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Lonzo Ball, set to be restricted free agent, says he ‘would love’ to return to New Orleans Pelicans

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New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball has heard his name swirl in trade rumors almost from the time he entered the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers four years ago.

But now, for the first time, Ball could have a say in his next destination as he approaches restricted free agency this summer.

The Pelicans would have a right to match any offer sheet Ball signs with another team — or they could work with him and his agent at Klutch Sports to negotiate a sign-and-trade. Ball, who spoke to reporters on Monday, said he wouldn’t mind staying around in New Orleans for the next contract.

“That’s a conversation between me and my agent moving forward. But obviously I would love to be back,” Ball said. “I built a bond here with the coaches and the teammates who are here. I definitely wouldn’t mind coming back at all.”

Pelicans forward Zion Williamson wouldn’t mind that either.

“It’d be dope,” Williamson said of Ball possibly coming back to the Pelicans. “Me, Brandon [Ingram] and Zo, the three of us have a great relationship. I really would want Zo to come back. He knows that.

“But you know, like I said, the reality of the situation is Zo is grown man so he’ll make the decision that’s best for him. The only thing I can say is, I hope he stays.”

Ball posted career highs in scoring (14.6), 3-point percentage (37.8%), field-goal percentage (41.4%) and free-throw percentage (78.1%). His free throw numbers marked a huge growth from his marks last season (56.6%).

However, Ball’s assist totals dropped to 5.7 per game, just a tick above the 5.4 he posted in Los Angeles two seasons ago adjusting to playing alongside LeBron James. It came as Ball accepted a new role in the Pelicans’ system this season.

“I think my shooting picked up from all levels of the court,” Ball said. “That was the main thing for me this year. My role was different this year. Kind of more of a 3-and-D role. I think I fit into it pretty well. I think overall it was a solid season for myself.”

Ball said he didn’t think about his upcoming free agency during the season but now that the year is over, he can shift his focus there. If that means continuing in the 3-and-D role elsewhere, or in New Orleans, he’s fine with that.

“I think I’m a basketball player. Whatever the coach wants from me, I’m going to go out there and do it to the best of my abilities,” Ball said. “[Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy] put me in a little different position this year than I’ve been in my whole life. But I think I made the most of it. And I think I had a pretty good year.”

While Williamson wants to continue to play with Ball, the feeling is mutual, even as Ball knows he has a tough decision to make.

“He’s a one-of-a-kind player as well,” Ball said of Williamson. “I’ve never played with somebody like that. Like I said, I think we have the pieces. We just have to put it together. We’re a young team. We’re only going to get better. If we can keep it together, that’d be great. But I can’t tell the future. I’ll just wait for the call and see what happens.”

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CP3, Kawhi, Kemba, oh my: NBA (news) never sleeps

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The NBA news cycle takes no days off and Chris Paul can catch no breaks. Here’s what went down during a wild week in the association.

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Dirk Nowitzki rejoins Dallas Mavericks as special adviser

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With the Dallas Mavericks charting a new direction following the departures of coach Rick Carlisle and general manager Donnie Nelson, the franchise is turning to one of its all-time greats to help in the journey.

Dirk Nowitzki has rejoined the Mavericks as a special adviser to the franchise, the team announced Friday. In his role, Nowitzki will assist with the searches for coach and general manager while also consulting on other front-office decisions.

“Mark Cuban approached me about a role as special advisor and I am happy to support my Mavs,” Nowitzki said in a statement. “Donnie Nelson and Rick Carlisle were both mentors and played huge roles in my career and the success of this franchise, and I am going to miss them. It is important for me now to join Mark and contribute as much as I can as we move forward.”

Nowitzki played 21 seasons with the Mavericks — the most in NBA history for one player with one team — before retiring after the 2018-19 season and is the franchise career leader in games, points, rebounds and blocks, among other categories. He was also the Finals MVP in 2011 for Dallas’ first and only NBA championship.

Carlisle resigned Thursday after 13 years as Mavericks coach. That decision was revealed one day after the departure of Nelson following 24 seasons with the franchise.

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Boston Celtics trading Kemba Walker, 2021 first-rounder to Oklahoma City Thunder, sources say

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The Boston Celtics are trading Kemba Walker and their 2021 first-round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder for a package that includes Al Horford, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Along with Walker and the No. 16 overall pick in 2021, the Celtics are also sending a 2025 second-round pick to the Thunder in exchange for Horford, Moses Brown and a 2023 second-rounder, sources said.

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