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  • NBA notebook: Bulls deny shopping Butler
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, June 24, 2016

    Despite a flurry of rumors, Jimmy Butler is still a member of the Bulls after nothing came to fruition during Thursday night's draft.

    • There was heavy interest from the Minnesota Timberwolves, who are coached by former Chicago head man Tom Thibodeau. The Boston Celtics were reported to have interest. Same for the Orlando Magic.

      But according to Chicago general manager Gar Forman, all that chatter was nonexistent. He said there weren't any draft-night talks involving Butler despite the heavy dose of reports that claimed there was plenty of trade banter.

      Chicago traded former MVP Derrick Rose the day before the draft and a trade of Butler would have indicated a full rebuilding situation was on the docket.

      --Washington Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal became the latest player to pass on playing for Team USA in the Summer Olympics at Rio de Janeiro when he announced that he declined a roster spot.

      Beal, who turns 23 on Tuesday, dealt with a leg injury last season and said on his Twitter account that improving his physical condition for the 2016-17 NBA season is the top priority.

      Still undecided is Cleveland point guard Kyrie Irving.

      --Gary Payton II went undrafted in Thursday's NBA draft but will get a chance to make a roster as the Houston Rockets signed him to a three-year contract.

      The Rockets also reportedly reached agreement on three-year deals with Texas point guard Isaiah Taylor and Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer.

  • Payton among undrafted players signed by NBA teams
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, June 24, 2016

    Gary Payton II followed in his famous father's footstep by attending college at Oregon State. Now he would like to become the next one in the family to play in the NBA.

    • Payton went undrafted in Thursday's NBA draft but will get a chance to make a roster as the Houston Rockets signed him to a three-year contract.

      Payton isn't on the same level as his Hall of Fame father but he does possess the same type of defensive tenacity.

      He was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in both his seasons at Oregon State. He also led the Beavers in scoring (16.0), rebounding (7.8) assists (5.0) and steals (2.5) last season when the school qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since his father led them there in 1990.

      The Rockets also reportedly reached agreement on three-year deals with Texas point guard Isaiah Taylor and Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer.

      Other deals reached by undrafted players:

      --The Washington Wizards, who didn't have a draft pick on Thursday night, agreed to terms with four players: Villanova center Daniel Ochefu, Texas A&M swingman Danuel House, Miami guard Sheldon McClellan and Arizona center Kaleb Tarczewski.

      --The Brooklyn Nets agreed to a deal with Indiana guard Yogi Ferrell.

      --The New York Knicks agreed to a one-year contract with Wichita State guard Ron Baker.

      --The Golden State Warriors agreed to terms with Maryland center Robert Carter and invited 7-foot-6 UC Irvine center Mamadou Ndiaye to play for their summer league team in hopes of landing a roster spot.

      --The Philadelphia 76ers agreed to a two-year deal with Boise State forward James Webb III.

      --The New Orleans Pelicans invited North Carolina State guard Anthony "Cat" Barber to play for their summer league team.

      --The Orlando Magic invited Kentucky forward Alex Poythress to play for their summer league squad.

      --The Toronto Raptors invited Wichita State point guard Fred VanVleet to play for their summer league team.

  • Wizards SG Beal turns down spot on Team USA
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, June 24, 2016

    Washington Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal became the latest player to pass on playing for Team USA in the Summer Olympics at Rio de Janeiro when he announced Friday that he declined a roster spot.

    • Beal, who turns 23 on Tuesday, dealt with a leg injury last season and said on his Twitter account that improving his physical condition for the 2016-17 NBA season is the top priority.

      "I could not be more grateful for the invitation to represent my country, as it is the ultimate honor, however it is with deep regret that I have declined the opportunity to participate with Team USA this summer in Rio," Beal wrote. "I have made the decision to dedicate this summer to getting in the best physical shape of my life and feel it is imperative that I stay true to my plan so I can be at my very best supporting my coaches and teammates for the upcoming season.

      "I wish Team USA nothing but great success and I hope to earn another opportunity to represent my country in the near future."

      Beal played in just 55 games last season and averaged 17.4 points. He becomes a restricted free agent on July 1 and the Wizards will reportedly offer him a large contract.

      Beal joins the growing list of players to turn down a spot on Team USA.

      Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James declined a spot on Thursday, as did San Antonio forward Kawhi Leonard. Portland point guard Damian Lillard (foot) withdrew due to injury.

      Players who previously withdrew include Golden State point guard Stephen Curry, Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook and Houston Rockets guard James Harden. Out for health reasons are LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio Spurs), Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans), Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers), Chris Paul (Clippers) and John Wall (Washington Wizards).

      Still undecided is Cleveland point guard Kyrie Irving.

      The team's training camp will run July 18-21 in Las Vegas. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is the Team USA coach and Olympic basketball competition will be held Aug. 6-21.

  • Bulls deny shopping Butler
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, June 24, 2016

    Jimmy Butler was receiving a massage at the Chicago Bulls' practice facility as trade speculation swirled during the NBA Draft.

    • But there was no need for any awkward knocks on the door to tell the All-Star guard he had a new employer.

      Despite a flurry of rumors, the first-time U.S. Olympian is still a member of the Bulls after nothing came to fruition during Thursday night's draft.

      There was heavy interest from the Minnesota Timberwolves, who are coached by former Chicago head man Tom Thibodeau. The Boston Celtics were reported to have interest. Same for the Orlando Magic.

      But according to Chicago general manager Gar Forman, all that chatter was nonexistent. He said there weren't any draft-night talks involving Butler despite the heavy dose of reports that claimed there was plenty of trade banter.

      "During the draft, we started getting some texts and saw something on TV that we were in heated talks with somebody, I don't know what it was saying," Forman told reporters after the draft. "We were in no talks with anybody. There was no discussion during the entire draft this evening as far as Jimmy Butler was concerned.

      "We have never made a call in regards to Jimmy Butler. We've talked about, we value Jimmy Butler, we're very happy to have Jimmy Butler. We've got a phenomenal basketball player who was an All-Star and All-NBA defender, is still young, obviously we've got him under contract long-term, those are all positive.

      "We've said this all along. We like Jimmy Butler, we did not shop Jimmy Butler. Did we receive calls? Of course we did, and that's our job to listen to calls. We get calls on a lot of our players and that's stuff that happens all throughout the league."

      Chicago traded former MVP Derrick Rose the day before the draft and a trade of Butler would have indicated a full rebuilding situation was on the docket.

      Butler and Rose didn't have good chemistry on the court last season with Butler having supplanted Rose as the team's best play. But also complicating matters was that Butler's relationship with coach Fred Hoiberg wasn't all that strong, either.

      That led to the circulation of rumors shortly after Chicago's poor season concluded. Butler's name was popping up as a player who would soon be on the move.

      The draft-night fodder had the Timberwolves making one last run at prying Butler loose after they drafted promising guard Kris Dunn of Providence with the fifth overall pick.

      Reports said Minnesota offered Dunn, young athletic combo guard Zach LaVine and a second-round pick for Butler.

      But Forman insists there was no discussion about such a package.

      "I think when you have a special player like Jimmy, in order really to take a hard look at something it's got to be something you think is going to knock your socks off, something that's really special," Forman said. "And we never felt we were presented with anything where we would consider moving Jimmy."

