Extra games can help some teams in the NBA summer grind

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LAS VEGAS (AP) Summer play is a grind for the Miami Heat.

They like it that way.

Miami is one of eight teams doubling up on summer leagues this year, and when the biggest one in NBA history opens on Friday in Las Vegas – all 30 franchises are sending a club to the primary summer league for the first time – the Heat think that getting three games under their belt already will be a big help.

The first summer league hosted by the Sacramento Kings, the California Classic, came to a close Thursday. Golden State beat the Los Angeles Lakers 77-71, and Miami topped Sacramento 86-76.

Later Thursday, play in the Utah Jazz Summer League wraps up with Memphis facing San Antonio and Utah squaring off with Atlanta.

The Heat flew cross-country for their summer league training camp in Sacramento, doing so because playing in the second league ensures that the team will appear in at least eight summer games instead of the five that are guaranteed to teams who play only in Las Vegas.

And they saw players get better in the three Sacramento games, perhaps giving them – and the other seven clubs that played in the early leagues – a leg up on competition they’ll see in Vegas.

“I’m not interested in playing guys five minutes one game, five minutes the next game,” Heat summer league coach Eric Glass said. “I’d rather play a guy 15 minutes in one game and sit him in the next game so we can get a rhythm. And you can get better in the gym by yourself, but playing organized basketball is the best way to improve and these guys get three weeks of that.”

Starting Friday, every summer game left on the NBA schedule happens on two courts at UNLV. Unlike the Sacramento and Utah leagues, there’s a true playoff system in Las Vegas and a champion will be crowned on July 17.

For all eight teams that have played this week, it’s a quick turnaround to get ready for Las Vegas. Most of the eight teams get Friday off, the lone exception being Golden State – which meets the Los Angeles Clippers in the 10th and final game on the Las Vegas opening-day slate.

The main attraction on Day 1 in Las Vegas is the 9:30 p.m. EDT game between Phoenix and Dallas. The Suns have No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton set to make his debut, though it’s almost certain that Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic – the No. 3 pick and whose European pro season ended just days before the draft – will not play in his team’s summer opener.

Ayton will likely see a few NBA stars when he gets to Vegas. He’s already been blown away by a WNBA star – Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi.

When he met her, with Taurasi walking over to greet him as he went through a weight-room session, even the NBA’s No. 1 pick was star struck.

“She is the Michael Jordan of the WNBA,” Ayton said.

Doncic still hasn’t gotten the clearance to sign his contract and hasn’t participated in a live practice with Dallas’ summer club yet.

“We’re getting close to getting those things done, but we’re not there yet,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “But he will be in Vegas. He is going to continue to ramp up his workload.”

Thursday’s recaps:

WARRIORS 77, LAKERS 71

Marcus Derrickson led the way for Golden State (3-0) with 24 points, 11 rebounds and four steals. Omari Johnson scored 15 and Gian Clavell added 10 for the Warriors, who gave Damian Jones and Jordan Bell the day off.

Xavier Rathan-Mayes scored 14 points and handed out eight assists for the Lakers. Moe Wagner scored 13 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, Nick King also scored 13 and Jeffrey Carroll added 11 for the Lakers.

HEAT 86, KINGS 76

Derrick Jones Jr. had 19 points for Miami (2-1), which got 14 from Bam Adebayo, 12 – all on 3-pointers – from Duncan Robinson and 10 points and seven assists from Derrick Walton Jr.

Justin Jackson scored 26 for Sacramento (1-2). Harry Giles and Cam Reynolds each had 11 points for the Kings.

Steven Adams inks two-year, $25.2 million extension with Grizzlies

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Steven Adams signed a two-year, $25.2 million contract extension with Memphis, which will keep him tied to the team through the 2024-25 season. ESPN’s Adrian Wojanrowski broke the news on Saturday.

Adams has been crucial to the Grizzlies’ recent success. He’s coming off his first season with the team, where he averaged career-highs in rebounds (10.0) and assists (3.4). He also helped them lock up the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference and make it to the Conference Semifinals, where they lost to the eventual-champion Warriors 4-2. Despite the improved numbers, a lot of his value is from intangibles that don’t show up in the box score.

