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Oklahoma State star freshman Cade Cunningham to enter NBA draft

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Cade Cunningham announced Thursday that he will enter the NBA draft after a dynamic freshman season that saw him named a first-team AP All-American.

The 6-foot-8 point guard is expected to be a high pick — possibly No. 1 overall, as he is ranked as ESPN’s top draft prospect.

His decision was no surprise, as he participated in Senior Night activities before the Cowboys faced Oklahoma in Stillwater.

Cunningham, who won the Wayman Tisdale Award as the top freshman in college basketball, led the Big 12 in scoring with 20.1 points per game while also ranking in the top 10 in rebounding (6.2, ninth), field goal percentage (.438, eighth) and free throw percentage (.846, third).

He often saved his best moments for late-game surges. In his most dynamic performance, he scored 10 of his 40 points in overtime to help the Cowboys win at rival Oklahoma. He finished his college career by scoring 24 points in Oklahoma State’s 80-70 loss to Oregon State in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Team USA overcomes sluggish start vs. Spain thanks to Kevin Durant, advances to Olympic men’s basketball semifinals

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SAITAMA, Japan — Kevin Durant‘s case as the greatest Olympic basketball player ever is growing by the game. Team USA is badly in need of the chase.

For the third straight Summer Olympics, Durant has been an offensive powerhouse as he has overwhelmed the challenges of the international game with his spectacular shooting skill. He was unstoppable in London, was unconscious in Rio and has been the lifeblood of a flawed Team USA in Tokyo.

Durant’s shooting rescued the Americans again Tuesday as they overcame a 10-point deficit to beat Spain 95-81 and advance to the semifinals of the Olympic men’s basketball tournament, in which they will play either Australia or Argentina on Thursday.

“We’ve got to finish it,” Durant said. “We’re supposed to be here. For us it’s about getting the gold.”

Durant scored 29 points — 13 of those coming in the game-changing third quarter — to help his team overcome yet another sluggish start. Durant already has passed Carmelo Anthony as the all-time leading scorer in men’s Olympic basketball and is working on becoming only the second American male to win three golds after Anthony.

“We’re in a good spot right now,” Durant said. “Guys are starting to understand their roles and just getting comfortable within the team. In this setting, it’s always hard to get your footing as an individual player. You don’t want to step on toes.”

It has become apparent that this version of Team USA has weaknesses that are glaring — particularly its lack of size and penchant to rely on the 3-point shot that makes it vulnerable to slumps in a 40-minute game. Then again, the Americans also have their strengths — and they, too, are glaring — which would be their quickness and ability to smother opponents when those 3s start to fall. After making just 4 of 17 3-pointers in the first half, they made 9 of 15 in the second, rounding back toward their average with Durant leading it.

“You have to be who you are,” Team USA coach Gregg Popovich said. “The 3-point shot is important in basketball in all levels these days, it’s not a secret.”

Durant’s abilities are the epitome of the strategy, as he made three triples in the third quarter while the Americans stuck with their improving ball movement that repeatedly was able to deliver their star open looks.

“He was who we need him to be,” said Draymond Green, who had nine points, five assists and three steals in the win. “He showed he’s already the greatest player in the world and we needed it.”

The Spanish have to be absolutely sick of Durant at this point after he dropped 30 on them in the gold-medal game in London in 2012, and then had 14 points and eight rebounds in their semifinal matchup in 2016.

And Ricky Rubio has to be personally tired of everything red, white and blue. This loss marked the fourth straight Olympics he had to swallow a defeat against Team USA, dating to the 2008 gold-medal game in Beijing.

Rubio played like he knew this might be one of his last chances against the Americans, displaying relentless aggression right out of the gate. He attacked and probed for shots all game, even against the stout defense of Jrue Holiday, and repeatedly got free to finish in the lane.

It was a masterful performance as he finished with 38 points on 13-of-20 shooting, the most points ever against Team USA in the Olympics or any other major event. It broke Dirk Nowitzki’s mark of 34 points for Germany against the U.S. in the 2002 World Championships.

