Celtics land Kemba Walker to replace Kyrie Irving

Nick Schwartz | USA TODAY SPORTS

In eight NBA seasons, three-time All-Star Kemba Walker has played just 11 total playoff games, and has never made it out of the first round. With the Hornets unable to lure major free agents to Charlotte or effectively build through the draft, Walker is set to leave and join a major Eastern Conference contender when free agency opens on Sunday, according to multiple reports.

News broke Saturday that Walker is expected to sign a four-year max contract worth $141 million with the Boston Celtics. After making the All-NBA third team in 2019, Walker was eligible to sign a five-year supermax deal worth $221 million – but likely would have been stuck on a mediocre team.

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Andre Iguodala & Matt Barnes explain why Steph Curry has received so much hate from NBA players & fans

Andre Iguodala says Steph Curry receives ‘so much hate’ from NBA players

Nick Schwartz | USA TODAY SPORTS

Golden State Warriors star Andre Iguodala visited ESPN’s First Take on Monday and opened up about Kevin Durant’s impending free agency decision, and the unfair criticism the Warriors feel Steph Curry receives from the media and other players around the league. According to Iguodala, Curry’s success on and off the court has earned him a fair share of haters among his peers in the league.

“I’ve never seen a guy that’s so humble and have such a good heart receive so much hate. What he’s done for the game of basketball, it’s incredible, and he’s going to continue to do it.”

When asked explain his comment – as Curry is obviously one of the most popular players in the world – Iguodala specified that the Warriors feel hate from inside the league, and in the media.

“I think we feel it from guys in the league, and we feel it in the media. I think it’s… he’s carrying a whole shoe brand, you know. He’s got his own media company. He’s doing so many great things…. It’s envy.”

Although Curry had some of the best NBA Finals performances of his career against the Raptors – he put up 47 points in a Game 3 loss and 31 in a must-win Game 5 – he was roasted by fans on social media after missing three in the closing seconds of Game 6.

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MORE FROM IGUODALA ON STEPH HATERS:

Matt Barnes explains why Steph Curry is hated by other NBA players

Josh Schrock | NBC SPORTS 

Steph Curry has won three NBA titles, two NBA MVP awards (one unanimous) and almost is universally regarded as the best shooter in the history of the game. 

Despite all of that, the Warriors star still doesn’t get the respect he deserves from other players and media members alike.

During the NBA Finals, Andre Iguodala told reporters that he will “do whatever it takes to protect” Steph’s legacy, and help him get the respect he should already have around the league.

So what’s the deal with all the Steph hate?

Former Warrior Matt Barnes went on ESPN’s “The Jump” on Thursday and tried to explain why he believes some players dislike Curry.

“I think, he came in, he’s the golden boy,” Barnes said. “He came in and destroyed record books, won championships, beat LeBron — he’s done a lot of things that probably angered other players and other fans. That’s why I don’t think he gets the respect he deserves. 

“He’s obviously the greatest shooter to ever play the game and I can see people being bitter from that. Not to mention the whole light skinned thing, and people have problems with that. Like I said, he’s a perfect example of what the NBA needs to be represented as and people don’t like that either. Most of the time when people are so good or something’s so perfect, people don’t like that and that’s exactly what you get with Steph.”

Apt analysis from the longtime NBA forward.

Curry’s meteoric rise rubbed a lot of people — players, fans and media alike — the wrong way, causing them to discount and attempt to discredit his achievements.

Jealousy breeds contempt, or as the kids say — haters gonna hate.

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“I think we feel it from guys in the league, and we feel it in the media. I think it’s… he’s carrying a whole shoe brand, you know. He’s got his own media company. He’s doing so many great things…. It’s envy.” -Andre Iguodala

Who do YOU want to see added to the Lebron-AD Lakers with the 3rd max space they just created?

Sources: Lakers ship 3 to Wiz, open max space

Adrian Wojnarowski, Zach Lowe and Bobby Marks | ESPN

The Los Angeles Lakers have maneuvered to create a maximum salary slot of $32 million in free agency, league sources tell ESPN.

Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka unloaded the contracts of Mo WagnerIsaac Bonga and Jemerrio Jones to the Washington Wizardsto make the Anthony Davis deal with New Orleans a three-team trade, league sources tell ESPN.

Davis also agreed to waive his $4 million trade bonus, sources said — which creates the additional space that will allow the Lakers to pursue a max-contract-level free agent, or divide the money among multiple players.

Davis and his agent, Rich Paul, worked with the Lakers on giving back the trade bonus in Davis’ contract as a way to invest in a supporting cast around Davis and LeBron James.

The Lakers are sending a 2022 second-round pick to the Wizards as part of the three-team deal, and the Wizards will send the Pelicans cash, league sources said. The trade will be officially completed on July 6.

The Lakers needed to expand the deal to create optimum salary-cap space, and Pelinka executed the deal to completion with Washington’s interim GM, Tommy Sheppard, and David Griffin, New Orleans’ executive vice president of basketball operations, over the past few days.

The Lakers are expected to pursue several scenarios in free agency, including Brooklyn Nets point guard D’Angelo Russell — who is a restricted free agent — and Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard, league sources said. If the Lakers decide to break up the money, they’re interested in several combinations of players, including Toronto’s Danny GreenOrlando Magic guard Terrence RossPortland Trail Blazers guard Seth Curry and several other free agents with strong shooting ability.

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Andre Iguodala clarifies Breakfast Club comments on injury, Kevin Durant’s Achilles

“I don’t think it was internal pressure at all… we were all clear and on the same page.

Drew Shiller | NBC SPORTS 

So here’s what happened.

On Tuesday morning, Warriors forward Andre Iguodala was a guest on The Breakfast Club radio show out of New York.

Charlamage tha God asked Iguodala if the Warriors should take any blame for Kevin Durant tearing his Achilles in Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Raptors.

“So that’s a really good question. I don’t think his injury was the reason for the other injury,” the 2015 NBA Finals MVP said. “The way the body is set up, the calf should have went out first before the Achilles.

“So that was like an act of God. The Achilles was just gonna go out no matter if he was injured before that or not.”

So you don’t think the Warriors have any responsibility for maybe pushing KD out there too soon?

“That’s the tough part, too. We have a really good training staff. Our traning staff is one of the best in the world,” Iguodala said. “And I feel like they got him back. The tough thing is — when you’re an athlete and you’re hurt, everybody’s looking at you sideways.

“Last year, it happened to me. I missed the last three games of the Houston series. We barely get out of that series and now they’re looking at me like, ‘When you coming back?’ And I had a fractured leg but it’s being put out there like it’s a bone bruise. I’m like, ‘No, it’s fractured.’

“So I’m fighting with the team, I’m fighting with people, I’m fighting with the media. And then my teammates ask me every day, ‘How you feeling? How you feeling?’ So with K, he’s getting it from everywhere, too. Not just from the team, but from family or people close to him.

“And what do they always say in sports? ‘Oh, he was a tough guy. He played through injury.’ You’re validated as an athlete if you win a championship for how tough you were. If you sit out, it’s like, ‘Oh, he’s not tough.'”

Unsurprisingly, people started criticizing the Warriors’ training staff for misdiagnosing Iguodala’s injury last year.

But that is not what happened.

On Wednesday, Iguodala set the record straight in a conversation with Mark Medina of the Bay Area News Group.

“I don’t think it was internal pressure at all,” Iguodala said of how the Warriors’ training staff handled his left leg injury. “It had nothing to do with me, When you read an MRI, it can be read so many different ways. Even if I thought what it was or they thought what it was, we were all clear and on the same page.

My leg was stable. In that area, even if you have a bruise or a fracture, it is very similar. People don’t realize that. We were both on the same page that it was stable and that part of the body was fine to go play. Regardless of what I thought it was or what they thought it was or what anybody thought it was, we were all on the same page that I was good to go. It was a stable leg.”

Durant sustained a significant right calf strain in Game 5 of the Warriors’ second-round series against the Rockets. He missed the Dubs’ next nine games before returning for Game 5 in Toronto with the Warriors down three games to one.

