Veteran Los Angeles Lakers recruit Carmelo Anthony says he is open to any role in the side as he strives for his first career NBA title.

The 37-year-old boasts a decorated CV, including being an NBA All-Star 10 times, but he is confident not being an automatic featured player for the Lakers this season.

Anthony moved from the Portland Trail Blazers to the Lakers over the off-season, having played 69 games last season, starting only three times.

"At this point, man, whatever we need to do, let's do it," Anthony said on Friday at the Lakers' training camp.

"It ain't ... 'I can't sit,' and, 'Oh, I want to start,' 'I want to come off the bench.' Whatever it is, it is.

"I've had experience being a starter for 18, 17 years and had an experience of coming off the bench for one year. It's not something I think about."

Russell Westbrook also joined the Lakers ahead of the 2021-22 NBA season which commences on October 17 for the Lakers against the Golden State Warriors.

There have numerous roster changes for the Lakers, meaning there is uncertainty about how the line-up head coach Frank Vogel deploys for the new season.

"When we spoke before he signed here, I told him that I envisioned a big role on this team," Vogel said.

"I don't know what that's going to look like, whether he's going to start, whether he's going to come off the bench, but that he's going to be a factor for us."

Vogel confirmed Anthony along with Westbrook and LeBron James will all sit out Sunday's pre-season opener against the Brooklyn Nets for rest.

Forward Anthony played a career-low 24.5 minutes per game last season for the Blazers, but had a career second-best three-point percentage of 40.9 per cent.

Anthony averaged 13.4 points per game, 3.1 rebounds per game and 1.5 assists per game last season.

A report Ben Simmons no longer wants to play alongside Joel Embiid and his absence from the Philadelphia 76ers are "borderline disrespectful", according to the All-Star center. 

The 76ers this week began training camp ahead of the new NBA season without Simmons, who is holding out for a trade following the fallout from the team's shock Eastern Conference semifinals elimination at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks last season. 

A report in The Athletic citing anonymous sources on Tuesday claimed Simmons wants to leave because he does not think trying to fit in alongside Embiid is right for his style of play. 

Embiid believes the information has come from his team-mate's camp. While he is frustrated by Simmons holding out, he admitted the 76ers remain a better team when he plays. 

"I saw it. I don't know if it came from him or whatever, but over the past few months stuff has been put out there, looking at the reaction of him not being here. I feel like it's fair to assume it's coming from his agent or his people or whatever," said Embiid when asked about the report. 

"I feel like our teams have always been built around his needs, so it was kind of surprising to see. [Simmons was] The reason we signed Al [Horford]. We got rid of Jimmy [Butler], which I still think was a mistake, [because] he needed the ball in his hands, and that's the decision they made. Like I said, it's surprising. 

"But I'm really focused on the guys that are here. The situation is disappointing, borderline kind of disrespectful to all the guys that are out here fighting for their lives. Some guys rely on the team being successful to stay in the league and make money. Because if you're on a winning team, you're always going to have a spot in the league because you contributed to a winning team.

 

"Obviously we're a better team with him, we're not a better team without him, that's for sure. We still hope he changes his mind, but I owe it to these guys to worry about what we have here. 

"To figure out what's going to happen, that's not my job, I'm not the GM, I'm not an owner, so that's none of my business." 

Simmons only attempted one shot in the fourth quarter of the final six games of the series against the Hawks, while he passed up a layup to tie the game last in the fourth quarter of Game 7. 

Doc Rivers said he did not know whether the 76ers could be champions with Simmons as their point guard, though he has since attempted to backtrack in a bid to convince the Australian to stay in Philadelphia. 

Los Angeles Lakers recruit Russell Westbrook labelled Anthony Davis as "the ultimate weapon" and said it is his job to bring out the best of the eight-time NBA All-Star.

Davis was below his best during the 2020-21 season as the Lakers were dethroned and eliminated in the playoffs in the first round, with injuries forcing the 28-year-old to miss 36 games.

