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The torn ACL suffered by San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray during Sunday’s preseason game, confirmed by the Spurs Monday after Murray underwent an MRI, couldn’t have come at a worse time. Not only does it end what looked like a possible breakout season for Murray before it even started, it also compromises San Antonio’s depth at point guard as the organization bids for a 22nd-consecutive playoff appearance, which would tie the NBA’s all-time record.

How will the Spurs replace Murray? And what impact might the injury have on his long-term development? Let’s take a look.

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Klay Thompson knows Lakers needed big player like LeBron James
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Klay Thompson illustrates playing against LeBron James in a Lakers uniform for the first time. (0:56)

9:11 AM CT
Nick Friedell
ESPN Staff Writer
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OAKLAND, Calif. — Klay Thompson was born in Los Angeles, watched his father, Mychal, play for the Lakers and spent his high school years in Southern California. He understands more than most just how much passion for the game there is in the area. As his Golden State Warriors get set for their first meeting with LeBron James and the new-look Lakers on Wednesday in Las Vegas, Thompson can appreciate just how big a deal it is that James will be calling Hollywood home for at least the next few years.

“I think it’s pretty cool,” Thompson said of seeing James in a Lakers jersey. “I don’t think you would have guessed it when he was with the Cavs when he started his rookie season, but it’s adding a ton of interest in the league, and the Lakers are about to get the usual media coverage that I was used to growing up.”

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Having played against James and his former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, in four straight NBA Finals, Thompson knows the intensity level will be ramped up now that the former league and Finals MVP is in the Western Conference.

“Well, the times we’ve seen him he’s always been at the top of the East during the Finals,” Thompson said. “And those games are always intense. I expect him to greatly improve the Lakers and they’ve obviously got a bunch of guys who are proven now. So I just expect it to be intense. Any time you play against arguably the best player in the world, no matter what sport, you want to measure yourself against him so you play as hard as you can, and that’s why guys like Steph [Curry], KD [Kevin Durant], Kobe [Bryant], LeBron, James Harden, any [top] guys face their opponent’s best game every night, so it will be no different when we play the Lakers.”

Both Thompson and Warriors head coach Steve Kerr are looking forward to the budding rivalry between the Lakers and Warriors this season, especially with James in the fold.

“This is probably the first time it’s lined up,” Kerr said after Tuesday’s practice. “Did Sleepy Floyd get his 29 against the Lakers in one quarter? That would probably be the biggest moment. So for Warriors fans, that’s probably the biggest moment of the Laker-Warrior rivalry. I’m sure the Lakers never really looked at it as a rivalry all those years when they were dominating, but this will be fun.

“We’re in the same division, obviously both teams have a lot of talent and the atmosphere is going to be great. Even in the preseason, I think people are going to be really looking forward to it.”

Thompson believes the rivalry between Northern California and Southern California — between the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles — will only grow now with the Warriors coming off two titles and James expected to lift the Lakers back to prominence.

“Bay-L.A. in any sport is always great,” Thompson said. “It will definitely carry over to basketball, that’s for sure.”

Thompson said he has been having the NorCal/SoCal debate with friends for years.

“The music, art, movies, destination,” Thompson said. “There’s always a NorCal/SoCal debate, and that’s what makes it so great … high school sports, pro sports, musicians, athletes, we always had a debate where the talent was at.”

After Wednesday’s game in Las Vegas, the Warriors and Lakers will face each other in another preseason tilt on Friday in San Jose, California. Their first regular-season matchup is scheduled for Christmas night at Oracle Arena, the Warriors’ home court.

Kerr knows the emotions in all the arenas, including the Lakers’ Staples Center, will be charged up when the teams face each other.
“Staples is a different vibe,” he said. “It’s not like an Oklahoma City or a Salt Lake, where it’s just noise and intensity. It’s more like, ‘Man, this is the cool place to be in L.A. tonight.’ Obviously, it’s been a very star-driven franchise. So for them to have LeBron makes Staples the place to be and you’ll feel that vibe, we’ll feel that vibe as a visiting team when we’re in there. I look forward to it.”

