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Veteran guard Rajon Rondo set to make LA Clippers debut Sunday against rival Los Angeles Lakers

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Rajon Rondo is expected to make his LA Clippers debut against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday according to coach Ty Lue.

The Clippers acquired Rondo from Atlanta in a trade involving Lou Williams at the trade deadline on March 25.

Both teams are without key players. The Lakers are without LeBron James and Anthony Davis due to injuries. And Lue did not think that point guard Patrick Beverley (knee) would be able to return and join Rondo on the floor. Beverley has missed the past 11 games due to injury. Starting center Serge Ibaka also has been out for the past 10 games with a back injury.

Rondo won a championship last season with the Lakers and will now take part in the Los Angeles rivalry on the other side with the Clippers.

“It’s different,” Rondo said of playing for the Clippers in the rivalry recently in an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols. “It is a rivalry here in Los Angeles. But for the most part, I have been getting a bunch of ‘welcome back’s. It is different coming back to LA being a champion.”

Hampered by an adductor injury, Rondo has been consistently working to learn the Clippers’ playbook while he rested.

“Just kind of plugging him in, just seeing what he picks up,” Lue said of what he hopes to see from Rondo. “It’s easy to go through plays in practice, but then you got a game on the fly, it is a little different. And I know how smart he is. Just seeing what he picks up and just seeing what we can incorporate while he is in the game and just try to go from there. It is going to be good to see him get on the floor.”

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Phoenix Suns star Chris Paul, 36, ready to ‘get back to work,’ not considering retirement after NBA Finals loss

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MILWAUKEE — The closest Chris Paul has ever got to the coveted championship that’s eluded him throughout his 16-year career ended up leaving him feeling still so far away from that initial title. The Milwaukee Bucks beat the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday, as the Suns became just the fifth team in Finals history to lose after starting the series up 2-0.

“It will take a while to process this or whatnot, but it’s same mentality,” Paul said after the Bucks’ 105-98 series clincher. “Get back to work. I ain’t retiring, if that’s what you’re asking. That’s out. So, back to work.”

The 36-year-old Paul finished with 26 points on 11-for-19 shooting and five assists in the championship finale, keeping the Suns in striking distance of Milwaukee — they trailed by just four points with 1:14 remaining — but it wasn’t enough to force a Game 7 back in Phoenix.

“Right now, you’re just trying to figure out what you could have done more,” Paul said. “It’s tough. Great group of guys, hell of a season, but this one is going to hurt for a while.”

Paul has a player option worth $44.2 million for next season, and while plenty of contenders around the league could use a point guard of his ilk to make a push next season — hello, Los Angeles Lakers — he didn’t sound like someone looking to leave a team stocked with young talent like Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton that took him two wins from the promised land that quickly.

“Everybody in that locker room knows we had enough, but it wasn’t enough,” Paul said. “So, we got to figure it out. I think for me, I just look at myself and figure out how can I get better, what I could have done more and make sure I come back next season ready to do it again.”

With the loss, Paul became the first player in league history to lose four playoff series in which his team held a 2-0 lead. But his coach, Monty Williams, pushed back against any criticism directed at his point guard after their shared Finals disappointment.

“It’s laughable when you talk about guys like Chris who have had these unreal careers and yet they get penalized because they haven’t won a title,” Williams said. “That was my goal, was to win it for him and Book; those guys have carried us all year long. And Chris, this is my second time coaching him; I know what he puts into his craft, I know the dedication. And so when I hear those sentiments about his career because he hasn’t won a championship, it’s just silly. It’s hard enough to make it to the NBA, let alone be an all-time great, which is what he is.”

Booker, who dropped two 40-point games in the series but struggled in Game 6 with 19 points on 8-for-22 shooting and six turnovers — including going 2-for-7 in the fourth quarter, when the Bucks pulled away after it was tied 77-77 after three — said the Suns’ playoff run set a new standard for the franchise.

“Championship basketball and nothing less than that,” as Booker described it, after Phoenix made the postseason for the first time in 11 years. “So, going into next season on a Tuesday night playing against Cleveland, if we don’t have it, we will be quickly reminded about the details. And if you don’t want to give it your all right now, what can happen and this feeling right now that we’re feeling can happen.

“So, this isn’t something you want to feel. I haven’t felt a hurt like this in my life. So, that’s what I say when I know we have a base and a foundation, just championship basketball at all times.”

Williams fought back tears during his postgame remarks when asked what it was like in the moment to process the result of a Suns season that fell just short.