An NBA champion in 2019-20, Davis – the number one draft pick in 2012 – averaged 21.8 points per game last season, which was his lowest return since his second campaign with the New Orleans Pelicans in 2013-14, along with a career-low field goal percentage of 49.1.

Defensively, Davis had a career-low season averaging 7.9 rebounds per game and 1.6 blocks per game, but former MVP Westbrook was bullish about maximising his talent in the 2021-22 season.

"[He is] The ultimate weapon," Westbrook told reporters about Davis on Wednesday, having arrived via a trade from the Washington Wizards.

"It's my job to supervise it to the best of my ability to make sure that AD, LeBron [James], whoever is in the pick and roll are put in positions to be successful.

"He's one of a kind. There's nobody like him who can do everything he's able to do at his size.

"My job is to make sure I continue to push him each day, each practice, each game, so he can be at the top of his game each and every night.

"He's been in this league a long time, so he understands how to play the game. He knows what he needs to turn up, and I know now he wants to turn up. So it's my job to make sure that's up every single night."

Davis, who is a four-time All-NBA First Team member and has led the league for blocks on three occasions, said the demanding presence of players like nine-time All-Star Westbrook was good for him.

"I like team-mates who are going to push me," Davis said. "Encouragement -- I don't need encouragement. I want to be pushed.

"I want guys to tell me when I'm messing up. Me and Russ had numerous conversations in this first practice alone about things we can do together as a duo when we're both on the floor."

Davis added that he expects to play center for the Lakers this season, which Westbrook endorsed saying his team-mate can "pretty much do everything" in the role.

NBA players unvaccinated against COVID-19 risk losing salary if they are not able to play in games due to non-compliance with local health protocols.

NBA spokesperson Mike Bass confirmed on Wednesday that players will not be paid should they miss games for that reason, as vaccination status continues to be a thorny issue for some of the league's high-profile stars.

Major cities such as New York and San Francisco have laws that restrict unvaccinated persons from entering sports arenas, restaurants and other public spaces.

That means players such as the Brooklyn Nets' Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins of the Golden State Warriors face being unable to play home games and losing significant portions of their salary.

Players travelling to those areas would also miss out on pay for failing to comply with local mandates.

Both Irving and Wiggins have salaries over $30million for the 2021-22 season.

"Any player who elects not to comply with local vaccination mandates will not be paid for games that he misses," Bass said.

Wiggins this week saw his request for a vaccine exemption on religious grounds rejected by the NBA, having previously said he would not get the vaccine unless he was forced into doing so.

 

Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden says he has never felt better heading into the new NBA season after enduring an injury-ravaged 2020-21 season.

Harden missed 23 games in the 2020-21 season due to a hamstring injury, which he aggravated during the Nets' playoffs campaign.

The 32-year-old, who had joined the Nets in January, played through pain as Brooklyn bowed out of the postseason in the Eastern Conference semifinals to eventual champions the Milwaukee Bucks.

Harden's teammate Kyrie Irving also had injury problems derail the Nets in the playoffs, leaving plenty on the shoulders Kevin Durant, the final member of 'the big three'.

"I've had two and a half months to recover, and I feel very, very good," Harden told ESPN. "I get an entire year, training camp included, with the guys."

He added: "I've tried to get my mind and my body right. That's all I've tried to focus on this summer. I've come back even better, bigger, stronger and quicker. I feel better than I probably have ever felt before.

"[I'm] just more confident knowing we have a legit chance to be the last team standing."

Harden, who won the 2018 NBA MVP award, also offered an update on his contract status with title favourites Brooklyn, having not yet extended his deal, which has a player option for $47million at the end of the coming season and expires the following year.

"Over the course of my career, I've never been a free agent before," Harden said.

"I've always been loyal, signing contract extensions and being there, being there, being there. I want to take my time with it.

"It's going to be very difficult to leave here or leave Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. I want this season to focus on winning the championship. Everything else will work itself out."

Harden played 36 times for the Nets during the 2020-21 season, averaging 24.6 points, 8.5 rebounds and 10.9 assists per game.