The Spanish pounded the ball inside, which is standard for opponents now, as they scored 17 hoops in the paint and outrebounded the Americans by 10. It led to an early cushion for Spain but it never felt like it would last.

Team USA, led by more aggressive defense, finished the first half on a 14-4 run and then opened the second half 15-4 behind Durant to create separation. Jayson Tatum, who is developing into a weapon as a scorer off the bench, contributed 13 points and scored several key hoops in the fourth to keep the lead safe.

It was a relief win for Team USA after some players and coaches were up much of the previous night dealing with NBA free agency back home. Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs had more than $40 million in cap space and came to terms with several players during the day, the coach barely sleeping or eating. JaVale McGee, who didn’t play Tuesday, agreed to terms with the Phoenix Suns, and several other players saw their teams make major moves — like Zach LaVine‘s Chicago Bulls trading for Lonzo Ball.

After the game, Spain center Marc Gasol put to rest speculation he might retire and said he would return to the Los Angeles Lakers next season, his last under contract. But he indicated he’d retire from international play. His brother, likely future Hall of Famer Pau Gasol, may have played his final game in the loss. Neither Gasol brother scored in the game.

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Shai Gilgeous-Alexander agrees to 5-year, $172 million maximum rookie contract extension with Oklahoma City Thunder

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Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has agreed to a five-year, $172 million maximum rookie contract extension, his agent, Thaddeus Foucher of Wasserman, told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The deal includes a 30% escalator clause that would turn the guaranteed $172 million base into $207 million should Gilgeous-Alexander be voted to one of the three All-NBA teams. The deal doesn’t include any early termination options.

Gilgeous-Alexander, 23, is a core part of the Thunder’s rebuilding future as he develops into a possible All-Star-caliber point guard. Drafted 11th overall by the LA Clippers in 2018, he was acquired by Oklahoma City in the 2019 trade that moved Paul George to LA. He has steadily improved season by season, developing as a capable shooter and one of the best isolation scorers in the NBA. Already one of the premier attackers, he led the NBA in drives per game (25.2) last season.

With Chris Paul in Phoenix, Gilgeous-Alexander took the reins of the Thunder as their primary option and put together a breakout season. The 23-year-old guard averaged 23.7 points on 50.8% shooting from the floor, 41.8% from 3 and 80.8% from the free throw line, plus 5.9 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game.

Gilgeous-Alexander’s season was cut short in March because of a significant plantar fasciitis tear in his right foot. He played in only 35 games for the season, and his absence changed the course of the Thunder’s season as they transitioned to playing younger players while angling for a higher draft pick. With Gilgeous-Alexander, the Thunder were 16-19 on the season; without, they were 6-31.

As the Thunder reposition the roster, Gilgeous-Alexander has become a centerpiece to the franchise’s future. With young players, including 2021 No. 6 overall pick Josh Giddey and guard Lu Dort, and a war chest of draft picks, Gilgeous-Alexander is a versatile cornerstone for general manager Sam Presti as he retools the roster.

ESPN’s Royce Young contributed to this report.

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Free-agent guard Spencer Dinwiddie nearing deal with Washington Wizards, sources say

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Free-agent guard Spencer Dinwiddie is nearing a deal with the Washington Wizards, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Monday.

The move would give the Wizards a replacement for Russell Westbrook, whom the team has agreed to trade to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Dinwiddie, 28, played only three games for the Brooklyn Nets last season after suffering a partial tear of his right ACL against Charlotte on Dec. 27.

The injury required surgery and knocked him out for the rest of the season, and Dinwiddie later declined his $12.3 million player option for the 2021-22 season to become an unrestricted free agent.

After tearing his left ACL during his final season at Colorado in 2014, Dinwiddie spent two years with the Detroit Pistons before beginning the 2016-17 season in the G League.

It was from there that the Brooklyn Nets signed him, beginning a path that saw Dinwiddie become a 20-point-per-game scorer last season, offering a unique combination of size and skill as a 6-foot-5 point guard.

ESPN’s Tim Bontemps contributed to this report.

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