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NBA Finals Drama: Porzinģis’ Injury Shakes Up Celtics’ Strategy and Dončić Worries

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NBA Finals

On Tuesday, the Boston Celtics announced a new injury to former All-Star center Kristaps Porziņģis: a torn medial retinaculum allowing dislocation of the posterior tibialis tendon in his left leg. The team described the condition as a “rare injury” and stated that his availability for the remainder of the NBA Finals would be determined day-to-day. A few hours later, Porziņģis was officially listed as questionable for Game 3, with Boston leading the Dallas Mavericks 2-0 in the series.

How Does He Feel?

“I’m optimistic,” Porziņģis told reporters in Dallas on Tuesday. “As I said, I will do everything I can to be out there tomorrow. Nothing’s going to stop me unless I’m told I’m not allowed to play. That’s the only reason I would not be out there, but tomorrow we’ll see.”

The Celtics said the injury occurred in the third quarter in Game 2 during a box-out collision with Mavericks center Dereck Lively II. After the collision, Porziņģis appeared to move more gingerly on his left leg, particularly on the next several possessions as he attempted to close out on shooters. He stayed in the game for another 2:45 before subbing out and retreating to the locker room, then returned to play an additional 3:26 in the fourth quarter.

“He’s doing everything and anything he can to be ready for the game tomorrow,” said Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla. “It’s a serious injury. At the end of the day, our team and the medical team are not going to put him in any bad situations. We’ve taken the decision to play out of his hands because of the importance of him. He’s going to do everything he can to play, and we’re going to leave it up to our medical team.”

How likely is Porziņģis to play in Game 3?

“I have no idea,” said Mazzulla.

Before Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Porziņģis missed 36 days, including both the Eastern Conference semifinals and finals, due to a soleus strain in his right calf. The team stated that his latest injury is “unrelated.”

The Celtics are +25 in Porziņģis’ 44 minutes over two games of the NBA Finals. They are even with Dallas in the 52 minutes he has been on the bench. During the regular season, Boston outscored opponents by 11.2 points per 100 possessions in Porziņģis’ minutes; that number increased to 11.8 with him off the floor.

If Porziņģis is absent, 38-year-old Al Horford, who started at center in Games 1 and 2 of the NBA Finals, would see increased minutes. Additionally, Luke Kornet might get his first playing time off the bench in the series.

Dončić Injury

Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Dončić is expected to receive a painkilling injection before Game 3 of the NBA Finals to manage a thoracic contusion, according to multiple reports. He received the same treatment before Sunday’s Game 2 loss in Boston.

Dončić sustained the chest injury during Game 1. The Mavericks listed him as questionable for Game 2 due to the contusion, but he ultimately played through the injury, finishing with 32 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists in the Mavericks’ 105-98 loss to the Celtics. Now, with the series shifting to Dallas for Game 3 on Wednesday, the Mavericks find themselves down 2-0.

Despite playing in Game 2, Dončić was visibly laboring, especially in the fourth quarter, where he appeared fatigued. When asked about the injury on Tuesday, Dončić said he “feels good,” indicating he isn’t overly concerned about the chest pain limiting his performance.

This injury is just the latest in a series of ailments Dončić has been dealing with throughout the Mavericks’ postseason run. He has been managing a knee injury since the first round and also picked up an ankle injury, but has not missed any time. The Mavericks can’t afford for him to sit out either.

Given that Dončić received the same injection before Game 2, getting one ahead of Game 3 is unlikely to impact his production significantly. However, he will need his teammates to step up so he doesn’t have to shoulder the entire offensive load. This is a role Irving should naturally fill, but he has struggled against the Celtics’ multiple lengthy and strong defenders. Dončić may have another 30-plus-point game, but if Irving can’t get going and the role players don’t start making shots, the Mavericks could be facing a sweep if they aren’t careful.