His 24.6 points per game for the year, including eight games with the Houston Rockets, represented his lowest average since his final season with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2011-12, when he started just twice.

However, playing alongside Durant and Irving, Harden's usage rate fell to 29.0 per cent, having been as high as 40.5 per cent in 2018-19.

The Golden State Warriors remain reluctant to put a timeframe on Klay Thompson's return from injury, but head coach Steve Kerr said the shooting guard is showing positive signs.

Thompson, who has not played in the NBA since June 2019, participated in team practice on Tuesday for the first time since tearing his Achilles in November last year.

The three-time champion tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) against the Toronto Raptors in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals, before sustaining an Achilles injury during his comeback.

Last week, Golden State put out an injury update, vaguely stating he was making "good progress", but his return to training is a significant step in the right direction.

The five-time NBA All-Star remains months away from a competitive return, however, Kerr was upbeat about his recovery on Tuesday.

"Everyone's excited that Klay is out on the floor," Kerr told reporters. "He basically did every single thing in practice today.

"We didn't scrimmage, we didn't have any live contact, but Klay is just so happy to be playing and we're all so happy to see him part of it. So just a really good first day, first couple of days, and good energy as we start to get rolling."

He added: "Klay looked great. Shooting the lights out. His team won the daily shooting competition. And he was smiling, laughing, joking around, it was really fun to see the old Klay back."

Thompson said on Monday that he was around "75 or 80 percentile of what I need to do" in terms of his Achilles injury rehabilitation, while Warriors general manager Bob Myers indicated December or January may be a likely return timeframe.

Kerr added the Warriors playing group were boosted by Thompson's return to training as the franchise seek a return to the playoffs after missing out the past two seasons.

"Part of it is his spirit, his energy, his joy," Kerr said. "A big part of it too is, 'Yeah, we got Klay.' The confidence level as a group -- we're getting Klay back.

"It makes us all feel better. And that's the sense that I have from our guys."

Kent Bazemore and Kelly Oubre Jr. have left the Warriors this off-season, with veteran Andre Iguodala re-joining along with Serbian power forward Nemanja Bjelica as free agents.

Golden State – who are reportedly among the teams interested in disgruntled Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Ben Simmons – added teenagers Jonathan Kuminga (pick 7) and Moses Moody (pick 14) in the NBA Draft.

Russell Westbrook said LeBron James knows what it takes to win in the NBA as the Los Angeles Lakers recruit attempts to claim his first championship.

Westbrook and James will team up in Los Angeles after the former joined his hometown team following a trade from the Washington Wizards.

A nine-time All-Star and former MVP, Westbrook has a long list of honours in the NBA but the 32-year-old is still searching for his maiden ring.

Westbrook, though, is excited to join forces with four-time champion James at Staples Center, having tasted defeat in the 2012 NBA Finals when the Oklahoma City Thunder lost to the latter's Miami Heat.

"LeBron out of anybody else, he knows what it takes to win a championship," Westbrook told ESPN.

"My understanding of the commitment, understanding the sacrifices that we are both going to have to make, including myself and [Anthony Davis] as well for the betterment on the team, and finding ways to be able to win a championship.

"And that's the ultimate goal. So anything along the way we, we cannot get distracted, cannot get the deterred from our ultimate goal."

Westbrook averaged 22.2 points, 11.7 assists and 11.5 rebounds with the Wizards last season.

On playing alongside James in LA, Westbrook – a dominant ballhandler – added: "It was going to work."

"When you get a chance to play against one of the greatest players of all time and consistently, it helps my game," Westbrook said.

"It helps my preparation, makes me focus more on the things I need to focus on to get to a point where I can sit down and say, 'I've accomplished everything I can accomplish in this league and now I'm lucky enough to be able to play alongside him.' So I'm looking forward to that, looking forward to the things we can accomplish here together this season."

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James said he retains a "burning desire to win trophies" in an ominous sign ahead of the upcoming 2021-22 NBA season.

