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Grizzlies’ Conley says big contract won’t affect his play

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) The Memphis Grizzlies wanted to keep Mike Conley so much that they gave their veteran point guard the richest contract in NBA history.

For Conley, the basketball – and pressure – is in his court after signing a five-year, $153 million deal Thursday.

Conley’s play will be closely monitored during an upcoming season in which he will earn more than new Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant, a seven-time All-Star with four league scoring titles and an NBA Most Valuable Player award. Durant signed a two-year, $54.3 million deal.

Conley doesn’t expect the lucrative deal to affect his play.

“It’s amazing the opportunity I’ve been given,” Conley said. “As far as the pressure, it’s hard to really gauge that because I put pressure on myself to perform regardless. The amount of money I make is not going to change how I approach the game. I’m going to continue to be aggressive and do a lot better than I did last season and the season before.”

Conley, a 28-year-old point guard, has played nine seasons with the Grizzlies during which he has averaged 13.5 points and 5.6 assists. He led the Grizzlies to the 2013 Western Conference finals, the farthest the franchise has advanced in the postseason.

“I’ll take the heat right now (on being the highest-paid NBA player),” Conley said. “Eventually, it will all die down. Two years from now everybody else will be making so much more.”

In Conley’s non-All-Star selection defense, he has played in the Western Conference during his career with point guards Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Tony Parker and Steve Nash.

“He’s our All-Star,” said Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace. “He’s an elite point guard in this league. It’s unanimous around the league that he’s one of the top-tier players at his position, a very crucial position.”

At an on-court ceremony at FedExForum celebrating the signing, Conley announced he was donating $1 million to the Memphis Grizzlies Foundation, a nonprofit organization that aids at-risk youth in the community. The $1 million was matched by the franchise’s ownership group led by majority owner Robert Pera.

Conley used the press conference – also attended by Grizzlies MVP season-ticket holders – to address the recent tragedy in Dallas, where five policemen were killed by a lone gunman, and the nationwide protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I’m a quiet guy, I’m very reserved,” he said. “At the same time, as much as I want to lead by example, I know when it’s time to speak up. Right now is that time … It’s not about money, we have to be on the forefront to set examples for the kids. We need to become mentors for the youth.”

Conley has battled injuries the past few seasons and appeared in only 56 games last season because of an Achilles tendon injury. He hasn’t played more than 73 games in any of the past three seasons.

“I’ve concentrated solely on (staying healthy) during the offseason,” Conley said. “I want to be healthy. I want to be able to be here every night and give everything I’ve got. I’m doing everything I can to be able to do that.”

Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans, who has been an All-Star selection, had the previous richest contract in league history when he signed a five-year deal last year worth approximately $145 million.

Others who have signed max contracts without All-Star game appearances include the Wizards’ Bradley Beal, Utah’s Gordon Hayward and Oklahoma City’s Enes Kanter. Beal signed a $128 million deal this offseason. Utah matched an offer sheet from Charlotte for Hayward worth $63 million for four years in 2014, while Oklahoma City matched Portland’s max four-year deal for Kanter last summer for $70 million.

“We’re in the era of the point guard,” Wallace said. “There’s probably never been a greater collection. But we know Mike’s value.

“We have nine years invested in him. And he’s just gotten better and better. He’ll thrive in (new) coach (David) Fizdale’s offense. We never gave a second thought other than doing what it took to get him.”

LA Clippers sign draft pick Diamond Stone

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LOS ANGELES (AP) The Los Angeles Clippers signed center Diamond Stone, their 40th overall pick in this year’s draft, on Thursday.

He averaged 12.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in his only season at Maryland, where the 6-foot-11 center set the school freshman record with 39 points against Penn State on Dec. 30, 2015.

Stone averaged 10.4 points and 5.6 rebounds in five games with the Clippers’ team in the Orlando Summer League.

Earlier this week, the team signed forward Brice Johnson, the 25th overall draft pick, and free agent center-forward Marreese Speights.

Report: Clippers near deal to send C.J. Wilcox to Magic for Devyn Marble, pick

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We have a trade.

Not one that matters outside who will sit on the end of which bench next season, but a trade nonetheless.

The Clippers and Magic are exchanging shooting guards who struggle to shoot, a trade broken by Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel.

The Magic get C.J Wilcox, who has played just 268 minutes across two seasons for the Clippers and bounced between the NBA and the D-League in that time. He is athletic, and he can shoot the three — he hit 38.4 percent from there last season — however, he shot a lot of long twos and hit just 39.8 percent on his shots inside the arc. Because of his athleticism there is a chance he could develop into an end-of-the-rotation guy. Maybe he gets the run to show off what he can do in Orlando.

Devyn Marble got in just 28 games for the Magic last season, and considering he’ll be behind J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford in the rotation he’s not going to get a lot of run with the Clippers, either. Marble took 45 percent of his shots from three last season and hit just 25 percent of them. He had a woeful True Shooting Percentage of 38.6 percent.

The Clippers probably wanted the future pick more than anything in this deal.

Lakers Larry Nance Jr. fractures hand in fall at Summer League

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Hey Isiah Thomas, this is why you don’t need to push guys to keep playing in Summer League.

In the final minute of a decided game, promising young Laker forward Larry Nance Jr. took a pass in transition and went up for the lay-up, colliding with the Cavaliers defender trying to draw a charge. Nance went down and hit the ground hard.

Nance has suffered a probable hand fracture, the Lakers confirmed, adding that he will see a specialist in Los Angeles on Friday. Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times had more details.

Fractures to the metacarpal are often called “boxers’ fractures.” The real question out of the evaluation is whether or not Nance will need surgery because that will determine how long he is out. If he does need surgery he will likely miss at least part of training camp, and very possibly the start of the season. Blake Griffin missed three months after surgery last season because of a boxers’ fracture.

Nance averaged 5.5 points and 5 rebounds a game for the Lakers last season, showing promise as a rookie forward. At Summer League he averaged 8 points and 7 boards a game, shooting just 44.4 percent.

Warriors reach deal to bring Anderson Varejao back

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Anderson Varejao‘s game took a step back last season — both when he played for Cleveland and with the Warriors. At the heart of the problem was the 33-year-old center’s shooting — a season before he had a very good 58 percent true shooting percentage that fell to a well below average 47.3 percent on the year. When Andrew Bogut went down in the Finals, Warriors coach Steve Kerr tried to lean more on Varejao, but he wasn’t able to fill those shoes.

Still, the Warriors are bringing him back, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Varejao’s agency has since confirmed that the deal is signed.

The contract is likely for the league minimum.

With Bogut gone, Zaza Pachulia will be the primary traditional center for the Warriors — who will play small a lot more with Kevin Durant at the four and Draymond Green at the five — so there will be limited backup center minutes. Which is good, because Varejao may be the second best backup center they have and he is no longer a replacement level player.