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.

Khris Middleton dunks, Jimmy Butler can’t stop him (VIDEO)

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Khris Middleton has more expectations and more pressure on him after a breakout season in Milwaukee, followed by him getting him PAID this summer.

Well, he looked pretty good on this play against the Bulls, making the steal then throwing down despite Jimmy Butler‘s efforts to stop him.

Middleton finished with 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting for the Bucks. However, Butler had the last laugh as he went off for 23 points on 12 shots and led the Bulls to the (meaningless) preseason win.

Somebody looks comfortable: Paul George drops 20 in first quarter

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Paul George‘s first experience starting as a power forward was going up against Anthony Davis — not just one of the best power forwards in the game, one of the handful of best players in the game period. That didn’t go well for George, and he wasn’t happy about it.

His second experience was in another preseason game Tuesday, going up against the Pistons and their four, Ersan İlyasova. He’s not quite as intimidating.

George scored 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting, 4-of-5 on threes — and that was just the first quarter (you can see it all in the video above).

As we have said before, George at the four is not a bad call by the Pacers, but some of that depends on the matchup. On the nights the Pacers face Davis or Blake Griffin or LaMarcus Aldridge or Zach Randolph (or a handful of others) the Pacers’ coaching staff is going to have to adjust. But there are a lot of nights where George at the four is going to force the other team to adjust, and that will play into the Pacers’ hands.