James is entering his 19th season aged 36 and following an underwhelming 2020-21 campaign, which saw the Lakers dethroned after bowing out of the playoffs in the opening round.

The four-time NBA champion and MVP missed 27 games last season due to injury and averaged the fewest minutes per game (33.4) of his illustrious career.

James averaged 25.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game last term, while his field-goal (51.3) and three-point (36.5) percentages were his best since 2017-18.

Gearing up for another run, James insisted he is feeling great, having overcome injuries in his quest for a fifth championship ring.

"I still have a burning desire inside of me to want to continue win, hopefully I can bring some trophies at the end of the season," James told ESPN, with the season due to get underway next month.

"That's always been my goal. I love the process more than anything. Hopefully I can put myself in a position where I can do that at the end of the season.

He added: "I'm just a guy who is very determined, who is willing to do whatever it takes for his body to be in the best shape possible to dominate at a high level.

"I'm not afraid to get uncomfortable with anything to get in the best possible shape I can be in."

The Lakers' roster has vastly changed since last season, with Alex Caruso, Dennis Schroder, Andre Drummond, Markieff Morris, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma among those to exit.

Los Angeles have added NBA veterans Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza, Dwight Howard and Rajon Rondo along with former MVP Russell Westbrook.

Nine-time All Star Westbrook, who turns 33 in November, led the NBA in assists last season and broke Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson's all-time triple-double record in May.

"Right away he ups our pace," James said. "He's always in the top five as far as pace, being able to get out on the break, able to get some early buckets before the defense is set.

"He's also a flat-out playmaker. A lot of people don’t talk about how unbelievable a passer he is. Everyone sees the rebounds and the scoring but how his passing makes other guys run and better doesn't get talked about a lot. We all look forward dot that as team-mates."

James (35,367) sits third on the NBA's all-time scoring charts, behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) and Karl Malone (36,928) ahead of the new season.

The 17-time All-Star refused to get drawn into the current NBA debate around COVID-19 vaccinations, which has sparked with the likes of Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving and Golden State Warriors small forward Andrew Wiggins set to miss home matches due to their refusal to get the vaccine under local state rules.

"I can only speak about myself, everyone has their own choice… I was very sceptical, but after doing my research I felt like it was best suited for myself, my family and my friends," he told reporters on Tuesday. "That's why I decided to do it."

Cade Cunningham might experience "growing pains" but will not "be a bust", insists Detroit Pistons head coach Dwane Casey.

The Pistons selected Cunningham out of Oklahoma State with the first overall pick in this year's draft.

Much is expected of the 20-year-old as he seeks to lift Detroit, who finished bottom of the East last season having been in the playoffs as recently as 2019.

Cunningham scored 20.1 points per game in college last year and should offer help to Jerami Grant on offense.

After Grant's 22.3 points in 2020-21, Derrick Rose (14.2) was the team's next-best scorer, and he left for the New York Knicks after 15 games.

It meant the Pistons had the fourth-worst offense in the NBA (106.6 points per game).

Cunningham, who had 1.6 steals and 0.8 blocks, is a two-way talent, but the need is less pressing on the defensive end of the floor, where Detroit ranked 10th in giving up 111.1 points.

The focus will certainly be on his scoring, yet Casey is happy to stay patient with the team's young new star.

"One thing I know: Cade won't be a bust. He's not. That's one thing, you can guarantee that," Casey said. "But there will be growing pains.

"We have to be supportive. He's going to have a target on his back each and every night, and it's something that [we], his team-mates, the coaching staff, the whole organisation [have] to make sure we support him.

"There's going to be some nights he scores seven and there's going to be some nights he scores 25."

Reflecting on his status as a number one pick, Cunningham said he was "just writing my own story" and added: "This is a different pressure than I've ever faced before, I guess, but I don't really look at it as pressure.

"It's more an opportunity to show people something than to think about all the bad things that can happen."

He echoed Casey's sentiments, however, as he said: "I know it's the NBA and nothing is given to you.

