Lonzo Ball working out on court with Brandon Ingram, Caldwell-Pope

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Lonzo Ball has been high profile this summer.

He’s leading the Lakers to the Summer League title. He — along with his father LaVar and the rest of the family — are the focus of a new “Ball in the Family” reality series streaming on Facebook. He’s even dropping some rhymes.

But he’s also in the gym daily getting his body and game ready for the season. He’s been working out with the other young player the Lakers hope is a cornerstone of their future, Brandon Ingram.

“Brandon’s in the gym every day and works extremely hard,” Ball told NBCSports.com. “I didn’t know he’s as vocal as he is. He definitely talks a lot. Speaking for myself, I definitely appreciate it, everything he does for the team. Like I said he’s in there every day so we’re just getting to know each other more and more as the days go on and I look forward to playing with him this year.”

Same is true of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a young two-way player the Lakers snapped up when the Pistons couldn’t reach a deal with him and moved on this summer.

“I have (worked out with him), I definitely like his game a lot,” Ball said. “he plays hard, and he plays on both sides of the ball. I like his game a lot, a true competitor… He plays defense but he’s a very capable scorer as well. Just based on my experience playing with him he’s great in transition, great athlete, and he can shoot.”

As for what Ball is focused on, it starts with getting stronger to be ready for the marathon grind of the NBA season.

“Strength, because I’m going against men every night,” Ball told NBC of what Luke Walton told him to work on after Summer League. “But the biggest thing on the court was probably ball screens, playing point guard ball screens is a big part of the game, especially in today’s game. So he definitely put a lot of emphasis on that.”

That’s in the halfcourt (and early in the clock, expect a lot of drag screens from the Lakers this year where a center trailing the transition play, such as Brook Lopez, stops out high and sets a screen for Ball). What the Lakers are really counting on from Ball is to change their style of play, as he did the Summer League team, by pushing the ball and making the Lakers a transition team.

The question is can Ball, who is not as gifted athletically as star point guards such as Russell Westbrook or John Wall, keep that up in the NBA.

“Luke Walton wants to play fast and I feel like the NBA is becoming a faster game every year,” Ball said. “The way I play, getting my teammates the ball, just doing whatever I can to help the team win. I feel like I’m different than the some of the point guards the NBA is used to, but I feel I can still be effective.”

In Summer League he didn’t pick up the team’s pace because he was fast up the court with the ball, but rather because he had his head up and passed the ball ahead to guys running the floor, which got Kyle Kuzma and others some easy buckets.

“From a young age that’s one of the first things my dad taught me, the ball always travels faster than a person,” Ball said. “I mean, I don’t find it necessary to dribble up the court if you can kick it ahead for an easier bucket. Especially in less time. So it just makes more sense to me to kick it up.”

In a couple of weeks, Ball will be kicking it up in Lakers training camp. The “Ball in the Family” cameras are not going to be following him there much, the reality show will focus more on him after practice and the Ball family life. What Ball wants people to see is what he has always seen — his father can be bombastic, but there’s much more to his personality.

“I think they’re already seeing it because I get a lot of feedback on the show, and a lot more people are seeing the person that he really is,” Ball said. “I’m happy for him, I’m happy people get to see the person I have known my whole life.”

Houston acquires 2025 2nd-round pick in eight-player trade with Thunder

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ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski described this as a “cap-centric deal”, since it helped the Thunder get around $10 million below the luxury tax, while Houston added a 2nd-round pick by taking on $1 million in cap space.

The Rockets acquired Derrick Favors, Ty Jerome, Moe Harkless, Theo Maledon and a protected 2025 2nd-round pick from the Hawks and sent David Nwaba, Sterling Brown, Trey Burke and Marquese Chriss to Oklahoma City.

The 2nd-rounder from Atlanta is protected 31-40, and it will become the second best 2026 2nd-round pick between the Mavericks, Thunder, and 76ers if it doesn’t convey in 2025.

A tweet from Jackson Gatlin of Locked On Rockets indicates that Houston will also receive $6.3 million in cash from the Thunder.

Previous reports indicated that Derrick Favors was unlikely to remain with the Thunder this season, while Ty Jerome wasn’t participating in training camp as his representatives worked with the team to find an exit strategy for him. Kelly Iko of The Athletic reported that Houston plans to waive Jerome. Harkless was traded for the third time this summer. He was dealt from Sacramento to Atlanta in July as part of the Kevin Huerter deal, and then was shipped to OKC for Vit Krejci earlier this week. Hopefully he’ll be able to settle in with Houston this season.

As he enters his seventh season, this will be the sixth team that Nwaba has suited up for. The journeyman has had a few solid seasons, including averaging 9.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.0 steals for Houston during the 2020-21 season. Among the players in the deal, he’s the most likely candidate to carve out a role on his new team next season.

