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Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Warriors win ESPYS

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Russell Westbrook won best male athlete at The ESPYS.

Westbook was the NBA MVP, led the league in scoring and set a record for most triple-doubles in a season with 42. The Oklahoma City Thunder star won the trophy over Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs, Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps.

“It’s been an unbelievable journey for me,” said Westbrook, a fashion fiend who adjusted his black shirt and green pants with wide white stripes before he spoke. “I want to make sure I look good first.”

LeBron James, a five-time winner last year, was named best NBA player.Β The NBA champion Golden State Warriors earned best team honors, while Warriors newcomer Kevin Durant received the championship performance trophy.

“It was an unbelievable year,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “A lot of noise and hype around it from the beginning of the year, but we tried to keep our head down and focus on the process. Hope to represent exactly what a team means.”

The 25th annual show honoring the past year’s top athletes and sports moments was hosted by Peyton Manning, who humorously mocked his reputation as a control freak and an overexposed commercial pitchman in the retired NFL quarterback’s opening monologue.

Olympic gymnast Simone Biles earned best female athlete honors Wednesday night.

Biles became the most decorated U.S. Olympic gymnast at the Rio de Janeiro Games, winning five medals, including four golds and a bronze. She beat out Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky, WNBA star Candace Parker and Serena Williams for the honor.

“Ever since Rio it has been an amazing year,” Biles said. “I want to thank you all for believing in me.”

She was one of three double winners. Biles also won best female Olympic athlete.

Phelps won record-setting performance for extending his record Olympic medal haul and as best male Olympic athlete.

Aaron Rodgers won best NFL player and shared best play with then-Green Bay Packers teammate Jared Cook. Another Packer, Jordy Nelson, earned best comeback honors.

The biggest ovation of the night belonged to former first lady Michelle Obama, who posthumously honored Eunice Kennedy Shriver with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for championing the rights and acceptance of people with intellectual disabilities through her founding of Special Olympics. Her son, Tim Shriver, accepted the trophy.

“Once a great first lady, still a great first lady,” Shriver told Obama as the crowd roared its approval.

The Patriots and Falcons shared the best-game award for the Super Bowl, won in a furious comeback by New England.

Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels won best MLB player, while Crosby won best NHL player.

The show’s most bizarre bit involved Bill Murray accepting the best moment award for the Chicago Cubs’ World Series victory that ended a 108-year championship drought.

Wearing a red party hat on top of a backward Cubs cap, Murray cracked, “One hundred eight years of waiting is hardly a moment. This is the culmination of 108 years of momentum by momentous men.”

The actor and comic plucked a bottle of champagne out of a mop bucket being pushed by retired Cubs catcher David Ross disguised as a janitor. Murray used a sword to open the bottle and took a swig. He gave presenter Nick Offerman a bottle to open with the sword, and the longtime Cubs fans toasted and drank.

Ross eventually shed his disguise and writhed on the stage mimicking moves from his “Dancing With the Stars” appearance. Ross opened his own champagne bottle with the sword and chugged as Cubs owner Tom Ricketts watched from the audience at Microsoft Theater. The trio then poured champagne on each other’s heads.

 

Actor Bryan Cranston presented the Icon Award to 89-year-old Vin Scully, who retired in October after a record 67 years broadcasting for the Dodgers.

“Hi everybody and a very pleasant good evening to you,” Scully said, drawing cheers at his signature greeting. “I hope you don’t mind, but I wanted to hear it one more time.”

Comedian Jon Stewart gave the Pat Tillman Award for Service to Air Force Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro for his strength through adversity and continued service to his country.

The Jimmy V Award for Perseverance was given to 15-year-old New Orleans Saints superfan Jarrius “JJ” Robertson, who is fighting a rare and chronic liver disease.

Danny Ainge unwittingly leaks Celtics’ draft pick on call with Terry Rozier during live show (video)

AP Photo/Bob Leverone
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Terry Rozier takes solace in how much Danny Ainge believes in him.

But I didn’t appreciate how deep their bond went.