"You have to be humble coming in and just take it for what it is, just try to work your way up. I feel like if you can be consistent every day and just work hard, the good things will come.

"I'm not really going to press, trying to force the issue too early. I want to make sure everything is smooth with the squad and be patient."

Luka Doncic accepts new coach Jason Kidd has a point when he asks his "young Picasso" to have more faith in his Dallas Mavericks team-mates.

Mavs superstar Doncic is heading into his fourth season in the NBA but is yet to win a playoff series.

It is not for a lack of effort or ability, however, with the Slovenian twice going toe-to-toe with the Los Angeles Clippers and coming up just short.

Indeed, through 13 postseason games, Doncic has averaged 33.5 points – a league record at that stage of a career.

With or without Doncic, it is now 10 years since Dallas advanced through a series, last doing so when they were champions in 2011, and title-winning coach Rick Carlisle has been replaced by Kidd – a member of that successful Finals team.

Kidd is looking forward to working with the 22-year-old but, as a former point guard, has already identified a key area of potential improvement.

While Kidd sits second on the all-time list for regular season assists (12,091) and fourth for the playoffs (1,263), Doncic has so far proven a little more reluctant to put the ball in the hands of his colleagues.

The former Real Madrid sensation's 8.6 assists per game ranked fifth in the league, but only Steph Curry in the top 25 attempted more field goals (20.5 per game for Doncic, 21.7 for Curry).

Doncic's usage rate of 36.2 per cent was the highest among players with 500 or more possessions, yet Kidd wants his main man to make better choices.

"I look at Luka as a young Picasso, someone who's very talented, loves to win and understands how to play the game at a very high level," he said.

"As a coach, I don't know if anybody told Picasso that he had to use all the paints. But I just want to remind Luka that he can rely on his team-mates, and his team-mates are going to be there to help him.

"I'm very excited to have this opportunity to work with a young Picasso whose paintings have been incredible up to this point and are only going to get better with time and age."

Doncic had no issue with this critique, replying: "Of course. I just think there's a lot of things I can improve on off the court, on the court.

"Obviously, this is one of them. And I think he is right. But I've still got to improve on a lot of things."

Doncic's displays at the Tokyo Olympics suggested he is growing in this regard, clearly the best player on the Slovenia team but contributing a tournament high in assists (57) as well as points (143).

"I think leadership you develop through years," he said. "You see every year it's going to be a little bit better.

"Obviously, I learned from the playoffs, from the Olympics, how to be a leader. One thing I learned is I need to be more vocal with the team."

Plenty is expected from Doncic, who finished sixth in the MVP race last year without a single first-place vote but is the early favourite for 2021-22.

However, he said: "I don't care about that. It's only the beginning of the season. That's at the end. That's far away.

"The team goals and my goal is to win the championship. That's it."

Kawhi Leonard revealed Monday he is hoping to play for the Los Angeles Clippers this season, and those aspirations were a factor in signing a four-year deal to remain with his hometown team this off-season. 

Leonard suffered a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during Game 4 of the Western Conference semi-finals against the Utah Jazz and had surgery July 13. 

A typical ACL return timetable would suggest Leonard is set to miss the entire upcoming season, but the 30-year-old was not willing to accept that as a given. 

That in turn led him to sign a four-year max extension worth more than $176million rather than take a one-year deal with a player option and opt out after this season to sign for five years. 

"I wanted to play," Leonard said at the team's pre-season media day. "I mean, the best situation for me to me was to do it one and one and then opt out and sign a long-term five-year deal, but there's a lot of concerns that that brings up for [the media] and your job and it creates storylines that I'm going to leave the team.

"One thing, I wanted to secure some money, and I wanted to be able to come back if I was able to this year. If I would have took the one and one, I probably would have not played [this season] just to be cautious and opted out and took a five-year.

"I'm here. I'm here to be a Clipper. I'm not going to another team unless something drastic happens, but I'm here for the long run."

Optimistic as he is about being able to play this season, Leonard declined to try and put a timetable on when that might occur. 