Brown, Burke, and Chriss were already traded once this summer as part of the deal that said Christian Wood to Dallas. Now, they’ll be depth pieces in Oklahoma City if the team decides to keep them around.

Daily Thunder’s beat writer Brandon Rahbar pointed out that the trade wouldn’t have been possible without the Disabled Player Exception that the Thunder received because of Chet Holmgren’s injury.

Spurs’ Josh Primo out for preseason with left knee MCL sprain

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Josh Primo is going to get his chance this season. The Spurs are rebuilding — even Gregg Popovich says not to bet on them to win the title — and Primo, entering his second season (and still 19), is one of the most promising young players on their roster, someone with the chance to be part of whatever will be built in San Antonio the future. He just needs more experience.

Unfortunately, he’s going to start this season half a step behind after missing most of training camp due to a sprained left MCL, the team announced Thursday. He is expected to return in time for the season opener, according to the team.

Promo, the No. 12 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, got into 50 games for the Spurs last season and averaged 5.8 points a game but wasn’t very efficient with his shot yet. He also spent a lot of time in the G-League (but then had to miss this past Summer League due to COVID).

With Dejounte Murray now in Atlanta, there is not only a starting spot open but also opportunities to run the offense — Primo is going to get a chance to show what he can do with that. It’s just not going to be for a little while due to his knee sprain.

Anthony Davis ‘excited’ to be Lakers’ No.1 offensive option, LeBron pushing him to do it

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Is Anthony Davis a No.1 offensive option on a championship team?

The Lakers made a massive bet in trading for Davis — both in good young players and picks — that he could help them win a title now and be the bridge to the future post-LeBron James. Davis was everything the Lakers hoped in the bubble and did win them banner No. 17. However, he has not stayed healthy or consistently played up to that standard.

New Lakers coach Darvin Ham is betting on Davis again and is going to run more of the offense through him this season. LeBron James reportedly backs Ham up. Can Davis stay healthy, find that form again and look like that bridge to the future? If he can’t, the Lakers have to reconsider their post-LeBron plans. That’s why there is pressure on Davis this season.

Davis is excited to prove he is ready for the role, he told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. He added LeBron is pushing him to do it.

“I’m so excited that I’ve got goosebumps just thinking about this year,” Davis told Yahoo Sports this week. “I’m looking forward to a healthy year and doing what I know we can do.”…

Davis said James, 37, has been in his ear about taking over the reins of the team, while the rest of the roster would follow his lead.

The first step in Davis being that No.1 option: Staying healthy. He played 40 games last season and 36 the season before that. While some of that was due to fluke injuries, the history of Davis missing time is long.

When healthy, Davis is an unquestionably elite player — to use the bubble example, Davis was a defensive force in Orlando who knocked down midrange jumpers after facing up, averaging 27.7 points on a 66.5 true shooting percentage, plus grabbed 9.7 rebounds a game. That is the AD the Lakers need this season.

Which can be a lot of pressure, but Davis said he doesn’t feel that.

“But for me, I’m not putting any pressure on myself at all,” Davis said at media day. “I’m gonna go out there and play basketball, work hard, defend and do what the team needs to win basketball games. I’m not going to overthink and, you know, listen to what everybody else is saying and try to be this ‘whatever’ player they want me to be.”

“Whatever” the Lakers want Davis to be is the Top 10 player in the world he has shown for stretches in Los Angeles. If he can be consistent, that Davis helps the Lakers be more of a threat in the West. If Davis can’t be that guy, it could be another long season for Lakers nation.

 

Proud to be an American: 76ers’ Embiid officially becomes U.S. citizen

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Joel Embiid is an American citizen.

A native of Cameroon, Embiid said he was sworn in as a citizen two weeks ago in Philadelphia. The NBA scoring champion and Philadelphia 76ers All-Star center said his family – Embiid and his Brazilian girlfriend Anne de Paula have a young son – played a pivotal role in his decision.

“I’ve been here for a long time,” Embiid told The Associated Press Thursday at training camp at The Citadel. “My son is American. I felt like, I’m living here and it’s a blessing to be an American. So I said, why not?”

Embiid, who played college basketball for one season at Kansas, also has citizenship in France. He said it is way too early to think about which country he could potentially represent in international basketball.

The 28-year-old Embiid averaged a career-best 30.6 points in 68 games last season. The 7-footer also averaged 11.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists in helping Philadelphia reach the Eastern Conference semifinals for the second straight year. Embiid averaged 23.6 points and 10.7 rebounds in the postseason despite playing with hand and facial injuries.

Embiid had been announced as playing out of Kansas during pregame introductions at 76ers’ home games but switched around midseason last year as being introduced from Cameroon. He might try for a mouthful this season.

“We’re going to say Cameroon, American and French,” he said, laughing.