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Charlotte Hornets star LaMelo Ball releasing limited-edition NFTs, which will be tied to his NBA accomplishments

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Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball will become the first athlete to enter the world of dynamic non-fungible tokens (NFTs) when he releases a set of 500 prior to the announcement of the NBA Rookie of the Year in June, ESPN has learned.

NFTs are unique blockchain-based tokens that give its owners specific rights to the asset – photograph, video clip, artwork – they represent. Dynamic NFTs are a recent technological advancement and, unlike conventional NFTs, have the ability to change over time. If Ball is named Rookie of the Year, the 500 NFTs will automatically update to include the award, which is expected to increase the value of the collectible.

“As I learn more about blockchain, I realize this is the most powerful and unique way to engage my fans in a way that’s special to them individually,” Ball tells ESPN. “I see this as the future for fans and athletes connecting together.”

Ball, 20, is one of three finalists for Rookie of the Year, joining Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards and Sacramento’s Tyrese Haliburton. Ball, who averaged 15.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game, is considered the front-runner for the award. He missed 21 games with a broken wrist in a season that ended with the Hornets finishing 10th in the NBA Eastern Conference and losing to the Indiana Pacers in a play-in game.

Ball is the first athlete to release this type of speculative asset tied to his awards, highlights and statistical milestones. Ball plans to create lotteries that will allow owners of the dynamic NFTs to “burn” them in exchange for a chance to win memorabilia such as game-worn shoes. Each “burned” NFT makes those that remain more scarce, and presumably more valuable. In addition to the 500 dynamic NFTs, LaMelo Ball Collectibles will release another 9,500 standard NFTs on the Ethereum blockchain.

“LaMelo will become the first athlete to mint his career on the blockchain,” says Sher Chaudary, co-founder of Playground, the Southern California-based NFT design studio working with Ball. “We’re launching a world where each NFT carries ‘level up’ capabilities based on off-chain even

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Memphis Grizzlies to trade Jonas Valanciunas to New Orleans Pelicans for Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe, sources say

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The New Orleans Pelicans are finalizing a trade to send Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe and two future first-round picks – including the 10th overall pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft – to Memphis for center Jonas Valanciunas and the 17th overall pick, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Determined to create significant financial flexibility in free agency next week, the Pelicans are including the 2022 Lakers first-round pick – protected to 10 – in the trade, sources said. Memphis (51) and New Orleans (40) are also exchanging second-round picks in Thursday’s draft, sources said.

The deal moves the Grizzlies into the lottery at No. 10 of a deep 2021 draft and allows them to add another significant piece to an already playoff tested core of young players. Memphis could have three first-round picks in 2022, including protected picks via Utah and the Lakers.

New Orleans has the salary cap space now to match an offer sheet for restricted free agent guard Lonzo Ball, or pursue unrestricted free agent point guards in the marketplace, including veteran All-Star Kyle Lowry. The Pelicans are also working to resign restricted free agent Josh Hart.

The Pelicans could have as much as $36 million in salary cap space, if they were to lose Ball and Hart. The room drops to $25 million if Ball left, but Hart stayed.

ESPN’s Bobby Marks noted that because of the salary involved — $15 million for Valanciunas, $17.1 million for Adams and $18.1 million for Bledsoe — the trade cannot be finalized until Aug. 6, when free agency begins.

The Pelicans brought in Bledsoe and Adams last offseason in the trade that sent Jrue Holiday to the Milwaukee Bucks. New Orleans signed Adams to a two-year, $35 million extension shortly after.

Bledsoe, who was coming off back-to-back All-Defensive team nods in Milwaukee, had a disappointing season as he was asked to play a different role in the Pelicans’ offense. He had the second-lowest shooting percentage of his career (.421) and his lowest scoring average (12.2) since 2012-13.

A more traditional big who doesn’t typically step out beyond the arc, Adams also experienced a dip in production averaging just 7.6 points per game after four consecutive seasons averaging double figures in scoring. He averaged 8.9 rebounds per game but shot a career-worst 44.4 percent from the line.

Valancuinas, 29, isn’t a traditional floor spacer but did shoot 21-of-57 from deep (36.8 percent) last season with Memphis.

He’s also coming off his most productive season after averaging 17.1 points and 12.5 rebounds per game while shooting a career-best 59.2 percent overall in just 28.3 minutes a night.

Valancuinas finished third in the league in rebounding last season and second in offensive rebounds per game (4.1) – two spots ahead of Adams. He was also tied for third in the league in double-doubles (49) just behind Nikola Jokic and Russell Westbrook.

Bledsoe has two years left on his current contract at $18.1 million in 2021-22 and $19.4 million the following season although only $3.9 of that is guaranteed with the full amount triggering on June 30, 2022. Adams is owed $17.9 million in 2022-23. Valancuinas will be paid $15 million this season and $14 million the following year.