“I think it’s going to take me a minute,” Williams said, his voice getting caught in his throat. “I just don’t take it for granted. It’s hard to get here, and I wanted it so bad, you know. It’s hard to process right now. It’s hard. That’s all.”

Summing up the alchemy of the Suns group, however, it wasn’t all sorrow for the team that ousted the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, swept league MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets, eliminated the LA Clippers and gave the Bucks all they could handle with a title on the line.

“Even though we lost,” Ayton said as he bounded out of the interview room, “it was still fun.”

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Brooklyn Nets open as 2021-22 NBA title favorites; Lakers, Bucks next

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Fresh off seeing an NBA champion crowned Tuesday night, oddsmakers have posted the Brooklyn Nets (+225) and Los Angeles Lakers (+400) as the betting favorites for the 2021-22 season.

The champion Milwaukee Bucks, who wrapped up the franchise’s first title since 1971 with a six-game Finals victory over the Phoenix Suns, have the next shortest odds at +900.

“This season, the Nets and Lakers drew so much more money than any other team,” Nick Bogdanovich, William Hill U.S. director of trading, told ESPN, reinforcing how liability on popular teams will always drive odds.

Bogdanovich also indicated that talent is a factor.

“In a normal year, if those guys stay somewhat healthy, they definitely figure to be the best team,” Bogdanovich said of the Nets.

Perennial All-Stars Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving played only eight regular-season games together for Brooklyn. The Nets’ playoff run was disrupted in the Eastern Conference semifinals when Irving suffered an ankle injury and Harden battled a hamstring injury. They ultimately lost to the Bucks in overtime of Game 7.

In recent years, free agency has played an enormous role in the futures market. Sharp bettors have occasionally caught oddsmakers off guard, anticipating significant signings and pouncing on long odds, but this summer figures to be relatively quiet. Kawhi Leonard and Chris Paul both can become free agents, as they hold player options on their current contracts. However, Leonard will be coming off surgery for a torn ACL, and Paul is 36.

“We are anticipating that there will be more impact in the trade market than the free agent market,” Las Vegas SuperBook assistant manager and head NBA oddsmaker Jeff Sherman told ESPN. “Who knows if [Damian] Lillard is going to get dealt. If he ends up getting traded, then that would be bigger than any free agent out there.”

Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Ben Simmons could also be traded, given how his postseason shooting struggles contributed to the conference’s top seed losing in seven games to the Atlanta Hawks in the East semifinals. The Sixers (18-1) would undoubtedly receive talent in return.

Phoenix reached the NBA Finals for the first time since 1993 and nearly cashed as title longshots in the neighborhood of 50-1. However, the Suns won’t sneak up on oddsmakers this time with 15-1 odds, which are the fifth-shortest.

“I don’t know what Chris Paul has left in the tank,” Bogdanovich said. “[Devin] Booker and [Deandre] Ayton are great to build around. This year was no fluke.”

The Golden State Warriors (10-1) did not even reach the playoffs, but they hold the fourth-shortest odds. Sharpshooter Klay Thompson is expected to return from an Achilles injury, and the Warriors could package their two lottery picks for a top-tier established player that would help them compete in the short term. Two-time MVP Stephen Curry is 33, and three-time All-Star Draymond Green is 31.

The preseason betting favorite has won the NBA title in four of the past six seasons. Over the past 35 seasons, only four teams have won the championship with odds of 15-1 or longer.

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NBA world has changed since the Milwaukee Bucks’ first NBA title

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The Milwaukee Bucks are the 2020-21 NBA champions and have won the second title in franchise history. Entering this season, Milwaukee’s 49-year championship drought was the fifth-longest among active franchises.

Led by Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Roberson, the Bucks’ 1971 title marked the quick championship for a true expansion team in North American sports (three seasons). Milwaukee’s 66 wins during the 1970-71 regular season remain a team record.

Over the last three seasons, Giannis Antetokounmpo has earned regular season MVP honors twice, won finals MVP and was named Defensive Player of the Year in 2019-20. Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon are the only other NBA players to earn all three accolades over their career.

With Milwaukee’s newest title now secured, let’s reflect on some notable changes across the NBA since the franchise’s first championship run.

1976: League Expansion & ABA/NBA merger

In 1974, the New Orleans Jazz were admitted to the NBA as an expansion team. Then-rookie guard Pete Maravich, who remains the all-time leading scorer in Division-I hoops, led the team with 21.5 PPG in its inaugural season.