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WNBA Rookie Caitlin Clark Breaks Multiple Records Despite Fever Loss

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WNBA Rookie Caitlin Clark

The WNBA rookie Caitlin Clark outdid herself on Wednesday, setting a new single-game record with 19 assists in the Fever’s 101-93 loss to the Dallas Wings. This performance also established a new single-game rookie assist record, surpassing the 16 assists set by Tina Penicheiro in 1998. Additionally, Clark has broken the Fever’s single-season franchise assist record, reaching 202 assists in just 26 games.The WNBA single-season record, set by Alyssa Thomas last season, stands at 316.

Clark exceeded her previous career high, achieved multiple times this season, including in the Fever’s significant win over the New York Liberty on July 6, where she became the first WNBA rookie to record a triple-double.

Action on the Day

The Fever-Wings matchup was a thrilling contest ahead of the All-Star and Olympic breaks. Despite Dallas taking an early lead, going up by as many as 16 points in the first half, Indiana cut the lead to eight by halftime. The third quarter saw Indiana tighten the game, leading to an intense fourth quarter where both teams exchanged leads and remained tied for much of the final frame. Ultimately, Dallas held off the Fever with heroics from star guard Arike Ogunbowale.

Both teams were led by dynamic duos: Ogunbowale and Odyssey Sims scored 24 points each for Dallas, while Clark and Aliyah Boston recorded 24 and 28 points, respectively, with Boston marking a career high.

Clark’s historic performance strengthens her Rookie of the Year campaign. She leads the league in assists per game with 7.8 and has quickly become a crucial part of the Fever’s starting lineup.

With the win, Dallas rises to 6-19, though they remain at the bottom of the WNBA standings. The Fever are 11-15, sitting solidly in the middle.

Clark Breaking Records

Clark’s record-breaking assist occurred when she set up Kelsey Mitchell for a three-pointer with 2:22 left, tying the game at 93. However, Dallas responded with an 8-0 run to finish the game. 

Clark scored or assisted on 66 points for the Fever, the most in a single game in WNBA history, surpassing Diana Taurasi’s 65-point effort on August 10, 2006.

This season, Clark is averaging 17.1 points and a WNBA-leading 8.2 assists. Over her past nine games, she has been averaging 11.9 assists. She is the second rookie in WNBA history to score or assist on 50 or more points in multiple games, joining Candace Parker in 2008.

Clark is also the first rookie and the ninth player overall in WNBA history to have at least 400 points and 200 assists in a season. Chelsea Gray has accomplished this feat three times, Alyssa Thomas twice, and Sue Bird, Jordin Canada, Natasha Cloud, Sabrina Ionescu, Courtney Williams, and Vandersloot have each done it once.

Following her record-breaking performance, Clark’s odds for WNBA Rookie of the Year honors at ESPN BET improved from -1000 to -2000, while the Sky’s Angel Reese moved from +500 to +600.

Onto the All-Star Game

In the 20th edition of the all-star game on Saturday, July 20th, the WNBA will feature a Team WNBA vs. Team USA format, with the entire Olympic team roster facing off against 12 WNBA All-Stars. This change also brings a fresh twist to the uniforms.

In the first half, Team WNBA will wear pink-and-orange ombré jerseys with “WNBA All-Star” and the league’s emblem. In the second half, they will switch to black jerseys with ombré hues on the V-neck.

The jerseys include “WNBA All-Star Edition 2024” and 20 stars to commemorate the game’s 20th anniversary, with an orange “1/144” tag honoring the league’s 144 players.

The WNBA has set new viewership benchmarks this season, and this all-star game is going to bigger than ever. A highly anticipated game between Caitlin Clark and Phoenix Mercury’s Diana Taurasi drew remarkable ratings. The Fever, who won 88-82 on June 30, averaged 1.9 million viewers, making it the second-most-watched WNBA game. The only game to surpass it was the Fever’s matchup against the Chicago Sky on June 23, which averaged 2.302 million viewers, the highest in 23 years. The Fever-Mercury game peaked at 2.7 million viewers.

