in a note posted on Instagram. "I was hoping be cleared and ready for the tournament but I was not cleared for full basketball activities. ...

"At the end of the day I believe the men that are playing will be great and will win the gold for our country."

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