Warriors forward Draymond Green will not play in Wednesday’s game against the Lakers as he continues to rehab a sore left knee.

“Draymond’s not going to play,” Kerr said. “We’re going to be cautious. He’s still improving, but we feel comfortable giving him one more day … and then we’ve got six days ’til the opener; so the plan is to start practice and play him on Friday and he’ll be ready for the opener.”

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Zhou Qi ruled out of Rockets’ preseason game with knee sprain
10:33 AM CT
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Rockets forward Zhou Qi was ruled out of Tuesday’s preseason game in Houston against the Shanghai Sharks with a left knee sprain.

Zhou collided with Sharks forward Luis Scola late in the first quarter and was taken off the court in a wheelchair after trainers and staff helped him up.

The 7-foot-2 Zhou, who had played just four minutes before suffering the injury, was making his first preseason appearance.

When asked how serious the injury to Qi was, coach Mike D’Antoni said: “I think it’s just a sprain. That’s what they’re saying. Obviously he’ll get an MRI and hopefully that stays the same news. But just a sprain.”

A 2016 second-round draft pick out of the Chinese Basketball Association, Zhou made his NBA debut just less than a year ago, on Oct. 21, 2017, with the Rockets.

Zhou, 22, played in 18 games last season, averaging 6.9 minutes in those contests.
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Lonzo Ball returns to Lakers lineup for preseason game
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Lonzo Ball discusses his return to the Lakers’ lineup and having the opportunity to play with LeBron James. (0:58)

5:23 AM CT
Ohm Youngmisuk
ESPN Staff Writer
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Lonzo Ball will return to the court and play alongside LeBron James for the first time this preseason on Wednesday night against Golden State.

Ball, who has been eased back into action after undergoing surgery for a torn left meniscus, said he will come off the bench.

Ball could play between 10 to 30 minutes when the Lakers and Warriors meet in Las Vegas, according to coach Luke Walton. If all goes well, Ball expects to play again in the Lakers’ preseason finale, also against Golden State, in San Jose on Friday.

Fellow second-year guard Josh Hart, who tweaked a hamstring in practice on Monday, is listed as questionable to play Wednesday.

“Feels like a long time,” Ball said before the Lakers left for Las Vegas on Tuesday. “So I am very happy to get back on the floor finally, and it all starts with tomorrow.

“It’s frustrating when you play basketball your whole life and then it gets taken away from you for a little bit. But I am happy to be back.”

Ball has not played in a basketball game since March 28 against Dallas. He missed the final eight games of his rookie season with a left knee injury and then rested the knee for much of the beginning of the offseason. Ball also underwent platelet-rich plasma injections to strengthen his left knee and try to avoid surgery, but the point guard eventually had an arthroscopic procedure in mid-July.

Ball participated in contact practices early in training camp but has been building his conditioning as the team played it safe with his recovery. Walton and James raved about how Ball looked in the contact practices early in camp, despite the long layoff.

“You see him on the floor and it doesn’t seem like he had anything done with his knee in the offseason,” James said, reiterating something he said earlier in camp when Ball first participated in contact practices.

Ball said he has added about 15 to 20 pounds to his wiry 6-foot-6 frame after spending much of the summer in the weight room and film room while rehabbing his knee.

“You can feel a big difference,” Ball said of his added strength. “Last year I was 190, now I am at 205, 210. It helps a lot. Just get to the basket easier, you can switch better, guarding bigs. Me, I am [going to be a] 1-through-4 switch, so it helps me a lot.”

“Just being more consistent, hitting open shots and being able to guard whoever they want me to guard,” Ball added of what will be different in his game this season.