      Boston was reportedly shopping forward Jae Crowder -- Butler's former college teammate at Marquette -- and guard Avery Bradley in addition to having extra draft picks to spice up a deal.

      Regardless, the Bulls stayed put and chose Michigan State combo guard Denzel Valentine with the 14th overall pick.

      And for now, Valentine has the 26-year-old Butler as a teammate. The question might be "for how long?"

      "All I can tell you is exactly what happened," Forman said. "We never made a single call. We're not looking to move Jimmy."

  • NBA trade roundup: Ibaka, Oladipo swapped
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, June 24, 2016

    During a week meant to celebrate the future stars of the NBA, it was the veterans who stole the spotlight.

    • Forward Serge Ibaka and guard Victor Oladipo were the biggest names moved during Thursday night's NBA Draft at the Barclays Center in New York, but they weren't alone.

      Established stars such as Derrick Rose, Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young, among others, also found new homes leading up to draft night.

      On Thursday, the Oklahoma City Thunder traded Ibaka to the Orlando Magic for Oladipo, forward Ersan Ilyasova and the rights to the No. 11 overall pick, forward Domantas Sabonis of Gonzaga.

      Ibaka, a three-time selection to the NBA's All-Defensive First Team who led the league in blocks for four consecutive seasons from 2010-11 to 2013-14, spent his first six years in the league with the Thunder, averaging 11.6 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.5 blocks.

      In 2011-12, Ibaka was the runner up for the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year Award, which went to Tyson Chandler of the New York Knicks. The power forward's best season came in 2013-14, when Ibaka averaged career highs in points (15.1 per game) and rebounds (8.8) to go along with 2.7 blocks.

      Ibaka's numbers have tailed off ever since, and the 26-year-old averaged 12.6 points, 6.8 boards and 1.9 blocks this past season.

      Oladipo, meanwhile, is entering his prime after three seasons in the league. The 24-year-old guard has filled up the stat sheet to the tune of career averages of 15.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, four assists and 1.6 steals.

      The former two-time NBA Rookie of the Month has spent most of his career as a starter, but he has come off the bench 57 times. He will either battle Dion Waiters for the starting two-guard spot or serve as the Thunder's sixth man.

      Sabonis, 20, averaged 17.6 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 33 games for the Bulldogs this season.

      Marquese Chriss was the highest draft pick who found himself on the move Thursday, as the former University of Washington standout was drafted by the Sacramento Kings with the No. 8 overall pick, then dealt to the Phoenix Suns for the No. 13 pick and guard Bogdan Bogdanovic.

      Greek center Georgios Papagiannis was Sacramento's selection at No. 13.

      In addition, the Kings received the No. 28 overall pick, which was used to take Kentucky forward Skal Labissiere, and a second-round pick in 2020.

      Several second-round picks were traded late Thursday night.

      The Los Angeles Clippers selected Kansas forward/center Cheick Diallo with the 33rd overall pick, then sent him to the New Orleans Pelicans for the 39th and 40th picks, French guard David Michineau and Maryland forward Diamond Stone.

      The Memphis Grizzlies acquired the No. 31 overall selection, Michigan State forward Deyonta Davis, and the No. 35 pick, Serbian forward Rade Zagorac, from the Boston Celtics in exchange for a future first-round pick originally acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers.

      The Utah Jazz chose Seton Hall guard Isaiah Whitehead with the 42nd pick, then dealt him to the Brooklyn Nets for the 55th selection, North Carolina guard Marcus Paige, and cash. Whitehead grew up in Brooklyn.

      "Just to be able to wear that Brooklyn uniform across my chest (is) an amazing accomplishment, and I can't wait for it," Whitehead said.

      On Wednesday, the Chicago Bulls made a major move in dealing a former NBA MVP, Rose, to the New York Knicks. The Knicks gave up center Robin Lopez and guards Jose Calderon and Jerian Grant, while the Bulls included Justin Holiday and a future second-round pick to sweeten the pot.

      Rose, a three-time All-Star guard and former Rookie of the Year, once battled LeBron James for supremacy in the Eastern Conference finals but hasn't been the same after sustaining multiple knee injuries.

      Before the draft, the Kings traded guard Marco Belinelli to the Charlotte Hornets for the No. 22 overall pick, used to draft Syracuse guard Malachi Richardson.

      The Brooklyn Nets also moved on from forward Young, who they sent to the Indiana Pacers for the No. 20 overall pick (Michigan guard Caris LeVert) and a future second-round pick.

      The Pacers made a big splash earlier in the week when they acquired guard Teague from the Atlanta Hawks. Indiana sent guard George Hill to the Utah Jazz, who dealt the No. 12 overall pick back to Atlanta.

  • NBA draft results
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, June 23, 2016

