Chris Paul carves up Bucks defense, lifts Suns to Finals Game 1 win


Over the course of 16 seasons, Chris Paul has seen it all. Whatever defense you throw at him, he knows how to counter it. He doesn’t just take what the defense gives him, he destroys it.

Paul carved up the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

In a surprise move, the Bucks started switching the pick-and-roll from the opening tip. But Chris Paul — as well as Devin Booker — recognized it, took the switch, then isolated against Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis, and there was nothing the Bucks bigs could do.

“Their pick-and-roll game is tough to guard,” Bucks’ coach Mike Budenholzer said of the Suns. “I think we have to just keep getting better. We have to keep looking at the film and see how we can maybe take away some of the rhythm, or make it where he’s not getting into his spots as easily.”

Milwaukee switched up its defense and went to drop coverage, CP3 roasted that, too. As Budenholzer said, the Bucks let him get comfortable and play at his pace.

Paul got rolling in the second half — he looked every bit the “Point God” — and the result was him finishing with 32 points on 12-of-19 shooting, plus nine assists.

Chip in 27 points from Devin Booker and the Suns backcourt led the team to a 118-105 win in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

Game 2 is Thursday night in Phoenix.

Milwaukee has a lot of strategizing to do before then.

The Bucks had seemingly come into the game on a high note because Giannis Antetokounmpo was playing — and played incredibly well considering it was just one week he hyperextended his knee. In the first half alone, he had 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting, nine rebounds, three assists, and one insane chase-down block.

“My knee felt great…” Antetokounmpo said, adding later when it happened he thought he would be out for a year. “I can run, I can jump, I can set screens, I can help my teammates in any way possible.”

Antetokounmpo finished with 20 points on 6-of-11 shooting. He looked gassed at points after not being able to do much for a week, but this was as much as Milwaukee could have hoped for out of the two-time MVP.

Still, the Bucks offense stalled out because Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton were not good enough. Middleton found his groove in the second half and finished with a team-high 29 points (on 26 shots), but Holiday finished 4-of-14 from the floor and missed all his threes. As a team, the Bucks were predictable on offense — and predictable is defendable.

The Bucks misses became transition chances for the Suns, who pushed the pace and ended up with 20 official fast break points, and had a 128.6 offensive rating in transition (stat via Cleaning the Glass).

Paul took over in the third quarter and scored 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting, and the rest of the Suns fed off that. Paul and Booker drained midrange shot after midrange shot. The Bucks showed some resiliency and got the lead down to seven at one point in the fourth after going with an Antetokounmpo at center lineup, but could never get all the way back down and make a game of it.

Phoenix heads into Game 2 knowing Paul and Booker can absolutely have a night like this again. They have to feel very good about their chances now.

The Bucks need to figure things out, including transition defense, handling the Suns pick-and-roll, and how they can get all their stars going. It’s a long list for Mike Budenholzer and company.

After one game, things look bright in the Valley of the Sun.

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

Oklahoma City Thunder v Sacramento Kings
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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

Golden State Warriors v San Antonio Spurs
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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


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


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.