Zion Williamson

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Lakers, Warriors, Rockets lead 2019-20 NBA schedule in major nationally televised games

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How will the Lakers handle huge expectations with LeBron James, Anthony Davis and a giant Los Angeles market? How will the Warriors, without Kevin Durant and with D'Angelo Russell, mesh? How will Russell Westbrook and James Harden coexist on the Rockets?

The NBA is clearly banking on those storylines to draw viewers.

The Lakers (30), Warriors (30) and Rockets (26) have the most major nationally televised games scheduled for next season. I count ABC, ESPN and TNT (not NBA TV).

Here’s how every team stacks up:

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The TV schedule can be flexed. So, these aren’t final.

Observations on the current plan:

  • I thought the Clippers (25) would get more. Maybe the NBA is concerned about aggressive load management with Kawhi Leonard and maybe even Paul George. This reduces opportunities for that fight to come to the forefront.
  • That’s a lot of faith in the Celtics (25). They just lost Kyrie Irving and Al Horford. Kemba Walker will help at point guard, but it’s a bigger drop to Enes Kanter at center.
  • The Pelicans (20) are suddenly a draw with Zion Williamson.
  • It’s surprising the Knicks got just three nationally televised games. That’s close to what they deserve, but I thought the New York market would count for more.
  • The Kings are so fun. They don’t belong with the rest of the one-national-TV-game group.

Attorney, agent call out NCAA’s ‘Rich Paul Rule’

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There are concerns about the NCAA’s new requirements allowing men’s basketball players to sign with an agent during the NBA draft process while maintaining their college eligibility.

The measures – which notably now include requiring agents to have a bachelor’s degree – have drawn criticism from an attorney who has worked on numerous NCAA eligibility cases, at least one agent and NBA All-Star LeBron James via Twitter, among others.

“Frankly I think some of the efforts to control student-athletes and coaches, I think some of those actions are illegal,” Alabama-based attorney Don Jackson said Wednesday. “But now they’re attempting to engage in conduct where they’re going to assert economic control over people that they have no real right to regulate.

“The entity that actually has the responsibility of certifying contract advisers in basketball would be the National Basketball Players Association, not the NCAA.”

The NCAA rule permitting Division I men’s players to obtain an agent yet still return to school after withdrawing from the draft was part of recommendations from the Condoleezza Rice-led Commission on College Basketball, which was formed in response to a federal corruption investigation into the sport.

The change took place last August, with the first wave of early draft entrants allowed to sign with an agent certified by the NBA players union in the spring. The NCAA added an additional layer of restrictions that control who players can sign with while preserving their college eligibility when the governing body created its own certification program that was announced this week.

NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn didn’t immediately return a call for comment on the certification rules, which still require the agent being certified by the NBPA (for at least three consecutive years and be in good standing).

The application process now also requires agents seeking the NCAA’s certification to take an in-person examination and go through a background check. Agents must also pay a $250 application fee and an annual $1,250 certification fee separate from any fees and requirements for the NBPA certification.

Jerry Dianis, a Maryland-based agent, believes the regulations are “overkill” and amount to unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles.

The NBPA does “a pretty solid job of vetting prospective agents,” Dianis said. “You’ve got to take a test, you’ve got to do different things, background checks. The way they did it the first time I think is sufficient – where if you’re an NBA-certified agent, that should be sufficient.”

The NCAA requirements wouldn’t affect marquee one-and-done stars like No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson out of Duke or Coby White out of North Carolina, players who could sign with an NBPA-certified agent lacking NCAA certification because they plan to stay in the draft. It will impact early draft entrants seeking feedback on their NBA prospects while maintaining college eligibility; those players could only work with agents who have received NCAA certification.

James was one NBA player who felt the educational requirement targeted his agent, Rich Paul – who does not have a bachelor’s degree. Paul has become one of the most powerful agents in the NBA with a star-studded client list that includes James along with his new Los Angeles Lakers teammate and former No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis.

James made that connection, tweeting Tuesday night “#TheRichPaulRule” then followed 2 minutes later: “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop! They BIG MAD and Scared. Nothing will stop this movement and culture over here. Sorry! Not sorry.”

NBA all-star point guard Chris Paul also weighed in. He didn’t mention Paul but criticized the educational requirement in a tweet that included: “Some life experiences are as valuable, if not more, than diplomas. Y’all need to rethink this process.”

Dianis agrees it’s unnecessary, noting that a college degree offers no guarantee that someone will behave ethically.

“There are people with walls full of framed degrees from Ivy League institutions that commit malpractice,” Dianis said. “So a bachelor’s degree isn’t going to make a difference. . I think by the looks of things, Rich Paul seems to be giving some pretty damn good advice.”

Report: Zion Williamson took less money to sign with Nike

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Zion Williamson signed with Nike and is now a Jordan Brand athlete. The New Orleans Pelicans rookie reportedly signed a deal worth $75 million with the Oregon-based shoe giant.

