Evan Turner gets shoe deal with Chinese shoe company Li Ning

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Thumbnail image for Eturner_summer.jpgWalk into Foot Locker to pick up some shoes and Li Ning isn’t there among the Nikes and Adidas. But the company is almost as big.

Li Ning is the biggest China-based shoe and athletic apparel company, a power player in a booming market. They had $1.2 billion in sales last year, which is no Nike but is bigger than known American brands such as Under Armour. Li Ning wants to get into the competitive American market.

To that end they have celebrity endorsers, like Shaquille O’Neal and Baron Davis. Both big names, but also both guys closer to the end of their careers than the start, not guys who move a lot of product.

Evan Turner could change that.

Turner, the No. 2 overall pick of the Philadelphia 76ers, has signed a deal with Li Ning, according to CNBC’s sports business reporter Darren Rovell. This is the first time the company has signed a young player on the rise.

Turner will wear Li-Ning for his rookie season and will immediately appear in the company’s marketing. He will have his own signature shoe and apparel, which will be available globally, in his second year with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Li-Ning established a base for its US business in Portland, Ore., where it also has its flagship store. In order for the deal to really work out, Turner obviously has to be a star and the Li-Ning brand has to gain traction with consumers and retailers.

What makes this even more intriguing is that Turner’s agent is David Falk, who of course is responsible for establishing the greatest marketing deal of all time, Michael Jordan, Nike and the Air Jordan franchise.

It’s a bit of a risk by both sides. But if Turner takes off, Li Ning gets a boost and everybody wins. Well, except Nike, but they have won plenty.

Marc Gasol: If Grizzlies don’t share my goal of continued growth, we might have to revisit things

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The Grizzlies’ Grit & Grind era has ended.

Zach Randolph signed with the Kings, and Tony Allen appears likely to leave Memphis, too. The Grizzlies are prioritizing younger/cheaper players like Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans.

Marc Gasol via Ala Carta, as translated by HoopsHype:

I’m very ambitious and I’ve wanted Memphis to be a great franchise. We’ve grown a lot the last 6-7 years, but we have to keep growing. If this is not lined up, maybe we may have to revisit things.

Gasol has been loyal to Memphis, and his first wish is probably winning there. But Giannis Antetokounmpo put it well: Teams must also do right by their players. Gasol is 32 and doesn’t have much time in his prime left. I see why rebuilding wouldn’t interest him.

But what will he do about it if the Grizzlies don’t prioritize the present? They made their push last summer with a max contract for Chandler Parsons, but because Parsons can’t stay healthy, that deal only inhibits team growth.

Gasol is locked up for two more years before a player option. He doesn’t have much leverage. This is part of the reason LeBron James keeps signing short-term contracts. Gasol doesn’t have the same ability to steer his team in his desired direction

On the potentially bright side, rebuilding teams often don’t have much use for 32-year-olds guaranteed more than $72 million over the following three years. If the fit devolves, Memphis becomes more likely to trade him.

Celtics to retire Paul Pierce’s number after Cavaliers game in February

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The Celtics already said they’d retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34.

Now, we know when.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics announced today that they will retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34 after a mid-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Feb. 11

After? That’s apparently in response to a new rule that penalizes teams not ready to play after a 15-minute halftime. These ceremonies can drag on, and nobody wants to cut Pierce short. I wonder whether this will start a trend of number retirements coming after games.

DeMarcus Cousins on Confederate statues: ‘Take all them motherf—ers down’

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DeMarcus Cousins grew up in Alabama, played collegiately at Kentucky and now plays in New Orleans.

So, yeah, the Pelicans star has an opinion on Confederate statues.

Cousins, via TMZ:

“Take all them motherf*ckers down,” Cousins said … “Take ’em all down.”

These statues glorify people because they fought a war against the United States in the name of preserving the racist institution of slavery.

Not whom I want to honor, either.

Kevin Durant: Kyrie Irving-LeBron James situation ‘just a regular NBA problem’

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Kevin Durant knows something about star teammates not always getting along.

So, the Warriors forward is not freaking out about the disconnect between Kyrie Irving and LeBron James and Irving’s subsequent trade request.

Durant, via Chris Haynes of ESPN:

“It’s just a regular NBA problem, right? A lot of teams have gone through this before,” Durant told ESPN. “They’ll figure it out. That’s a great organization, a championship organization. They’ll figure it out.”

“It’s not the end of the world,” Durant said. “Both of those guys won a championship together. They love each other. If Kyrie wants to do something else, that’s on him. I’m sure whatever happens, it’ll work out for the best for both of them. But it’s just a normal NBA problem. It’s just two big stars that it’s happening to.”

Durant is definitely right in the larger sense. Teammates spat and requests trades more often than we realize. Remember, both Irving and the Cavaliers probably prefer this never became public.

But I’m not sure Cleveland will figure this out with the ease Durant suggests. David Griffin, who had proven so adept at putting out these fires, is gone. LeBron’s free agency looms. This could be extremely destructive to the Cavs.

The fact that this “regular NBA problem” became public only intensifies it – and raises it something greater.