    NBA DRAFT RESULTS

    • FIRST ROUND

      1. Philadelphia -- Ben Simmons (PF) LSU

      2. Los Angeles Lakers -- Brandon Ingram (SF) Duke

      3. Boston -- Jaylen Brown (SF) California

      4. Phoenix -- Dragan Bender (PF) Croatia

      5. Minnesota -- Kris Dunn (PG) Providence

      6. New Orleans -- Buddy Hield (G) Oklahoma

      7. Denver -- Jamal Murray (G) Kentucky

      8. Sacramento (traded to Phoenix) -- Marquese Chriss (F) Washington

      9. Toronto -- Jakob Poeltl (C) Utah

      10. Milwaukee -- Thon Maker (C) Australia

      11. Orlando (traded to Oklahoma City) -- Domantas Sabonis (F) Gonzaga

      12. Utah -- Taurean Prince (F) Baylor

      13. Phoenix (traded to Sacramento) -- Georgios Papagiannis (C) Greece

      14. Chicago -- Denzel Valentine (G/F) Michigan State

      15. Denver -- Juan Hermangomez (F)Spain

      16. Boston -- Guerschon Yabusele (F) France

      17. Memphis -- Wade Baldwin IV (G) Vanderbilt

      18. Detroit -- Henry Ellensen (F) Marquette

      19. Denver -- Malik Beasley (F) Florida State

      20. Indiana -- Caris Levert (G) Michigan

      21. Atlanta -- DeAndre Bembry (F) St. Joseph's

      22. Charlotte -- Malachi Richardson (G) Syracuse

      23. Boston -- Ante Zizic (C) Croatia

      24. Philadelphia -- Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (G) France

      25. Los Angeles Clippers -- F Brice Johnson (F) North Carolina

      26. Philadelphia -- Furkan Korkmaz (F) Turkey

      27. Toronto -- Pascal Siakam (F) New Mexico State

      28. Phoenix (traded to Sacramento) -- Skal Labissiere (F) Kentucky

      29. San Antonio -- Dejounte Murray (G) Washington

      30. Golden State -- Damian Jones (C) Vanderbilt

      SECOND ROUND

      31. Boston (traded to Memphis) -- Deyonta Davis (F) Michigan State

      32. Los Angeles Lakers -- Ivica Zubac (F) Croatia

      33. Los Angeles Clippers (traded to New Orleans) -- Cheick Diallo (F) Kansas

      34. Phoenix -- Tyler Ulis (G) Kentucky

      35. Boston (traded to Memphis) -- Rade Zagorac (F) Serbia

      36. Milwaukee -- Malcolm Brogdon (G) Virginia

      37. Houston -- Chinanu Onuaku (C) Louisville

      38. Milwaukee (traded to Golden State) Patrick McCaw (G) UNLV

      39. New Orleans (traded to Los Angeles Clippers) -- David Michineau (G) France

      40. New Orleans (traded to Los Angeles Clippers) -- Diamond Stone (F) Maryland

      41. Orlando -- Stephen Zimmerman (C) UNLV

      42. Utah (traded to Brooklyn) -- Isaiah Whitehead (G) Seton Hall

      43. Houston -- Zhou Qi (C) China

      44. Atlanta -- Isaia Cordinier (G) France

      45. Boston -- Demetrius Jackson (G) Notre Dame

      46. Dallas -- A.J. Hammons (C) Purdue

      47. Orlando (traded to Portland) -- Jake Layman (F) Maryland

      48. Chicago -- Paul Zipser (F) Germany

      49. Detroit -- Michael Gbinije (G) Syracuse

      50. Indiana -- Georges Niang (F) Iowa State

      51. Boston -- Ben Bentil (F) Providence

      52. Utah -- Joel Bolomboy (F) Weber State

      53. Denver -- Petr Cornelie (F) France

      54. Atlanta (traded to Cleveland) -- Kay Felder (G) Oakland

      55. Brooklyn (traded to Utah) -- Marcus Paige (G) North Carolina

      56. Denver -- Daniel Hamilton (G) Connecticut

      57. Memphis -- Wang Zhelin (C) China

      58. Boston -- Abdel Nader (F) Iowa State

      59. Sacramento -- Isaiah Cousins (G) Oklahoma

      60. Utah -- Tyrone Wallace (G) California

  • NBA notebook: James turns down spot on U.S. Olympic team
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, June 23, 2016

    Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James has declined a spot on the United States team for the 2016 Summer Olympics at Rio de Janeiro.

    • James' agent, Rich Paul, reportedly informed Team USA Jerry Colangelo on Thursday. James just finished leading the Cavaliers to the NBA title on Sunday. Cleveland won the final three games of the seven-game series.

      James played in three previous Olympics and is Team USA's all-time leading scorer with 273 points.

      Meanwhile, Carmelo Anthony and Jimmy Butler are among the latest players who have committed to playing for Team USA. Anthony, the New York Knicks forward, will be on the 12-man squad for a fourth time. Butler, a guard for the Chicago Bulls, will be playing in his first Olympics.

      Also giving commitments to play are the Toronto Raptors backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry and Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan.

      Also, Portland point guard Damian Lillard (foot) won't be part of the team due to injury and San Antonio forward Kawhi Leonard he withdrew his name from consideration. Detroit center Andre Drummond also decided not to play.

      --A roster rebuild is in full swing in Indiana, where the Pacers made their second trade in as many days to land forward Thaddeus Young from the Brooklyn Nets for the 20th overall pick in Thursday's NBA draft.

      Young follows point guard Jeff Teague -- acquired Wednesday in a three-team deal from the Atlanta Hawks -- to Indiana, where he'll play for former NBA point guard Nate McMillan and team with forward Paul George to formulate a new nucleus for the Pacers.

      In addition to the 20th overall pick, the Nets receive a future second-round pick in the swap.

      --Hornets guard Jeremy Lin declined the $2.2 million team option to return to Charlotte next season and will become a free agent on July 1.

      Lin averaged 11.7 points, 3.0 assists and 3.2 rebounds for the Hornets last season. The 28-year-old signed a two-year, $4.3 million deal with Charlotte last summer.

      Lin said at the end of the season that he would be "very interested" in returning to the Hornets but will seek a long-term deal and explore the open market.

  • Pacers acquire Thaddeus Young from Nets
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, June 23, 2016

    A roster rebuild is in full swing in Indiana, where the Pacers made their second trade in as many days to land Thaddeus Young from the Brooklyn Nets for the 20th overall pick in Thursday's NBA draft.

    • Young follows point guard Jeff Teague – acquired Wednesday in a three-team deal from the Atlanta Hawks – to Indiana, where he'll play for former NBA point guard Nate McMillan and team with forward Paul George to formulate a new nucleus for the Pacers.

      In addition to the 20th overall pick, the Nets receive a future second-round pick in the swap.

      Young, a 6-8 forward, averaged 13.9 points, 5.9 rebounds in his first nine NBA seasons.

  • LeBron James turns down spot on U.S. Olympic team
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, June 23, 2016

    Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James has declined a spot on the United States team for the 2016 Summer Olympics at Rio de Janeiro.

    • James' agent, Rich Paul, reportedly informed Team USA Jerry Colangelo on Thursday.

      "I could use the rest," James told cleveland.com.

      James just finished leading the Cavaliers to the NBA title on Sunday. Cleveland won the final three games of the seven-game series.

      It also marked the sixth straight season in which James played in the NBA Finals, meaning his seasons typically stretch into mid-June.

      James played in three previous Olympics and is Team USA's all-time leading scorer with 273 points.

      Meanwhile, Carmelo Anthony and Jimmy Butler are among the latest players who have committed to playing for Team USA.

      Anthony, the New York Knicks forward, will be on the 12-man squad for a fourth time. Butler, a guard for the Chicago Bulls, would be playing in his first Olympics.

      Also giving commitments to play are the Toronto Raptors backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry and Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan.

      Cleveland forward LeBron James is expected to make his decision this weekend. USA Basketball is expected to announce the roster next week.

      Also, Portland point guard Damian Lillard (foot) won't be part of the team due to injury and San Antonio forward Kawhi Leonard he withdrew his name in a team news release.

      "This was a very difficult decision. It's an honor to have been considered for the team and I hope that in the future I will have the chance to represent my country by playing for USA Basketball," Leonard said.

      Anthony had considered not participating due to concerns over the Zika virus, which has created major health risks in Brazil.

      Jordan reportedly landed a roster spot because Detroit center Andre Drummond has decided not to play.

      Other players who have committed to playing include Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant, Indiana forward Paul George, Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins and two Golden State Warriors -- forward Draymond Green and guard Klay Thompson.

      One player who hasn't reached a decision is Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving.

      The team's training camp will run July 18-21 in Las Vegas. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is the coach and Olympic basketball competition will be held Aug. 6-21.

      Players who previously withdrew include Golden State point guard Stephen Curry, Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook and Houston Rockets guard James Harden. Out for health reasons are LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio Spurs), Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans), Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers), Chris Paul (Clippers) and John Wall (Washington Wizards).

  • Lin opts out of deal with Hornets
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, June 23, 2016

    Hornets guard Jeremy Lin declined the $2.2 million team option to return to Charlotte next season and will become a free agent on July 1.

    • Lin averaged 11.7 points, 3.0 assists and 3.2 rebounds for the Hornets last season. The 28-year-old signed a two-year, $4.3 million deal with Charlotte last summer. Lin previously signed a three-year, $25 million deal with the Houston Rockets as a restricted free agent with the New York Knicks.

      Lin said at the end of the season that he would be "very interested" in returning to the Hornets but will seek a long-term deal and explore the open market.

      Center Al Jefferson and small forward Nicolas Batum are free agents for the Hornets, as are power forwards Marvin Williams and Tyler Hansbrough. Jefferson played only 47 games last season after one of his best seasons in the league at age 30 in 2014-15.