He said his focus is day to day, working with the Clippers' medical staff on whatever he needs to do to get back on the court while helping the team however he can in the meantime. 

"That's the challenge of it, just seeing how quickly I can get better and how much stronger I can get than what I was when I'm healthy," Leonard said. "That's where I pretty much turn my mindset to.

"Now just watching games as a coach, being in the coaches' meetings and trying to make myself relevant as possible."

The Clippers' head coach, Tyronn Lue, said the team will "let him take his time and continue to do his rehab" and adjust whenever Leonard is ready to return. 

"I hope he comes back October 21st, but the reality is he's not going to be ready then," Lue said. "We don't want to force him or put any pressure on him. We want to make sure he's rehabbing, doing everything he can to get back as soon as possible, and if that's next season, that's next season.

"We don't want to force him to come back too early. We want to make sure he's 100 per cent when he does come back."

After a 50-year gap between the franchise's first and second NBA titles, the Milwaukee Bucks plan on a much shorter wait for the third. 

That was the overall message Monday as the champions reconvened for the team's pre-season media day. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the charge for that mindset, looking forward rather than back at last season's triumph. 

"I'm not satisfied. I'm not even close to being satisfied," the Greek star told reporters. 

 "As the leader of this team, that's the tone I'm going to set. We understand that teams are coming for us, but we're going to be ready." 

While acknowledging that inevitable target on the team's back, Antetokounmpo sought to maintain the underdog mentality that drove the Bucks last season. 

"We know we were the 2021 NBA champs, but right now we're just the Milwaukee Bucks again that nobody believes in us," he said. "And nobody believes that we can do it again."

Their hopes of repeating will of course rest largely on Antetokounmpo's shoulders, and there were questions about his health Monday. 

He and head coach Mike Budenholzer indicated they will take it easy on the NBA Finals MVP, who is still recovering from the knee injury he suffered in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Atlanta Hawks. 

"I think Giannis’ health and Giannis being at 100 or as close to 100 per cent for as much of the season is important to us," Budenholzer told reporters.

"I think now is the time when you can err on the side [of caution]. We’re always on the side of caution but whatever the other side of that is and just get him strong and physically ready for an 82-game season and a playoff run.

"But it’s the whole group. I think there’s a real awareness that we need to be very conscientious of just trying to do things that make sense given where we are and coming off the season that we had."

Antetokounmpo is on board with that plan, emphasising that the playoffs were a time to play through pain, but the situation is different now. 

"I'm good to go," Antetokounmpo said. "But if I feel like I'm in pain again or whatever the case might be, I have to listen to my body. When you feel pain, it’s your body telling you that it’s protecting you, that you can’t go anymore.

"I've played through pain. I don't think now is the time to risk that. It's too early in the season."

The thought of playing more than half of their games without Andrew Wiggins is "not ideal" for the Golden State Warriors, Stephen Curry said Monday. 

The NBA announced Friday it had denied Wiggins' request for an exemption from COVID-19 vaccination requirements, and the forward's status was the prime topic of discussion at the team's pre-season media day. 

Beginning October 13, San Francisco will require vaccinations for all participants age 12 and older at large indoor events unless an exemption is granted for medical or religious reasons. 

Wiggins had sought one on medical grounds, but the NBA's denial means he will not be eligible to play in home games at Chase Center. 

Golden State star Curry, who has been an outspoken advocate of vaccinations, was asked whether he believes Wiggins' decision is acceptable as a member of a team. 

"Acceptable is a strong word," he said. "It's not ideal. ... We hope we have a full team for the entire year and understand that, on all accounts and what the research says and things like that, that [the vaccines are] safe and we're all in the same boat.

"So we hope he's available, and if not, we'll adjust accordingly. But we hope not."

Wiggins deflected numerous questions about the topic during his session with reporters Monday, repeatedly saying he was going to keep his thoughts on the matter "private". 

One reporter noted that Wiggins said last year he would get vaccinated if he had to in order to play and asked him if he felt like his back was against the wall in having to choose between his personal beliefs and being able to play. 