“Athletes sacrifice themselves to win a championship,” Iguodala told BANG. “Do you know how many guys would’ve killed themselves to win a championship? That’s the point I’m making and what I’m saying in the book – the pressures of an athlete go much deeper than what people realize.

“They don’t see us as humans, sometimes. They’re missing that human element.”

As Durant wrote on Instagram following his surgery on June 12:

Basketball is my biggest love and I wanted to be out there that night because that’s what I do. I wanted to help my teammates on our quest for the three peat.

Its just the way things go in this game and I’m proud that I gave it all I physically could, and I’m proud my brothers got the W.

The main reason Iguodala’s comments on The Breakfast Club gained steam was because Durant was involved.

Iguodala already discussed his 2018 “spider fracture” with BANG back in late September.

“The injury kind of bothered me because there was a lot going on behind closed doors that was bothering me. I hadn’t missed a playoff game my entire career. It isn’t about waiting around. I know what it was. A lot of people knew what it was. But I just went along with it.

Whatever you say it is, a bruise or whatever, I should be back day to day. But I know it wasn’t day to day. All right, cool. Players can fold under that type of scrutiny … if I can’t talk to ya’ll, I’m isolated. That can do some damage to players. I’ve seen it firsthand. Guys fold and don’t attempt to come back. But I tried to keep the right mindset. I had the ‘whatever’ mentality where I don’t really care.”

[RELATEDDurant, Warriors haven’t had breakdown in trust, Woj says]

Lastly, as BANG noted on Wednesday: “The Warriors have an internal policy that requires approval from the player and his representatives to approve on the wording of their respective injury.”

So while it clearly was frustrating for Iguodala to have people question why he wasn’t playing through a contusion/bone bruise, he was onboard with the public messaging.

OK. Enjoy the rest of your day.

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Woj confident Kevin Durant & the Warriors haven’t had a breakdown in trust

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Kevin Durant, Warriors haven’t had a breakdown in trust, Woj believes

Drew Shiller | NBC SPORTS 

Warriors superstar Kevin Durant sustained a torn right Achilles during Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors.

On Monday, Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report wrote the following:

The indication from several league sources is that Durant is not happy with the team, and the presumption is that it stems from whatever role Warriors officials played in his decision to suit up.

Coach Steve Kerr says he was told Durant could not further injure himself by playing, which obviously proved not to be true. If Durant was told the same, it would give credence to the notion that, as one league executive claims, “He’s really pissed off at the Warriors.”

On Tuesday, ESPN’s Zach Lowe asked ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski if there has been a breakdown in trust between KD and the Warriors.

“If there were a breakdown in trust, you would imagine that Kevin Durant’s camp and the Warriors would not be in communication. And they have been in communication,” Woj said. “They have talked.

“Their ability to be able to talk through whatever potential issues there are in trying to go forward, I think those lines of communication are open. Does he stay? I think that conversation has yet to really happen between Durant, Rich Kleiman, Bob Myers and the organization.

“I do think there’s gonna be a point here where they do talk before free agency starts. But there’s no indication that they have been shunned by KD. I don’t believe that’s the case.”

The Warriors are the only team that can offer the two-time NBA Finals MVP a five-year contract in free agency that would pay him about $221 million.

Every other franchise can offer him a maximum amount of about $164 million over four seasons.

Woj believes KD’s injury gives the Dubs a better chance of retaining the 10-time All-Star:

“It’s changed the narrative for Kevin Durant in Golden State. It goes from a player who didn’t get credit for jumping onboard of a 73-win team; the narrative that he wasn’t crucial to winning there.

“Well, you saw that he was. And now this becomes something that’s never been there — an underdog story, a comeback story. By the time Kevin Durant would play again in the NBA, two teams would have won championships that aren’t the Warriors.

“Now, they’re a team people are rooting for. Now, Kevin Durant is the builder in Golden State. And the adulation that I think maybe wasn’t there for him in Golden State, it’s going to be there. He’s a beloved figure there for what he came back and did — the injury that he sustained when he took great risk to play for that team.