Ball will take to the floor this preseason under much different circumstances than last preseason, when the 2017 No. 2 overall pick was coming off a sensational Las Vegas Summer League debut. Ball went into last preseason as the most hyped rookie in the NBA thanks in part to his draft position, playing for his hometown Lakers and the attention generated by his outspoken father, LaVar.
If anyone understands the scrutiny and spotlight that Ball has faced early in his career, it’s James, who also was drafted by his hometown team, Cleveland, and had to play with enormous expectations as the No. 1 overall pick in 2003. James posted an Instagram picture of Ball guarding James in a practice on Monday with the caption, “It’s about that time Young King. Let’s Get It, you was born for this moment!”

“When you are drafted that high and you are a local kid, people have seen you grow your whole life, so they expect you to be great every night,” James said. “So in that sense, I understand [what Ball has experienced coming into the league].”

Ball is eager to play alongside James, who was his basketball idol.

“I am looking forward to having a lot of fun and winning a lot of games,” Ball said. “He’s the best player in the world; [I'll] do what I can to help him out.

“We will be playing fast, I will be getting the ball to him a lot. He can do the same, get out and push it, so that will be a very interesting dynamic.”

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Suns leaning toward promoting James Jones to full-time GM
3:31 AM CT
Adrian Wojnarowski
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Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver is leaning toward hiring interim general manager James Jones as the franchise’s full-time GM, league sources told ESPN.

Sarver fired GM Ryan McDonough on Sunday night and issued a statement on Monday that assigned Jones and assistant GM Trevor Bukstein to share oversight of basketball operations on an interim basis. Jones had been working under the title of VP of basketball operations.

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In his initial conversations around the league, Sarver has left little, if any, doubt that Jones will be leading Phoenix’s basketball operations in the future, league sources said.

Nevertheless, Sarver has been known to change his mind — often without warning — on personnel matters. The most recent evidence was his decision to fire McDonough nine days shy of the Suns’ opening night.

Last year, Sarver hired Jones to apprentice under McDonough and prepare him for a larger role in the organization.

Sarver has never shown an inclination to spend for an experienced, successful top basketball executive, and recruiting an elite candidate is only further complicated by Sarver’s poor leadership reputation.

Jones fired several of McDonough’s organizational allies and hires Monday, including assistant GM Pat Connelly, director of scouting Courtney Witte, director of international scouting Emilio Kovacic and G-League GM Louis Lehman.

McDonough had two years left on his contract, league sources said.

Jones had already started work on assembling his own scouting staff, league sources said.

Sarver hired Jones to a front office that had struggled with its relationships and communication with its players. Jones was fresh off a 14-year NBA career that included three championships and a longtime partnership with LeBron James. Jones also served as an executive with the players’ association.

Sarver has earned a long-standing reputation for aggressively involving himself in basketball decisions, but it’s become harder for coaches and front-office staff to manage in the past two years after the Suns became Sarver’s primary business interest.

Suns coaches became accustomed to regular beratings and demands of strategy and lineup changes, league sources said. Rival executives could sometimes hear Sarver yelling in the background on negotiation calls with the Suns’ front office. Agents tell stories of private conversations involving Sarver without the front office’s knowledge.

As the Suns search for a starting point guard on the trade market, they already own a solid nucleus that includes center Deandre Ayton, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, guard Devin Booker and small forward Josh Jackson on the roster.

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Steve Kerr tossed after Warriors whistled for sixth offensive foul
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Steve Kerr jokes he wanted to get back in the locker room early for the buffet and had enough of seeing his guys picking up offensive fouls. (1:15)

8:29 PM CT
Nick Friedell
ESPN Staff Writer
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OAKLAND, Calif. — Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr was ejected early in the third quarter of Monday night’s preseason game against the Phoenix Suns.

The incident came just nine seconds into the period after Warriors guard Stephen Curry was called for his second offensive foul of the game and the Warriors’ sixth. After exchanging words with referee Ben Taylor, Curry was given a technical foul.

Kerr came to the defense of his star guard, coming onto the floor to protest Taylor’s whistle. Kerr was promptly ejected, and replays showed the coach telling the referees, “I don’t want to be here anyway,” as he continued to protest the calls.

Kerr waved at the referees on his way off the floor and then high-fived some of his players on his way back to the locker room.