"Back is definitely against the wall," he said. "But just going to keep fighting for what I believe, whether it's one thing or another, get the vaccination or not get the vaccination, who knows.

"I'm just going to keep fighting for what I believe and what I believe is right. What's right to one person isn't right to the other." 

While controversy swirls around Wiggins, the men at the top of the organisation expressed the hope that the situation would be resolved by the time the regular season begins on October 19.

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said he has not reached the point of trying to figure out how to account for regular absences by unvaccinated players. 

"I haven't spent any time thinking about that, nor will I. We'll just see how everything plays out. We're hopeful that it is all resolved in the next couple of weeks but we are going into camp [Tuesday] with a plan to have everybody out on the floor and ready to roll."

General manager Bob Myers echoed that sentiment, saying he was not interested in discussing hypotheticals and is preparing to start the season with the full team available. 

"I get why people have to wonder," he said. "But we're going to deal in reality now and that's what we're doing each day."

Wiggins played 71 games last NBA season, averaging 18.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.

Michael Porter Jr has agreed to a five-year contract extension with the Denver Nuggets that could pay him up to $207million.  

Porter's agents, Priority Sports, announced the agreement on social media on Monday. 

According to an ESPN report that was retweeted by the agency, Porter's extension will max out if he makes the All-NBA first, second or third team this season. If not, he will make $172m over the course of the deal.  

Porter has had recurring back problems that have limited him to 116 regular-season games over three NBA seasons, but the Nuggets apparently believed his production and potential were worth the risk. 

The 23-year-old averaged 19.0 points and 7.3 rebounds in 31.3 minutes per game last season – nearly doubling his average minutes from the prior season after sitting out all of 2018-19 following surgery.  

The hope is that he is just beginning to tap into his potential as a match-up nightmare who can shoot from anywhere on the floor.  

Porter has shot better than 40 per cent from three-point range in his first two NBA seasons (42.2 and 44.5). The only other active players to do that are Golden State's "Splash Brothers", Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.  

Porter is the fourth member of the 2018 NBA Draft class to reach a max extension this off-season, following Luka Doncic with the Dallas Mavericks, Trae Young with the Atlanta Hawks and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander with the Oklahoma City Thunder.  

 

Zion Williamson required surgery to repair a fractured right foot in the offseason, though the New Orleans Pelicans are still hopeful he will be fit for the start of the new campaign.

Williamson was hurt while working out ahead of his third year in the league, having made a huge impact for the Pelicans since he was selected with the first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

The power forward averaged 27.0 points per game, up from 22.5 points in his rookie year, as well as 7.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists in the 2020-21 regular season.

Executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin announced Williamson's situation on Monday, making it clear New Orleans are "very optimistic" over the 21-year-old's recovery.

"Zion is returning from a foot surgery suffered at the beginning of the summer, earlier in the offseason prior to NBA Summer League," Griffin said.

"He had a fractured right foot, which was repaired surgically. His timeline should get him back on court in time for the regular season, that would be our hope and view. 

"We're very optimistic about what that looks like. Unfortunately, that's going to be taken as a big negative by all of you (the media), but it isn't for us, because we were dealing with it for the whole offseason. 

"We feel very confident about where things are and very happy with the improvements there."

Williamson's rookie season was a shortened one due to a torn meniscus, delaying his debut. He played in only 24 games, yet quickly demonstrated just why he was so highly rated coming out of Duke.

He became an All-Star for the first time in his second year but a finger injury cut short his involvement with the Pelicans, who missed out on the playoffs once more.

New Orleans open the new season with a home game against the Philadelphia 76ers on October 20 - and their superstar expects to be on the court for that contest.

"It's part of the game," Williamson said of his injury when he spoke at the team's official media day.

"I think I was overdoing it when I was training because I felt like I had this huge chip on my shoulder, this huge boulder, so I was getting after it every day and it just happened. 

"The process through healing has been great, working with the trainer every day. I expect to be back for the first official game."

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