“He’s not going on the road anywhere in the NBA again where they are holding up cupcake signs and cupcake t-shirts. Noone’s ever calling Kevin Durant a cupcake again. That does change the narrative and the story for KD in Golden State.

“Now, is that enough to get him to stay there? We don’t know that yet. But they have a better case to make post injury than they did pre injury.”

[RELATEDWhy Iguodala believes KD, Klay will re-sign with Warriors]

Free agency opens on Sunday at 3 p.m. PT, so we might be less than a week away from finally getting answers about Durant’s future.

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Kevin Durant all smiles roaming around New York after Achilles surgery

Ali Thanawalla | NBC SPORTS 

Kevin Durant isn’t expected to play in any NBA games next season, but he’s not letting that dampen his mood.

Nearly two weeks after having surgery to repair his right Achilles tendon, Durant is up and roaming around New York City with the assistance of a knee walker.

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A L L S M I L E S O V E R H E R E

A post shared by Tony Durant (@tdurant) on

Tony Durant, Kevin’s brother, posted that image Tuesday evening of them walking around SoHo.

Immediately after the Golden State Warriors lost to the Toronto Raptors in the 2019 NBA Finals, Durant flew to New York City and had Dr. Martin O’Malley perform the Achilles surgery.

With the start of free agency just days away, rumors have started swirling about Durant’s mindset as he approaches his big decision.

On Monday, Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher reported that Durant was “pissed” with the Warriors for their role in his injury. But a day later, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reportedthat there is no such rift between Durant and the Warriors.

[RELATED: Two teams have backed off Durant]

Based on the new image, Durant appears to be in good spirits.

We’ll find out in the next few days if Durant will bring that smile back to the Bay Area for the next five years, or if it will stay in New York City for the next four.

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Chris Paul wants out of Houston; James Harden relationship ‘unsalvageable’

Sources: Chris Paul wants out as relationship with James Harden deemed ‘unsalvageable’

Vincent Goodwill | Yahoo Sports

The delicate relationship between Houston Rockets stars James Harden and Chris Paul has been termed “unsalvageable” and the star players want a divorce, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Paul went to Rockets management and demanded a trade, and Harden issued a “him or me” edict following the Rockets’ second-round loss to the Golden State Warriors, sources said.

The backcourt mates went nearly two months without speaking to each other during the season, sources said, creating a tenuous environment for teammates and everyone involved with the franchise.

Harden hasn’t returned Paul’s repeated attempts at communicating this offseason, sources said, after a year in which the pair repeatedly got under each other’s skin with petty acts in practices and games.

Paul has been known to clash with teammates during his career, most notably with the Los Angeles Clippers before being traded to Houston in the summer of 2017. Up until this season, his production ranked among the best at his position in NBA history, but he’s had to curtail his style while acclimating to Harden’s pace.

“There’s no respect at all, on either side,” a source told Yahoo Sports. “They need to get away from one another. Chris doesn’t respect James’ standing in the league, and James doesn’t respect the work Chris has put in to this point.”

Paul’s injury-related absences and grating personality have annoyed Harden, sources said.

If not for Paul’s hamstring injury in the 2018 Western Conference finals, the Rockets might have dethroned the then-champion Golden State Warriors instead of losing in seven games. Paul then signed a four-year, $160 million deal that owner Tillman Fertitta has complained about ever since, sources said, and Paul’s subsequent injury-riddled season — he played 58 regular-season games for the second consecutive year — created even more frustration.

Paul’s production also has fallen off as he shot a career-low 41.9 percent from the field and 35.8 percent from 3-point range, his lowest mark since 2012-13.

Harden’s ball-dominant style and unwillingness to give others like Paul space to operate have grated on Paul, leading to the nine-time All-Star issuing his trade demand to Rockets general manager Daryl Morey after the season.

Sources said Paul would curse at head coach Mike D’Antoni about the offense bogging down after Harden would ask to come into the game to join the second unit, with Paul heading to the bench.

“It can’t be fixed,” another league source told Yahoo Sports about the Harden-Paul partnership.

