Gary Payton II finalizing deal with Portland Trail Blazers


Payton, who spent the past two seasons with the Golden State Warriors, is expected to join the Blazers on a three-year, $28 million deal, sources told ESPN’s Marc J. Spears. The Warriors offered Payton the taxpayer mid-level exception, sources told Spears.

Just as Payton has ties to the Bay Area — with his father, Hall of Fame guard Gary Payton, being born in Oakland — he also has a connection to Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. He grew up in Seattle while his father played for the Seattle Supersonics. Payton also attended and played at Oregon State for two years.

After bouncing around the league since his rookie season in 2016-17, Payton finally found a fit in Golden State that allowed his game to flourish.

Viewed as a point guard when he came out of college, Payton was used more as a forward, and sometimes even a center, with the Warriors as he spent most of his time in the dunker spot.

Payton’s primary role was as a lockdown defender, posting a defensive rating of 100 — good for 40th in the league and sixth-best amongst players who played around the same minute load.

He was successful in matchups against some of the league’s best big men, such as MVP Nikola Jokic, and the fact that he added a little more shooting to his offensive arsenal (35.8% from 3 on 1.7 attempts per game) made him a more well-rounded player.

Agents: New York Knicks, Jalen Brunson agree to 4-year, $104M deal

Free-agent guard Jalen Brunson has agreed to a four-year, $104 million deal with the New York Knicks, his agents Aaron Mintz and Sam Rose of CAA Basketball told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Thursday.

The deal includes a player option on the final season.

Brunson’s representatives contacted the Dallas Mavericks, his former team, on Thursday afternoon to inform them of the guard’s intentions to sign with the Knicks, sources said. A planned meeting was called off after the conversation.

Brunson’s departure from Dallas to New York has been widely anticipated for days, as the Knicks made a more lucrative offer for him to play a larger role for a franchise with which he has deep family ties, including the recent addition of his father, Rick Brunson, as an assistant coach.

Knicks president Leon Rose, who made a series of trades since draft night to create enough cap space to sign Brunson, is a prominent former player agent whose first client was Rick Brunson. He also represented Jalen Brunson at the beginning of his career. Rick Brunson’s recent hiring reunited him with Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau, for whom he also served as an assistant with the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves.

Brunson, 25, who is coming off a breakout season in which he averaged 16.3 points and 4.8 assists per game, intends to help revitalize a New York franchise that has not won a playoff series in the past nine seasons. New York’s only postseason appearance and winning campaign during that span was in 2020-21, Thibodeau’s first season as the Knicks’ head coach, when they went 41-31 before losing as the No. 4 seed to the Atlanta Hawks in the first round.

Brunson established himself as Dallas’ No. 2 option behind All-NBA guard Luka Doncic, his 2018 draft classmate, after joining the starting lineup on a full-time basis in December. Brunson helped lead the Mavericks to the Western Conference finals for the first time in 11 years, averaging 21.6 points per game during the playoffs. He exploded for 41- and 31-point performances in first-round victories over the Utah Jazz while Doncic was sidelined by a strained calf, a strong indication Brunson could thrive as a team’s primary playmaker.

“It’s a great fit [in Dallas], but at the end of the day, my son is no different than the next man,” Rick Brunson told ESPN during that first-round series. “You try to raise them the right way in terms of understanding the game, but everyone wants what Luka has. I don’t care who you are. Everyone wants that feeling of, ‘Hey, I can do this too.’ I don’t always think the grass is greener on the other side, but we’ll sit down this summer and go through all the pros and cons of staying here or going somewhere else.”

Mavericks governor Mark Cuban and general manager Nico Harrison ranked Brunson as the franchise’s top offseason priority in the wake of the playoff run, but Dallas’ confidence in keeping him steadily declined in the days leading to free agency.

Sources said the Mavericks were willing to give Brunson a five-year contract — which only Dallas can offer due to owning his Bird rights — that was comparable to the four-year, $85 million deal guard Fred VanVleet signed with the Toronto Raptors in 2020.

Brunson, an unrestricted free agent because the fourth season of his rookie deal was nonguaranteed instead of a team option, declined the Mavs’ offer of a four-year, $55.5 million contract extension after the trade deadline, when Dallas forward Dorian Finney-Smith signed an identical deal. By that point, Brunson was confident that he would make significantly more as a free agent.

Jalen Brunson had informed the Mavs in January that he was willing to sign the extension if it was offered then, Rick Brunson told ESPN during the playoffs. Dallas made the calculated decision to hold off on discussions until after the trade deadline, in case the Mavs had the opportunity to trade for a star, as an extension would have prevented Brunson from being eligible to be traded for six months.

Andre Drummond agrees to 2-year, $6.6 million deal with Chicago Bulls in NBA free agency, sources say

Free agent center Andre Drummond has agreed to a two-year, $6.6 million deal with the Chicago Bulls, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Thursday. The second year is a player option.

The 28-year-old big man had a strong second half for the Brooklyn Nets after being dealt just before the trade deadline as part of the package that sent James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Nets players and coaches expressed an appreciation for how hard Drummond played down low as he averaged 11.8 points and 10.3 rebounds in 24 regular-season games with Brooklyn.

