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Durant leads Thunder to victory over 76ers

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PHILADELPHIA — NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant received an unwanted night off Friday.

On Saturday, Oklahoma City’s star forward went right back to work, scoring 32 points in the Thunder’s 103-91 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, and adding 14 rebounds and 10 assists for his second triple-double of the season, and the fifth of his career.

Durant, who missed Friday night’s victory in Boston with a sprained right shoulder, is just the sixth NBA player since 1990 to fashion a 30-point-plus streak of 10 games or more. He shot 12-for-17 from the floor, as the Western Conference-leading Thunder (35-10) won its seventh straight.

“I felt like I was out for so long, even though it was one game,” he said. “I hate sitting out, but it was best for me and my shoulder.”

He said the shoulder was “a little stiff” to start the game, but was not a serious hindrance. He did say, however, that he did not want to take too many outside shots. He was 1-for-4 from 3-point range.

“My teammates kept feeding me and putting me in some positions to be successful,” he said.

Which is nothing new, as far as Thunder coach Scott Brooks is concerned.

“He has bounce in his step just about all the time,” Brooks said, “and that’s the beauty of our team and Kevin Durant. He loves the game. He’s always going to find enough energy to put us in a position to win a game. I thought tonight, (his) all-around game was fantastic. Having a triple-double after he came with a sore shoulder is remarkable on his part.”

Sixers coach Brett Brown actually thought his team did “a pretty good job” on Durant, to no avail.

“Everybody’s scared because he’s Kevin Durant and he scores in such a variety of ways,” Brown said. “He is the NBA’s hottest player. He’s always been an incredibly difficult guard. … You blink and he’s got a triple-double.”

The Thunder, which also received a 25-point, 11-rebound, five-block performance from forward Serge Ibaka, has now had three winning streaks of at least seven games this season.

Oklahoma City, which played its 17th straight game without guard Russell Westbrook (knee surgery), has also beaten Philadelphia nine straight times, and has won 12 straight road games against Eastern Conference opponents. Overall, the Thunder is 13-2 against the East this season.

“You’re going to have to do a lot of things right to beat that team, with or without Russell Westbrook, especially with the stage of our program,” Brown said. “They’re a really good example for us, given where they have come from.”

Guard/forward James Anderson had 19 points to lead the Sixers (14-30), who lost for the fifth time in six games. They have also dropped nine of their last 11 at home.

Guard/forward Evan Turner and center Spencer Hawes added 15 and 14 points, respectively, and forward Thaddeus Young contributed 13, along with 10 rebounds and eight steals.

Oklahoma City built a 13-point lead early in the third quarter, only to see Philadelphia reel off nine straight points, the first seven of those by Hawes, to cut the gap to 69-65.

But the Thunder scored 10 of the next 14 points, the last two of those when Durant scooped up a loose ball and went the length of the court for a dunk to reach the 30-point plateau. That left OKC with a 79-69 advantage. By quarter’s end, they were up by 12 at 83-71.

The Sixers drew no closer than eight in the fourth quarter. The only drama at that point was whether Durant would pick up his 10th assist to complete the triple-double. It came when he fed center/forward Nick Collison for a jumper from the right wing with 4:54 left.

Ibaka made his first five shots as the Thunder moved to a 19-13 lead early in the game, but Turner crammed six points into the final 1:43 of the quarter, enabling the Sixers to forge a 26-26 tie.

Then Durant went to work in the second period. There was a fadeaway jumper from the left baseline, a dunk and later a layup, another slam and a 3-pointer from the top of the circle, over guard Michael Carter-Williams. Just like that, Oklahoma City had forged a 43-34 lead.

Durant had 11 points in the quarter and 18 in the half, which ended with the Thunder on top, 53-44. Ibaka shot 8-for-9 and scored 16 points, with seven rebounds and five blocks. Durant also grabbed seven boards in the half.

Durant and guard Thabo Sefolosha then scored six points each in the opening minutes of the third quarter — Sefolosha on a pair of 3-pointers — as OKC moved to a 67-54 advantage.

NOTES: Thunder coach Scott Brooks said before tipoff that the overall excellence of G-F Kevin Durant has been overlooked during his hot streak. “I’m proud that he’s done it on the defensive end, and also in the passing department,” Brooks said. “He can score, like a lot of guys in this league can score, but what makes him a special player is that he wants his teammates to score and he wants to stop the other team from scoring.” … Brooks is also impressed by the development of Sixers G Michael Carter-Williams. “He’s very good, very crafty,” Brooks said. “It seems like he’s been in the league for five or six years. He plays with poise out there. He’s very active defensively. He’s active with long arms. He gets in the passing lanes. And he’s a better shooter than I thought.” … Sixers G Tony Wroten returned after missing the three previous games with a sprained right ankle. He scored nine points in 16:32.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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NBA Trade Rumors: Bradley Beal never requested a trade, remains committed to Wizards

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This NBA offseason has been a frustrating one for some die-hard fans, especially Washington Wizards‘ fans. On June 18, 2021, news broke concerning shooting guard Bradley Beal announcing his commitment to play for the USA Basketball Men’s National Team. A few weeks ago, it was reported by USA Basketball that Beal would not play in the Tokyo Olympics. And, this was because the 28-year-old three-time NBA All-Star had to enter the COVID-19 health and safety protocols. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Missouri native.