The situation is indeed bad, a source said, and the players are frustrated with the system and surprised that D’Antoni trusts Harden so much that he allows such leeway on the court.

Morey has been shopping Paul and others in an attempt to revamp the roster, but Paul’s contract, which calls for him to earn $38.5 million, $41.3 million and $44.2 million the next three seasons, is hard for other teams to swallow.

The Rockets have been at the center of controversy the past several weeks, from Fertitta’s contract standoff with D’Antoni, to coaching staff turnover, to accusations of him demanding the team get under the luxury-tax threshold despite pursuing a championship.

With the Warriors’ present and future in doubt because of injuries to free agents Kevin Durantand Klay Thompson, it would seem like the perfect opportunity for the Rockets to move forward, but Paul has made it known he’d like to play elsewhere.

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Report: Kevin Durant met with Kyrie Irving in New York and has moved there for the summer

Nick Schwartz | USA TODAY SPORTS

It’s been widely speculated that Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving could choose to team up next season, as both players are eligible to hit free agency and land massive max contracts in at the end of the month. Irving and Durant were caught on camera talking about max slots during All-Star weekend earlier this year, but some analysts are reporting that Irving may prefer a move to the Brooklyn Nets.

According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Irving has declined his player option with the Celtics, meaning he’ll become a free agent on June 30th. Durant, who underwent surgery earlier this week, is expected to receive a max offer from the Warriors, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, as Golden State hopes to keep its dynasty alive by retaining both Durant and Klay Thompson.

Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher reported Friday that Durant is planning to remain in New York this summer, and that the two-time Finals MVP has already met with Irving to discuss the future.

“What I’m being told is he’s out of the hospital, he’s moved into a hotel for the time being in the New York area. He and Kyrie have met. I don’t know whether Kyrie went to see him at the hospital or at the hotel, but they’ve met and they’ve continued their discussion about potentially playing together next season. Take that as you will.

And my understanding is that [KD has] moved all his stuff. He’s planning on spending the summer and the foreseeable future in New York. He’s not going back out to the West Coast.”

According to Bucher, Irving and Durant would like to team up – but each has a different preferred destination. Bucher said that Irving wants to play alongside Durant in Brooklyn, while Durant would rather the pair play for the Knicks.

The next three weeks are going to be fascinating for basketball fans. The 2019 NBA Draft is just a few days away on Thursday, June 20th, and free agency will begin at 6:00 p.m. ET on June 30th.

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LaVar Ball: Lonzo trade will be Lakers’ worst move

Ohm Youngmisuk | ESPN

LOS ANGELES — Not long after learning his son Lonzo Ball will be part of a blockbuster trade for Anthony Davis, LaVar Ball made his thoughts clear on what he felt the Los Angeles Lakers had just agreed to do.

“I guarantee: Like I say again, it will be the worst move the Lakers ever did in their life and they will never win another championship,” LaVar Ball told ESPN while at the Drew League on Saturday to watch his son LaMelo play. “Guarantee it.

“They’re going to regret it. I’m going to have fun with it. Because I told you all, it was crashing down. Now [the Lakers] completely crashed, but at least my son got off the boat before the thing exploded. I gave them a chance. You can rewind it and go back. I said if you get the three Ball brothers, you can survive this. You let him go, oh, it’s going to be a cold day in hell. Trust and believe that.”

Lonzo Ball, LiAngelo Ball and LaVar Ball were all at the Drew League to watch the youngest Ball play not long after sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that the Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans had agreed to a deal to send Lonzo, Brandon IngramJosh Hart and three first-round draft picks — including this year’s No. 4 overall selection — in exchange for Davis.

Lonzo stopped and took pictures with several fans before politely declining to answer questions about the reported deal.

LaVar told ESPN in February, before the trade deadline, that he did not want Lonzo traded to New Orleans before talks between the Lakers and Pelicans fell apart.

The elder Ball told ESPN then that if his son couldn’t remain in Los Angeles, the Phoenix Suns would be a good fit.