But he could have had more.

According to ESPN, Williamson turned down more lucrative offers from both Li-Ning and Puma. Williamson had an opportunity to sign for more than $100 million, all without playing an NBA game.

Via ESPN:

In her court filing, Ford outlined that during her time working for Williamson, Prime Sports had already “successfully secured, obtained and negotiated” a potential sneaker deal with “monetary compensation of an immediate $100 Million.” According to Ford, that meeting took place on April 28, although the exact brand is not specified in the filing. The brand is believed to be either Puma or Li-Ning, according to industry sources. However, Ford only names Puma in her court filing among the list of brands she had been actively negotiating with.

Like Puma, Li-Ning backed up that eagerness with a serious financial commitment: up to $19 million per year, according to industry sources.

Instead, a select team of Anta executives and product leaders ventured to Los Angeles, meeting with Zion and his family over a span of a couple of hours in advance of the draft, while walking them through product plans ahead. They’d eventually make a starting offer of $15 million per year.

That’s a lot of money left on the table.

But Nike also allows for a generational impact in the U.S. and abroad that surpasses what Williamson could get from any other company… if he succeeds.

Williamson is in line to get a signature shoe of his own if he performs at a high level. That’s a rarity in the Jordan Brand world, and one that was apparently too much for him to pass up.

Pelicans emerge from gloomy end to Anthony Davis era with Zion Williamson, bright future

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NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The Pelicans hired a lead executive with a championship pedigree. They deftly handled a superstar trade request, securing a massive return. They made savvy additions through draft, trade and free agency.

But the very best thing to happen to New Orleans this offseason was the bounce of ping-pong balls.

Despite holding just a 6% chance, the Pelicans won the lottery. They of course used the No. 1 pick on Zion Williamson – a generational prospect whose potential, age and contract status makes him even more valuable than Anthony Davis, both generally and specifically to this team.

This is my third year, grading offseasons. Before this, I hadn’t reckoned with how to account for lottery results. The Kings have been big risers the previous two years. In 2017, they jumped five spots to the No. 3 pick, but because of a previous pick swap, had to move down closer to their original slot. Last year, Sacramento jumped to No. 2, but pick a player (Marvin Bagley III) I ranked lower, anyway.

This wild lottery demanded a judgment on whether to include the drawing.

Ultimately, I’m grading teams’ offseason results, not the teams’ offseason decision-making. So, I am including lottery results in the grade.

That’s a big reason the Pelicans perform so well. T

heir decision making was also excellent, though.

They secured maximum return from the Lakers for Davis. Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, the No. 4 pick, two future first-rounders (including a deferment right on one) and a first-round swap rights another year? That’s a dream package.

New Orleans compounded the return by flipping the No. 4 pick, a late second-rounder or two and Solomon Hill‘s burdensome contract to the Hawks for the Nos. 8, 17 and 35 picks and a potential future first-rounder. That’s such great value for the Pelicans.

No. 8 pick Jaxson Hayes and No. 17 pick Nickeil Alexander-Walker both looked good in summer league. (No. 35 Marcos Louzada Silva will spend next season overseas.)

New Orleans instantly formed a deep young group to grow around Williamson.

The Pelicans still have a prime Jrue Holiday, who I deemed worthy of All-NBA last season. If even a couple of the youngsters make a leap, New Orleans could compete for the playoffs next season.

To that end, New Orleans added a couple quality veterans. The Pelicans signed J.J. Redick to a two-year, $26.5 million contract. They also traded just a couple second-rounders for Derrick Favors, whose unguaranteed salary the Jazz had to unload.

Darius Miller re-signed for $7.25 million next season with a $7 million unguaranteed salary the following year. That’s a high number for him, but that contract could be more useful in a trade than if he were making less.

New Orleans is well-situated for the present and future with a variety of possible paths forward. That’s incredible considering the malaise Davis’ trade request instilled.

Getting Williamson changed everything. The Pelicans are doing their best to make the most of the addition.

Offseason grade: A

Report: Lakers-Clippers, Raptors-Pelicans scheduled for NBA’s opening night

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LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, the Los Angeles market and even a little tension from last year have turned Lakers-Clippers into a highly marketable rivalry.

Not only will the NBA feature that matchup on Christmas, the teams are also scheduled to meet opening night.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

An Elton John concert is scheduled for Toronto’s arena that night. So, presumably the Raptors-Pelicans game will be in New Orleans.

That’d make the Raptors the first defending champion to open on the road since the Lakers in 2000 (at Portland).

It’ll be a little odd for Toronto to start on the road. But the banner-raising and ring ceremony will happen soon enough. In the long run, nobody will be be bothered it wasn’t opening night.

The only strange part will be Kawhi Leonard not being present. He’s the first superstar ever to switch teams immediately after winning a title.

The Pelicans should have their main attraction, Zion Williamson, for the opener. That’ll be the draw in New Orleans.