Read more: Patrick Beverley Says EuroLeague Coaches Are Better Than Their NBA Rivals

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The $37 Million Discount: Brunson’s Big Gamble for Knicks’ Future

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Jalen Brunson Knicks contract

In an unprecedented financial move to provide roster flexibility for a contending team, New York Knicks All-NBA guard Jalen Brunson has agreed to a four-year, $156.5 million contract extension—$113 million less guaranteed than he could sign for next year—his agent, Sam Rose of CAA, told ESPN on Friday.

Brunson is taking a $37 million loss, with a total risk of $113 million, to chase a title with the Knicks.

Brunson’s Deal

The deal, starting in the 2025-26 season, will pay Brunson $37.1 million over the first three years, with a player option for the fourth year. This option could allow Brunson to secure a four-year, $323 million maximum extension in 2028 or a new five-year, $418 million deal in 2029.

Brunson, 27, became eligible to negotiate and sign the maximum extension on Friday. Despite the inherent risks of injury and unforeseen complications, Brunson prioritizes maximizing the prime of his career with the franchise’s most talented roster since the 1990s.

Choosing the four-year, $156.5 million max deal over the five-year, $269.1 million deal in 2025 has significant implications for the Knicks. It keeps the team out of the second-apron level of the salary cap, a punitive threshold that limits trades, signings, and draft pick usage.

Brunson’s decision was influenced by studying championship organizations and franchise stars like Patrick Mahomes’ Kansas City Chiefs, Tom Brady’s New England Patriots, and Derek Jeter’s New York Yankees. These MVP-level players structured contracts to give their teams the best chances at sustainable title runs.

Brunsons’s Impact

Brunson joined the Knicks on a four-year, $104 million free agent deal two years ago, becoming one of the league’s most transformative acquisitions of the past decade. After beginning his career as a backup point guard with the Dallas Mavericks, Jalen Brunson has emerged as one of the NBA’s most impactful players and leaders. In the 2023-24 season, he earned All-NBA honors and finished in the top five in MVP voting, averaging 28.7 points per game and contributing to a franchise-record 3,481 points through scoring or assists. He also recorded 11 40-point games in the regular season and became the first Knicks player to achieve 40 points and five assists in four consecutive playoff games.

This offseason, the Knicks have become better—and more expensive. They signed OG Anunoby to a five-year, $212.5 million deal and traded for Brooklyn Nets forward Mikal Bridges, who has two years and $48 million left on his contract.

Brunson’s deep ties to the Knicks reflect his strong faith in the organization. Before becoming the Knicks president of basketball operations in 2020, Leon Rose was Brunson’s agent. Additionally, Brunson’s father, Rick, is a Knicks assistant coach and a longtime former client of Rose. The Knicks have also surrounded Brunson with a star-studded cast of his former national championship teammates from Villanova, creating remarkable synergy both on and off the floor.

Pay Cut

Brunson is already under contract for next season with a salary of $25 million and has the option to opt out in 2025. Over the next three years, he will receive $37.1 million less, but his contract includes a player option for the fourth year. If he chooses to opt out, Brunson could be eligible for a four-year, $323 million deal in 2028 or a five-year, $418 million deal in 2029.

Brunson’s current pay cut helps the Knicks maintain their roster after signing OG Anunoby to a five-year, $212.5 million deal and trading for Mikal Bridges, giving up nearly every first-round draft pick possible.

In today’s era, All-NBA players have taken discounts to provide their teams with salary cap flexibility. For example, San Antonio’s Tim Duncan accepted $11 million less than the maximum in 2007 to retain Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, and Golden State’s Kevin Durant took $10 million less in 2017 to keep Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala. This offseason, LeBron James accepted $2.6 million less on a two-year, $101 million deal to help the Los Angeles Lakers avoid the second apron.