On Saturday, LaVar was asked if Lonzo will play for the Pelicans, who also have point guard Jrue Holiday.

Lonzo missed the last 36 games of the season with an ankle injury but had been shooting on the court and was due to begin contact drills next month, according to a source.

LaVar said his son is feeling “great.”

“Lonzo don’t care about no trade,” LaVar said. “He just wants to play. So his main thing is, ‘As long as my foot keeps getting better, I’ll play for anybody.'”

The agreed-upon trade marks the end of the Ball era in Los Angeles, which lasted just two injury-marred seasons with the Lakers. Lonzo, who starred at Chino Hills in Southern California while in high school, was drafted second overall in 2017 out of UCLA amid enormous expectations.

Magic Johnson, the former Lakers president of basketball operations, believed so much in Ball that he traded former No. 2 overall pick D’Angelo Russell in June 2017 to let Ball become the franchise’s leader. Johnson declared at the introductory news conference for Ball that the then-19-year-old prospect would someday have his No. 2 jersey hang in the rafters along with the other Lakers legends.

The boisterous LaVar only added to the enormous hype around Lonzo as he pumped life into his athletic apparel company, Big Baller Brand, with headline-drawing predictions about his son.

Ball’s Lakers career started with a bang as he created a buzz with his play to help them win the Las Vegas Summer League in 2017. But injuries slowed him, and Ball never played more than 52 games in either of his two seasons.

He averaged 10 points, 6.4 assists and 6.2 rebounds while shooting 38 percent from the field and just 43.7 percent from the free throw line in 99 games for the Lakers.

“What do I think went wrong? I know what went wrong,” LaVar said of the Ball era in L.A. ending prematurely after so much hype. “The coaching was the beginning. When I didn’t see [former Lakers coach Luke Walton] believe in Lonzo and start taking him out after five or six minutes and put him back in and not starting the fourth quarter, he ain’t never played like that. … Now you don’t let him win. You get these raggedy-ass trainers who got him training with these rubber bands — guess what, you’re going to get hurt.”

“Magic knows talent,” LaVar added. “He knows how good Lonzo is. And when you got these folks in the way messing up your vision, you ain’t got no good precision.”

LaVar said the pass-first Lonzo only will help Zion Williamson, who is expected to be taken first overall by New Orleans in Thursday’s draft.

“Lonzo could be with Sara Lee, and she gonna be good,” LaVar said. “Lonzo with anybody. Lonzo going to groom him, letting him know that when you get open, you’re going to get the ball. He’s going to make him so much better than what everybody’s thinking. So everybody doubting him and saying, ‘You know what? You don’t have these post moves. You’re not polished, just a good runner and athletic,’ Lonzo will fine-tune him.”

LaVar said the Lakers are “gonna be known for always getting rid of great players,” adding that “everybody who gets away from the Lakers, boy, they do so much better after they get away.”

“The proof is in the pudding,” he said, citing Russell and ex-Laker Julius Randle. “I’m not just saying this. … Anybody that leaves, unless you were with Lonzo and then you get stuck in Cleveland like Larry Nance and [Jordan] Clarkson. They’re not doing as good. Zo makes them better than that.”

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

LaVar, who still wants to see a team sign all three of his sons to play together, said a fresh start might be a good thing for Lonzo.

“I don’t care where Lonzo plays,” LaVar said. “I want him to play. And it is better to go somewhere where you can just play and do your thing and be that guy instead of having all these question marks behind you.

“And once you don’t believe in him, it is kind of hard to come back and be like, ‘Oh, we believe in him now because now we don’t know if you’re true or not.’ You had the first chance to believe in him and you didn’t, so guess what, it’s time to go.”

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Anthony Davis traded to Lakers for massive haul of young players & three 1st-round picks

Jack Baer | Yahoo Sports

It took months to happen, but it’s finally happened. The New Orleans Pelicans have agreed to a trade that will send superstar forward Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers for a large haul of young assets, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports.

Headlining the deal are point guard Lonzo Ball and forward Brandon Ingram. Also included are guard Josh Hart and a whopping three first-round picks, including this year’s fourth overall.

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