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After the game, Kerr drew laughter from the assembled media when asked if he wanted to be there.

“No comment,” he said.

Kerr acknowledged that he came out on the floor with the purpose of being ejected from the game.

“Yes,” Kerr said. “I was trying to make a point and I was trying to back up my guys. We had all these offensive fouls, one after another. And I finally had enough.”

After joking that he wanted to be the first person at the Warriors’ postgame food spread, the veteran coach said the referees were right to toss him from the game.

“I was in the wrong, obviously.” Kerr said. “I got what I deserved.”

Curry appreciated the fact his coach was willing to stand up for the team.

“I love it,” Curry said. “Love it. We got a good vibe going about what we’re doing. It’s never too early to get that fire going, so we’ll see how we sustain that throughout the year. But when obviously a blatant call, we think, should go one way goes the other, he’s going to have a reaction to it. It doesn’t matter if it’s preseason, regular season or playoffs. It’s nice for him to have that fire for sure.”

Like many in the Warriors’ locker room, Curry enjoyed seeing the replays of Kerr’s outburst and subsequent wave after the game.
“We’re all in this together,” Curry said. “And obviously we have to have each other’s backs. It’s kind of one of our core principles — so he has opportunities to try and influence things with outbursts if he needs to or stuff that he says to us in the locker room or whatever the case is. So knowing that we’re out there giving it everything we got throughout the year that a coach has your back, not pinching his wallet when he has the opportunity to kind of speak his mind, it means a lot.”

Warriors forward Kevin Durant, who also received a technical foul in the first half, said Kerr’s outburst was a “top five” ejection that he had seen in his career.

“I guess he’s getting ready for the regular season,” Warriors forward Kevon Looney said. “I expect one ejection each year. I think he beat KD to it. I thought KD was going to get ejected [first].”

As for Kerr’s much replayed words about not wanting to be at the game, Looney couldn’t help but chuckle.

“I feel him,” Looney said. “Steve’s been around a lot of basketball his whole career, so I think he didn’t care for this game.”

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Bucks sell team-record 10,000 season tickets
2:01 AM CT
Darren Rovell
ESPN Senior Writer
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The Milwaukee Bucks sold a team-record 10,000th season ticket Tuesday, 10 days before their home opener in Fiserv Forum, their new arena.

The previous record came 30 years ago; they sold 8,985 season tickets for the 1988-89 season, when the team opened the Bradley Center.

“This is such a major moment for the Bucks organization,” said Jamie Morningstar, Bucks senior vice president of ticket sales and service. “There’s an incredible buzz about the team and Fiserv Forum, and people from all over Wisconsin are excited to be part of it.”
The Bucks are opening a new arena, the Fiserv Forum, this season. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks have made a big business turnaround under the ownership of Wes Edens and Marc Lasry. When the two bought the team in May 2014 for a then-record $550 million, it ranked last in the league in season tickets at below 2,500 sold. Sources say the sale of 10,000 full-season tickets puts the Bucks at No. 11 in the league, their highest position ever.

The team hasn’t made it past the first round of the playoffs since 2001, bowing out last year in Game 7 versus the Boston Celtics. But with one of the most dynamic players in the league in the “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo and new coach Mike Budenholzer, optimism is high.

When the Bucks play their regular-season opener on Oct. 19 against the Indiana Pacers, all suites and lofts will have been sold out at prices significantly higher than the premium spaces in their previous home.

The Bucks raised season-ticket prices by 12 percent in each of the previous three seasons leading up to this one. Morningstar said that the blended average of the increase in season-ticket prices from last year to this year is 26 percent.

The team has revitalized the area around Fiserv Forum with a plaza and a beer garden.

The 10,000th season ticket was sold to Andrew Wagner, a 26-year-old from Milwaukee who works in the industrial lighting industry. Wagner said he has been a fan since the Ray Allen and Glenn Robinson days, but he felt the need to own two lower-level season tickets with the momentum the team had generated.