  • NBA notebook: Knicks acquire Rose from Bulls
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, June 22, 2016

    The New York Knicks made a major move to upgrade their ailing backcourt, acquiring former NBA MVP Derrick Rose from the Chicago Bulls.

    • On the eve of the 2016 NBA Draft, New York acquired Rose, guard Justin Holiday and a second-round pick in 2017 from Chicago for center Robin Lopez and guards Jerian Grant and Jose Calderon.

      The oft-injured Rose tore his ACL in his left knee during the 2012 playoffs before tearing the meniscus in his right knee early in the 2013-14 campaign. The 27-year-old averaged 16.4 points and 4.7 assists for the Bulls last season.

      The Knicks will also add depth to their backcourt by acquiring the 27-year-old Holiday, who averaged 4.5 points and 1.7 rebounds per contest last season. Holiday came to Chicago in a deal with the Atlanta Hawks.

      Calderon, who will be 35 in September, served as New York's starting point guard and averaged just 7.6 points and a career-worst 4.1 assists per game last season. Grant, 23, added 5.6 points and 2.3 assists per contest in 2015-16. The 28-year-old Lopez averaged 10.3 points and 7.3 rebounds last season for the Knicks.

      --The Atlanta Hawks traded point guard Jeff Teague to the Indiana Pacers in a three-team deal, according to reports.

      The deal includes Pacers point guard George Hill going to the Utah Jazz. The Jazz also will send the No. 12 pick in Thursday's NBA draft to Atlanta.

      Teague, 27, averaged 15.7 points and 5.9 assists 79 regular-season games in 2015-16 to lead the Hawks to a 48-34 record this past season.

      Hill, 30, averaged 12.1 points and 3.4 assists in 74 regular-season games last season with the Pacers.

      --Hundreds of thousands of fans packed downtown Cleveland to celebrate alongside LeBron James and the NBA champion Cavaliers with a parade honoring the team after the city's first major professional sports title in 52 years.

      The parade began outside Quicken Loans Arena before ending at the downtown Mall as fans spilled into streets along the 1.3-mile route.

      The Cavs became the first team to rally from a 3-1 NBA Finals deficit, beating the defending champion Warriors 93-89 in Game 7 on Sunday night and ending the championship drought in Cleveland.

      The parade featured the players, 60 floats and the Ohio State University marching band, with James and Kyrie Irving riding in Rolls-Royce sedans.

  • 2016 NBA mock draft: Sixers snag Simmons
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, June 22, 2016

    Only one thing seems certain: Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram will hear their names called in the opening minutes of Thursday night's NBA Draft in Brooklyn.

    • After that, everything is up in the air.

      Simmons has long been the consensus top pick, and the Philadelphia 76ers will all but certainly take the LSU standout.

      Duke's Ingram, on the other hand, wouldn't slip any further than the third pick -- although most peg him to go at No. 2 to the Los Angeles Lakers.

      But surprises are what make draft night so special.

      What about the likes of Oklahoma's Buddy Hield and Croatia's Dragan Bender? Or California's Jaylen Brown, Providence's Kris Dunn and Kentucky's Jamaal Murray?

      Those questions will be answered on Thursday night, but until then we'll be left to wonder.

      1. Philadelphia 76ers -- Ben Simmons (F, LSU; 19.2 PTS, 11.8 REB, 4.8 AST, 2.0 STL, 56.0% FG): Simmons' connection to Sixers coach Brett Brown, who coached his father during his 17-year tenure in Australia, makes this the most predictable pick in an otherwise unpredictable field. Plus, the team has already reportedly informed Simmons that he'll be the choice at No. 1.

      2. Los Angeles Lakers -- Buddy Hield (G, Oklahoma; 25.0 PTS, 5.7 REB, 2.0 AST, 1.1 STL, 50.1% FG): Hield caught the eye of since-retired Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, who was "blown away" watching the Sooners' sharpshooter and surely has a direct line to general manager Mitch Kupchak. "They're losing Kobe, and they need a scorer," Hield said. "So why not?"

      3. Boston Celtics (from Brooklyn Nets) -- Brandon Ingram (F, Duke; 17.3 PTS, 6.8 REB, 2.0 AST, 1.1 STL, 1.4 BLK, 44.2 % FG): Danny Ainge gets a gift in a consensus top-two pick falling into his lap, but he'll regift to the highest bidder. Another option is Kris Dunn, as the Sixers are trying to improve their play at the point and are shopping both Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel.

      4. Phoenix Suns -- Jaylen Brown (F, California; 14.6 PTS, 5.4 REB, 2.9 AST, 1.2 STL, 43.1% FG): Brown's scoring doesn't equate to that of Jamal Murray, and his lower-end shooting numbers and middling scoring average in his lone season with the Golden Bears raise red flags. Brown, however, fills a need for the Suns at the three position, with T.J. Warren (11.0 PPG) their top scorer at that spot.

      5. Minnesota Timberwolves -- Kris Dunn (G, Providence; 16.4 PTS, 5.3 REB, 6.2 AST, 2.5 STL, 44.8% FG): Dunn might be the best defensive guard in the draft, and he has drawn interest from the Timberwolves and new coach Tom Thibodeau -- a defensive guru. Dunn could complement the offensively talented Ricky Rubio and the NBA's brightest group of youngsters.

      6. New Orleans Pelicans -- Jamal Murray (G, Kentucky; 20.0 PTS, 5.2 REB, 2.2 AST, 1.0 STL, 45.4% FG): Aside from Hield, Murray might be the best scorer in this draft. It's impossible to ignore Murray's standout offensive production at one of the nation's top collegiate programs, and the Pelicans could use a scorer to replace Eric Gordon if he doesn't re-sign with the team.

      7. Denver Nuggets (from New York Knicks) -- Dragan Bender (F, Croatia): The emergence of Kristaps Porzingis with the Knicks last year makes the prospect of Bender, viewed as a similar player, more intriguing. Adding Bender to the stable of Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic would make it easier for Denver to trade Kenneth Faried if he isn't willing to come off the bench.

      8. Sacramento Kings -- Marquese Chriss (F, Washington; 13.8 PTS, 5.4 REB, 1.6 BLK, 53.0% FG): One of the most highly-touted athletes of this class, Chriss' athleticism could make him a fun option for Dave Joerger. The newly-hired former Memphis coach could pair him up with DeMarcus Cousins and stellar passing point guard Rajon Rondo, if the Kings opt to retain him.

      9. Toronto Raptors (from Denver via New York) -- Domantas Sabonis (F/C, Gonzaga; 17.6 PTS, 11.8 REB, 0.9 BLK, 61.1% FG): Already covered at the five with the formidable duo of Jonas Valanciunas and Bismack Biyombo, Sabonis figures to be an upgrade over Patrick Patterson at the four position and plays with the energy for which the Raptors are known.

      10. Milwaukee Bucks -- Dejounte Murray (G, Washington; 16.1 PTS, 6.0 REB, 4.4 AST, 1.8 STL, 41.6%): Murray gives the Bucks a promising ball hander and combo guard, one who could replace Michael Carter-Williams should that be the route taken by the Bucks. His low shooting percentage is troubling, and he'll need to continue to develop his strength at the next level.

      11. Orlando Magic -- Skal Labissiere (F, Kentucky; 6.6 PTS, 3.1 REB, 1.6 BLK, 51.6% FG): A good frontcourt pairing with Nikola Vucevic, and a big who possesses speed to run the floor with Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton. His numbers at Kentucky didn't live up to the hype, certainly.