Memphis swapped both of its picks in this year’s draft while the Pelicans still have four second-round picks since they still have No. 35, No. 43 and No. 53 to go along with the pick they swapped with the Grizzlies.

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Luka Doncic scores 48 points in Olympic debut as Slovenia wins opener over Argentina

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SAITAMA, Japan — Luka Doncic is only a 22-year-old Olympic rookie, a player who might still be a few years away from his best basketball.

Sergio Hernandez doesn’t need to wait.

“For me, I said this two years ago: He is the best player in the world, including the NBA,” Argentina’s coach said. “And if there was any doubt in my mind, there is no doubt anymore. He is the best player in the world.”

Hard to argue after Doncic’s performance Monday at the Saitama Super Arena.

Doncic made a spectacular Olympic debut with 48 points, tied for the second-highest total in men’s basketball history, to lead Slovenia to a 118-100 victory.

In Slovenia’s first Olympic game ever, Doncic scored 31 points in the first half, putting him on pace to break the Games’ scoring record of 55 points by Brazilian Hall of Famer Oscar Schmidt in 1988.

Though he didn’t have to do as much in the second half with Slovenia’s huge lead, the superstar guard for the Dallas Mavericks stayed on the floor well into the fourth quarter and ended up tied with Eddie Palubinskas, who had 48 for Australia in the 1976 Games in Montreal.

There was still enough time left to break the record when Doncic checked out with a few minutes left, but he wasn’t interested in pursuing more points.

“I don’t care about records,” he said. “We got a win and that’s what we came here for.”

His teammates wanted both.

“Everybody was telling him on the bench, ‘OK, let’s get the record,'” veteran Zoran Dragic said.

“But that’s not the case. The case is to win the game. He knows that, and it’s crazy that he’s only 22 years old.”

Slovenia didn’t even have a spot in the Olympics until earlier this month but is a medal threat thanks to Doncic, who had a historic first postseason in the NBA and might just do the same in the Olympics.

Luis Scola scored 23 points for Argentina. Facando Campazzo of the Denver Nuggets added 21.

The opening day of play in Group C started with Luka against Luis, the phenom against the 41-year-old veteran who was beginning his record-tying fifth Olympics in men’s basketball.

But it was quickly clear Doncic would be the star of this show with 15 points before the game was five minutes old.

“He was too good obviously,” Scola said. “I mean, he was unbelievable.”

Casually launching his step-back 3-pointers from well behind the international 3-point arc – one came from just inside the TOKYO 2020 logo at center court – Doncic shot from places where Argentina just couldn’t come out to defend.

When they tried, he just took his game inside, getting consecutive baskets on follow shots in the second quarter on his way to 11 rebounds.

That came during a 23-8 finish to the half for Slovenia, extending a 39-34 lead to 62-42 at the break.

Manu Ginobili was impressed, the Argentine idol tweeting at halftime that Doncic was “a beast” and praising his “tremendous mastery of the game.”

Doncic had already shown he had that playing in Europe even before going on to win Rookie of the Year honors in the NBA. In his second season, he became the first NBA player to average 30 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in his first postseason series.

His first Olympics might be even better than that.

Slovenia has been a country on the rise, winning the EuroBasket title in 2017 and then qualifying for Tokyo by winning one of the Olympic qualifying touraments earlier this month. The Slovenians knocked off host Lithuania in the final after Doncic went right to playing for his country after the Mavericks were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round.

Argentina, the 2004 Olympic champions, were thought to be past their years of challenging for titles when Ginobili and some other stars from that era called it a career.

But Scola is still here and the Argentines showed they’re not done just yet when they made a surprise run to the gold-medal game two years ago in the Basketball World Cup, losing to Spain but not until after clinching their spot in the Olympics.

Spain is also in Group C along with host Japan, but even those games shouldn’t be any tougher than playing against Doncic.

“We tried everything that we would have tried against a normal player,” Hernandez said, “but he’s not a normal player.”

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Olympics 2021 – Robot can’t miss at halftime of Team USA’s basketball game

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The Olympic Games are for the best athletes in the world. The basketball tournaments feature elite pro athletes like Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard, Sue Bird and A’ja Wilson. But they might have to move out of the way for the robot hitting 3-pointers and free throws.

At halftime of the United States’ men’s basketball loss to France, a towering robot wearing a No. 95 jersey took the ball in its giant robot hands and began draining shots like peak Stephen Curry.

The robot’s free-throw routine appears faster than that of newly crowned Giannis Antetokounmpo. No word on whether the robot would immediately qualify for a supermax deal.



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