On August 5, 1976, the NBA merged with the rival ABA by absorbing the New York Nets, San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets and Indiana Pacers from the latter league. Overall, between expansion and the merger, 13 franchises joined the NBA since Milwaukee’s 1971 title.

1979: 3-point line is introduced

The league first experimented with the 3-point line on a one-year basis, but it has become an offensive staple since its inception. Teams combined for 64 total 3-pointers during the 1979-80 season.

For context, this past April, Stephen Curry‘s 96 3-pointers set an NBA record for the most by any player over a calendar month. His 2,832 triples trail only Ray Allen’s 2,973 for the most in league history.

1984: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar passes Wilt Chamberlain in scoring

Over his 20-year career, Abdul-Jabbar’s skyhook proved plenty effective in paving his way toward The Big Dipper’s all-time scoring mark.

On April 5, 1984, Abdul-Jabbar used his patented shot in front of a Las Vegas crowd to reach 31,420 career points. His career total of 37,387 remains the NBA record. Likewise for his regular-season MVPs (6) and All-Star appearances (19).

1992: Team USA goes for Olympic gold with pro players

For the first time in history, FIBA allowed NBA players to participate in Olympic tournaments following Team USA’s bronze medal finish in 1988. Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were among 11 eventual Hall of Fame players who led Team USA’s 1992 return to gold.

The Dream Team defeated opponents by an average of 43.8 points per game. Its closest contest was a 32-point victory over Croatia in the gold medal game.

1996: The WNBA is introduced

On April 24, 1996, the NBA Board of Governors approved the concept of the Women’s National Basketball Association for play to begin the next year. The league’s eight teams were divided into the Eastern Conference (Charlotte Sting, New York Liberty, Cleveland Rockers and Houston Comets) and Western Conference (Los Angeles Sparks, Phoenix Mercury, Sacramento Monarchs and Utah Starzz).

Houston won the WNBA’s first four titles. The 2020 champion Seattle Storm’s fourth championship tied the Comets and Minnesota Lynx for the league record.

1998: End of Jordan-era Bulls

Thanks to Jordan’s iconic top-of-the-key game-winner to cap the 1998 Finals, Chicago clinched its second three-peat over an eight-year span, capping one of the most dominant runs in NBA history. Jordan’s six finals MVPs and 10 scoring titles with the Bulls remain NBA records to this day.

That same year, Kobe Bryant became the only teenager in league history to participate in the All-Star Game. His 33,643 career points surpassed Jordan for the most by any guard and currently rank fourth all-time.

2002: Lakers complete 5th three-peat in league history

Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers eventually secured the fifth and most recent three-peat in NBA history. Shaquille O’Neal joined Jordan as the only players to win three consecutive finals MVP awards. Head coach Phil Jackson finished his career with the most championships.

Over that three-year run, the Lakers led the NBA in regular-season win percentage (.736). That figure improved to .776 in the playoffs, including a 15-1 mark over the 2001 postseason.

Also in 2002, Lisa Leslie became the first woman to dunk in a WNBA game. Michelle Snow, Candace Parker, Sylvia Fowles, Brittney Griner and Elizabeth Cambage have since joined her.

2008: The Redeem Team claims gold

Following its bronze finish at the 2004 Summer Games, USA Basketball revised its selection process to pursue gold once again. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski led a roster comprised of reigning NBA MVP Kobe Bryant and 10 other All-Stars.

Dwyane Wade led the Redeem Team in scoring average (16.0) as the squad defeated opponents by an average of 27.8 points per game. Its average age of 26.0 years is second-youngest among seven U.S. Olympic Teams formed with NBA players since 1992.

2016: LeBron and the Cavaliers overcome 3-1 deficit against 73-9 Warriors

Led by the first-ever unanimous MVP in league history, the 2015-16 Warriors entered the postseason with the best record in NBA history (73-9). In fact, after snapping a 40-year title drought, Golden State became the first team to avoid consecutive losses over an entire regular season.

After overcoming a 3-1 deficit to Oklahoma City in the Western Conference Finals, the Warriors became the first team in NBA history to blow a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals. Finals MVP LeBron James became the first player in NBA history to lead all players in a playoff series in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals.

2019: Toronto Raptors win first title in team history

Golden State bounced back by signing Kevin Durant and winning consecutive titles in 2017 and 2018. The Toronto Raptors, fresh off five straight playoff appearances, traded All-Star DeMar DeRozan for Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who led the franchise to its first-ever NBA title.

Leonard joined James (Heat, Cavaliers, Lakers) and Abdul-Jabbar (Lakers and Bucks) as the only NBA players to win finals MVP with multiple franchises.



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