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Puma signs likely No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton, hires Jay-Z

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When it was announced that likely top-three pick Marvin Bagley III signed a shoe endorsement deal with PUMA, we noted that they were going all in and spending big (Bagley’s contract is about three times the average high draft pick first shoe deal).

We didn’t know the half of it.

On Monday word came the German-based shoe manufacturer had also inked a deal with likely No. 1 pick DeAndre Ayton, had signed their original endorser Walt “Clyde” Frazier to a lifetime deal, and hired Jay-Z to help with the branding and on the business side.

That’s a heck of a day. And a massive commitment to the market.

Winning over people to buy PUMA basketball shoes is going to take a few things (including making great shoes), but getting high-profile endorsers is part of it. Ayton can potentially be that for them, a global brand ambassador.

Nick DePaula of ESPN broke the Ayton news and had details from the player himself.

For Ayton, there was plenty of interest in pursuing a shoe deal with Puma, although the brand has been out of the basketball landscape for 20 years since signing Vince Carter in 1998. Ayton shares a connection to two of its biggest ambassadors, Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt of Jamaica and pop star Rihanna of Barbados, after growing up in the Caribbean.

“Puma is pretty popular in the Bahamas,” Ayton said. “I’ve always seen the brand growing up. [Bolt] is one of the first people I saw with the brand. It’s important to me that someone I identify with and admire as an athlete is with the same brand.”

PUMA also reached an endorsement deal with NBA rookie to be Zhaire Smith.

Going old-school with Frazier was a classy touch.

But the surprise news was the partnership with Jay-Z and his Roc Nation organization. Complex had the story.

On top of that, Jay-Z has joined as the company’s president of basketball operations. “We’ve been working with Roc Nation for quite some time. They’ve been great partners to us for several years. We’ve done many different deals with many different ambassadors,” Adam Petrick, Puma’s global director of brand and marketing, told Complex. When Puma approached him about this opportunity, Jay-Z felt it “was something he wanted to be a part of,” according to Petrick.

Hov will have a hand in the players selected to join Puma’s basketball division, as well as assist in the art design and overall concept and direction of the brand.

Will this work?

Maybe, despite Nike’s stranglehold on the basketball shoe market (through the Jordan brand as well as endorsers such as LeBron James and Kevin Durant), there is room to get a foothold in the space. However, this needs to be a long-term commitment from PUMA where they not only design quality products but keep doing it for years and years. It’s one thing to maybe buy a pair of retro low-top Clydes to wear around, it’s another to get people to change the shoes the play in. People trust Nike and their products (and, to a lesser extent, Adidas and UnderArmor). PUMA has a lot of work to do to earn that level of respect.

But you can’t fault them for coming back with a big splash.

Report: Kawhi Leonard’s Raptors physical scheduled for today

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The Spurs agreed to trade Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to the Raptors for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected first-round pick.

But the deal isn’t official until everyone involved passes their physicals.

All eyes turn to Leonard, who missed 73 games last season with a hip injury. Will he, presumably testing with Green, pass?

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:

The pair are scheduled to appear in Toronto on Friday for physicals.

I expect Leonard to pass.

The Raptors have complete discretion, and they knew they were trading for a risk – both in terms of Leonard’s impending free agency and health. After DeMar DeRozan’s reaction would Toronto really undo this trade and bring him back?

Concerns about Leonard’s hip seem to be more about his ability to recover from regular usage and long-term soundness. I’m not sure either would show up in a single-day examination.

Leonard was cleared medically months ago, and he was reportedly considering playing in Team USA’s minicamp next week. He seems ready to go – at least to pass a physical by a team that knew of his health issues when trading for him.

But if Toronto sees a red flag that would cause them to cancel the trade, all hell will break loose. So, the stakes are high.

Yogi Ferrell backs out of deal with Mavericks

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In 2015, DeAndre Jordan agreed to a contract with Mavericks then backed out to re-sign with the Clippers.

This won’t cause the same uproar, but Dallas has been left at the altar once again.

Yogi Ferrell won’t sign his agreed-upon deal.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Ferrell agreed to an unbelievably stupid contract. He could have accepted his fully guaranteed, one-year qualifying offer for $2,919,204. Instead, he took a lower salary for next season AND agreed to attach a cheap fully unguaranteed second season. If Ferrell plays well, the Mavericks will keep him for a relatively low salary in 2019-20. If he doesn’t, they’ll waive him at no cost.

In other words, Ferrell gave Dallas a discount for next season and all the power for the following season. There was no tradeoff. Ferrell lost in every aspect of the deal.

He and Tejada never should have accepted it in the first place. But backing out now also carries a reputation hit, especially for Tejada.

Though this reflects more poorly on Tejada, Ferrell will take more egg on his face, because he’s a public figure and gave some now-unfortunate comments.

Andy McDonnell of WANE-TV:

What now for Ferrell?

The Mavericks still have his Early Bird Rights and a low cap hold on him. They could pay him a little more without interfering with their other moves.

But Ferrell – an undersized scoring guard – is a marginal player. Dallas might not want to reengage with him after this. The Mavericks signed Jordan this year, but it took years and a special need for them to get over everything.

How about the Kings? They’re certainly not above negotiating with players who already struck deals with another team.

Cavaliers reportedly talking trade sending Kyle Korver to Sixers

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Philadelphia struck out going big game hunting this off-season — LeBron James, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard all ended up elsewhere. The Sixers decided to trade for Wilson Chandler (absorbing him into their cap space) and re-signed J.J. Redick, but they have continued to look for the right trade.

That could involve adding Kyle Korver.

From Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer:

According to a league source, the team has had discussions about trading Jerryd Bayless to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Kyle Korver.

That move would enable the Sixers to bring back a fan favorite who’s one of the league’s top three-point shooters.  He would be an upgrade from former Sixer Marco Belinelli, who signed as a free agent  with the San Antonio Spurs earlier this month.

This trade is still in the talking phase.

That this was leaked means an agent of one of the teams involved wants to see the deal done and hopes leaking it puts enough pressure on one or both sides to get it done.

For the Sixers it makes sense on the court, they get out of a contract in Bayless they have tried to trade for a year, and they bring in a sharpshooter who can fit within their system and add bench scoring.

For the Cavaliers, they have to be getting a pick or picks of some kind back in this trade (probably a second round or multiple second-round picks, of which the Sixers have several besides their own in the next couple of drafts).

Something to watch as we head into the weekend, to see if this deal can get done.

Giannis Antetokounmpo doesn’t believe in the NBA 2K cover curse

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Milwaukee Bucks superstar at Giannis Antetokounmpo will bless this year’s cover of NBA 2K19. It’s a big deal for the Greek Freak, who has come a long way since be a heralded prospect after being drafted in 2013.

Antetokounmpo is also apparently aware of the noted curse from the 2K franchise. That is, that former players who have been on the cover in years past have notoriously ended up in different jerseys shortly after getting selected for the honor.

LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, DeMar DeRozan, Paul George, and Kevin Durant all left their respective teams shortly after being featured on the cover.

Antetokounmpo signed a contract extension in 2016 that runs through the 2020-2021 season. Unless something goes horribly wrong, there’s no reason to think that he will be gone anytime soon.

But is the cover curse real? People certainly seem to think the Madden one is.