In an interview published by CBS Sports on July 15, 2021, regarding the chance to play for USA Basketball, Beal told CBS’ Michael Kaskey-Blomain, “It’s an honor. It’s something that you take for granted. Not a lot of guys in the league get this opportunity. We all know that. We didn’t live up to what we wanted to a few years ago (in the 2019 FIBA World Cup), and so now we have an opportunity to get back what’s rightfully ours.”

In 2010, Beal won the FIBA-Under 17 World Cup MVP. Though, everyone can see his passion for basketball. Needless to say, it is an awful experience for any athlete to have to bow out of the Olympics. In addition to this unfortunate news, there is all kinds of speculation across the Internet concerning Beal’s future with the Wizards. From Boston.com, it was reported two days ago that Beal would welcome a trade if he was moved to the Boston Celtics. The report also included three other teams: Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat, and Philadelphia 76ers. This latest news information was originally reported by Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer. Last Saturday, Fischer stated, “Boston’s path to securing Beal would appear far more costly, as the Celtics’ offer almost certainly has to include Jaylen Brown and all of their future draft picks they are able to part with.”

Although the report could still be accurate, many fans are asking for more evidence to help support this claim. This is Beal’s team; he was drafted by Washington third overall in the 2012 NBA Draft. Would the Wizards be wiling to trade their star player for Jaylen Brown and potential future draft picks? This remains to be seen. Plus, everyone should keep in mind that although Beal was open to a trade, at least he never demanded an immediate trade. The latest news is likely just trade rumors and meaningless gossip.

Moreover, the 2020-21 Wizards finished 34-38 (.472), ranking third in the Southeast Division and eighth overall in the Eastern Conference. The team lost four games to one in the first round of the postseason against the 76ers. The Wizards have not appeared in the NBA Finals since the 1978-79 season, and they have not won the championship since the 1977-78 season, when they defeated the Seattle Supersonics in Game 7 105-99. Not to mention, the Wizards were called the Bullets back then.

After the season ended, the organization agreed to part ways with head coach Scott Brooks. Perhaps Coach Brooks leaving the team is leading Beal to ask more questions about his own future. According to one report by NBC’s Pro Basketball Talk, Beal was irked over the organization hiring Wes Unseld Jr. over Sam Cassell for the vacant head coach position. How much does this play into trade talks?

Well, we all know that Beal is a competitive player, so three consecutive losing seasons by Washington might not be cutting it for him. Then again, a great player should be willing to give a new coach a chance. Last season, in 60 games played, the six-foot-three guard averaged 31.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game. The 9-year NBA veteran also shot 48.5 percent from the field and 34.9 percent from beyond the arc. In the 2021 All-Star Game, in 31 minutes played, Beal scored 26 points.

On October 17, 2019, Beal signed a two-year, $72 million extension with Washington. He earned $28.7 million this past season, and he will earn $34.5 million in the upcoming 2021-22 season. Beal’s player option for the 2022-23 season is also $37.2 million. So, folks should keep in mind that Beal is still showing his loyalty to the Wizards. He is only considering a trade request before the draft. The key word here is “considering.” Having said this, not even LeBron James is safe from a trade in this league. Ok, maybe only James is safe.

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Grizzlies trade Jonas Valanciunas to Pelicans for Eric Bledsoe, Steven Adams

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According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Andrew Lopez, the New Orleans Pelicans are shipping guard Eric Bledsoe, center Steven Adams, the Nos. 10 and 40 picks of the 2021 NBA Draft, and two future first-round picks to the Memphis Grizzlies for center Jonas Valanciunas and the Nos. 17 and 51 picks of this week’s upcoming draft. So, the Pelicans are giving up the Lakers’ 2022 first-round pick. Valanciunas, the 29-year-old veteran center, averaged 17.1 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game in 62 games played throughout the 2020-21 season. He also shot 59 percent from the field. The seven-foot Lithuanian also ranks fourth overall in true shooting percentage (.616) among active players. On July 11, 2019, Valanciunas signed a three-year, $45 million contract with the Grizzlies. He is set to earn $4 million next season.

Additionally, in 71 games played last season, Bledsoe averaged 12.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. The six-foot-one guard also shot 42.1 percent from the field in the 2020-21 season. On November 23, 2020, as part of a four-team trade, Bledsoe and Adams were traded to the Pelicans from the Oklahoma City Thunder, along with two future first-round picks and the right to swap two additional first-round picks. Last season, in 71 games played, Bledsoe averaged 12.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. His field goal percentage was 42.1 percent as well. The 11-year veteran is set to earn $18,125,000 in the 2021-22 season. Before he was traded to New Orleans, on March 4, 2019, the guard signed a four-year, $70 million extension. He earned his first All-Defensive second-team selection in the 2019-20 season.