      12. Utah Jazz -- Wade Baldwin IV (G, Vanderbilt; 14.1 PTS, 4.0 REB, 5.2 AST, 1.2 STL, 42.7 FG%): A two-way guard who has no problem getting to the bucket, but has some work to do developing into a point guard at this level.

      13. Phoenix Suns (from Washington Wizards) -- Deyonta Davis (F/C, Michigan State; 7.5 PTS, 5.5 REB, 1.8 BLK, 59.8% FG): A quality rim protector Phoenix can slide next to Alex Len, Davis is a work-in-progress who is fleet of foot and a solid finisher at the rim.

      14. Chicago Bulls -- Jakob Poeltl (C, Utah; 17.2 PTS, 9.1 REB, 1.6 BLK, 64.6% FG): Joakim Noah's run as a top-tier NBA big seems to have come to an end, but Poeltl is poised to carry the torch as the Bulls' next-generation center.

      15. Denver Nuggets (from Houston Rockets) -- Furkan Korkmaz (G, Turkey): A gifted scorer with a strong shooting touch, Korkmaz has a dedicated work ethic, which he'll need to rely on to become an NBA-level defender.

      16. Boston Celtics (from Dallas Mavericks) -- Henry Ellenson (F, Marquette; 17.0 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 1.8 AST, 1.5 BLK, 44.6% FG): Ellenson attracted an army of Celtics' front office personnel -- Ainge, president Rich Gotham and assistant GM Mike Zarren -- when he played against nearby Providence this year.

      17. Memphis Grizzlies -- Timothe Luwawu (G/F, France): A formidable swingman with a big wingspan, Luwawu should improve the Grizzlies at the wing over Lance Stephenson, Matt Barnes and the aging Vince Carter.

      18. Detroit Pistons -- Denzel Valentine (G/F, Michigan State; 19.2 PTS, 7.5 REB, 7.8 AST, 46.2% FG): Weak at the three, the Pistons will stay local with the Big Ten Player of the Year, a very complete player with a well-respected basketball IQ.

      19. Denver Nuggets (from Portland Trail Blazers) -- Malachi Richardson (G, Syracuse; 13.4 PTS, 4.3 REB, 2.1 AST, 1.1 STL, 37.0% FG): Well-sized for an NBA two-guard, but shooting under 40 percent won't cut it at that position. His wingspan and instincts make up for the low shooting numbers.

      20. Indiana Pacers -- Brice Johnson (F, North Carolina; 17.0 PTS, 10.4 REB, 1.5 BLK, 61.4% FG): Johnson helped lead UNC's run to the national championship game, and the Pacers will benefit from the trio of Myles Turner, Lavoy Allen and Johnson.

      21. Atlanta Hawks -- Diamond Stone (C, Maryland; 12.5 PTS, 5.4 REB,1.6 BLK, 56.8% FG): Al Horford's likely departure will leave the Hawks empty at the five, and with the need for a roster retool, now seems like a good time to take on a project in Stone.

      22. Charlotte Hornets -- Ivica Zubac (C, Croatia): Al Jefferson is getting older, and the foreign seven-footer with a solid wingspan could be a good understudy.

      23. Boston Celtics -- Taurean Prince (F, Baylor; 15.9 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.3 AST, 1.3 AST, 43.2% FG): Think of Prince as Jae Crowder, 2.0. A big wing with smarts on the court, the ability to defend smaller players and a noted spot-up shooter.

      24. Philadelphia 76ers (from Miami Heat via Cleveland Cavaliers) -- Thon Maker (F/C, Australia): Another Australian connection for Brown, Maker is a raw but intriguing prospect. And if the Sixers are intent on dealing Okafor or Noel, Maker makes sense here.

      25. Los Angeles Clippers -- DeAndre Bembry (G/F, St. Joseph's; 17.4 PPG, 7.8 REB, 4.5 AST, 1.4 STL): The Atlantic-10 Player of the Year is an explosive player who could fill the shoes of the aging Paul Pierce, or work in tandem with him if Pierce pushes off retirement for another year.

      26. Philadelphia 76ers (from Oklahoma City Thunder via Denver and Cleveland) -- Demetrius Jackson (G, Notre Dame; 15.8 PTS, 3.5 REB, 4.7 AST, 1.2 STL, 45.1% FG): A fail safe if Philly can't swing a trade for Dunn, or possibly an addition to him to make the 76ers' backcourt one of the fastest in the league.

      27. Toronto Raptors -- Cheick Diallo (F, Kansas, 3.0 PTS, 2.5 REB, 0.9 BLK, 56.9% FG): A big-time project who isn't ready to contribute immediately, but Diallo is a player with a strong motor and a potentially solid shot blocker.

      28. Phoenix Suns (from Cleveland via Boston) -- Malcolm Brogdon (G, Virginia; 18.2 PTS, 4.1 REB, 3.1 AST, 45.7% FG): One of the best players from the ACC, the league's reigning Player of the Year is more than just a scorer who keeps the ball moving to create for teammates.

      29. San Antonio Spurs -- Juan Hernangomez (F, Spain): Tim Duncan has to retire eventually, right? Maybe not, but in the event he does, Hernangomez is another foreign product Gregg Popovich can turn into gold.

      30. Golden State Warriors -- Ben Bentil (F, Providence; 21.1 PTS, 7.7 REB, 1.0 BLK, 46.2% FG): In the likely event that Dirk Nowitzki stays put in Dallas, Bentil fits the needs of the Warriors and is a dark horse in this draft. The Big East's leading scorer has the potential to be a more impactful pro than Dunn.

  • Knicks acquire Rose from Bulls
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, June 22, 2016

    The New York Knicks made a major move to upgrade their ailing backcourt, acquiring former NBA MVP Derrick Rose from the Chicago Bulls.

    • On the eve of the 2016 NBA Draft, New York acquired Rose, guard Justin Holiday and a second-round pick in 2017 from Chicago for center Robin Lopez and guards Jerian Grant and Jose Calderon.

      "Knowing Derrick as I do makes this trade a hard one. Everyone knows him as the local kid who became MVP for his hometown team, but not everyone got to know him like I did. While he is a terrific basketball player, he is an even better person with a tremendous heart," said Chicago Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf in a statement Wednesday. "I wish him the best of health for the remainder of his career, and I want to personally thank him for everything that he did on the court and in the community during his time with the Chicago Bulls."

      Reports surfaced last week that the Knicks held internal discussions about acquiring Rose. The Bulls were also tied to rumors involving shooting guard Jimmy Butler, a 2015 All-Star drawing interest from the Minnesota Timberwolves and Boston Celtics.

      A move with Butler is considered a long shot.

      The oft-injured Rose tore his ACL in his left knee during the 2012 playoffs before tearing the meniscus in his right knee early in the 2013-14 campaign. The 27-year-old averaged 16.4 points and 4.7 assists for the Bulls last season.

      The Knicks will also add depth to their backcourt by acquiring the 27-year-old Holiday, who averaged 4.5 points and 1.7 rebounds per contest last season. Holiday came to Chicago in a deal with the Atlanta Hawks.

      President Phil Jackson insisted to reporters that his struggling team can make the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference and with a healthy Rose -- no certainty based on his history of knee issues -- alongside Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis, that might be more feasible.