Appearing on Bleacher Report’s live draft show, Rozier was asked to predict the Celtics’ No. 27 pick. So, Rozier called Ainge to ask. Shockingly, Ainge answered – with Boston on the clock. Almost certainly not knowing the call was public and live, Ainge revealed the likely selection:

Good thing the Celtics stuck with Robert Williams. That would have been extremely awkward otherwise.

As is, it was only a little awkward. Williams said today he doesn’t like to be called Bob.

Report: Rival teams expect Paul George to consider 1+1 contract with Thunder

AP Photo/Chris Szagola
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Paul George has openly stated the appeal of playing for his hometown Lakers. He has also openly stated the appeal of staying with the Thunder.

That has created significant confusion about his upcoming free agency.

Could George find a compromise outcome?

Marc Stein of The New York Times in his newsletter:

More than one rival team has suggested to me that they expect George to strongly consider a two-year deal with the Thunder at $30.3 million next season and $32.7 million in 2019-20 that includes a player option to return to free agency next summer.

This makes sense on paper.

A 1+1 contract would give George more time to determine whether he and Russell Westbrook can win together in Oklahoma City without getting stuck there long-term if they can’t. The Thunder were starting to put it together when Andre Roberson got hurt. Perhaps, Roberson getting healthy would swing Oklahoma City’s fortunes.

George would also be eligible for a higher max salary in two years – 35% of the salary cap, up from 30% if he signs now. So, a short-term contract would allow him to maximize his potential earnings.

But George said he wanted to sign somewhere long-term this summer. He also suffered an extremely gruesome leg injury just a few years ago. He might not want to bypass guaranteed money to gamble for a little more later.

Are these rival teams just looking at the general outlook for a player in George’s position without considering his specific circumstances? Or do they know something? George could have informed teams he might become available in 2019 or 2020 so they should prepare.

I’m skeptical this is more than speculation by opposing teams. But the possibility that they’re basing their expectations on inside information makes this worth monitoring.

Heartbreaking: Watch Mikal Bridges explain joy of joining hometown 76ers while they trade him to Suns (video)

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Mikal Bridges‘ mom jumped up, pumped her fists and screamed “Yes!” through her giant grin.

The 76ers – the organization she works for in human resources – had just drafted her son No. 10 overall. Bridges, a Philadelphia native who played at Villanova, seemed as if he’d stay home for his pro career.

Bridges:

She’s very, very excited. She’s been wanting this. She’s probably more excited than I am. She was about to cry and all that. She said she didn’t want to ruin her makeup, so she’d try to hold it in. But no, she’s very excited. I’m her only son. I’m a little mama’s boy. Her son is right there around the corner again, and it’s just really cool.

Except, as Bridges was talking, the 76ers were trading him to the Suns for No. 16 pick Zhaire Smith and the Heat’s unprotected 2021 first-rounder.

That extra pick carries major value. Even if you like Bridges much more than Smith – which I did, especially considering their fits in Philadelphia – that’s hard to pass up. The NBA is a business after all.

But it’s lamentable how this played out.

Kings GM Vlade Divac: ‘My team is a super team. Just young’

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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The Kings drafted Marvin Bagley No. 2 last night (seemingly for bad reasons, which doesn’t at all eliminate him from being the right pick but makes it less likely he is). He’ll join a young core also comprised of Bogdan Bogdanovic, De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere, Justin Jackson and Harry Giles.

That group excite you?

Kings general manager Vlade Divac isn’t reducing expectations.

Lina Washington of ABC 10:

To be fair, in 2012, the Warriors were coming off a 23-43 season with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson already on the roster and had just drafted Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes. Everyone would’ve laughed at calling Golden State a “super team, just young” then. But those four (plus Andre Iguodala) eventually led the Warriors to a championship.

But, really: Nah.

Entering the 2016-17 season, then-Knicks guard Derrick Rose said, “They’re saying us and Golden State are the super teams.” We mocked Rose relentlessly, and of course, the Warriors went 73-9 while New York finished just 32-50.

How long until Divac’s young super team reaches even 32-50?