Moreover, in 58 games played last season, Adams averaged 7.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. The six-foot-eleven center ranks fifth among active players for effective field goal shooting percentage (.591). The eight-year veteran also ranks third in offensive rebounding percentage, with an active statistic of 14 percent. On November 23, 2020, the same day Adams was traded to the Pelicans, he signed a two-year, $35 million extension. For next season, he is projected to earn $17,073,171. To add to this trade news, the Grizzlies and Pelicans are swapping second-round picks in this year’s draft, too. Referencing NBA.com’s “Consensus Mock Draft” article, with the No. 10 pick of the draft, the Pelicans were originally expected to draft either Josh Giddey or Davion Mitchell at this number. However, plans have now changed.

From ESPN’s Bobby Marks, the trade will not be finalized until August 6th, and this is because of the annual salaries of these said players. Free agency will begin on August 2, 6:00 p.m. (EST). Furthermore, per Spotrac’s 2021-22 NBA salary cap table, next season’s luxury tax threshold is $136,606,000. The team’s current available luxury tax space is $22,555,195. The Pelicans and Grizzlies have a salary cap maximum of $112,414,000. Brandon Ingram, Bledsoe, and Adams had a combined cap percentage of 39.2 percent. Considering that Bledsoe and Adams are traded away, this will clear up $35,198,171 of dead cap space.

Yesterday, CBS Sports reported the news pertaining to Lonzo Ball’s desire to remain in New Orleans. With extra cap space, the team is expected to re-sign the 23-year-old guard. Likewise, for the Grizzlies, the teams has a luxury tax space of $37,019,952. Their current cap space is $8,321,229. As stated before, the transactions have not yet been finalized. The Grizzlies’ outgoing cap is now $14 million, but from the contracts of Adams and Bledsoe, they are bringing in $35,198,171.

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NBA Trade Rumors: Jazz considering trade offers for Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Ingles, Royce O’Neale, and No. 30 pick of the 2021 NBA Draft

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Per one interesting announcement from Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, the Utah Jazz are open to trading forward Bojan Bogdanovic, forward-guard Joe Ingles, small forward Royce O’Neale, and the No. 30 pick of the 2021 NBA Draft. Fischer stated, “The Utah Jazz are known to be one of the few teams actually searching to move playoff-tested talent. Retaining Mike Conley is an offseason priority, sources said, and the Jazz have held numerous discussions with teams around the league about offloading salary to create for Conley in free agency.” Point guard Mike Conley is set to become a free agent this offseason. Though, general manager Justin Zanik will aim to re-sign the 33-year-old guard in the coming weeks. Conley earned $34.5 million in the 2020-21 season.

“League personnel most often mention Joe Ingles as the Jazz wing to watch, and Bojan Bogdanovic and Royce O’Neale are also considered available for trade as Utah narrows its focus towards building a contender around Donovan Mitchel. The Jazz are also open to discuss trading their No. 30 pick, sources said.” In the 2020-21 season, in 72 games played, Bogdanovic averaged 17 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. On May 1, 2021, in the team’s 106-102 victory over the Toronto Raptors, the six-foot-seven Croatian scored a season-high 34 points, shooting 12-for-22, and he finished his performance with four rebounds and four assists as well. On July 7, 2019, he signed a four-year, $73 million contract with the Jazz.

In 67 games played last season, Ingles averaged 12.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game. The six-foot-eight forward is set to earn $14 million in the 2021-22 season. Plus, among the mentioned players, Royce O’Neale has contributed the least. In 71 games played last season, he averaged seven points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.5 assists. On January 19, 2020, the forward signed a four-year, $36 million extension with the team. He will earn $8.6 million next season. According to The Athletic, in the team’s seventh workout for draft prospects, they viewed Quentin Grimes, David Duke, Matt Mitchell, and a few other players. In the first round, if the team chooses not to draft any of the players they are holding workouts for, the organization will trade the No. 30 pick.

Just for a reminder, retrieved from Spotrac, the 2021-22 NBA luxury tax threshold is $136,606,000. Utah’s active roster cap is $133,284,695, the maximum cap is $112,414,000, and the current cap space is $72,990,215. Furthermore, center Rudy Gobert currently has the highest guaranteed contract on the team. On December 20, 2020, Gobert signed a five-year, $205 million extension with the organization. Gobert is set to earn $35.3 million in the coming season, whereas Donovan Mitchell will earn $28.1 million. Gobert and Mitchell combined consume 47.6 percent of the team’s salary cap. For the upcoming 2021-22 season, the Jazz have a guaranteed total of $129,719,453. Based on the team’s future outlook, the Jazz will have to make a trade or two in order to retain their star players. This should go without saying.

NBA Analysis Network reported a few days ago that a potential Jazz-Knicks trade target is Bojan Bogdanovic. Greg Patuto proposed the Knicks receiving Bogdanovic, while the Jazz would receive Kevin Knox II, and the Nos. 19 and No. 32 picks of the 2021 NBA Draft. Now, this could still happen at some point during this draft week, but then again, sports bettors and fans alike understand that these news reports could be just rumors. The most intelligent, unforthcoming general managers know not to leave bread crumb trails for the media, especially leading into the offseason. They will do everything necessary to protect their foolproof plans.

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