      Jackson added that a few adjustments were in order for the spacing in the triangle offense under new coach Jeff Hornacek, who takes over a team that finished 32-50 in 2015-16 for its third straight losing season.

      Calderon, who will be 35 in September, served as New York's starting point guard and averaged just 7.6 points and a career-worst 4.1 assists per game last season.

      Grant, 23, added 5.6 points and 2.3 assists per contest in 2015-16.

      The 28-year-old Lopez averaged 10.3 points and 7.3 rebounds last season for the Knicks.

  • Hawks trade Teague to Pacers in three-team trade
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, June 22, 2016

    The Atlanta Hawks traded point guard Jeff Teague to the Indiana Pacers in a three-team deal, according to reports Wednesday.

    • The deal includes Pacers point guard George Hill going to the Utah Jazz. The Jazz also will send the No. 12 pick in Thursday's NBA draft to Atlanta.

      Teague, 27, averaged 15.7 points and 5.9 assists 79 regular-season games in 2015-16 to lead the Hawks to a 48-34 record this past season. In 10 playoff games, Teague shot just 38 percent from the field and 25 percent from 3-point range while averaging 14.5 points and 6.1 assists.

      Atlanta was swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in each of the last two postseasons.

      Teague revealed earlier this month in an Instagram post -- he later deleted it -- that he played the entire 2015-16 season with a torn patellar tendon in his knee. Teague did not require surgery following an MRI taken after the Hawks were eliminated, a source told ESPN.

      Hill, 30, averaged 12.1 points and 3.4 assists in 74 regular-season games last season with the Pacers. He averaged 13.6 points and 2.1 assists in the Pacers' seven-game playoff loss to the Toronto Raptors.

  • LeBron, Cavaliers take trophy ride
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, June 22, 2016

    An estimated 1.3 million fans packed downtown Cleveland on Wednesday to celebrate alongside LeBron James and the NBA champion Cavaliers with a parade honoring the team after the city's first major professional sports title in 52 years.

    • The parade began outside Quicken Loans Arena before ending at the downtown Mall as fans spilled into streets along the 1.3-mile route.

      The Cavs became the first team to rally from a 3-1 NBA Finals deficit, beating the defending champion Golden State Warriors 93-89 in Game 7 on Sunday night and ending the championship drought in Cleveland.

      Fans, wearing Cavaliers T-shirts and carrying signs, were screaming, cheering and crying. One poster read: "LeBron For Prez."

      The parade featured the players, 60 floats and the Ohio State University marching band, with James and Kyrie Irving riding in Rolls-Royce sedans.

      The parade began with a truck spraying confetti into the crowd and was followed by Ohio State coaches Urban Meyer and Thad Matta and the Buckeyes' marching band.

      James, who delivered on a vow to his home state two years ago to bring the city a championship, also will be honored with a rally in his hometown of Akron on Thursday. He was unanimous Finals MVP after averaging 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists during the series.

      Speaking to the crowd, James said, "It still hasn't hit me, what actually happened. For some crazy reason, I believe I'm going to wake up and it's going to be like Game 4 all over again and we're down 2-1 still. I keep feeling that because it's so surreal. I was talking to my wife, and I was like, 'Babe, we did it.'"

      He added, "I'm just one man. I'm one man with a plan, with a drive, with a determination. ... I'm nothing without you all. I love all of y'all. Get ready for next year."

      Cavs guard Kyrie Irving, who sank the series-winning 3-pointer, said his play never would have occurred if not for a dramatic blocked shot by James shortly before.

      "I've been watching the block. There's no shot without the block," Irving said. "I wouldn't trade it for the world."

      James said of Irving, "He's only 24, oh my goodness. He don't reach his prime for another three years."

      James, who can opt out of the final year of his contract and become a free agent this summer, said he wants to stay with the Cavaliers.

      "I love it here in Cleveland. I have no intentions of leaving," James told ESPN during the parade. "There are some technicalities to take care of I'll leave up to my agent. That's right from the horse's mouth."

      James completed the second year of his return to Cleveland after leaving the Miami Heat. He will likely turn down the $24 million option to try to get a long-term, more lucrative deal in Cleveland.

      The Cavs' first NBA title is the first by a Cleveland major sports team since the Jim Brown-led Browns won the NFL championship in 1964. The Hall of Fame running back rode in a float during the parade.

      Also representing the Browns of the past were former quarterback Bernie Kosar and running back Earnest Byner, whose infamous 1988 AFC Championship Game fumble in Denver was a part of keeping the Browns from making their first Super Bowl.

      The Cavs returned home with the Larry O'Brien Trophy and received a hero's welcome when they stepped off the plane in Cleveland on Monday afternoon. More than 20,000 fans greeted the team.

  • Walton embraces challenge as Lakers coach
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, June 22, 2016

    Luke Walton is going from the top of the mountain to the bottom, but he's ready for the challenge that awaits with the Los Angeles Lakers.

    • The 36-year-old Walton officially took over as the Lakers coach after completing his run as an assistant with the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.

      The former Lakers player returns to a franchise that has fallen on hard times since he played on teams with recently retired Kobe Bryant that won two NBA championships.

      "There is work to be done," Walton said Tuesday during an introductory news conference at the team's practice facility in El Segundo, Calif. "But that's, to me, exciting. That's why you do this. The timetable? Who knows?

      "It's us coming to work every day. It's us working hard. It's watching improvement in the young guys that's exciting. It's watching us get better as a team. That's what I'm looking forward to doing."

      The climb back to respectability is steep. The Lakers finished the 2015-16 season 17-65 after struggling to an only slightly better 21-61 record the previous season.

      Walton hopes to use what he learned while serving as an assistant with the Warriors, who won the NBA title a year ago and lost in seven games to the Cleveland Cavaliers this month.

      While serving as interim coach while Steve Kerr recovered from back surgery this season, Walton led the Warriors to a 39-4 record before Kerr returned to the bench and the team finished the season with an NBA all-time best 73-9 record during the regular season.

      The Lakers don't have nearly the level of talent in place that the Warriors have with players such as Steph Curry, but Walton's objective is to create a winning mentality similar to what Golden State has.

      "What I can affect is what's going to happen next year and the year after that," Walton said. "We're going to put a stamp on the culture that we want, and it’s going to be joy. Our players are going to like coming into practice every day.

      "We're going to play a brand of basketball that the L.A. fans will appreciate. We're going to compete. All these things going forward, with my vision of how we're going to do things, is what I can control."

      The Lakers aren't completely devoid of talent. The roster includes D'Angelo Russell, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, and Julius Randle.

      And the Lakers have the second pick in this year's draft, which likely will be Duke's Brandon Ingram, and $55 million to spend in free agency now that Bryant has retired after 20 years and five NBA titles.

      Walton was already trying to sell the Lakers to potential free agents as an attractive destination.

      "As far as being a young coach and being able to help rebuild an organization and a team that I love and that I grew up with, it's all exciting to me," Walton said.

      Russell is excited about the prospect of playing for Walton, who replaces Byron Scott.

      "A lot of us are coming out of college and just really want to be able to experience and play and have fun," Russell said. "He just mentioned having fun and being able to run as much as possible. So I think that's what we need."

  • Howard declines player option to become free agent
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, June 21, 2016

    Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard is opting out of his contract and will become a free agent on July 1.