Drummond became a reliable presence on the floor with the Nets and a popular presence off it because of his easy-going personality. While Brooklyn had a variety of center options on the roster, including young big man Nic Claxton and veteran LaMarcus Aldridge, it was Drummond whom Nets coach Steve Nash usually trusted for heavier minutes down the stretch last season.

Nets join list of recent superteams that never won a championship

When you’re putting together a championship contender, one rule is paramount — get the best talent you possibly can. You’ll be facing off against the best possible rosters your opponents can assemble, so it’s only logical that you should pack your own team full of stars. Sometimes, the stars align and you can even stack your roster with multiple Hall of Famers, thereby guaranteeing you a title.

Well, not quite. That’s what the Brooklyn Nets likely had in mind when they acquired Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in 2019, and then added James Harden in the latter part of the 2021 season. That’s three superstars, all of whom are likely bound for Springfield, Massachusetts, when they retire, and all of whom can take over games. Who could stop them? A lot of things, as it turns out — between injuries and off-court factors, the trio played only 16 games together (going 13-3, to be fair) before Harden was sent to the Philadelphia 76ers in a trade. The Nets were swept in the playoffs, and now Durant has requested a trade, while Irving’s future with the team is in flux.

If it makes Nets fans feel any better, it’s not even close to the first time a superteam has failed to win a title. Here are a few examples since the turn of the century.

Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal alone were a combination to be feared, but the Lakers decided to add Karl Malone and Gary Payton to further overwhelm other teams. It wasn’t a bad idea — the team finished first in the Pacific Division and third overall in the Western Conference and cruised through the playoffs, going 12-5 in the first three rounds. Unfortunately, the Lakers met up with a defensive juggernaut in the Detroit Pistons and lost 4-1 in the NBA Finals. Payton would be traded to the Boston Celtics and Malone would retire, making this superteam one-and-done.

Take Tom Brady, in all likelihood the greatest quarterback in NFL history. Pair him with Randy Moss, one of the top five wide receivers of all time. Then have a team full of names like Wes Welker, Rodney Harrison, Richard Seymour, Junior Seau, Vince Wilfork and Asante Samuel. The result? A 16-0 regular season, only the second time that’s happened in NFL history. Unfortunately for this team, its final record has a one in the loss column, as Eli Manning and the New York Giants beat the Patriots in one of the most thrilling Super Bowls of all time.

The modern Nets, of course, are not the first instance of Durant and Harden being on a team that didn’t quite make it. That dubious honor belongs to the Thunder, who shortly after moving to Oklahoma City drafted Harden to play alongside Durant and Russell Westbrook. The trio immediately began to dominate, and the Thunder improved every year until they made the NBA Finals in 2011-12. That series started off well, with the Thunder defeating the Heat at home in Game 1, but they lost four in a row after that. Harden was traded in the offseason after the team was unable to sign him to an extension.

One pitching ace is pretty great, but what happens when you have four? The Phillies were rocking a rotation of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, not to mention Ryan Howard and Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins in the lineup. That’s good for 102 wins and a league-lowest 529 runs allowed. They faced off against the St. Louis Cardinals in the division series, and while they ran out to a 2-1 lead in the first three games, St. Louis rallied back to force a Game 5. Skip Schumacher knocked in a run in the first inning against Halladay, and Chris Carpenter pitched a three-hit shutout. The Cardinals would end up winning the World Series.

One of the most exciting teams in NBA history, the Lob City Clippers looked to use their high-flying style of basketball to bring a non-Lakers title to Los Angeles. The acquisition of Chris Paul meant that Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan would have plenty of alley-oop opportunities — just ask poor Brandon Knight after Jordan threw down an all-time poster dunk on him. The Clippers were a very good team during Paul’s tenure, but fell apart in the playoffs — Lob City never advanced past the semifinals.

NBA players react to Kevin Durant’s trade request from the Brooklyn Nets

One of the biggest names in the NBA has made himself available hours before the new league year officially begins. Kevin Durant asked Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai to be traded from the franchise on Thursday, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, despite signing a four-year, $198 million max extension in August.

Durant’s teammate Kyrie Irving opted into his $36.5 million option with the team on Monday after failing to receive any sign-and-trade interest from teams other than the Los Angeles Lakers. Irving and Durant had not had any contact with the Nets since Irving opted into his deal on Monday.

Durant’s teammate Kyrie Irving opted into his $36.5 million option with the team on Monday after failing to receive any sign-and-trade interest from teams other than the Los Angeles Lakers. Irving and Durant had not had any contact with the Nets since Irving opted into his deal on Monday.

Durant averaged 29.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists this season but played just 55 games during the regular season as he recovered from an MCL injury. Irving played just 29 regular-season games after deciding not to get the COVID-19 vaccine, making him ineligible to play home games in New York.

News of Durant’s trade request put the NBA on alert, with many players taking to social media to react to the news.

MORE: All the latest free-agency buzz | Trade grades

Portland Trail Blazers player Jusuf Nurkic resurfaced a photoshopped image of Durant in a Blazers jersey alongside Damian Lillard, which Nurkic initially shared on Saturday.

Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid, whose former teammate Ben Simmons was traded to the Nets for James Harden, had a succinct response to the news.

Meanwhile, this 6-year-old Embiid tweet began making the rounds again after Thursday’s news.

If Durant wants to make a major career change, the Los Angeles Rams are reminding him of what he said about Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who just signed an extension that makes him the highest-paid non-quarterback in the NFL.

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