Read more: NBA Finals Drama: Porzinģis’ Injury Shakes Up Celtics’ Strategy and Dončić Worries

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Father-Son Duo: Bronny James Secures Multi-Year Contract with Lakers

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Bronny LeBron signs with Lakers

Bronny James is set to join his father, LeBron James, as a guaranteed player on the Los Angeles Lakers This multi-year contract ensures that Bronny will be an integral part of the Lakers’ roster starting from the 2024-25 NBA season, marking a significant move for a second-round pick, who typically do not receive guaranteed contracts. James will sign a multiyear deal with guaranteed money, a standard for first-round draft picks under NBA rules.

Bronny’s Deal

Opting for a guaranteed contract allows James unrestricted NBA game time, contrasting with many second-round picks who opt for two-way deals to maximize G League opportunities. Bronny’s agent, Rich Paul, emphasized that securing a full-time NBA roster spot would be pivotal for James’ development, a strategy consistent with his approach for developing players like James.

A two-way contract would have restricted James to 50 NBA games and barred him from postseason play, as it does not guarantee a spot on the active roster.

The Lakers will gain approximately $1 million in salary cap room under the first apron by securing a roster spot for James at the rookie minimum salary.

This approach mirrors strategies used by teams like the Golden State Warriors and Milwaukee Bucks in previous drafts, investing in developmental talents with guaranteed contracts.

Before being selected at No. 55 overall by the Lakers, James participated in private workouts primarily with the Lakers and Phoenix Suns, showcasing his readiness to contribute at the NBA level.

With LeBron James currently a free agent but expected to re-sign with the Lakers, there’s anticipation around the potential for father-son moments on the court for the James duo.

During his freshman season at USC, Bronny appeared in 25 games, averaging 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game.

Big Shoes to Fill

Standing beside his parents, LeBron and Savannah James, at the Lakers’ facility, Bronny acknowledged the heightened scrutiny accompanying his Lakers debut.

“There’s definitely more pressure,” Bronny acknowledged. “It’s been all over social media, people questioning if I deserve this opportunity. But dealing with pressure is nothing new to me. This time, it’s just on a bigger scale. I’ll handle it.”

The 19-year-old rookie, who declared for the draft after a season at USC where he averaged 4.8 points on 36.6% shooting, reflected on how a medical procedure last summer affected his game development.

“I feel like I could’ve improved more,” Bronny admitted. “I didn’t get to showcase my full potential at USC. I’m eager for what’s ahead.”

Meanwhile, Dalton Knecht, the Lakers’ No. 17 pick from Tennessee, signed his contract on Tuesday, while Bronny’s deal is expected before their summer league debut against the Sacramento Kings.

Sources indicate discussions between the Lakers and Bronny’s agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, on a multiyear contract securing one of L.A.’s 15 roster spots for Bronny.

Regarding LeBron’s future contract negotiations, Paul mentioned a willingness to reduce his salary to help the team sign an impact player. However, the Lakers failed to acquire Klay Thompson, who opted for a deal with the Dallas Mavericks.

Lakers vice president Pelinka affirmed ongoing efforts to bolster the team, including the potential use of future draft picks in trades under the league’s new collective bargaining rules.

As for Bronny, he dismissed the idea that playing alongside his father influenced his decision to leave USC, focusing instead on developing within the Lakers’ system.

Bronny on Lebron Expectations

Never before has a father and son simultaneously played in the NBA, let alone on the same team.

“The pressure is definitely heightened,” Bronny James admitted. “I’ve seen it all over social media and the internet, people questioning if I deserve this opportunity. But dealing with scrutiny is nothing new to me; it’s just on a bigger scale now. I know I can handle it.”

Bronny clarified that his decision to enter the NBA wasn’t solely influenced by his father, LeBron James, still being an active player at 39. He acknowledged that while playing alongside his father is a unique prospect, it wasn’t his primary motivation.

Bronny also acknowledged the unpredictability of the NBA draft process, despite speculation on social media that his selection by the Lakers was aimed at securing LeBron’s long-term commitment to the team.

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