    • Howard informed the team he will decline the $23.2 million player option.

      The move isn't a big surprise because the Rockets recently hired Mike D'Antoni as coach. Howard wasn't all that fond of D'Antoni's system when the two spent one season together with the Los Angeles Lakers.

      The Rockets emphasized they will continue to be primarily a 3-point shooting offensive squad after D'Antoni's hiring.

      Howard, 30, averaged 13.7 points last season -- his lowest output since his rookie season with the Orlando Magic in 2004-05. He also averaged 11.8 rebounds per game.

      Howard, an eight-time All-Star, has dealt with back woes in recent seasons.

      Howard has career averages of 17.8 points and 12.7 rebounds in 12 seasons with Orlando, Los Angeles and Houston.

  • NBA notebook: Nowitzki to become free agent
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, June 21, 2016

    Dallas Mavericks star PF Dirk Nowitzki will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 after opting out of his contract on Tuesday.

    • Nowitzki, who just turned 38 on Sunday, had a Wednesday deadline to opt out and become a free agent or play next season for $8.7 million.

      The prevailing thought is that Nowitzki will remain with the Mavericks, although there is some thought that the Golden State Warriors might make a run at the future hall of famer.

      Nowitzki has spent his entire illustrious 18-year career with the Mavericks. The 13-time All-Star selection has one MVP award and one NBA Finals MVP trophy under his belt.

      He is sixth on the NBA's all-time scoring list with 29,491 career points and is taking aim at passing Wilt Chamberlain during the 2017-18 season.

      --A parade 52 years in the making will finally take place Wednesday in Cleveland.

      Fresh off their Game 7 win over Golden State, the world champion Cavaliers will be the toast of the town and honored during festivities that begin at 11 a.m. at Quicken Loans Arena in downtown Cleveland.

      The parade is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of championship-starved Cleveland fans. The Cavaliers' title is the first for the city since the 1964 Jim Brown-led Browns won the NFL Championship.

      --The New York Knicks should be well under the salary cap when it comes time to start spending money in free agency on July 1.

      Arron Afflalo and Derrick Williams said they would opt out of their contracts and test free agency. That should give the Knicks more than $30 million in cap space, according to reports.

      Williams, 25, came off the bench in 71 games and started nine for the Knicks this past season. He averaged 9.3 points and 3.7 rebounds in 17.9 minutes per game this season.

      Afflalo signed with the Knicks last summer, but was benched midway through the season and replaced by Sasha Vujacic.

      --Ben Simmons, the likely No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, participated in his first workout for any team this week when he met with officials from the Philadelphia 76ers.

      Simmons, a 6-10 forward from LSU who played one season in Baton Rouge, had declined a previous request to work out for the 76ers, who won 10 games last season and finished 34 games out of playoff contention in the Eastern Conference.

      Simmons would be the second player drafted first overall by the 76ers. Philadelphia drafted Allen Iverson No. 1 in 1996. The 76ers traded away the No. 1 pick in 1986.

      --The Warriors lost 18 games over the course of the regular season and playoffs but in the end it was one game – the seventh and deciding game of the NBA Finals on Sunday – that shifted Golden State's trajectory.

      But owner Joe Lacob is ready to win the offseason, a detour route back to a second title that appears to include courting Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star Kevin Durant.

      "I will be very aggressive," Lacob said Sunday night in the aftermath of the Game 7 loss.

      Durant can be offered a four-year deal or choose to take the higher-risk route with a potential monster reward next summer by opting for a one-year deal with a player option, the route that has helped LeBron James cash $22 million-$25 million annual salaries while maintaining the leverage over the team in the event things head south.

  • Nowitzki will be an unrestricted free agent July 1
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, June 21, 2016

    Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 after opting out of his contract on Tuesday.

    • Nowitzki, who just turned 38 on Sunday, had a Wednesday deadline to opt out and become a free agent or play next season for $8.7 million.

      The prevailing thought is that Nowitzki will remain with the Mavericks, although there is some thought that the Golden State Warriors might make a run at the future hall of famer.

      Nowtizki has spent his entire illustrious 18-year career with the Mavericks. The 13-time All-Star selection has one MVP award and one NBA Finals MVP trophy under his belt.

      He is sixth on the NBA's all-time scoring list with 29,491 career points and is taking aim at passing Wilt Chamberlain during the 2017-18 season.

  • Afflalo, Williams opt out giving Knicks $30M in cap space
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, June 21, 2016

    The New York Knicks should be well under the salary cap when it comes time to start spending money in free agency on July 1.

    • On Tuesday, forwards Arron Afflalo and Derrick Williams said they would opt out of their contracts and test free agency. That should give the Knicks more than $30 million in cap space, according to reports.

      Williams, 25, came off the bench in 71 games and started nine for the Knicks this past season. He averaged 9.3 points and 3.7 rebounds in 17.9 minutes per game this season.

      Williams was a top prospect coming out of Arizona in 2011. That year, Cleveland had the No. 1 pick and considered drafting Williams. Instead, the Cavaliers selected Kyrie Irving out of Duke.

      Afflalo signed with the Knicks last summer, but was benched midway through the season and replaced by Sasha Vujacic.

      Afflalo averaged 12.8 points on 44.3 percent shooting, but feuded with head coach Kurt Rambis. With Rambis gone and new coach Jeff Hornacek taking over, there had been hope that Afflalo might remain in the Big Apple.

  • Cleveland gets ready for championship parade
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, June 21, 2016

    A parade 52 years in the making will finally take place Wednesday in Cleveland.

    • Fresh off their Game 7 win over Golden State, the world champion Cavaliers will be the toast of the town and honored during festivities that begin at 11 a.m. at Quicken Loans Arena in downtown Cleveland.

      The city of Cleveland has released the parade route, which will pass the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, and issued warnings to fans that a number of streets will be closed.

      The parade is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of championship-starved Cleveland fans. The Cavaliers' title is the first for the city since the 1964 Jim Brown-led Browns won the NFL Championship.

      The parade will feature more than 60 units including floats, specialty vehicles, The Ohio State University Marching Band and LeBron James and his teammates.

  • Simmons works out for 76ers
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, June 21, 2016

    Ben Simmons, the likely No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft on Thursday, participated in his first workout for any team this week when he met with officials from the Philadelphia 76ers.

    • Simmons, a 6-10 forward from LSU who played one season in Baton Rouge, had declined a previous request to work out for the 76ers, who won 10 games last season and finished 34 games out of playoff contention in the Eastern Conference.

      Simmons provided his medical records and other background information at the meeting first reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer.

      Simmons would be the second player drafted first overall by the 76ers. Philadelphia drafted Allen Iverson No. 1 in 1996. The 76ers traded away the No. 1 pick in 1986.

      The Los Angeles Lakers hold the second pick in the draft and are expected to select Duke forward Brandon Ingram. The Boston Celtics have the third pick and Phoenix picks fourth.

  • Warriors gear up for run at Durant
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, June 21, 2016

    The Warriors lost 18 games over the course of the regular season and playoffs but in the end it was one game – the seventh and deciding game of the NBA Finals on Sunday – that shifted Golden State's trajectory.

    • With the 93-89 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Warriors fell short of repeating as NBA champions and dampened the glory achieved with a regular-season record 79 victories.

      But owner Joe Lacob is ready to win the offseason, a detour route back to a second title that appears to include courting Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star Kevin Durant.