Adams spent the first seven years of his career with the Thunder before being traded to New Orleans in the four-team deal that sent Jrue Holiday to Milwaukee. Adams was moved again to Memphis in a package for Jonas Valanciunas.

Adams has found a new home with a young Grizzlies team that is looking to win a championship. The team is built around Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane, but Jackson Jr. is expected to miss time after being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his left foot. Memphis will rely on Adams more than ever to begin the season.

Watch Curry, Klay in 3-point shooting contest in Japan. Yeah, they’re good at this.

NBA Japan Games Saturday Night
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The NBA went to Japan to promote the brand, play a few games in a huge market — Japan specifically but Asia as a whole — and put on a show.

Is there a better show than Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson draining 3s? Here they are in a 3-point contest during a basketball exhibition (there were some pro dunkers) in Tokyo on Saturday.

Stephen Curry, was there any other possible outcome?

It’s preseason and they are the defending champs — they should be having fun, playing with some joy.

Thompson took part in the shooting contest but is not playing in either of the exhibition games in Japan as the Warriors ease him back into play this season. It’s a marathon of a season and the Warriors need the best version of Klay starting in April, not October.

Report: Pelicans, Nance agree to two-year, $21.6 million extension

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Larry Nance has been a stabilizing influence in New Orleans since coming over mid-season as part of the trade for CJ McCollum. Nance is a versatile player who can play the four or the five, knocks down his threes, is very strong on the glass, can be a disruptive defender in passing lanes, and fits in — and he has the veteran attitude of work this team needs.

So the Pelicans have reached an extension to keep the 29-year-old around for two years past this coming season, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a signing that should make Pelicans fans happy. Importantly, it makes CJ McCollum happy — they are tight and this is something McCollum wanted to see. The money on this deal seems fair, about the league average for a solid rotation player.

Nance is the kind of veteran this team needs considering its young core of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram (just turned 25), Herb Jones, and guys like Trey Murphy III, Jose Alvarado, and others. Nance compared it to the young Lakers teams he was on, but noted that team lacked the same level of veteran leadership this Pelicans team has.

We may see more Nance at the five lineups — small ball with Zion at the four — to close games this season in New Orleans, that could be their best lineup because Nance can defend but also spaces the floor for Zion on offense. Coach Willie Green has a lot of different players and matchups to experiment with.

And now he has the stability of Nance for a few more years.

Durant tired of talking Nets dramatic offseason: ‘I didn’t miss any games’

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No team had an offseason quite like the Brooklyn Nets. First, they would not give a long-term extension to Kyrie Irving, which sent the star guard looking for a new team (but there were no offers that worked for everyone, so he opted in with Brooklyn). Then Kevin Durant asked for a trade, and to gain a little leverage reportedly threw down an ultimatum of him or the coach and GM. No trade could be found — how much the Nets wanted one is up for debate — so he is back in Brooklyn. And all that is not even getting into the return of Ben Simmons, a trade for Royce O’Neal, or anything else.

The Nets drama and how they move past it has been the talk of training camp. The only talk at training camp, it feels like.

When asked Friday if there were any inaccuracies in the reporting of the Nets summer he would like to clear up, Durant sounded weary of rehashing the summer.

The only thing that will start to move the conversation in a new direction is the Nets playing and winning games (they open the preseason Monday against the 76ers). And even those wins will have the shadow of the offseason cast over them. Durant and Irving made this bed.

Part of the fascination is the Nets remain the team hardest to predict in the league. They arguably have the most talented roster in the league and, if everything comes together just right, they can contend for a title. It’s also possible the wheels fall off early and by Christmas the Nets are looking to trade Durant again. Both things feel possible (even if reality most likely lands somewhere in the middle).

That uncertainty about the Nets’ future is the drama that will keep eyeballs on them — which also means more questions about this past offseason. Durant can choose not to answer them, but the questions aren’t going away.