      "I will be very aggressive," Lacob said Sunday night in the aftermath of the Game 7 loss.

      For Durant's part, he reportedly toured real estate options during a Super Bowl eve visit to the Bay Area and had his mother do the same. Then again, Durant downplayed the housing peeks in the Bay and other areas, including San Antonio.

      Durant can be offered a four-year deal or choose to take the higher-risk route with a potential monster reward next summer by opting for a one-year deal with a player option, the route that has helped LeBron James cash $22 million-$25 million annual salaries while maintaining the leverage over the team in the event things head south.

      Durant said this week "I just want to hoop" and implied his decision would be solely about basketball. And winning.

      The Warriors can find the financial meets to add Durant even with Klay Thompson and Steph Curry on the roster. But what will that roster look like by the time the dust settles in free agency in July?

      Golden State has eight free agents, headlined by starter Harrison Barnes, a restricted free agent.

      Next summer is a bigger one with Curry's deal expiring at the same time Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and Andrew Bogut hit free agency.

      The reset of Golden State's core could be massive and instantaneous if Durant picks the Warriors.

      It's feasible Curry and Durant would mutually agree to take less salary but next summer the definition of "max contract" changes with labor negotiations that might all but eliminate the idea. For certain, "max" deals will reach a new stratosphere in 2017.

      For the lineup the Warriors use, with Draymond Green (who signed a four-year, $73 million deal in July 2015) at center, Durant could be the "stretch four" coach Steve Kerr prefers, requiring defenses to sweat every square inch of the perimeter.

      For now it's only a mirage, but Lacob is determined to win, and that includes July.

  • NBA notebook: Cavs get hero's welcome
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, June 20, 2016

    The NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers are back home, sparking a party atmosphere after bringing the first championship to the city in over half a century.

    • The Cavs made history Sunday night, beating the Golden State Warriors 93-89 in Game 7 after being down 3-1 in the series.

      More than 20,000 fans greeted the team at the IX Center next to the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and when unanimous Finals MVP LeBron James emerged from the plane with the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy in hand, the crowd went crazy.

      James, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words "Ultimate Warrior," hoisted up the trophy with both hands.

      "Cleveland!" James yelled into the microphone as confetti flew across the parking lot.

      James paraded the championship trophy around the perimeter of a fence that separated the team charter jet from the fans, who wanted a closer look at their superstar.

      The fans screamed as James, Kevin Love, a shirtless J.R. Smith and Kyrie Irving made their way off the plane with Queen's "We are the Champions" blaring over the speakers.

      --The celebration for the 2016 NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers continues with a downtown parade on Wednesday.

      The Cavs returned home with the Larry O'Brien Trophy and received a hero's welcome when they stepped off the plane in Cleveland on Monday afternoon. More than 20,000 fans greeted the team.

      The Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors 93-89 in Game 7 of the NBA Finals in historic fashion on Sunday night, ending the city's 52-year championship drought.

      ---President Barack Obama stayed aboard Air Force One to watch the final minutes of Game 7 after landing at Joint Base Andrews on Sunday night, according to ESPN.com.

      The First Family was returning from Yosemite Valley, Calif., after a trip to Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico and Yosemite National Park in California.

      Air Force One touched down at Andrews at 10:19 p.m. ET, with less than two minutes remaining in the deciding game.

      At 10:37 p.m., moments after James and the Cavaliers finally brought a championship home to Cleveland, President Obama, a huge basketball fan, jogged down the steps of Air Force One followed by his daughters Malia and Sasha, and First Lady Michelle Obama.

      --The Cleveland Cavaliers' dramatic Game 7 victory over the Golden State Warriors was the highest-rated NBA game ever on ABC.

      Game 7 had an 18.9 overnight rating, according to Nielsen. The telecast peaked with a 25.5 overnight rating from 10:30-10:45 p.m. ET.

      The Cavs' title win delivered a 46.3 in the Cleveland market, making it the second-highest rated NBA game ever in the market. In San Francisco, the game generated a 39.4 rating, which also ranks second all-time for an NBA game.

      About 30.8 million viewers watched Game 7, making it the most-watched NBA game since Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, according to Fast Nationals from Nielsen. ABC's Game 7 viewership peaked with 44.5 million viewers from 10:30-10:40 p.m. ET.

      --Scottie Pippen didn't waste any time after the Golden State Warriors' stunning loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, declaring their failure to win a championship in Game 7 means the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls are the greatest NBA team ever.

      The 2015-16 Warriors eclipsed the Bulls' record with their 73-win regular season, but the Cavs beat the defending champion Warriors 93-89 on Sunday night to end a 52-year major sports championship drought in Cleveland.

      Pippen was asked during an interview on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike" show on Monday who the greatest team in NBA history was after the Cavaliers rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to defeat the Warriors and win the NBA Finals in seven games.

      "The 1995-96 Bulls," Pippen said. "We live on."

      Dennis Rodman, another member of the 1995-96 Bulls team, expressed a similar sentiment on Twitter: "Congrats @cavs for winning @NBA title. @warriors u had a great regular season. But the greatest team of all time is the 95-96 @chicagobulls."

  • Champion Cavs touch down in Cleveland, greeted by 20,000 fans
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, June 20, 2016

    The NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers are back home, sparking a party atmosphere after bringing the first championship to the city in over half a century.

    • The Cavs made history Sunday night, beating the Golden State Warriors 93-89 in Game 7 after being down 3-1 in the series.

      More than 20,000 fans greeted the team at the IX Center next to the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and when unanimous Finals MVP LeBron James emerged from the plane with the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy in hand, the crowd went crazy.

      James, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words "Ultimate Warrior," hoisted up the trophy with both hands.

      "Cleveland!" James yelled into the microphone as confetti flew across the parking lot.

      James paraded the championship trophy around the perimeter of a fence that separated the team charter jet from the fans, who wanted a closer look at their superstar.

      The fans screamed as James, Kevin Love, a shirtless J.R. Smith and Kyrie Irving made their way off the plane with Queen's "We are the Champions" blaring over the speakers.

      James said after the game that he couldn't wait to get back to Cleveland after his 27-point, 11-rebound, 11-assist, three-block performance at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif.

      "I'm coming home with what I said I was going to do," James said Sunday night at the postgame press conference, flanked by his three children on Father's Day. "I can't wait to get off that plane, hold that trophy up and see all our fans at the terminal."

      The celebration will continue with the team's parade in downtown Cleveland on Wednesday.

      The Cavs captured the first major sports title in Cleveland since Dec. 27, 1964, when Jim Brown led the Browns over the Baltimore Colts 27-0 in the NFL championship game.

      "The drought is over," Brown told ESPN's The Undefeated Sunday night from his home in Los Angeles. "I'm so proud of LeBron. It was great to see that kind of courage, dedication and teamwork. And to be led by LeBron James to a historic championship for a great city of fans who have stayed loyal for all these years is really wonderful."

      The 80-year-old Brown said he was always confident Cleveland would see another title in his lifetime.

      "I knew we'd see it again because for it not to happen fans would have to stop going to games," Brown said. "And these fans are not going to give up. If these fans don't give up, how can the players give up? These fans will remind you how long it's been since we won it last, and LeBron rode that wave and went to another level. The level that he went to was unprecedented. He gave everything he had to make this happen."